Monday, December 17, 2012

Mountain Biking AEDC Trail System

Arnold Air Force Base
Tullahoma, Tennessee

My friend Stacy arranged to meet some of her friends Dave and Paul at the mountain bike trail system at the Air Force’s Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) near Tullahoma, Tennessee to explore a place that had been on her list for a while. She also was running an errand to exchange some cash for a used dry suit (for paddling whitewater) for a friend, which made the trip feel a little like a smuggling run. Nonetheless, I quickly decided that I was up for the adventure because AEDC had also been on my list since I first started riding in 2009 and there would be a guide familiar with the trails along to show the way. It was too good an opportunity to pass up. Things started off inauspiciously as it was raining in Lookout Valley when we met up to carpool from the Chattanooga area but after we got rolling, we drove out of the rain in short order and although overcast it was quite warm for mid-December.

I had messaged ahead for my friend Kenny Warwick to meet us at AEDC at the appointed time so the group grew to 5, the largest group I have ridden with so far. Everybody was running significantly early although Kenny had forgotten his helmet and trail map at home. He decided to go ahead and ride anyway. The parking lot for the trail is not well marked at all. Fortunately Stacy had good directions in an email from one of her friends so we found it on the first try although we felt no certainty until we got quite close.

Why is everyone breathing hard?

Guide Paul on the right.

The AEDC trail system was built over an abandoned gunnery range. The Air Force issues warnings not to touch any ordnance you might come across. While worrisome, I assumed crashing my bike was probably a much greater threat so I decided to worry about that instead. The area is mostly forested, with a few power line cuts and some fire road double track threading through it. The trails are mostly single track but wander onto the double track from time to time. The terrain is fairly level with only short climbs. The trail builders took advantage of the forest to make up for the lack of topographical relief and there are frequent sections of trail that setup a relentless slalom between and around the trees, with many tight turns threatening to throw you into an oak or pine. Speaking of pines, the trail system features long stretches of quiet, needle carpeted trail, one of my favorite things. I love the muffled sounds and the open forest understory of a stand of pines. Of course, these pines are almost certainly artificially planted due to the trail system being on the grounds of an Air Force base. This reminded me quite a bit of the Saul Raisin Woods trail system just outside Dalton, Georgia, which is built on a remediated landfill. Remediation is great, but you can always tell the difference from natural forest and topography.

Sunny double track at a point where the single track crosses over. At times the trail signs direct you down some of this.

I still do not entirely comprehend the trail system there but it’s pretty unique in that most of the trail seems to actually be a single trail, numbered in order with sections of increasing difficulty, so that the farther you ride, the more difficult the trail is. It’s as if the trail designers were actually video game designers. I kind of expected to have to beat a “boss” villain in the last segment before I could get back to my car.

Trail numbers mark segments rather than separate trails. If ridden in order the difficulty increases with the number.

Eventually Dave and Kenny tired out and took an option to return to the parking lot where the trail system crosses over the road. By that time I would say we had ridden at least 5 or 6 miles and it was still at least that much further by following the trail to get back, so they were cutting off quite a bit of trail that would have had to be ridden. It’s nice to have these options to turn back if you find yourself struggling.

Somewhere around trail segment 15 or 16 you go through a quite intense slalom between some pines and end up riding along Woods Reservoir, with the Cumberland Plateau escarpment in the background. The afternoon sun on the lake made for some great views. The reservoir has developed some nice gravel beaches along the lake shore. This section was nice for the technical riding and for the scenery but as is often the case when you are riding close to water, there were too many roots. Soon I was longing for a full suspension bike. I was hoping to have one by now but it’s always a question of money and priorities and I haven’t found the time right yet. Someday soon hopefullyJ

The escarpment of the Cumberland Plateau on the far side of Woods Reservoir.

My guess is this was once a blind for hunting waterfowl?
Gravel beach on Woods Reservoir in the afternoon sun.

