Russell Fork of the Big Sandy River
October 04-05, 2013
Day One Paddlers
(18 on the upper, 7 on the lower)
Upper: Delane, Joe, John K, Donna, Greg, Lucas, Shawn, Sammy, Brooks, Jack, Cristie, Dale, Trent, Nick, Andy, Avery, David T, Kevin N
Lower: Delane Joe, John K, Greg, Donna, Lucas, Shawn
Day Two Paddlers
Delane, Joe, John K, Donna, Greg, Dale, Cristie, Shawn
I could probably write a book about this trip, that's how good
Weather: The jeans, fleece, wool socks... all stayed in the bag. I wore shorts, short sleeves and sandals the whole weekend. I wore swimming trunks and a short sleeve rash guard while on the river. The weather was simply made to order.
Paddlers: 18 on day one, 8 on day two. All top notch, solid paddlers. No ducks in a row this trip, I really enjoyed watching everyone explore different lines in every big rapid. I saw lots of smiling faces on both days. At the end of the upper section on Day 1, Jack, Lucas, Avery, Andy and I all slid down the big hill at the Garden Hole. That was the biggest crowd I've ever had join me on that bit of silliness, which made it even more fun. Every single paddler ran Killer Fang Falls backwards on day one. Seven of us kept the party going by shuttling down to the lower section. Brooks and Joe joined me in their playboats. Greg was our only open boat. Dale was on his SUP. Cristie paddled an IK. Trent and Nick paddled a raft. It made for a pretty decent mix of boats. Big props to John for getting the shuttle organized on both days. For some reason the RF shuttle always takes a long time to sort out. And thanks to all the folks that helped out with shuttles, even when they were not paddling. They really helped out on the lower section on day one and Kevin really did us a solid on day two.
River: We had to skip the Pound this year as the government shut-down meant the gate was closed at Flannaghan Dam. That meant we started at Bartlick both days. This has always been a favorite wave of mine to surf. This year I made it in and out upright every time, which I am sure was a first. I surfed it a little longer on Sunday and really enjoyed it. I don't get out that often, so I made a point to surf every big wave I saw. No reason to take off the river any way other than exhausted. I briefly surfed the wave at the bottom of 20 Stitches, but just long enough to say I got in it. I super enjoyed surfing the wave at Ratliff. If I could go back, I would surf that one more. There were so many boofs and enders and eddies and ferries and squirts and surfs and slides, just a fantabulous time on the water. Three years ago I caught 21 eddies at Railroad. This year I caught 34 and was whipped by the time I reached the bottom. There were a few more in there for sure, but I that was all I had the energy for this year. Greg had a great boof at the bottom of the rapid. On day two, Shawn reminded me that it was coming up, or I would have missed it again. Twenty Stitches always seems a bit chaotic to me and I always find myself winging it as I go, but Greg had an entry point for it this year that just set the whole thing up really nicely. It was almost two easy once I was able to see where the holes were and how to skirt them. Ran the same line both days and it went great both times. The last place I got to paddle with Mercer was RF, so I wanted to hit his Splat Rock in his honor, but just missed it on day one. On day two I finally found a line that allowed me to boof it. Johnny's Rock was a blast and might be my favorite rapid on the Fork. I loved the entry boof on day two. The lower section was a nice change of pace. I did not know anything about that section and was surprised on more than one occasion. The first surprise came after the bridge, when I saw John back flip in a hole bigger than I expected to find. We had two rolls and the only swim of the lower at that spot, which apparently is littered with rocks. Then came Meat Grinder. What I enjoyed about it was that I did not know anything about it. It was fun to dissect it from shore, then hop in to see if I made the right call or not. My only roll of the weekend came between the 2nd and 3rd tier of the rapid. For the most part, it was a carnage free weekend for everyone. A few rolls here and there, including Avery's nice one in the middle of 20 Stitches, but only a few. Only a couple of swims. Because Dale was on his SUP, he probably brought the most action to the table. I had a blast watching him navigate the rapids standing up. I wish that I had hopped on to try it out during one of our breaks, but totally forgot to.
Camping: Joe and I setup camp next to Lucas, a few spots down from John and Shawn, on site #102. Breaks is always one of my favorite places to camp. On Saturday night I grilled chicken and sweet Italian sausage, along with potatoes that Joe brought. Delicious. Super enjoyed the evening in camp, capped off with time around the campfire with friends at one of the other sites the gang had. As usual, Joe was a good traveling companion. Always nice to catch up on what his family has going on. Really nice to catch up with everyone that was along for this ride.