Russell Fork of the Big Sandy River
October 4-5, 2008



Probably the prettiest river I've been on to date.  Simply gorgeous views everywhere you looked.  I had a great time hanging out with old friends and meeting new ones.  The time spent at camp was laid back and relaxing.  The time spent on the river was action packed and exciting.  This was my first time on the Fork and I was surprised at how fun it was.

As my site's name implies, I'll always be between swims and this trip reminded me of that.  Sandwiched among Saturday's many combat rolls, I snuck in the first swim since Spring while surfing at Bartlick Dam.  I spent over an hour during the middle of Saturday night awake, thinking about how I screwed that up.  So I was happy to get a little redemption on Sunday.  For the second day in a row, at the exact same spot, I flipped in Twenty Stitches.  My boat felt like it was on an edge instead of being flat against the water.  I was banging all sorts of stuff and things were a little confusing, so I grabbed the skirt's loop to make an exit.  You can think about a lot of stuff in a short amount of time when you're under water.  With my hand still on the loop, I had a flashback to sitting around the fire talking about the swim.  I then thought about all that time I spent rethinking it.  I decided that I didn't want to spend the ride home rethinking another swim, so I put my hand back on the paddle and managed to roll up.  I immediately found myself in all sorts of excitement, paddling into holes backwards, but was a whole lot happier to be riding the rapids from inside my boat. 

That was one of the many highlights for me on this trip.  Others were surfing the wave at Bartlick Dam on both days, with all the surfs from player's right being fun, fast and bouncy.  Paddling into the outflow at the put-in on the pound was a fun way to get things started on Saturday.  I enjoyed the diagonal ledges on the Pound and found a few good play spots along the way.  The view around each corner of the fork was amazing, with high rock walls and early fall colors reflecting on the shaded water.  At railroad, I was impressed to see Crystal doing some sweet front surfing followed by a smooth looking high brace peel out.  It cracked me up at the bottom of the rapid when I learned that it wasn't planned.  At the top of one of the rapids, I snuck into a tiny little eddy, only to find the bow of my boat sinking in a swirly little whirlpool.  As I rolled up from the flip I thought "How in the heck did that happen?", only to be immediately flipped again.  That was pretty funny.  I think Bev got a kick out of it.  On Sunday, John H, Joanne, Bob, myself and John K played a fun game of follow-the-leader, ferrying from one one boat eddy to another.  On Saturday, I paddled out of one rapid and dove straight into the next, only to find myself, unwittingly, in twenty stitches.  The whole way down as I bounced from hole to hole and rode the wave train in the middle, I kept thinking "Geez, Twenty Stitches must be one heck of a rapid if they haven't even named this one!"  I flipped somewhere in the rapid, but later couldn't remember where.  On Sunday, I thought I would find a better line.  But instead, I found myself thinking, "Yep, I remember going here, then here, then aiming for that big wave train, then ... uh, yeah, this was where I flipped."  As my bow shot straight up I knew I was flipping in the exact same spot as the day before.  It was cool to watch from the bottom of the rapid as all the folks behind us ran straight at Mercer's splat rock.  I followed James' middle to left line that steered clear of it.  I thought the entire crew of paddlers, on both days, responded fantastically each time someone found themselves out of their boat.  I saw a lot of fast reactions and great teamwork.  And like all the good trips, we had plenty of carnage on this one.  Johnny's Rock was a favorite both days.  I met Trent in the middle on Saturday and rode the last of the rapid hugging his boat.  Then Joanne and I made the same synchronized move on Sunday.  And finally, John's backward run at the end was a great way to wrap things up each day. 

I'd like to thank John and James for setting safety multiple times, Bob for driving, Mercer for helping with navigation, Traci for the steak and the loaner chair, Bev for the shirts, Richard for the shuttle on Sunday, Mike C and Richard for holding up on Saturday after my swim, Kevin for inspiring me to stay in my boat, Sammy for all that he does, Trent for showing me on tape that I was under water for all of a mili-second during my OBE, Mike M and Tommy for sharing their campfires, Joe for bringing his excellent family with him and everyone else for their fantastic company.  It was a really, really good way to spend a beautiful October weekend.





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