Finally we crossed back over the road and got into the high numbered trail segments (high being over 20) and were approaching the car. My right knee was starting to complain and the trail crossed over a series of ravines, or perhaps it was the same ravine over and over again. Either way this resulted in some short but steep climbs, which would not have signified much to me if they had not been so thoroughly covered with roots. Classic East Coast mountain biking – too many roots. Soon I was daydreaming about Colorado Front Range trail again. We finally made it back to the parking lot. As we were approaching the cars, I heard Stacy scream behind me. She had run over a hapless chipmunk that had run in front of her tires. I’m not sure what to make of that but it was an unpleasant end to an otherwise pleasant ride. We shook hands, loaded up and headed back to Chattanooga for some Mexican food. It was a great day on a new trail. I’d rate the AEDC trail system as entertaining but only medium compared to much of the trail near Chattanooga. Still, I’d go back.

[Use caution if you go because hunting is allowed in the forest and it is closed to non-hunting users at certain times of year.]

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Edwards Point via Mountain Bike


I previously scouted out the trailhead for a rough trail system on Signal Mountain that is widely listed as available for mountain biking. At the time, I was not impressed. It was terribly muddy double track with no signage that obviously had been torn up by off-road vehicles and seemed somewhat like a sketchy area to be riding alone. I neglected it for a couple of years until finally getting a chance to go with someone who knew the trails.

There are several trailheads and our guide selected one of the unmarked entry points and we set off. Even though the weather had been dry for quite some time, we still encountered huge mud holes with regular frequency, although most of the rough track was smooth enough. The ride out from the trailhead was mostly downhill and fast. We passed a couple of unmarked trail intersections but it was pretty clear which paths are the ones that lead to the lookout point. I asked about markings and my guide pointed out yellow blazes that mark the main trail. We could hear engines revving off in the woods and stopped to identify whether or not they were coming our way but eventually determined the motor vehicles were on a different track and rode on out to the lookout over the Tennessee River Gorge.

The Chattanooga area from Edwards Point on Signal Mountain, looking out of the mouth of the Tennessee River Gorge.  The ridge and valley region is in the distance backed by the Appalachians proper. Signal Mountain itself is considered to be part of the Cumberland Plateau, or the South Cumberlands as the locals say. Sorry about the quality. I forgot my camera and had to use my iPhone 4.


There were some dirt bike riders out there checking out the view, along with some various hikers and trail runners with dogs. I got nervous when some of the dogs were playing right along the edge of the cliff but somehow they avoided falling over. We took a few photos with cell phone cameras and decided to head back by a slightly different route. This turned out to have a rather stout climb over leafy trail slightly narrower than what we had ridden on the way out. And the climbing continued. I realized that we had dropped more elevation than was apparent on the way out and soon we were cranking hard, but it was nothing worse than other local trail systems. Along the way we passed assorted hikers, families with small children, and kids with department store bikes. We decided to start exploring a side trail for a while but soon heard shotgun blasts and I persuaded the others to turn back since it looked like a more lightly traveled trail and sounded unfavorable due to the gunfire.

When we finally pulled out from the trailhead, we passed three police cars at one of the other trailheads. My suspicion is they were attracted by the probably illegal shooting. The view from Edwards Point is nice but the trail is very low quality and I was cautioned about riding there alone, which was not encouraging. At least my curiosity about the trail system was satisfied.

More pics.
The view downstream. Opposite is Raccoon Mountain.

Development on Signal Mountain, because it doesn't have enough already.

Stacy goofing on the cliff. I'm surprised she wasn't closer to the edge, normally she would be.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Middle Hooch

Chattahoochee River: Buford Dam to Settles Bridge

December 8, 2012

When starved of water, I have sometimes found it necessary to wander far from familiar territory. Last weekend the only thing running within 200 miles of the greater Chattanooga area was the Chattahoochee so I went for a long drive. Large groups converged on the Metro section, but a smaller group converged on the rarely run but frequently fished Middle Hooch. I joined the Walkers, Stephen and Jana, who graciously invited me to explore their local run. I hoped the haul would be a meager 2 hours but it went well over that due to my inability to input the correct destination into the GPS. It was roughly a Nanty drive for a class I-II river but that’s not important in a drought. I was just glad to be out on the water.

