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Subject: A Beginners First Couple Middle Ocoee Decents

It was fourth of July weekend, and I was finally going to get to paddle the
Nantahala for the first time. We had been trying to get me on the river for
a couple weekends in a row, but plans kept falling through, but the long
weekend was the perfect opportunity. I was excited, but a little
apprehensive too. I even got a new helmet and paddle to mark the occasion.

I was all ready to go at the put in….

I swam at Patton’s, but managed to have a clean run after that.

That night at camp Rick and I discussed the adventures for the next day, we
planned on him running the upper and me being his shuttle and photo bunny, I
gladly accepted. Then we tossed around the idea of me running the middle..I
agreed under the stipulation that we would take it slow and that at any time
I did not feel comfortable that I could portage or even take out early if
needed, and he agreed as well.

So after one decent down the Nantahala, I embarked on my first decent down
the middle Ocoee.

I waited for the group at the put in after Grumpies. I knew I wasn’t ready
for Grumpies quite yet, and that I would leave it for another day and
another decent. So I sat there in my kayak, feeling nauseous and excited all
at the same time, questioning would I make it down okay, would I get hurt,
would I take out early, then the group showed; so I put on the bravest face
I could and peeled out into the current..

I paddled with David, Sue, Steve, and of course Rick.

David graciously agreed to take the easy lines and cheats and miss some of
the action to show me some the lines on my first trip down as well give us
advice on which lines Rick should take me down.

Sue and Steve helped Rick rescue me and my boat during my couple swims, and
they also cheered me on and gave me moral support all the way down.

I still remember Sue asking what I had paddled before, with my response
being that I had just paddled the Nantahala for the first time just the day
before.I think she thought I was crazy. I have to say I was. My husband
Rick’s influence, and anyone who knows him and has paddled with him would

But even though Rick is crazy and he influenced me, he was my biggest fan
and supporter on the river that day, and still is. He stayed close and was
there to watch out for me and help me when I needed it the most.

I have to say my first decent went better than expected with a weird self
rescued off a rock at Broken Nose, a swim at Diamond Splitter, two Eskimo
rescues, some two boat action on a couple rapids with Rick, and tons of
rolls all down the river, but nothing that would keep me off the river, more
than anything it made me want more.


I had had one good first decent down the middle and it had left me wanting
more. So Rick and I took the first available opportunity a couple Sundays
later and headed up for my second decent with just us too. I sat in the
truck on the ride up feeling sort of off, but copped it up to just nerves
and tried to shrug the feeling off.

Once again, we put in below Grumpies (I still wasn’t ready to tackle
Grumpies), and began our trip by playing in Staging Eddy for a short time
before proceeding down the river. Gonzo Shoals was a little harry but I
tried to settle in and not let my nerves get the best of me knowing that
Broken Nose was coming up next. Rick and I discussed the line at Broken Nose
and that we would catch the first eddy. Rick caught the eddy, but I missed
it and began the ride down backwards getting flipped on the way down. I
attempted a couple of not successful rolls and ended up wet exiting right at
the bottom of the rapid with my head surfacing the water just as Rick was
coming down. I went back under allowing him to pass above me, and got pulled
out of the hole at the same time. My boat on the other hand was not so
lucky. At shore I watched my boat get tossed and slammed in the hole for
what seemed like a long time, but was only a minute or so in reality. I sat
there feeling shaken and scare not wanting to get back in my boat to finish
the river, but eventually doing so after Rick’s urging not to give up.

Knowing I was shaken, Rick instructed me to follow him as he skirted along
river right, and before I knew it all I saw was Rick going left and me
heading straight for a strainer. Trying to react, I put up my paddle pushing
up the tree and leaned all the way back on my boat managing to slide under
the tree but not before slicing my lip open on a branch. As I cleared the
strainer I was flipped, and proceeded to wet exit and make my way to the
shore as best I could. Rick made it to shore immediately after just as
shaken as I was. After making sure I was okay and just sitting there trying
to collect our thoughts, we both came to the agreement that it was time to
call it day.

I asked Rick to take the picture of the strainer and my busted lip
afterwards, but he refused noting that he did not like to post about
carnage. On his next trip down though he saw the strainer and snapped a
picture of it for me.

After we got off the river we hitched a ride to the truck and grabbed the
boats on our way back to Copperhill for dinner. I wasn’t in the best mood to
say the least, but upon arriving at the Mexican restaurant we ran into
Chuck, Janet, Roger, and Joe; and joined them for dinner. During dinner they
all shared with me their carnage stories, which made me feel so much better.
Thanks guys, you have no clue how that helped me out; sometimes you feel
like you are the only one, but you are not.


We had planned a jamb packed weekend filled with tons of paddling. We got a
small group together to paddle the Tuck and the Nantahala on Saturday and to
meet up with David, Mr. Phil, and some others to paddle the Ocoee on Sunday.
It was going to be an exciting weekend.

We paddled the Tuck and Nantahala with Fred, Barbara, and Will. It was the
first day I got to paddle my Star that I had recently bought off an Ocoee
raft guide, other than the Metro Hooch.

I got flipped above the Falls peeling out behind Billboard Rock. As I was
reaching for my paddle I got my left ankle trapped between two rocks. I was
in pain. My boat and paddle floated over the falls without me as I made out
of the river I instantly thought .I won’t be able to run the Ocoee tomorrow.

Sunday morning rolled around, and we got ready to head to the Ocoee. Rick
was excited like he always is, ready to hit the river for some big waves and
big fun; while I was in pain and all bummed out.

