Tuesday, Aug. 26 turned out to be epic as the remnants of Hurricane Fay swept over Western North Carolina, with some areas receiving 10+" of rain. After class, I met up with Daniel Windham and Robin Betz to check out the West Fork of the Pigeon. After a brutal drive in the pouring rain, we arrived at the WF of the Pigeon put-in to find several groups of kayakers with wide-opened eyes. They confirmed, as our visual at the Garden of Gods had already suggested, that the river was flashing straight up and that they had hiked out. So we decided to drive to the nearby Big East Fork of the Pigeon, a micro creek that you head to when other runs are high, only to find it had flooded its banks as well.
As it was getting late and we had nowhere to paddle, we turned to Ol' Mama Green. Phone calls provided beta that indicated that it "looked like it was probably running." So we called Chris Gragtmans and offered him the opportunity for a nice little evening poach on the Green.
On the way from the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Green, we stopped by looking glass falls which looked magnificent in all of its might.
O lordy we were in for a surprise when we arrived at the takeout. It looked high. How high? We couldn't tell exactly, but we knew it was gonna be juicy. Feeling super pumped, we met Chris at the put-in and hiked down to run Big Hungry Creek into the Green. It was my first time running Big Hungry, so I had didn't have much to compare it to. However, I did feel a little uneasy when I saw that there was more water flowing through Big Hungry than a normal 100% Green release. Gragglemans said it had four times the flow he had ever scene in Big Hungry! The stick gage confirmed our estimates: 22" of all good old-fashioned natural flow. Thats not something you get to paddle every day!
Due to the excessive amounts of driving we had done all day, by the time we arrived at Frankenstein it was already about 7:45pm. The river was in such a muddy flood stage that getting splashed in the face during the put-in boogie water resulted in ten minutes of agony for me as I tried to work out whatever dirt had lodged itself in my eye. After precious minutes of daylight had ticked away, I was stoked when whatever it was finally worked itself out in the eddy above Frankenstein.
What ensued was a mad-bombing, heart-pumping, high-water race against daylight. There was no time to take pictures, but I was able to snap the above pic of Go Left before peeling out of the eddy. For comparison, below is a picture of Go Left at a normal level 7".
It was getting noticeably dark as we carefully portaged Gorilla and paused for a second to appreciate its power and glory. Nutcracker into Groove Tube into Sunshine was the highlight of the day. The boogie water below Sunshine went so fast it blew my mind. It didn't go fast enough though because we still had to run Hammer Factor in the dark (which led to some interesting lines of course).
Here's the crew at the takeout. All in all it was a glorious reunion for T-Dirk, as the four of us hadn't paddled together since the West Cherry ending to our Cali trip (we were missing the 5th T-Dirk member that night, the token hand-paddler, Adam Secrest).
Many prayers of thanks are appropriate for our safe return from our high-water mission. Many of our fellow boaters did not fair so well with the flashing water levels that evening as countless groups on a variety of runs throughout WNC lost gear, spent the night in the woods, or worse.
RIP Isaac. You are remembered.