Lake Lanier from Buford Dam Road.

Buford Dam from the launch site.

Buford Dam is a massive earthen dam that impounds the Chattahoochee near Buford, Georgia. It’s impressive to drive over and impressive to look upon from downstream. The lake is scenic and deep and the water in the outflow is ice cold. The Army Corps of Engineers has the strange habit of releasing either slightly too little, or much too much water from the dam. This results in very extreme fluctuations in flow. Unfortunately I didn’t have the opportunity to experience one of the high-flow events but the signs of it were everywhere. Fortunately even the minimum flow is floatable for the average solo paddling craft, especially if you are drought-desperate for whitewater.

Lot of wood in the run due to periodical high flows.

There were plenty of exposed rocks covered in mud between the highly eroded stream banks. These created some nice small class I rapids with a few opportunities for 360 degree flat spins, though few other opportunities other than playing slalom by dodging the semi-frequent trout fishermen. Judging by their relative scarcity, I suggest a few of the Atlanta fellows cluttering the Toccoa and Upper Upper Chattooga should relocate to the nearby Middle Hooch to have less paddler interference and more solitude. Plus it will keep them off the whitewater. The Middle Hooch is relatively flat. We did not see any other paddlers for the entire day but we saw several fishermen – but only a couple per mile. There are a few McMansions dimly visible through the trees outside the National Park Service property lining the river but for the most part we enjoyed at least the illusion of a river in a fairly pristine condition (once you get out of sight of the massive dam).

The mud on the sign marks the level the water normally reaches when the dam is generating at full capacity. Rivers ought to not have mile markers in my opinion. Very strange.
The Chattahoochee in this section reminds me much of the wider sections of the Etowah River. It also has some qualities fundamentally and unsurprisingly similar to the Metro Hooch (as it is the same river, just further upstream). One of the unusual features of this section of the river is the abundant signage, apparently installed to prevent the drowning of river users, especially fishermen, necessitated by the huge fluctuation of release levels from the dam. Apparently the volume varies by several thousand cubic feet per second during episodes of power generation. The evidence of this were the extremely eroded stream banks, the abundance of entire trees laying over in the riverbed, and mud covering every rock that rose above water level at our non-release condition.

Eventually we arrived at the only true class II on the run, Rescue Rock (a.k.a. the Hump). This is a rock ledge with a giant boulder in the middle, which is undercut but not difficult to avoid. There is a medium sized wave-hole alongside the best channel to the right of the boulder and you can punch it and eddy out behind the rock. There is a huge eddy behind it the size of a medium pond and there is some play to be found in the standing waves in the run-out from the rapid. Sandy beaches (at low flow) make good points to exit your boat on river left. Watch out for the accumulation of logs on river right below the surf in the outflow of the wave train.

Approaching Rescue Rock, the only class II on the section at normal flow. Note the severely undercut front side of the rock.

The left side of Rescue Rock. We didn't run this side. It kind of looks like a Chattooga Section 2 rapid.

Play all you want and then be prepared for flatwater, there is a lot of it. The flat section is punctuated by a few small rapids with play spots including a couple of very nice small but glassy waves that can be ridden for minutes on end, although they are not deep enough to throw any significant moves. We amused ourselves by throwing down our sterns and working on flatwheels in the deep pools between. Finally we came upon the takeout at the defunct Settles Bridge, tired but happy.

The old Settles Bridge. The takeout is on river left.

We finished with Pollo Pakal and a burrito at Cinco on Peachtree Industrial. My Pollo Pakal came with Cream Corn Sauce (?), something I’ve never experienced before. I called it “Mexican Pancakes,” where disks of crunchy tortilla are the cakes and cream corn sauce is the syrup. Nice river, nice people, nice day. At least I got to paddle in a multi-week drought (the heavy rains didn't arrive for another 2 days). Oh, I forgot to mention how warm it was. Spring temps in early December, can’t beat that.

