April 22, 2011
Day 1 - TURN IT UP
Upper, Middle and Lower
After stopping to take a good, long hard look at Baby Falls, I hopped back in Kevin's car and asked him to play some paddling tunes on the way up the road to the top. We slid into the put-in parking lot a few minutes later with Skynard blasting from his stereo. This was my first trip to the Tellico and as we drove past the ledges Kev would say "The line for that is, well, just go over it." I had a blast running the top section with Kevin and Joe. Neither Joe nor myself had planned on running the entire section until Kevin showed up at Caney Creek the night before, so it was a really cool bonus. The entire section was a lot of fun, especially the ledges. Joe and I portaged the rapid just above Baby due to a floating log, but Kev ran it. Walking along shore with my boat gave me one last chance to see the difference in height between the horizon line and the water way down below it. Woo hoo, the butterflies started fluttering. Kevin peeled out first, caught the eddy on the right just above the drop, then ran the right to left boof line. Joe peeled out a few seconds later and took the same course. I first started thinking about Baby Falls when I first saw a photo of it about 6 years ago. I had mapped out exactly where and how I wanted to go over it a long, long time ago, which was on the far right side, at the highest point. I really wanted to make that clean drop over a vertical curtain of water. The only thing I had to figure out that morning was whether to run the rapid above it on the left or the right. I first thought that running the entire sequence left to right would be the easiest and would give me the most speed as I hit the lip, but once I reached it, I changed my mind and decided to stay on the right. The other line would have worked out better as it turned out. A lot of things didn't go exactly as I had hoped, mostly because I was paddling up to a 15 foot drop for the 1st time and my mind was in about a thousand places besides where it should have been. I unintentionally slowed when my boat hit the right-side eddy, I started trying to decide whether to catch the eddy, which I had not planned on doing, or to keep going, which meant that I didn't really do either and hit the lip going far, far slower than I had planned. I did go over exactly where I wanted, but instead of having the cool picturesque ride down like I had planned, I went vertical, then pitched forward on the bottom half of the drop, causing me to land a far-less-than awesome face plant. In fact, the first thing anyone said to me as I paddled over to river-left was "nice face plant." I had definitely pictured my big moment more as a cool action shot and less of a funny, cartoon one, BUT.... it was SO fun, SO scary and SO awesome. And it did provide some good punch line fodder for Joe later whenever I tried to rib him about anything at all. I loved Baby and immediately started thinking about how I would run it the next time. Kevin took off into Diaper Wiper, catching the eddy in the middle. I looked at Joe and said "You know, I don't remember a thing about how to run this rapid" and paddled off to see if I could figure it out. I remembered everything Kevin told us once I hit it though, because he had really laid it out nicely, and it went smooth for both Joe and I. Kevin did a great job of breaking down all of the rapids of consequence, like Jared's Knee and Diaper Wiper. The view, looking upstream, from below Diaper Wiper was one of my paddling highlights so far. From there, the 3 of us paddled down to the put-in for the next section to meet the rest of the gang for our full group paddle to the take-out. Some of the group were along for part of the upper too, showing us some love from the road and taking photos (thanks guys). Another note from the morning was this HUUUUUGE frog stuck in the circulating eddy at the bottom of Baby. The biggest frog I have ever seen. A kayaker came along and threw it out to Christy who moved it further downstream. I am curious if it decided to run Diaper Wiper or portage it, but I know it had to be happy about getting out from below Baby. The upper section was super fun and I was riding a high from it for the rest of the day.
I had a chance to knock out a few PB&Js below Jared's while we waited for the last of the SRVCC group to arrive and set shuttle. The next section was just a blast. Our weather was perfect and there were more boof rocks and slides than you could shake a paddle at. I enjoyed shooting footage of everyone with my new Playsport and later that evening we watched it on the back porch of Lang, Cindy and Tommy's cabin. We had lots of swims, lots of laughs, lots of good lines and lots of crazy ones. Just a really nice day with a bunch of good paddlers on an excellent river. The only downer was that Steve's Seven 2 paddle broke. I let him borrow my Werner and switched to hand-paddles for the rest of the run, just so that I would be all cool like Kevin. Most everyone got out at a roadside pull-off, but Steve, Bill, Will, Joe and I went on down to the Osterneck overlook. Got to say, after starting at the upper top, paddling the whole run, and switching to hand paddles, which I never use, I was whipped by the time we drug our butts out of the river. We went straight from the river to the Telli Cafe, which was superb. I had a great appetizer, salad, seven pepper steak and dessert. Joe ordered a hot fudge sundae and when they brought it out, a bunch more ordered sundaes. And when they brought those out, a bunch more ordered sundaes. We talked about lots of the usual stuff and laughed a lot. One conversation was about all the clumsy moments on shore. I re-told the story about Bob S falling backwards into the river at the take-out on the Smith in December. The evening at Caney Creek was spent chilling out on the porch and by the fire. Good, good, good stuff.