Wilson Creek Gorge
Level = 0
The higher the water, the fewer the pictures.
I made plans to meet Charles Herring who I ran WC with in the Spring. The level went from +5 to+2 the day before. I anticipated a level of around -2 or so. Charles caught up to me on Highway 18 as we were entering Lenoir. We arrived at the bridge gauge together and found the level right at zero, which marked the highest level of any of my nine trips to Wilson Creek. This was Charles' first chance to get in a boat in four months and I think he too was anticipating a few less inches of water. And then you've got the chatter about the riverbed possibly changing how the bridge gauge reads. So it was fun to have a few butterfies kicking around. Runs like that have been too far and few between since Spring. At the take-out we met paddlers David and Ed, both open boaters from the Charlotte area and decided to shuttle together.
The short summary would be that while I only had one quick roll through a fast moving jumble section, it was a run full of reactionary paddling as I found myself bracing frequently and digging out of multiple holes. It wasn't until the second half of the run that I felt like I was paddling with a little control and putting the boat where I wanted it. It is just amazing at how much the run changes with a little more water in it. And I am super impressed at the cats that have zero as their minimum, because I'm pretty sure it is my max.
Both Little Woodall and No Name didn't want to let me go without a fight and I was probably as nervous going into 10 foot as I was the first time I ran the gorge, which made it pretty fun. David walked, Ed ran it first, I ran it second, then Charles went over far enough left to run out of water, which turned his bow just a little toward the center, which resulted in his boat getting tossed around pretty hard. He held a brace forever before eventually going over. That gave me a chance to see what that looks like from above water, because I've sure experienced that exact same ride before from under my boat at -1 a few years ago. And what I saw wasn't pretty. After rolling in another section further downstream, Charles decided that, after his four month break from paddling, he wasn't feeling it at zero. So he took out, then hopped in upstream for a run on the upper section.
David, Ed and I continued downstream. I was still plugging spots that I should have punched, was still upright though and still bracing like a mother. When I ran Boatbuster, which is almost always my favorite rapid, I was shocked at how much more kick the landing had. I entered Thunderhole from river right fast and riding a low brace, then kaboooom, I was out and grinning. The nerves had calmed after 10foot and I was enjoying the run more by this point. What a fun ride. I immediately thought to myself that there was no way the open boats would make it through that much water. Then David dropped off the boof and all I saw was water. He was out of his boat and swimming through Thunderhole. I grabbed his canoe and ended up on river right. Ed made it through just fine and tossed me a throw rope from river left. They pulled the canoe across the river and we motored on. A little further downstream David decided that he just wasn't feeling it either, so he pulled off.
Ed and I finished up the run, which was mostly uneventful. Tripledrop was a blast. I typically run the trap door line, but stayed on river left this time. Definitely the fastest rapid of the day and my favorite section at that level. Razorback was a surprisingly fun rapid at zero too, big, beefy and fast. And all the stuff in between certainly got a lot more interesting at that level. I only had time for the one lap, but it was a good one and should carry me through the holidays if I can't find time for another run.