A stack of Mexican Pancakes at Cinco's with cream corn sauce instead of syrup. Actually it was called Pollo Pakal. It was interesting. I was unsure how to eat it at first.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Mountain Biking: Return to Indian Boundary

A view of Indian Boundary Lake looking into the evening sun.

I first visited Indian Boundary Recreation Area in Cherokee National Forest back in early October 2010. At that time, the leaves had just started to change color. Desperately in need of an outdoor adventure, I decided to return and see how it looked in early November. Indian Boundary is located off the Cherohala Skyway above Tellico Plains, Tennessee so you get the added benefit of the scenery of the Skyway.

Unfortunately I got off to an inauspicious start due to a pinhole in a valve stem on my rear wheel, but after struggling for a while I got a spare tube installed and ready to go.

"Fortune favors the prepared . . . " - Louis Pasteur (Ok, so I'm taking it a little out of context, but I was prepared with a spare tube and tire tool.)

The good thing about having a pickup is you have a ready made workbench on the back of the vehicle.

The trail was as I remembered it, ridiculously smooth bicycle path, only this time most of it was carpeted in a thick layer of dry leaves. At first it was a bit cool and windy with the sky periodically clouded over but eventually I warmed up and the sun made several appearances to keep things pleasant for November in the Southern Appalachians.

Super smooth bicycle path, with just a few outcroppings of rock and at this time of year, a blanket of leaves.
There are many nice bridges on the Lake Loop trail over small rivulets.

The primary tributary to the lake forms an almost perfectly picturesque meandering channel with grassy wetlands around the inflow. Unfortunately the late day lighting, the camera, and my limitations as a photographer did not fully capture the loveliness of the setting.
A beautiful wetland with a meandering channel where the main tributary flows into the lake.

On the far side of the lake from the parking lot, the pedestrian traffic dropped off for a mile or more and the views of Flats Mountain opened up. Most of the leaves on the higher ridges had dropped already, but there were still some flaming reds in a sheltered area just above the lake. Eventually I came upon the dam, which can be ridden across with just a few inches to spare on either side of the handlebars, but it's best to stop in the middle because Flats Mountain is perfectly framed on the lake side. Flats Creek drops away on the other side, eventually flowing into Citico Creek far below. Being also a whitewater paddler, it was an irresistible temptation for me to contemplate if Flats Creek was runnable and if it has been run. There was not sufficient flow in the dry Autumn weather but the channel looked promising. It's certainly a micro creek at this point and the dam would no doubt limit the outflow but the channel looked plenty big enough below the dam.
Flats Mountain above the Indian Boundary Recreation Area - taken from the dam.
The dam over Flats Branch, a tributary of Citico Creek.

More views of Flats Mountain are available when you get around to the beach area (closed for the season), then the trail returns back to the parking area by the boat ramp.
Late season color in the middle elevations of the Southern Appalachians.

Back in 2010 I resisted the urge to drive down to scout Citico Creek because I ran out of daylight and wanted to drive up the Skyway for more views. On this day I took the opportunity to go down and check it out. There was more water than I expected based upon what I had seen in the Tellico River when I drove over it, but it still was nowhere near runnable, and a couple of the rapids looked suspiciously like Low Water Rocky Garbage (LWRG - an acronym of my own invention). I could see why it requires a lot of rainfall for paddling. I saw a couple of logs that looked slightly problematic and also noticed that parts of the stream bed are more like a trench than a creek. It's easy to see how Citico developed the reputation for being continuous to the point that it can be hard to catch an eddy once you launch.

Looking downstream on Citico Creek into a gaping undercut rock. I suspect the drop is a bit cleaner when there is enough water in the channel. Of course at a good level the water must be moving really, really fast.

