Wilson Creek Gorge

October 17, 2009
Level = -7

When the RF camping trip went bust due to the weather, I looked at the local forecast and thought I'd have all sorts of runs to pick from, then it turned into one of those weeks full of rainy days, where no rain actually fell.  So I wasn't sure what I would find to paddle.  Then I saw Patrick from Winston-Salem's posts on TRR and MRP about making a low water Wilson Creek run.  Sounded good to me.  I had spoken with Ricky B earlier in the week when it looked like we would have water and he had talked about us running the Watauga.  I called him back to tell him that I was going to go ahead with the my plans to go creeking even without the water and was surprised when he said that he didn't have anything else to do, so he would ride down there with me. 

Even on a gray day, Wilson Creek is a beautiful spot.  Families were hiking and fly fishermen were wading.  We dropped the boats up top, set shuttle, then pushed off for the tight squeeze down the river.  Truly, at -7, finding room through the mank sections for a kayak to fit through was trickier than any of the rapids.  Lots of scooching, pushing, rocking, unbroaching going on.  I remembered the main rapids from my run in 08, but was surprised in a few spots.  Like, I didn't remember that little boof ledge leading into 10 foot.  Or that the drop into Boat Buster was quiet as tall as it was.  At -7, 10 foot was an easy slide into the pool.  The boof into Boat Buster and the run through Thunderhole probably were the most fun parts at low water for me.  Patrick turned out to be an excellent boater and had a dry hair day.  Ricky's only roll was after broaching on the wall below the auto-boof ledge.  I watched Ricky's line, then Patrick's and decided that I would do exactly what Patrick did.  I then proceeded to do exactly what Ricky did.  I had to roll upside down, push off the wall with my paddle, then roll back up.  At Razorback, I missed my line enough to get knocked over when I hit the rock at the top.  I was laying back, face down, sliding along the ledge.  It wasn't terribly uncomfortable, so I just chilled out, spent some time thinking about how cool face masks are, then rolled up once I hit some water.    I knew it took a while to get to the bottom of the ledge, but figured that I was just moving slow.  Turns out that I went down the ledge, took a left and rode along with the current to the middle of the river before slipping into the pool.  Ricky asked if I was okay in a tone that made me think that it must have looked a lot worse than it felt.  Those two were my only rolls.  I enjoyed the second lap even more and I found myself fretting a lot less about the Rocker's outfitting. By the end, I don't think I was thinking about it at all. Triple drop was pretty low key at low water, so on the second run, we ran the trap door slot, which I thought was fun.  Cracked my elbow pretty good on a rock during a brace on the first lap, so when Ricky offered me his elbow pads for lap two, I took him up on it.  He opted to make only one scrape fest, so it was just Patrick and I on the last run.  Ricky and Patrick styled the rail slide on the first lap, I undershot it.  On the second lap, I over shot it and slid right over it.  Patrick nailed it again.  Patrick was also cool enough to not complain when I wanted to find my own way down the second time, which I thought would help me remember the lines.

Wilson Creek at -7 might not have been as big of a rush as it was when I ran it at -3, but it was great practice in the creeker and a good chance to get better acquainted with the lines.   I think that if someone is interested in running WC for the first time and it's a step up for them, then hitting it at -6 or -7 is a pretty good way to get a look at it.  And it definitely beat going all month without paddling!  Ricky and I caught dinner at Wendy's in Lenoir and I arrived home just in time to pour a cold beer into my tall Hokie's mug, settle into the recliner and watch my team go down in flames to Ga Tech.  I would have been a lot more upset about that if I hadn't spent a great day on the water.


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