Russell Fork of the Big Sandy River

October 10, 2015
20 Paddlers in 16 Crafts that included kayaks, open boats, a raft and a SUP.
(Delane, Joe, John K, John H, Dale S, Dale B, Kevin N, Kevin W, Pam, Allison, Barrett, Brian, Sammy, Brooks, Traci, Tyler, Ed, Justin K, Will and Lucas.)

Overcast, temps in the mid to high 50s. 

Joe and John arrived at my house around 3, we loaded the boats and gear onto my truck and quickly hit the road.  We had a heavy rain during much of the drive and stopped at DQ along the way.  We rolled into the park after dark, catching enough of a break in the weather to setup camp on my favorite site, #102.  Will joined John on #100.  We got to visit with lots of the weekend's paddlers under our canopy as the rain fell off and on.  Kevin N brought by a bottle of his cab franc for us to open later.  After a great night's sleep, we met at the lodge parking lot around 8:40.  The meeting time was 9:00, but most everyone was already there.  Between getting an earlier start and Brian's awesome shuttle trailer, we were on the road to the river by 9:13.  Lots of fun surfing on the Pound. Bartlick was testy this year, not allowing entry from player's right.  I eventually gave up and entered from the left, which worked great.  Nice bouncy rides as always.  I tried to stay on the Bull until I counted to at least 8 seconds, but I might have counted fast on my first ride.  I took three rides in all, but planned on making longer ones the next day. 

Even on an overcast day the scenery was amazing.  I made quicker work of Railroad this year, with a focus on hitting the boof at the bottom on the left.  I think it was my best one there yet.  I setup next to it and caught photos of Brooks, John and Lucas as they hit their boofs.  At Twenty Stitches, I hooked up with Kevin W to lay out the line I like there.  I caught the top center eddy, rode the curler below it, then picked my way down the left, skirting most of the big stuff.  I decided that was a little too easy and planned on hitting more of the holes on Sunday.  Kevin worked his way down a little more center than my line. 

I took a line at Mercer's Splat that went just right of the top pourover, then rode a flake to a boof.  I loved it.  Joe liked his right side line that hit a nice pourover at the bottom instead of the flake.  Those features were parallel with the splat rock, which sits on center left. 

A tree blocked the awesome boof line on the left side of the Johnny's Rock entrance, so I took a different, more meandering line down the center.  Other than Ed's swim at Mercer's and Johnny's Rock, I think it was a pretty carnage free day.  Brian hit a nice roll in Twenty Stitches.  At the takeout, I decided to not run the lower, but to hike with John K on the Camp Branch trail, which goes from the road to Gardenhole down into the gorge.  It was a fantastic hike.  We watched gorge paddlers hit some sweet boofs on their way down river.  Unfortunately a slip in the creek led to John breaking his ankle.  Luckily our friend Will had hiked in behind us and helped Joe and I get John back up to the car.  From their we went to the hospital in Grundy.  Joe and I grabbed a bite at El Sombrero, watched Footloose in the waiting room, went back to camp to pack up, picked up John and headed back to NC.  Other than the early exit and John's ankle, it was a pretty sweet weekend.  The group this year contained a lot of good friends, some of my favorites in fact.  Looking forward to next year already.   

The photos below are courtesy of Lucas, Justin and Emily.

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