Friday, January 29, 2010

Winter Upper Blackwater

This past weekend, due to a nice mid-winter, I was able to set out with three friends to run the Upper Blackwater. Normally during this time of year, for me, it is a choice to really think about heading into this majestic location as the added threat of spending an evening in such a deep gorge adds a certain sense of trepidation when that night could be spent at freezing temperatures. But, with the warm temperatures, and the chance to lead some boaters who were not totally familiar with the run, Saturday January 24th was a go.

For the occasion a wrote a little speech for the team. As I remember it went something like this.


How about that ride in? I guess that’s why they call Davis, West Virginia - Sin City (hahaha)

You guys may not know this, but I consider myself…a bit of a loner. I tend to think of myself as a one man wolf pack. But when someone brought Blood home, I knew he was one of my own. And my wolf pack, it grew by one. So we’re two…so there was two of us in the pack. I…I was alone first in the pack, and then Blood joined in later.

And 6 months ago, when Blood introduced me to you guys. I thought…wait a second, could it be. And now I know for sure, I just added 2 more guys to my wolf pack. 4 of us wolves running around the Upper Blackwater together, in Davis looking for strippers and cocaine. So tonight, we make a toast!

Well, I think that is how it went.

For one of our group, Beau Smith, it was his first run. Here are some excerpts f comments he had after successfully finishing his first lap on the Upper B.

This Saturday started off with an early morning text from Jason Hilton, reading simply, “Blackwater?” I drove down to meet Jason and Jeff Blood, and we headed down to the Canaan Valley to meet up with Dave Carey.

Apparently the Canaan Valley received quite a bit of snow in the past few weeks, and our walk to the put in was made more treacherous by several inches of snow on the steep downhill trail. The view from the put-in of Blackwater falls and rapid known as 100 Yard Dash is worth the drive itself. I knew that the first rapid is the most important indicator of whether or not someone should be on the Upper B. Quite a few people have gotten pummeled in the first rapid and decided to walk out from there. I slid into the first small eddy, and instantly I was paddling down through the first big rapid. There’s no warm up on the Upper B. It’s either sink or swim.

After the first rapid, my memory fades a little. There is an untold number of boofs to hit in a few short miles. I remember a few of the larger rapids, but many of the smaller rapids and boogie water blend together. First came Z falls, Tomko Falls, and Shock to the System. All three rapids would fall into the category of the best rapids that I have ever run. Then, we walked to infamous Sticky Fingers rapid. The one big rapid that made me nervous from the beginning was My Nerves are Shot and I Can’t Take it Anymore. I was pleasantly surprised when we were able to break the long, multi-tiered slide rapid into smaller, manageable parts. Before I knew it, our journey down the Upper Blackwater was over.

While I won’t go into detail about the walk out, anyone who has ran the Upper B, or the North Fork of the Blackwater can tell you how unpleasant the walk out is.

Overall, I had big expectations of the Blackwater, and it did not fail to deliver. It may not have been the most intimidating river that I’ve done, but it was by far the most technically difficult. I had to use every trick in my bag of kayaking tricks to paddle down the river. I was surprised how clean the big rapids were, and at the same time I was surprised how manky, and potentially dangerous, the smaller drops were. When we got to the take out, I was just happy to be alive after coming through such a treacherous stretch of river. Lately, all I’ve been able to think about is the next trip down the Blackwater.