I waited for the pod of paddlers (as David would say) along the shore trying
to get some decent action shots of the guys as they steered their way
through the Olympic Section. Rick stopped at Callahan’s for a quick surf,
and when he eddied out, I informed him that I did not want to sit this one
out, and that I would wait for them at Staging Eddy, hurt and ankle and all.

At the middle put in, Rick and the group ran into Janet, Roger..

Joe, and some friends.

They met up with me at Staging Eddy. While floating there I asked Roger if
he would guide me down for my third trip down, and he gladly accepted. Roger
had guided Rick down he first trip down the upper, and had been impressed on
how well Roger knew the river, and so I knew I could learn a lot from Roger.

Roger took the time to explain each rapid in detail, pointing out all the
holes and the different lines I could take. Some people learn by just
following someone, not needing an explanation, but that is not me. I thrive
on information.

Rick ran Tablesaw first and got set up to capture Roger leading me down.

It was a blast. I have to say, it is my favorite rapid on the middle.

Before Cat’s Pajamas, Roger asked if I would be running Hells Hole. I stated
that I would be seeing as I had taken out right before it on my last full
run. He instructed me to paddle hard and to duck on the second wave, and I
did as told. I did get flipped but rolled up and caught the eddy on river
right. I ferried over to river left to watch the action from the sidelines.

As I sat there, watching everyone surf and doing tricks, I had the urge to
get in Hells Hole. I knew I would not last long, but I still wanted to give
it a try anyways. At the exact moment Janet pulled up beside me and gave
that last little push I needed. She offered to wait in the back of the eddy
just in case I needed to be rescued. She also checked with Roger and Joe,
and they also agreed to save me if needed. I informed Rick of my decision
and got that are you sure, but totally overjoyed look he gives me when I
surprise him with certain decisions, like agreeing to run the Ocoee for the
first time. So, I got in line. I missed the wave on my first attempt in, and
got ready for my second. I made it in on my second attempt and lasted all of
three seconds per Ricks video of me.

Now the events that happened after being flipped could not be replicated
even if we tried it all over again, at least not with the same results.

After flipping Roger bombed my boat, not even giving me time to roll. Roger,
you don’t have to be sorry, I appreciated your tenacity in trying to rescue
me. Janet followed Roger and I was upside down, I found her hands and she
helped me Eskimo rescue, with Roger aiding by grabbing the bow of my boat
and flipping me. By this time we were seconds from missing the eddy on river
left, and Powerhouse was fast approaching. To top it off, I had let go of my
paddle. Janet thinking fast on her feet or let’s say in her boat stated.
hold on tight. and I knew exactly what she meant. I reached over with my
right hand and grabbed the rim of her cockpit and held on tight. We dropped
over the first ledge, and headed straight for the rock in the middle of the
second ledge. We skimmed by it, and proceeded to surf the hole at the second
ledge. Janet surfed it like a pro, with her paddle straight up in her right
arm. We both probably had a look of horror as we saw the big blue floating
undercut heading straight for us. Luckily they bumped the edge of my boat
and pushed us out. We later found out Roger had been bumping the raft to get
it out of the way; Roger we appreciated the valiant effort. As we floated
out, my paddle magically appeared behind us, and we continued our way down
to the take out, all in shock that Janet and I had survived the adventure.

I have to say thank you for being there to Roger and Janet. If you had not
been there, I would have gone down Powerhouse upside down in my boat or
swimming it. I will never forget the events that occurred on that day.


My fourth and most recent decent was yesterday. Once again met up with the
usual suspects and some new additions for a full day on the Ocoee.

We were the first to arrive at the put in and went to check out the river
prior to the water being released. It definitely looks like to different

Astrid replied to my AWC group post, and joined us for a fun filled day on
the river. I am glad I got to paddle with her. It always cool to meet fellow
paddlers and make new friendships.

The upper group had one additional new face too, Joe ran the upper for the
first time. I can’t wait to run it for the first time. Rick suggested it on
Friday, but I declined. I want to be ready and confident in my skills before
I tackle the upper, but I know for sure I will attempt it next season, no
doubt in my mind. Rick will be working with me over the winter to get me

This time, I had company as I waited on the shore of the Olympic Section.
Lucy was great. I am not sure if she like kayakers though, she was barking
at them, maybe she wanted in on the action.

Rick always wants to keep pushing his limits, and yesterday was no
different. All he talked about Friday was surfing Humungous, and that I
would be recording the action. Well I sort of lost track of him and what he
was doing. When I finally realized that he was surfing Huey, it was too
late, and all I got of him was this picture. I do have to say though, I like
it. Sorry dear, I will get you next time. I certainly have to say you are
nuts though.

On side note, what is this guy surfing on. I have seen people on river
boards and something resembling a surf board, but this tops the cake.

My fourth decent down the middle had one running Grumpies. I
finally ran it.

All I know was that my stomach was all in knots, and it really did not help
that Roger pointed out to me that the river was surging or that even Janet
was nervous. I put that aside though, and put my game face on, and peeled
out. I know I missed the ferry above the rock, but caught it behind the
rock, and continued to river left. One good brace saved me from flipping.
Astrid commented on the expression I had on my face as I braced, total
determination to stay up, which was all I was thinking about.

Roger lead me down again for my fourth decent, but this time, he gave me
more freedom. At one point I told him I was following him, and he said not
to. I guess it was time for me to go on my own at least at that moment. This
time I ran the main line at Double Suck, and actually had a good run at
Broken Nose. Flipper seems to be my nemesis though, it has flipped and
worked me twice now. I just have to keep trying.

Well I think this trip report is long enough. Thank you for letting me tell
my stories, and I will see you on the river!

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