Saturday, April 28, 2012

Katie Dean Skunk Tour, Chattooga

Zach Dean, smiling his way down Sock-em-dog
Imagine going on a hike with a 50 pound kayak on your shoulder. Now load that kayak full with all the gear you need to go camping. Squish in some canyoneering equipment, and sling that expensive multi media gear over your shoulder. Self support kayaking can be a physical challenge. This is not a story about a cumbersome multi day. This is the Katie Dean Skunk Tour, LIVE on the Chattooga River! overnight style. 
Kate Walsh going deep
The weather had been funky for a few days and the phone rang, Katie Dean was her enthusiastic self, "I think the Raven Fork is going to run tomorrow, you want to go?" I responded with a quick "of course." Katie and her husband, Zach Dean, would meet me early the next morning. We were looking to catch the highest possible flows on the infamous steep creek.

Katie Dean launching her way down the Chattooga
Upon awaking I drove for an hour and was just a few miles outside of Cherokee North Carolina, the home of the Raven Fork creek. The phone rang again, and I was anticipating the worse. It had barely rained over night, Katie's unenthusiastic voice almost told the story faster then she did, " it looks pretty low". After a few minutes of conversation we decide that we would change planes entirely and head over to the Eternity Hole to do some play boating.

Arriving at the Eternity Hole, the river looked even lower then the Raven Fork. We checked flows on the internet again, and realized that the damn release would not start flowing for another four hours. We were double skunked. At this point the morale started to fade quickly. Standing on the side of the road staring at the second dry river bed before 10am lead to twiddling thumbs.

Looking up the beautiful Chattooga canyon
We all took turns starring at the iPhone the only thing on that had any water in it was the Chattooga. After a delayed conversation wondering if we were going to get triple skunked, the decision was made, we hoped back in the vehicles and headed to the last option for good kayaking. The group was a little bummed, we thought we were going to paddle one of the toughest rivers in the South East and now were headed to the mighty class 4 Chattooga. Katie came up with a last second plan, "how about we over night it". I hadn't overnighted on a river in a while and it seemed like the best way to spice up our midweek adventure.

Katie Dean, loving the skunk tour
Swinging into the grocery store we picking up rice, beans, brats, beer, and a loaf of garlic bread. Our groups mood was skyrocketing we went from skunked to supper classic overnighter.

There are two options when doing a self support kayak trip, comfortable camping with an incredible over loaded kayak, or to take the bare minimum and deal with having nothing at camp. There are two good perks to overnighting on the Chattooga, no hiking, and easy white water. The put in is a two minutes down hill walk, the take out is at a marina, and the white water is a solid two grades easier then what we were planning on paddling earlier in the day. "Bring it all" was the resounding words at the put in, there was no limit to the amount of gear we could bring. Packing got rather fun, hat, jacket, moon shine, roman candles, warm sleeping bag, and a pile of camera gear, I was bringing it all.

The crew packing up after the second overnighter
It has been 7 or 8 years sense I paddled the Chattooga last, and after the first couple rapids I was wondering why I had waited so long to get back on such a fun stretch of white water. We camped at Sockum Dog, and got to paddle multiple laps on the "hardest" rapid on the river. A strong conversation a few beers, and a small fire kept us company late into the evening.

Zach Dean, suns out guns out
Finishing any multi day is ruff, you have to go back to the "real world". Katie, Zach and I weren't ready for the "real world" yet so, we restocked the next day and headed back into the canyon. This time I was introduced to some new characters, Kate Walsh, Autumn Gold Gronborg, Sam Causey, and Sam M. These Characters made the second lap even more of an adventure then the first. I happily call them all good friends after only knowing them for an overnight trip.

Another adventure brought to you by Chris Baer