Section 9 - Barnard to Hot Springs

April 14, 2007


Kayakers Ledge (3.3MB) Apr07 - video clip from Kayakers Ledge

Joe and I both picked up our pace, hoping to catch the other paddlers before they dropped over the horizon line.  I wanted to see what line they took through Frank Bells.  We had watched from a distance as two thirds of the group broke off and paddled left of the island, while the remaining five dropped one by one out of sight on the right.    As I reached the top of Frank Bells I pulled my paddle from the water and tried to survey what those five were doing.  I drifted into a rock and dropped over a small ledge, still trying to find my line.  As the water pouring over the ledge pulled me into an unplanned side surf, I saw Joe zip by at full speed.  I broke away from the ledge and began paddling behind him through the upper rapids, focusing the whole time on the bottom of Franks.  I suddenly found myself going over.  The blur and speed of the rapid turned to slow motion as I tucked and hit the water.  I was entering my first Class IV, with the biggest hole of my paddling life quickly approaching, and I would soon be upside down. 

We had camped the night before at Hot Springs, right on the river and only a short distance below Franks.  There were 20 of us, primarily from Smith River Valley Canoe Club.  On our way to the put in we dropped one vehicle at Stackhouse, just in case the weather turned bad or someone decided to take out halfway.  With 20 paddlers, it took awhile for everyone to converge in the middle of the river and start making our way downstream.  I found the feel of the bigger water a little strange and had to get accustomed to it, but I loved all the drops and ledges between Barnard and Stackhouse.  Everything at the top was a blast and went pretty smooth.  I can't honestly say that I remember anything in particular about Pillow Rock, Pinball, or any of those other rapids because they seemed to zip by in a blur, but they were all fun. 

I was having an awesome time, occasionally following someone like David M if I wanted to run the more interesting lines, but typically ran everything pretty straight forward.  At a little two foot ledge in this un-named section, I decided to aim for a rock in hopes of catching a little air.  As I dropped off the ledge, the front of my GT came to a screeching halt when the bow nailed a big rock sticking out of the water.   This was my first combat roll opportunity since learning C-to-C over the two previous months.  I rolled up on-side and was ecstatic that it had worked.  I quickly looked around for someone to crow to and paddled over to Sammy and Cat.  While we chatted, Traci, who had been paddling awesome all day, came out of her boat.  She was in front of everyone, but we were a few of the closest, so I started paddling in her direction.  Boom.  No idea why, but I was upside down again.  This time I went over on the left and made the full rotation to on-side roll.  I was having the time of my life.   Traci already had help from Charlie, so I went for her boat.  I reached it, and was trying to hold onto it, along with Cat and Bob, when I drifted downstream and hit a shallow section that tipped my boat over.  This time I wasn't able to roll out of my predicament and crawled out of the boat.  So much for thinking I was done swimming.  All sorts of chaos starting breaking out around me and four of us ended up out of our boats before it was over. 

We took our second break there.  And the third at Stackhouse.  I really enjoyed that top half, especially after knowing that the roll worked fine when it needed to.  Following the break, Mercer had a quick OBE.  Jeff, Goodman and I stuck around until he had things gathered up, then we all started paddling catch-up across Windy Flats.  Mercer left us in the dust by paddling the channel on the far river right side.  By the time the remaining three of us made our way through the shallows to Kayaker's Ledge, I was whipped.  Some of the group had already paddled to the left of the island aiming for the wave trains on that side, but Jeff and I set up top with our cameras and watched many of the remaining paddlers drop through flawlessly.  Jeff, coincidentally, is the person who sold me my GT back in 2005.  Running Kayaker's Ledge was probably the most fun part of the day.  I could run that over and over all day.  I took the easiest line through the tongue on river left.  Next time I want to try a boof off far river left or the more dramatic line on river right. 

Joe graciously waited for me as everyone started paddling toward Frank Bell's.  I had climbed out to take more photos and was the last to get back into the water.    We talked about Franks as we paddled.  I had scouted it the day before.  I told Joe that I was going to run it.  I had no idea at the time that Joe had not only never ran the rapid, he had never seen it.  So that brings us to Frank Bells, my first class IV, where I am upside down.  Repetition and practice had my body doing what it was supposed to do.  I was tucked and going through the right motions.  As I found myself submerged in the water, I had only one thought though.  It was as if my mind blocked everything out, except for this one thing that I heard screaming, crystal clear in my mind.   "ROLL MOTHER*$&%ER ROLL!!!!"  And just like that, boom, I'm sitting upright, looking upstream and things are once again moving at a lightning quick pace.  I spun around, hit the line that I had picked the day before and paddled with everything I had as I rode out the bottom rapid.  The fifteen that had ran the sneak were now on river right cheering and laughing.   I saw Joe in his kayak smiling from ear to ear.  I paddled to the nearest thing I could, a rock at the bottom of the island and held onto it.  My hands were shaking so bad I couldn't paddle.  It was possibly the most fun thing I had ever done.  I eventually paddled over to join the others, got out of my boat and setup to take photos, like this one of James and David that give you a good idea of what Frank's was like. 

To cap off the day were some cold pale ales and barbecue chicken by the campfire.  The perfect punctuation mark.  Thanks to everyone that planned the trip, brought the food and snacks, and cooked dinner.  Loved the trip, great group of paddlers, decent weather, good water, great rapids, great weekend.  Can't wait for next year.   One of the things I'm enjoying, now that I've been paddling for a while, is running into people on the river that I've met on other trips or events.  On this trip there was Mick who I paddled with on a TPA trip down Kibler last summer.  And Jeff who I bought my boat from in Greensboro.  And Don, who I've bought lots of stuff from at Great Outdoor Provision.  And of course the whole gang from SRVCC that I continue to enjoy paddling with.               


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