Nolichucky Gorge
Poplar, NC to Nolichucky Campground in Erwin, TN
August 3, 2013

Paddlers were John Hall, James Crane, Ricky Blizzard, Sammy Allred, Brooks Iddings, Ed Boswell, Brian, Patt and myself.  John set the trip up.  When I called Ricky on Friday to borrow a paddle from him, he was on his way home from the Watauga.  Since he had not paddled the Noli in a long time, so he agreed to join us the next day.  I picked him up at 7am Saturday morning.  We met Ed, Sammy, Brooks, John and James in Whytheville at 8:15.  Ed threw his boat on with Ricky and I and we headed to the Nolichucky Campground in Erwin, TN, arriving around 10:30.  All the boats were piled onto John's truck.  James and I hopped on back and we took off from the campground.  A train was passing through at the exact same time.  After crossing the mountain, just as we were pulling up to the put-in, the same train rolled through, blocking us just a few feet from the river.  The train passed, we unloaded, the shuttle driver left to take John's truck back to the campground and we were in the water around 1:30.  Just as we were about to paddle away from shore, two of Ricky's friends, Brian and Pat, recognized him and joined us for the run.
The day went well for all, there were only a couple of rolls and one swim.  I don't get to paddle new rivers very often and really enjoyed not knowing what was around each bend.  All the big rapids near the top were fun.  I especially enjoyed Roostertail.  Quarter Mile was pretty fun too.   Heck, I guess it was all fun.  John and James broke down On The Rocks for us, saying that which ever way we got kicked, to just go that way around the rock in the center.  When Sammy and Brooks came through on their shredder, it stalled on that center rock.  Sammy quickly hopped out and pushed off the rock.  So Sammy was literally standing "on the rock" in On The Rocks.  From there, the shredder duo dialed it in and it was smooth sailing the rest of the way.  You only get to run new rivers once, so I wanted to probe at least part of it.  When we approached Roller Coaster, I asked John "since it is named Roller Coaster, does that mean you just hop on and go for the ride?"  John answered "Yeah, pretty much."  So I paddled ahead and got to the rapid first.  When I saw the size of the waves ahead I thought "wait a minute, did John just punk me?  Am I going to drop into some boat munching hole?".  But I trusted John and hit them dead on, which was a really fun ride.  One of the first splashes did hit me in the eye so hard though that I could barely see through most of the rapid.  I got a photo of James catching air on the biggest of those waves and one of Sammy and Brooks launching their shredder.  I missed having my playboat on the second half of the run, but was happy to be in my creeker on the first half.   It was definitely the right boat choice for me.  Brian did a lot of surfing, I tried a little, even though I was in the Rocker.  As the run wrapped up, I started trying to hit more rocks for boofs and spins.  Somewhere along the way I blew my dry hair day by rolling while plopping along a class II part of the river.  At one of the breaks, Sammy, Brooks and I jumped in for a cool off swim.  We hit Schoolhouse, surfed some more, then around 3:30 we got to the campground.  We made one detour to check out Elk River Falls, then grabbed some great BBQ in Banner Elk.  I probably rolled back into the house around 9:13 or 9:30 that evening.  It was a great day, beautiful gorge, nice weather, good crew.  All in all, a really nice day on the river.



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