Sunday, January 22, 2006

Toxaway and Big Creek update

Download Toxaway Headcam Here(44 mb)
Download Big Creek Headcam Here(25 mb)

Well, this has been one of the more fun/eventful weeks for me. I missed out on a great deal of paddling last semester because my full days of class always seemed to correspond with the heavy days of rain. Everything always ran on Wednesday! I don't understand exactly how this works, but I have read that the smog in our atmosphere from the workweek actually does have an effect on the "schedule" of precipitation. For some reason, the weekend is the least likely time for rain to occur, because there is not nearly the same amount of hydrocarbons entering the atmosphere from industry. I also think that this is exacerbated by the fact that Asheville is in a thermal inversion area, in which the mountains trap polluted air from the nearby industrial centers of Knoxville, Oak Hill, and other Tennessee cities. Quite unfortunate considering the fact that many residents of Asheville really care about the environment. Anyways this is just my interpretation, I'm not sure if it's accurate, but I digress...

I am now free from school for a semester, so I have the luxury of a fairly flexible paddling schedule. This past week was a great one to have no commitments! I didn't realize until Tuesday night that we had a gigantic front coming in from the east, and there were going to be plenty of options for where to go paddling. At the very top of my list was the Toxaway River near Brevard. Spencer and Josh Bruckner took me down this river for my first time, and after running it I was convinced that it was the best day of my entire life! I've run it five times since then, and each time could be described in a very similar way. It is my favourite place to be in a creekboat.

Pat Keller was nice enough to allow me to crash at his house Tuesday night, and we started narrowing down our options for paddling the next day. After waking up to snow flurries outside, Pat headed off to an early class, and Toby McDermott and I started our rigorous waterfall preparation, sitting in Pat's new hot tub! After some breakfast and rechecking of gauges, we decided to head in the direction of Toxaway, and if it was too high, to run the Whitewater. Upon arriving at the put in around noon, the day had warmed up considerably, the sun was out, and the river was at an absolutely perfect level. We were all amped. John Grace and Jason Hale joined us at this point, and everyone was super pumped to get back on this bedrock playground.

I've kind of been getting back into the groove of things since a very scary experience on the Chattooga on Christmas Eve. I was pumped to get on Toxaway, but admittedly pretty nervous because it's a very demanding river with some huge consequential drops on it. I made a dumb mistake on the third rapid of the run, a 15 footer, and took a pretty hard glancing piton at the bottom. Lesson learned on that one, and I tried to get super aggressive after that and get rid of the uneasiness and timidity that a bad experience like my Chattooga pin will give you. The rest of the day was filled with nothing but good lines, a couple backwards ones on Energizer and Landbridge(!), and a tonne of fun being out there with the boys. I have nothing but respect for each of these guys, and it was really cool to have the opportunity to paddle with them on such a great creek. They are a very safe and solid crew.

The 3.5 mile hike out at the end is always painful, but only adds to the expedition style experience of that river. I always end up daydreaming about the rapids that I have just run anyways, and it seems to go by fast. Another incredible day on my favourite creek!

Toxaway Headcam(44 mb)

The next day I was kind of looking for a non-stressful natural flow day of paddling. My friend Chris Schell called me that morning and said that Big Creek was running at a perfect level. I was super pumped about that, because I've only run this creek 3 times, and it really is an awesome place to practice boat control skills without being in a great deal of danger.

We arrived at the put-in and started the hike up the creek(pretty painful after my previous day's hike out of the Toxaway), and before long Mr. Chris Harjes came running up the trail after us. This guy is a ball of energy if I've ever seen one! We hiked the rest of the way up to Superman with Chris, about a half mile above the bridge, and put on.

The day was going super great until Action Alley. I ran the first four drops direct, and caught the eddy below the rapid to wait for Chris and Chris. I saw a red boat come out of the foam in the third, horseshoe shaped drop, and fall over the last one full of water, and soon thereafter Harjes swam off of it too. I was bummed to see my buddy swimming, but I wasn't too concerned and started ferrying into the flow to drag him back into the eddy. When I saw the look on his face though, I realized things were more serious than a little swim. His right shoulder was out of socket, and Schell and I got set up to try and help him get it back in.

I couldn't believe how tough he was about it. I had an idea before this of how to relocate a shoulder, but Harjes is a nurse in Asheville, and knows exactly whats up when it comes to this type of thing. In between winces of pain, he was giving us directions on which way to rotate the shoulder and how hard to pull on his arm to try and get it back in! I couldn't believe he could keep his composure. Anyways, Chris and I rotated off between keeping Harjes static and trying to pop his shoulder back in for about 20 minutes. That thing was not cooperating!

We finally decided it was time to seek outside help, and after roping Harjes across the river, we started blazing downstream to try and get back to the car before he could hike the trail back. Thanks to Glen Theiling for helping with getting him out of there too! Long story short... his shoulder was out for probably 4 hours total, and they finally popped that thing back in at Asheville Mission hospital with him on strong sedative drugs, and with three people holding him down and one huge doctor pulling on his arm! It's a majour bummer that Chris won't be out paddling with us soon, but he's got an awesome, super positive attitude, and I'm sure he'll kill it with Physio and be back out there soon. Good luck Harjes!

Big Creek Headcam(25 mb)

Anyways, I used my headcam both days and got some pretty cool footage. Some of the Toxaway audio is choppy because my CD was scratched, but that song was too good not to use!

Hope you all enjoy, I'm off to Africa on Wednesday for a month and a half!

Chris Gragtmans

Also, thank you so much to all of my sponsors for allowing me to live the lifestyle that I do; it would not be possible without you! Please visit their sites and check out their products:

Riot Kayaks
Level Six
Fortress Watches
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