My urge for time outdoors and exploration satisfied, I headed back south for home. A little time outside can get me through the longest work week. I had one last spectacular view from the Cherahala Skyway before leaving the area.
The view from Caney Branch Overlook. It's pretty nice if you can ignore the house and antenna in the lower part of the picture.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Of Aviation Geekery, Interface Engines, and Divine Wrath

Much to my surprise, my employer agreed to fund a trip to Corepoint Connect 2012, a conference for programmers of the Corepoint Integration Engine, a software platform that utilizes the Health Level 7 (HL7) protocol for the transmission of medical information. The conference was scheduled at the Dallas/Plano Marriott Hotel at Legacy Town Center in Plano, Texas. Corepoint headquarters are located nearby in Frisco, Texas. The venue was great in a fake way, typical of the suburban sprawl version of Texas that is the greater Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex. The hotel is located in an artificial community called Legacy Town Center that is quite pedestrian friendly despite being isolated on the Texas prairie outskirts of the big city.

Due to some luck regarding the scheduling of the conference, I was able to get (rare) direct flights to and from Lovell Field, the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport (CHA) to the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport (DFW). CHA is what I call a “baby airport.” It has all of the features of a larger airport yet it has only 5 normal gates. That makes it really easy to get in and out of, especially with regard to security. Unfortunately it also makes it difficult to get direct flights to cities outside of the Southeast region. Usually you end up connecting at one of the great hassle airports of North America, such as Charlotte.
A nice view of clouds somewhere over Arkansas (probably).

I’m kind of an aviation geek. I’m especially interested in military aircraft (like most geeks) but I take some interest in the various civilian aircraft I’ve ridden on as well. For this trip, I rode on an Embraer Regional Jet (ERJ) with 44 seats both to and from Dallas. Embraer is a Brazilian company that has designs that are very similar to Bombardier Canadair Regional Jets (CRJ) due to a past partnership between the two companies. There was a significant transfer of technology from Bombardier, a Canadian company, and Embraer, and it shows in the design and passenger experience on the jets of both companies.

The business relationship between Bombardier and Embraer was broken up by the World Trade Organization (WTO) due to violation of trade rules but the jets persist. These companies have continued to thrive by carefully avoiding direct competition with Boeing and Airbus, building only jets with a passenger capacity that is just slightly less than the smallest capacity of their larger counterparts. Regardless, the CRJs and ERJs are pretty reliable aircraft and I’ve ridden on them several times over the last 10 years. The ERJ I was riding was an American Eagle aircraft with three seats to a row, with one seat on the left separated by an aisle of normal width from two contiguous seats on the right. Overhead bins are not gigantic but adequate for the passenger capacity.

A view of the seating arrangement in an ERJ 140.

One thing that fascinates me about the ERJ aircraft is the wing, which could be described as a modified delta wing. It’s not a true delta but is sort of a cross between a delta and a swept wing (used by Airbus and Boeing). It looks fast and maneuverable even though it may have dozens of passengers on board, and in fact is slower than late model Boeing and Airbus aircraft, which cruise around .9 Mach. I like the sleek lines of the regional jets and have a reasonable degree of confidence in the designs, despite the lack of name recognition for the manufacturers and the relative youth of the pilots flying the regional routes. I usually have a good experience.
View of the wing of the ERJ-140.

Here is a pretty long video showing the early phases of the descent from cruising altitude into DFW. It's kind of boring so don't click on it unless you've never been on a jet before and wondered what it's like to pass through clouds.

The Corepoint Connect 2012 conference was great fun. The founder of Corepoint is Dave Shaver, sort of a minor rock star in the healthcare IT world, and he can walk the talk. I admire what he has created and having had a chance to get my hands on 4 different interface engines over the course of my career, I feel that Corepoint has the best development environment in the business. Anyway there were numerous sessions crammed into the three day conference with a lot of useful information and as always seems to be the case with Corepoint, there was a lot of good food and drink - and drink. I couldn’t entirely keep up with them and had to retire early on the last night of the conference.
Dallas/Plano Marriott Legacy Town Center
Standard business hotel room, only more expensive. They did have good pillows though.
The pedestrian-friendly artificial neighborhood of Legacy Town Center, in Plano, Texas. I had a good time but there is a slightly fake feel to it - plus it's quite obviously isolated on it's own in the middle of a bunch of prairie and office parks. Like many things in Texas, it just differs from the rest of the country in some way that is difficult to define.
Hewlett-Packard. This is the former headquarters of EDS, H. Ross Perot's former consulting business. As I recall, he eventually sold it to GM who eventually sold it to HP and later he started another consulting business called Perot Systems that continues to this day.

