March 13, 2010
Streamflow at SF Holston gauge = 4000 cfs
John, James, Patrick and I met in Mount Airy at 8:00, then rode together to Damascus to meet Ed Boswell at 10:00 for a run down Whitetop Laurel. We found the creek a little higher than we had hoped following the 1.5 inches of rain that fell overnight. It didn't seem to be dropping as fast as we would have liked either and, in the end, we decided not to put-on at the top and drove to Taylors Valley. A crew from Raleigh that included Randy W and Larry A made the even more prudent move to run the Tennessee Laurel instead. At 4000cfs, it was hopping, continuous and just littered with holes. It was fun, a lot of fun in fact, but pretty intense. We stopped and scouted two sections, one because of wood and the other because of a bridge. I was trying to wrap my mind around the fact that we would be paddling at that pace for the next eight or so miles when I saw Ed get pulled back into a surprise hole. The result was just an epic swim that led to two more swims, a lost boat, two lost paddles and a re-assessment of the situation. It was an unanimous decision that the water was too high, so we called it a day. Before leaving town though, we managed to wrangle Ed's lost Burn to shore just before it went over the mill pond dam in Damascus, which was an adventure in its own right. I left Whitetop with dry hair and a couple of important lessons under my belt, so even with the abbreviated amount of paddling, it was a good trip.