Pyranha Logo
facebook twitter vimeo




NC Holiday Update

Since school let out for the holidays, I have thoroughly enjoyed myself paddling the steep whitewater of western NC and east TN. I was fortunate enough to paddle my favorite runs – the Raven Fork, Toxaway, and Cullasaja several times in the last month as well as spend time with the family. Paddling highlights from break included an extremely high water run of the Raven Fork, my first run of Big Boy (a few days later after the water dropped), and an awesome day on the Toxaway.
A few days before Christmas, the mountains of NC got hammered with rain. A band of storms blew in from the west bringing several inches of rain to the parched southeast and causing paddlers to rejoice. After watching the front dump inches of rain on the Smokies through the radar map the whole day and night before, Pat Keller, Toby MacDermott, Drew Duval, and I decided to venture into the Raven Fork for some high water action. With the Oconoluftee River in Cherokee well over 2000cfs, we knew we were in for a big day.
Typically this creek holds water very well and is runnable for days after a rain event, so often a Raven Fork trip involves bluebird skies. Even at lower levels, this creek is nothing to sneeze at. On this day, we drove to the takeout through pouring rain that continued to fall as we hiked and paddled downstream.

Photo: Chan Jones/courtesy of Astral Bouyancy

Pat Keller in the bottom drop of Anaconda. Photo: Chan Jones/courtesy of Astral Bouyancy

Pat Keller at the top of Headless Horseman. Photo: Chan Jones/courtesy of Astral Bouyancy

When we passed the gauge on the way to the top it read 20 inches. Shortly after putting on it was apparent that the level was still rising and was estimated at Mike Tyson’s to be between 24 and 27 inches. We moved downstream cautiously, running most of the enormous rapids but walking a few. This steep creek was a ridiculously steep river on this day but I was safe in my new Astral Green Jacket and Pyranha Burn. The new vest from Astral is an awesome rescue jacket. It has all the familiar features of the 300-R but with an improved fit – less bulk in the bottom front of the jacket, an improved strapping system, and added protection in the upper back. The result is a very low profile rescue vest that, once adjusted, does not move around on your torso.
Because the water was rising, photography wasn’t high on the priority list that day. I managed to record the trip by snapping a few quick shots of Pat and Drew.
The next trip back to the Raven Fork was two days later, with Leland Davis, Mac McGee, and myself showing Andria Davis down for her first time. We took our time and shot a lot of photos and video and I threw together a clip of the trip. Look for this footage in Autoboof Productions’ new film, Slave to the Rain soon. A personal highlight of this trip was my first run of the Big Boy waterfall. It’s a 35 foot drop that lands between a rock and a hard place, with the finest of lines. I’m so stoked to have finally run that beast!

Chan Jones dropping Big Boy. Photo courtesy of Mac McGee
Raven Fork video

After blitzing the Raven Fork several times in a row, I took a few days off from paddling to hang with the family and let my body rest. When I was just starting to get the itch to paddle again, another front showed up on the radar, bringing with it lots of rain. Pat and I made a couple calls back and forth and had narrowed down our options to a southeastern waterfall tour, a trip up to the Elk for some action on the 50’er, or a ride on the magic carpet down the Toxaway River.
The weather was going to be perfect and we anticipated a high water day on the Toxaway, so we decided to go there. This river and I have a bit of history. On my first trip there two years ago, I flipped in the Feeding Trough and ended up exiting the gorge downstream with a broken paddle, ruptured eardrum, and a concussion. Each time I went back to run the Toxaway, something else happened that prevented me from being able to go through with plans – whether it was low water or getting my car stuck and having to be towed out.
This day shaped up great. When I arrived at the put in, I found the river at a good medium flow, then drove down to the takeout to meet Pat and Isaac Levinson. We put on and moved downstream quickly until we got to the big rapids. We shot photos and video and each ran Energizer a couple of times because it’s such an awesome rapid.

Me before the second lap on Energizer. Photo by Isaac Levinson

Near the top of the rapid. Photo by Isaac Levinson

Riding it out. Photo by Isaac Levinson

Then the weather changed. It had been warm and sunny when we put on but suddenly in the pool below Energizer, we noticed the air cooling quickly. A few moments later it was snowing. We were all thankful at that moment that we were warm and dry in our IR Double D drysuits.

From the top of the Landbridge. Photo by Chan Jones

Pat punching through the top wave at Landbridge. Photo by Chan Jones

Isaac sizing up the huge overhead curling wave at the top of the slide. Photo by Chan Jones

The snow continued as we made downstream progress and the cameras stayed in drybags until we got to the Landbridge. I took a couple shots of Pat and Isaac before firing off the beast myself. We blue-angeled into Wintergreen Falls, a giant rapid that drops around 100 feet in a very short distance then continued through the slackwater to Yo Adrienne, the horrible rapid normally portaged but named when Adrienne Levknecht missed the eddy above and had to run it. We pulled out at Augerhole Rd, rested and ate some food to bring up our energy, and began the 4 mile hike with our boats, gaining 1000 feet in elevation on our way out of the gorge. Later, on the way home, a blizzard blew into the Highlands/Cashiers area ! I guess my streak of unusual events associated with the Toxaway continues!

Here are a couple more random boating shots.

Alexis Decosimo sticking her first run of Nantahala Falls on New Year’s Day. Photo by Casey Jones

Me somewhere on Suck Creek. Photo by Alexis Decosimo

Until it rains next time…