Cattle drive sculptures, similar to those in nearby Frisco, Texas, commemorating the history of the region. This was one of the few points of interest I had opportunity to see in the area.
Baccus Cemetery - a family cemetery that has been in continuous use since the Wild West era. It's now completely surrounded by Legacy Town Center.

I had great plans of impressing people and being showered with job offers when I went to the conference but quickly became demoralized by the abundance of very smart people and started feeling like I was just a big, stiff, walking gaffe. I tried to clamp my mouth shut for a while and eventually realized that most of the others attendees were merely much more experienced than me rather than actually being much smarter. Anyway a lot of the others eventually made fools of themselves and I started to feel better about things. It’s not always good to be a strutting peacock, even if you can back it up. At the very least, I gained some insight and made some new friends, and that summarizes the purpose of a conference.

Much to my alarm, as I was about to board my return flight from DFW to CHA, I got a call from the Catoosa County (Georgia) Sherriff’s Department asking if I could head for my house. Upset, I explained that I was in Dallas about to board a flight home. The dispatcher admitted that someone had gone off the road and struck my house. Although upsetting, this was actually somewhat of a relief since I expected her to tell me that the house was on fire (I’d had a premonition a couple days before). I do not care to lose my personal possession, especially some family heirlooms that I’ve inherited, but mostly I was worried about my cats. Life always counts more than stuff, even if it’s just pets. She put me on hold to confer with the Lieutenant and eventually determined that I did not need to be present and confirmed my information and gave me a case number. Needless to say, it was a long unpleasant flight back.

Well, the situation with the house is an unfortunately complex and sordid affair. It turns out that it was no accident. The owner of the pickup truck that hit my house claims the vehicle was stolen and suspects a neighborhood teenager. The truck was driven over my next-door-neighbor’s mailbox and then turned down the steep hill of my front yard to crash into the house. There was damage to the masonry and brick foundation of my front porch and a major load bearing pillar was knocked completely out of place. Fortunately the habitable parts of the house were unaffected and my cats were fine, if obviously a bit shaken up. I talked to some neighborhood boys, called my homeowners insurance company, and my parents for advice.

Where's the insurance company?

Since the pillar was intact, I went down to Lowe’s and bought a 10 pound sledge and knocked the sucker back in place to help hold up the roof, using a level to get it as square as possible under the circumstances (upon the advice of my Dad). What a fracking nightmare. It’s occurred to me that I may never know what exactly happened and why, however I have a history of having called the police on the older brother of one of the potential suspects (due to him having vandalized the entire neighborhood a few years ago), so it’s possible the choice to wreck the truck at my house was not random. Of course this is all speculative and at this point it’s in the hands of the Sherriff’s Department, insurance adjusters, and lawyers. All of this adds up to a normal day in 21st Century America.

On Divine Wrath (skip if you don't like reading religious stuff)

This brings me to my next point: Divine Wrath. I’ve been on a losing streak lately, and it’s really shaken me. I have an extensive scientific education and normally I’m not the least bit superstitious, but on the other hand I am religious, so sometimes it’s hard not to interpret events in supernatural terms. I am well aware of my own character flaws and failings and I am aware of not always living up to the standards expected of a Christian. It seems whenever I fall particularly far down bad things start happening to me. I do not accuse God of delivering punishment, but I do believe that bad forces are at work and a good Christian is protected from them under normal circumstances. If you fall, then you lose protection and bad things happen. This does not seem to apply to non-Christians. It seems to me that if a man who has been saved slips, then the consequences are worse than for someone who has never been saved in the first place. Or perhaps it is all chance and coincidence – mere statistics. Fortunately the New Testament offers a relevant passage that reconciles the two notions. I won’t bother to quote the exact translation but it is often summarized by saying that “It also rains on the faithful,” meaning that sometimes bad things happen to good people. What is required of me is perseverance, so I’m trying to show some right now. In the meantime, I got the name of a good lawyer.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Inner Tube Creeking on Deep Creek

