Tag Archives: Kayaking

Cartecay Day

It’s been a long time coming: I’ve wanted to run the Middle Cartecay since the waters warmed in the spring.  But it’s a bit too fast for the entire family, so other nearby rivers and lakes took precedence for this summer’s kayaking trips.  But with Tina and the girls out of town for a soccer tournament, the boys (Luke, Stephen, and I) headed over for a beautiful September afternoon on the river.

This section has a lot going for it.  It’s only 35 miles from home and very scenic.  With mainly Class IIs (and occasional Class IIIs), it’s approachable even for teens and beginners.  It’s a short run (two hours or less), so it can be done easily in an afternoon.  And yet within that 2 1/2 river miles are some interesting rapids: Rock Garden, Surfing Rapid, S-Turn, Whirlpool, and the grand finale: Blackberry Falls.  There are a few outfitters in the area, so it’s easy to get shuttles and any extra rentals needed.  For all the above reasons, this is one nearby river section I highly recommend, particularly before taking on longer runs.

A heavy rainstorm the night before lifted the water to near 1.4′ on the standard American Whitewater gauge:  high enough to be runnable (we never got stuck) and low enough to keep the rapids easy.  Although neither Luke nor Stephen had run this stretch before, they handled it like pros, maneuvering the falls and s-curves perfectly.

The first mile was gentle, and offered time to relax and get accustomed to the river.  We enjoyed the trees, rock faces, mountain laurel, birds, riverfront homes, and a friendly dog along shore.  After a few shoals, we paddled straight through Rock Garden and Surfing Rapid, which provided a good warm-up for what lay ahead.  The S-Turn near mile two provided our first real challenge: Luke’s kayak got swamped and he struggled a bit to find a place among the shoreline boulders to flip and drain it.  We met another kayaker there with goggles, treasure-hunting in the big pool at the end.  Just this week, he found two rings and a dozen pairs of sunglasses in those eddies.

Shortly afterward, we heard the rush of Blackberry Falls and enjoyed running it the only way we could at this depth: left to right through the chute, then hard left at the end.  Our two unskirted open kayaks swamped on every run, so we used the one sit-on-top for repeat runs.  I ran it six times in a row: never gets old.  After some body-surfing down the rapids, we passed under the bridge to our Mulkey Road take-out.

I’m determined to catch this stretch at higher water levels, so that the rapids will be faster and we can run a longer section.  That’ll likely mean getting out there in cooler weather (late fall or early spring), but I’m sure I can talk the boys into it.

Labor Day “Triathlon”

My original Labor Day plan was to run the U.S. 10K Classic (a great race, I’ve heard), but that would have stood in the way of the family canoeing/kayaking trip (something of a family Labor Day tradition now).  But then the late-breaking forecast called for mid-50s in the morning: perfect for running, but not good for little ones in a river.  So we delayed hitting the river for a few hours, which gave me time to head over to nearby Hickory Flat and run the Hickory Flat Out 5K.

I was glad I did.  The 5K was sponsored by Mt. Zion Baptist Church, and benefited their children’s camp ministry.  The race was run on the roads in front of the church, and ended on trails behind it.  It was a beautiful setting for an early morning race, participation was good, the event was well organized, and the volunteers were very friendly and helpful.  The technical shirt for the race was nice, although I didn’t get one: that’s what I get for registering only minutes before the race started.  However, the volunteer at the shirt table told me they would mail shirts to those who didn’t get one.  That’s a very nice gesture; with many races, the policy is, “you snooze, you lose.”  I’m a bit out of training, so I certainly didn’t set any personal records (my time was around 25:30).  But I enjoyed it, and it was much better than morning loops around my usual running spots.

Afterward, we loaded up the two kayaks, one canoe, and 5/7 of the family and headed out to run the 13 mile stretch of the Etowah River from East Cherokee to 140.  Last year’s floods changed this section a bit, but it was still very nice, with blue herons escorting us, interesting aquatic life, and the native American fish weirs still intact (Tina posted some nice shots in her Picasa Gallery).  Water levels had receded, but it was very runnable.  Rapids never get above Class II in this segment (if that), so it took awhile: 6 hours for us (with stops), and it made for a good paddling workout.  My only complaint is that put-in and take-out remains a real challenge; we look forward to the planned launches to improve that situation.

Following that we rushed home just in time for me to grill “dad burgers.”  There: we squeezed as much into one day as is humanly possible.  Can we do it again tomorrow?

Run, canoe, grill: pretty much a perfect Labor Day “triathlon,” if you ask me.