Russell Fork of the Big Sandy River

October 04-05, 2014
Day One Paddlers
(22on the upper, 14 on the lower)
Upper: Delane, Joe F, John K, Donna, Greg, Lucas, Shawn, Sammy, Brooks, Cristie, David T, Kevin N, Deb, Russ, Brittany, Joe M, Justin K, Justin C, Will T, Allison, Ward and Nathan
Lower: Delane, Joe F, John K, Greg, Donna, Lucas, Sammy, David, Kevin, Christie, Deb, Russ, Justin C and Justin K

12 Day Two Paddlers
Delane, Joe F, John K, Donna, Greg, Cristie, Shawn, Lucas, Deb, Russ, Justin K, Will T

Joe and John picked me up around 2, we rolled into Breaks a little after 5, setup camp on sites 98 and 100 with Will and sat around till dark in just perfect fall weather.  The crew, which was split between the campground, the FEMA trailers and day trippers, met at the lodge at 9am.  We were on the road to Flannagan by 9:30.  (Many thanks to all the shuttle drivers).  It was a great group of paddlers and it was nice to have both Justins with us again.  I had met or paddled with everyone before except for Russ, who was making his introduction to whitewater in a double duck with Deb.   .  Justin C, Will, Greg, Joe and I surfed and played every little spot on the Pound and hit the confluence behind the rest of the gang.  I later heard that the front of the group got to see a deer making its way across the river.  I made a last second call to drop into Bartlick backwards, then enjoyed some of the best rides I've ever had on the old Bartlick Bull. (video)  I am just really happy with the Jitsu.  My goal in that hole is to usually stay on for 8 seconds, then get back out in one piece, but that seemed almost too easy in the new boat.  I paddled away from the dam feeling pretty good, but then, just a little further down river, I flipped while cartwheeling and damned if I didn't swim.  Not the best move on a cold day, but it is what it is.  Later I dropped into a nice munchy hole to surf, flipped and freaking swam again.  Not at all what I expected after all the playing and rolling I did over the Summer, but I never said I was above a good swim or two.  For now I'll blame it on the boat, but it might have just been an off day.  At the Railroad Rapid I skipped the eddies and went for the big boof at the bottom.  The boat shot straight up and had great air time.  I tried to recreate it the next day and just couldn't make it happen.  I even drug my boat back up to try it a third time and still couldn't hit it the same way.  Twenty Stitches went great, thanks to the line that hugs the center curler and shoots you into the eddie at the top rock, then skirts along on center left.  Just missed the boof on Mercer's Splat rock, which I always try to hit in honor of my old friend, then laughed hard when Justin stopped on top of it.  That is a great rapid.  A few of the guys even went back to run it again, trying out the right side boof.  Johnny's Rock is always a favorite of mine and I love the left side entrance boof. 

The upper run went pretty clean, although Nathan did take a shot to the face in twenty stitches and came away with a black eye.  At Garden Hole eight of our paddlers called it a day, while the remaining 14 set shuttle for a run on the lower.  Justin C and I both had big plans for surfing Ratliff Hole.  Justin hopped on and carved it like a Thanksgiving Day turkey.  I on the other hand had trouble getting into the pocket and kept slipping off.  Still fun though.  From there the gang headed into the thick of the lower section.  I forgot how close all the good rapids are.  The bridge rapid was fun again.  At MeatGrinder, a few pulled over to the right to scout.  Justin C and I headed straight for it.  This year I tried the boof line and turned around to see Sammy, David and Kevin coming right behind me.  Everyone did great, it is a fantastic rapid.  I hauled my boat back up to try to get a better boof and missed it even worse than on my first run, resulting in a knee jarring piton at the base.  From there we made the short hop to PinBall where Justin K had an awesome roll into a vertical squirt into a flip into a hole.  It was quite the show.  Then we paddled the long stretch of class I-II to Elkhorn City.  I was ready to climb out of my boat by the time we reached the vehicles.

Will met us at the takeout and went with Joe, John and I to Haysi for pizza, bluegrass and hot chocolates at their fall festival.  Then it was back to camp for some time around the fire with the campground crew. 

As a compromise on day two, we met thirty minutes later, due to the cold temps.  It was in the thirties when we woke, but was probably near 50 by the time we put on.  At the putin, Lucas worked his boat down the bank first, followed by Will.  I am not sure what happened, but Will's boat shot out into the river and started the run solo.  Lucas hurriedly started putting his skirt on while those of us at the top laughed, then out of nowhere, a lone paddler swooped in from the Pound to push the boat to shore.  And just like that, the mystery paddler was gone.  I decided that I would try a seal launch from the road.   About halfway down a slanted rock shot my boat outward and airborne, resulting in a nice pancake landing in the river.  It was a pretty fun start to the day.  After the swims the day before, I wasn't aggressive enough to get the same kind of sweet rides at Bartlick, plus we were sharing it with three rafts, but I did hop in and give it a try three or four times.  The downriver surfing was great on Sunday, the sun was out, the river looked beautiful and it was a glorious day.  At the Railroad Rapid, I worked hard to break my personal record of 34 eddies and managed 39 by the time I hit the bottom.  I think I'll skip that little exercise from now on as it was pretty tiring.  By the time we hit Johnny's Rock I was wishing I could make the trip last a little longer.  I have always loved the seal launch at Garden Hole, but since I have decided to take better care of my new boat, I skipped it this year and let Lucas have all the fun.  Good times.  Joe, John and I meandered our way back to NC via scenic highway 80 and another RF trip was in the books.  I am already looking forward to next year.


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