Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Epic New Years - 2011

Well it was pretty epic but I'll keep this as short as I can.

We stayed ahead of the storm Friday night while driving in some incredible wind. We had New Years twice!!! :-o once in each time zone... Feeling off to a good start, we decided to head on to the Tellico and camp, sleeping in the rain. Now we expected a storm and knew there would be wind and lots of rain, but we had no idea what kind of night we were in for. Camping at Baby Falls is no longer allowed and it has been paved over (sad and unfortunate) with the new camp ground WAY upstream in a flash flood zone toward the top of the pass... a really, REALLY
shitty place to be in a storm. The wind was horrific and large limbs for flying out of the trees and the rain was torrential, like a Tellico Monsoon! At one point I looked out of my window
worried the tarp was flying away (the EZ Up was bow-tied and off the ground!) and I saw Jonathan's tent airborne except for the one place Jonathan was curled up inside.... lightening, thunder, wind, rain, limbs flying around us, and the campground threatening to flood. We were alone in one of the worst camping situations I've been in... The next morning the downpour hadn't stopped, so we knew things were about to get interesting. We decided to completely pack up camp after making some breakfast and coffee and we started the trek back down to the Tellico Ledges. The Small tribs upstream were swollen beyond belief and things were looking more like Cheoah on a big day. We reached the confluence with the Tellico and it was looking powerful but maybe fun.
This next part is still hard to report, like stones inside, but I'll do my best for those wanting to know.I got a good look at the first ledge and noticed a crowd gathered where we were stopped by a boater and told there was a problem and to help. We pulled over, got out, and asked around to catch up on the situation and saw the group of 3 men performing CPR on another guy across the river. Already geared up we asked if help was needed and we were put to work. There were a LOT of people standing around watching, filming, and walking around in shock so it was hard to tell who was doing what and who was just in the way. I was buddy belaying with a live bait team and providing whatever support I could for the rescue already in place. Samantha is a first responder and was assessing the situation with the victim and the team across the river. Things were not looking good but another team was preparing a kayak

raft to ferry the drowned kayaker across the river. It's not ideal to have a break in the CPR but after 20 minutes and no professionals yet it starts looking like the best option. A pickup truck was waiting to receive
the kayaker so CPR could continue down the road until they could meet with the ambulance... We prepared for the crossing and it was finally successful. Me and Samantha got him out where the shock came to me as I immediately recognized him from a conversation we had in an eddy on the Ocoee. I remembered how lively and friendly he was and his passion for the sport but I was hoping maybe it wasn't him. Before we could give him some rescue breaths to go on,
Jonathan and his crew were already there to help, taking him up the hill and loading him up in the truck. They resumed CPR as soon as they could. The rescue continued until ALL rescuers were safely to the river left bank and out of the river. A memorial page has been set up for Paul
and you can visit it or send comments here:

With the Tellico at 8' and rising, we should have gone to Conasauga Creek in the Tellico drainage. We were drained, shocked, and just not feeling lively after our long night and rough day so we decided to move on to a different drainage to start our New Years over. We were thinking smokies or bama since Johnnies was running strong. We went over to check out the Little and Tremont since we were so close to knoxville. I've never seen things over there quite like that, I guess because when it rains that much I'm usually in Alabama. We looked at Kick Yer Dog Falls on Lynn Camp which was PUMPING! It looked great and the bottom drop looked smooth and deep. Since I hadn't paddled since Colorado (months) and since the drama was still fresh from the Tellico, I decided I should take things slow. I ran Lynn Camp alone (well, Jonathan and Samantha on the trail) and it was easy, but I was sloppy. I think it was a mixture of exhaustion, stress, and lag time but I knew I had to get my mojo back :roll: :| I met a randem guy from knoxville at the put-in for Tremont and we ended up getting a late (dark) run of a very flooded tremont. It was completely dark when we got out.

From there it was mexican and we ALL needed a drink... Me and Jonathan experimented with beer sizes lol and samantha enjoyed a stiff Margarita... we decided we should stick close and just "wait and see" so we grabbed a hotel (not feeling like another crazy night) and we woke up to one of my favorites... BIG CReeK!!!!

Big Creek was crowded and the scene was awesome! We were blessed with fresh snow melt, blue skies, and clear water cascading out of the smokies. We started our New Year over. After lapping Big Creek we ran into Drew Armstrong for another run....

While I hope our New Years isn't an omen, I can say that after my time off the river, I got my Mojo back 8-)