In the days leading up to the Raid, I was concerned that the aftermath of tropical storm Erika was going to make the weather a complete washout. As the first few days proved, weather in the mountains can be very dynamic, raining on one side, sun shining on the other, but the Wednesday morning forecast wasn’t looking very positive for a good day of riding. Fortunately, Tuesday evening, after our awesome ride across the Blue Ridge Parkway, John our ride leader suggested that we go rafting on Wednesday. Having been rafting in the past, a wet day on the river is a lot fun, sometimes better it’s raining; I was in.
John apparently discovered “Endless River Adventures” (ERA) in previous trips to the Dragon and has made it somewhat of a tradition, this year bringing a few of us along for the ride. I have previously rafted Cumberland Falls, Kentucky, and the New River in West Virginia; both in a 6-8 person rafts with a river guide. This time of year, ERA offers solo whitewater trips in an inflatable canoe; having done some “team” rafting previously, I was excited to finally try a whitewater “ducky” ride.
Showing up at ERA’s facility mid-morning, for a cheap $30 fare, they outfitted us with wet suits, paddles, paddle jackets (Personal Floatation Devices or PFD), and inflatable “ducky”. On this random Wednesday it was just the six of us Triumph riders on the river with ERA, so we squeezed into a van as our “guide” took us just short of 8 miles upriver. At the put-in, the guide gave us a few instructions on safety and things to avoid (the state mandated checklist), and then we were on own for the next 8 miles of river. With my trusty RAM Mount in hand, I clamped the GoPro down to the canoe paddle and got ready to catalogue the next adventure.
As I suspected, right away I was glad they gave me a wetsuit, the Nantahala river is flooded each day from the hydroelectric dam upstream, forcing frigid water downstream toward Nantahala Falls (rumor is the water is 50 degrees, all year). Despite the cold waters, I was working up a sweat learning how to keep a one-man canoe facing forward. Being more accustomed to a team raft, I was used to team paddle dynamic, easily keeping the boat pointed down river; obviously the double-ended paddle tends to make the canoe zig-zag down the river. Certainly seasoned kayakers are laughing at the previous statement, but after about two rapids, I started to get a feel for how much effort needed to control the attitude of the boat.
Having done Class II and III rapids on the Cumberland River, then III and IV rapids on New River I was convinced I was experienced… just about enough to be dangerous on the Nantahala. The Forest Service only requires PFDs on this section of the river, which meant that helmets are optional. That actually surprised me at first, but I figured that was because we were probably only going to navigate one class II rapid all day. After settling into a rhythm in my “ducky”, I started taking rapids backwards, and mostly focusing on taking better photos and video of the river. Despite the low threat, a couple of engineers did manage to tip a raft (who knew that rafts don’t bounce off each other?). Fortunately, no one was hurt, and now we have a good story to tell; a shame I didn’t catch it on video. For folks who have never been rafting, I would definitely recommend trying out this section of the Nantahala River to see if you like it. Most people can successfully complete this 8-mile section of river without leaving their raft, although, sometimes taking a dip can be fun.
While it never rained that morning, it was still an awesome way to spend a damp morning in the mountains. Some of the most incredible photos I’ve taken with the GoPro to date were on the river that morning. I was blown away by the crisp images of the splashing water, combined with the serene views of fog rising off the cold water. Next year I will be sure to bring my GoPro helmet mount and rent a rafting helmet to go with it. Hopefully I’ll manage to catch my run across the Nantahala falls this time; somehow operator error caused me to miss that shot…
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