Monday, June 29, 2009

Rolling on the River

Last weekend Tina and I went to North Carolina for a "meet the fiance's family" camp out and river trip.We drove the motor home through the traffic of the Smokies, past all the Ruby Mines, pancake houses,outlet stores and must see attractions. We finally hooked up with daughter Kate and her fiance Lucas at a campground near the Nantahala Gorge on the south side of Fontana Lake. Lucas' parents, brother, and sister in law were there and our son Ben even made it. Friday evening was great. Kate made Fajitas on the grill, good beer was passed around and we all got to know each other.

Saturday was a little more lively. Kate and Lucas are expert kayakers and thought we would all enjoy a leisurely float down the Nantahala. Ben and Tina had kayaked before so they elected to kayak along with Kate and Lucas. The rest of us rented inflatable solo kayaks (duckies). The rental included wetsuits and they managed to find a super sized one that I could squeeze into. It wasn't pretty and may have been illegal in some states but I wasn't going to freeze in the 50 degree water. We saw the movie grabbed our paddles and got on the bus to go up river. The river looked very low and I wondered if we would have to walk some of it. I need not have worried. About halfway up the mountain a surge of water suddenly made the river a couple of feet deeper and a whole lot faster.Turns out they release water from the dam every morning and leave the taps on all day while people play on the river. Plenty of water. Plenty.

We were all going to stay together. Well 50 yards into the trip is the first big rapid. No warm up, no practice. I made it through but was swept away with the current and caught in fast water for the next couple of miles. After I finally found an eddy to get into I waited for the rest of the group. Waited and waited. About an hour later Kate made it down to me. Kate told me that Tina and Ben had problems early on and had to wet exit from their boats several times. When this happened, the boats went downstream with the rest of the party giving chase and the survivors struggled to get to shore and beat their way downstream to wherever the swift current had taken their boats. Turns out this was no fun for those involved and seeing no sign of improvement, Tina and Ben abandoned and dragged their boats uphill to the highway to catch a ride with a livery bus.

With the rest of us back together, we soon tried to pull over at our designated lunch spot. Too much current and several of us unable to stop. We went a little farther and were finally able to stop for lunch. My lunch had been left in Tina's boat. My future son-in-law had a spare sandwich. Peanut butter ,turkey, and cucumber. Mmmmmmm tasty!

We headed downriver and were able to stay together this time. Rapids, rapids and more rapids. Overall it was like getting flushed down the drain and coming out 8 miles later. I stayed in my boat and made it down to the falls by the livery. I opted to skip going over the falls. I was hurting enough already but happy and glad to be there.

Ben and Tina were in good spirits when we found them and we went on to go out for a nice dinner then back to camp for a campfire and more getting acquainted. Nice folks and a nice weekend.

Sunday we drove home by way of the west side of the Smokies. We drove U.S. 129 "The Dragon's Tail"- 313 turns in 11 miles of mountains with 12% grades. Remember, we were driving a motorhome. Finally it was my turn to be the asshole in the camper backing up traffic. Actually, there was light traffic and it was a very nice drive. It took about the same time as coming down did but it was much more scenic.

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