August 19, 2012

After a rainy night camping in the mountains above Bryson City, North Carolina, I drove over into the Deep Creek area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park to see if the creek might be running high enough to make it worth a hike up and paddle. I had never been to that area of the park before and the rain gave me an excuse to check it out, not that I needed one. I headed up around 9 am and hiked in to look at a side waterfall before heading up the Deep Creek Trail to scout out the run.
Juney Whank Falls - up a short but steep side trail from the Deep Creek Trail parking lot.
Although it looked like the rain had probably raised the water level some, it was barely sufficient to scrape down the run in a kayak and I thought it probably was not going to be worthwhile. However I had been hearing from friends over the last year or so how great a trip it was on an inner tube. People call it “class V tubing.” Well, it isn’t class V but it definitely rocks tubing unlike my previous limited experiences with the sport. It’s creeking on an inner tube. I was amazed at the vast number of tubing outfitters on Deep Creek Road between Bryson City and the park boundary. Apparently it’s a very popular recreational activity on summer days. I headed downstream in my truck to rent a tube and passed Sandra Walker, daughter Mely Taylor, Lisa Lemza, and Debbie McRae heading up to the trailhead with inner tubes. I hoped to catch up with them.

The stream bed has been carefully channelized by dragging around natural stone to facilitate the run. In places little dams have been built up to create deep pools, and natural chutes have been lined with rocks to compress the flow and keep things moving. It isn’t completely natural but it’s completely fun!

The creek has been channelized to facilitate inner tubing at low levels.

You have to hike up from the highest parking area at the trailhead and it’s a little over a half mile to get to a sign that says “No tubing beyond this point” or something similar. I caught up with the others shortly before they got to the put-in. There is another trail that leads to a side waterfall so we dropped our tubes and took a few minutes to hike over and have a look at it. Lisa Lemza and Sandra Walker couldn’t resist climbing over into the waterfall to have some photos taken and Lisa’s opera voice echoed around the ravine as she was inspired to song. Must have been a hundred decibels or more.

Lisa Lemza and Sandra Walker at Indian Creek Falls - just up a side trail from the put-in on Deep Creek.

We launched out into the current and the run started with a bang as we accelerated and began spinning and careening off rocks down the left side a long rapid that I’m sure would be II+ to III if the creek was actually running with a sufficient level to paddle a hard boat. For paddlers, it’s very difficult to ignore the urge to try to control the descent, but it’s necessary to just go with it and try to stay on top of the tube because you aren’t going to control it anyway. I made it through one of the named drops “Big Dipper” the first time but there were some random swims.

Tube creeking on Deep Creek.

After we got to the bottom of the “steep” section above the upper-most bridge, we carried back up for a second run. This time I wasn’t so lucky. As I approached Big Dipper the second time, I could see Melanie was getting recirculated in the hole at the bottom, which on an inner tube involves spinning in a circle endlessly. It was pretty funny. Unfortunately I went over the drop badly, pushed Mely out of the hole but fell off and plunged deep. I hit my head on something (I wasn’t wearing a helmet) and then tasted something in my mouth that was familiar. What was it? Oh, that’s right, creek water. Now I remember I surfaced within a few feet but my tube had run away from me and I proceeded to have one of the worst swims I’ve had in while until I finally got sense enough to just stand up. I waded down to where the girls had rounded up my inner tube for me, feeling sheepish. The rest of the run went perfectly well but I declined a third lap on the steep section. Down below the first bridge you float under there is another tributary that falls into the lower section of the creek that is gorgeous. The rapids settle down a bit but are still fun.

