January 25, 2017
SF Holston gauge = 2400cfs (1.1 on the bridge gauge)
Delane, Stephen, Kevin, John, James (plus Brandon +2)
The rain fell on Sunday and Monday, so it was a tough decision on whether to ask off for Tuesday or Wednesday. I decided to go with Wednesday due to the projected warm weather and crossed my fingers, hoping that the water would not be gone by then. I was surprised at how well the water level. The water ran high all day Tuesday and fell into the perfect sweet spot for Wednesday. Stephen and I met a little after 8 in Mt Airy, then picked up Kevin in Wytheville at 9:30. We hooked up with John and James at the take-out at 11:00. I left my truck at the bottom and we all rode up with John. 60 degrees in Damascus still means "cold" on the river, but it was by far the warmest I have been on WTL. The Slot was beefier than the other times I ran it and the entrance rapid was super juicy. I was in front, with Stephen behind me, when we reached it. I was on river right and was right on top of it before I knew it. In my mind it took longer to get there. I motioned for Stephen to take out on the left, then made a hairy ferry to do the same. Everyone decided to portage, but I thought I would give it a go. I did drop in between the entrance and the Slot however. I paddled over to the eddy on far river right, then lined up for the slot. I was too far right though and caught the eddy line below the small ledge just upstream from the big drop, which spun me around, leaving me facing upstream and against a rock. With no line on the right, I had no choice but to work myself free, spin and hope to get lined up in time. As I made the move I started to flip, but braced hard, righting myself just in time to go over the drop. Super deep submarine move, which reminded me of my first line on the Slot. Super big squirt back out of the hole and it was on to the next bit of fun. I always love the section below the Slot, which is trumped only by the long continuous section below Taylor's Valley.
Along the way we were joined by Brandon and two other Damascus local paddlers. We boogied on down the run. At Big Rock the local trio bombed on through. I took out to show the line to Stephen in case he wanted to run it some other time. I probably had my best line yet on the rapid and the extra flow really shot the Rocker out at the bottom. Super fun.
Everyone paddled well. Kevin had one
swim at Car Stopper, which also almost stopped me. Stephen had an issue
when a log jammed into his PFD, temporarily stalling him out in the middle of
the river. He only got wet when he slipped getting out of his boat.
It was just the best day yet on one of my favorite runs. The level made for great boogie water.