Tom Branch Falls

This was great fun! I’ve previously disdained tubing a little but I will definitely be floating Deep Creek again.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Lower Green

Green River
Fishtop to Big Rock
North Carolina
July 24, 2012

Level = I don’t know what but the outfitter said it was a little higher than usual for July.

The Green River in North Carolina lies to the East of the Eastern Continental Divide, thus its waters eventually flow to the Atlantic Coast of North America. The Green is renowned for whitewater due to the steep section known as the Narrows that is one of very few runnable dam-release steep creeks in the world. Below the narrows is a section floated in the summer by tubers and lazy, lollygagging class II paddlers looking for low stress wet recreation on their vacation. After nearly killing myself mountain biking in the high heat and humidity of late July the previous day, I decided to float the river to cool off.

I tried to arrange a trip on the internet but as usual any post looking for a trip on class II always results in a series of self-serving replies that range from “you don’t want to run that if you're any good” to “run this other much more difficult and dangerous thing instead because that’s where I want to go.” See my previous post regarding unhelpful help for further elaboration on this phenomenon.  The only truly helpful reply I received was that there are tubing outfitters on the Lower Green that are willing to set shuttle for a price. Since it was only class II, I decided to take the chance on running it solo and stopped at the first decent looking outfitter, Adventure Cove Tubing. They were low-key and completely cool and set me up with my vehicle at the lowest takeout for $10 and dropped me and my gear off at the Fishtop access point for a full run of the Lower Green.
Fishtop is a great name for a river access point.
The view upstream from the Fishtop Public Access. I'm not sure which is the outlet of the Green River Narrows, or could it be both? Is one of those a tributary?

After the put-in there are a couple of nice I+ to II- drops that start things off well. I was pleased that the gradient on the drops was already more than I expected. After paddling my way around a bevy of tubers, I finally got past most of the houses and riverside cabins and the run started to remind me quite a bit of the Toccoa River in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia. There are numerous I+ to II- wavetrain rapids and a few solid class II rapids. I was informed that the level was slightly higher than usual for this time of year due to recent rain so perhaps I was enjoying a slight “upgrade” of my experience.
An early rapid below Fishtop. Not pictured: 4 million tubers.

There are some really big sycamore trees on the run, well in excess of 100 feet I’m sure, and there is a nice little section where some of these giants are bamboozled by bamboo thickets. It’s a nice place to float if you aren’t too big on adrenaline.

Huge sycamore trees tower over the river for a mile or two roughly in the middle of the run. This was a particularly pretty section with bamboo undergrowth on river left (at the right of the photo, this is looking upstream).

After running about a hundred or so class I+ wave trains I was starting to get pessimistic about surfing potential when I came upon this beauty. You could stay on there all day.

The eternal surfing wave. It's only a foot and a half or so tall but it's just right for a freestyle boat that is about 6 feet long.

There are a handful of rapids that are slightly more technical and feature minor boulder gardens and slot moves, although still nothing beyond class II. Below is a photo of the most difficult rapid I encountered and it would have been much easier if I had chosen to take the right channel instead of the left channel. It was maybe II+ but even that is probably stretching the rating system a little too far.

The most difficult rapid of the day. I ran down the left channel but as you can see it would have been easier if I had taken the right channel (on the left of the photo as we face upstream). I'd rather take the difficult channel though.

A lengthy class II very reminiscent of the Toccoa River in Georgia. There was a little play in this rapid.

Aside from the glassy surfing wave I got a couple of flat spins in some tiny hole but basically kept moving downstream as it was clouding up and the outfitter had told me a tale of a vivid lightning storm the previous day. I knocked out the run in a little over 2 hours, which is pretty fast for me to paddle 5 to 6 miles in a freestyle playboat, but things go much faster when you don’t have friends around to talk your ear off and hog up the surfing wave. It’s a nice float, but it’s about a 4 hour drive from my house so I won’t be going there very often. The run is very comparable to the Toccoa but has a slightly less remote feel due to the vast number of tubers on it. I’d still give it a thumbs up and add the comment that it looks like an awesome tubing river.