The Upper Yough

31 08 2010

It started on a mountain bike ride a few weeks ago, while riding with a few of the guys from the Wednesday Night Paddle Crew. Jon remarked that he was going to be moving out of the state. Within a few days an email was passed around about where his last hurrah would be, the ideas were flying the New River, Upper Yough, Upper Gulley, and the likes all made the list. Jon and the crew ran the New earlier this season and that was out I really wanted to run the Upper Yough, but they were beginning to lean toward the Gulley as an overnighter. I began to collect info for the Gulley at 630 cfs as that was the flow, and all information came back looking like a creeky “suck fest”.  As the plan began to emerge further I started to send out some feelers for the Upper Yough. There was just something about running the Gulley with a boat stuffed with camping gear I did not like.  

The Deep Creek Hydro Plant releases water on Friday, Saturday, and Mondays throughout the summer paddle season as long as the lake levels fall above the “rules curve”. I made plans to meet some of the guys from pool session on Friday and then join the KHCC trip on Saturday. 

I met Dave (Uncle D.) and Becky (Binky) in Friendsville under the highway bridge and after a short while John (Smoltz) pulled up and we hit the road to the put in off Sang road. There was a few more who met us the ride down the river at the put in. Before long we were stretching and gearing up waiting on water. The put in gauge read 2.10 ft as I paddled past it to white rock, the first two miles of the river are mostly flat water and you end up passing the flow on the way. So we pulled out at white rock so the crew could take a safety break, as the water began to rise.

I received several words of wisdom on my two days at the Upper Yough, but I think the most encouraging thing for me was the patience of the F.I.F.O. crew when I needed to let several gallons of water out of my boat which at that time was for an unknown reason. When we pealed out from white rock the gradient of the river began to pick up and the flow gathered some push, and the river tightened. I followed Smoltz and Uncle D., while Binky ran sweep for me as my river skills were still yet undetermined with the FIFO crew.  Boof at Bastard

Smoltz and Uncle D were hand paddling the river and I was following their lines that years on the river created. Uncle D told me that were going to hit some class III boogie water after the first named rapid, Gap Falls. Gap Falls came and went it was more like a power slide, with a nice wave train to finish. As we began to pick our way down the boogie water section I found myself catching some hard eddy’s and tough ferry’s making my way past big and little pour over rocks.  I remember thinking that this “boogie water” was pretty tough and what have I got myself into?

Before I knew it I was catching the eddy above Bastard. The crew took off leaving me with their only words on line choice, “Right Boof, catch the eddy and work left and back right, if you flip hurry back up and into an eddy.” That seemed to be the Matura on the whole river; too much down time is not good, besides you won’t see any fish with rocks hitting you in the face. 

Bastard seemed to come and go, and next up was Charlie’s Choice.

I continued to follow like a small duck, to the right this time and back left after a nice boof. Charlie’s Choice is followed by Triple Drop and then by National Falls. All went by rather uneventfully, and we pulled out at National Falls to watch some carnage from those who either missed their boof or tried the race line. Missing your line here means that you are going to be sucked back into the monster of a hole and chewed on and if you’re lucky spit out before a second round of hydraulic beat down can begin. 

It was wicked good fun! The pool from National Falls to Tommy’s Hole is probably the largest on the upper section, giving you a false sense of “I think I can see this line, and it looks easy.” You know there is a reason it is called dimple with an attitude. As the FIFO crew moved around to safety positions, I was left with another whisper of advice, this time from John G (Boy Genius). B.G. remarked “It looks worse than it really is, if you flip don’t swim.” Little did B.G. know that had been my game plan for this whole river, I nodded and I set off.

Sometimes you just know when you are going to eat shit, this was just not one of those times. I no sooner got my bow facing the exit of the shoot, and I was over taken by white water. Inundated by the roar of whirly swirly water, the washing machine effect on my whole boat; I tucked as tight to the deck as I knew how. I was searching for the air on my knuckles or a sense of calm on my paddle blades.

From the pool below I was told afterwards it looked like a magical sight, big yellow boat sideways to the hole, surfing.  I was surfing pretty good too from the way I understand it, the FIFO crew explained in all their years on the river they have never seen such magical side surf while upside down in Tommy’s Hole.

I never felt the calm water on the whole boat but I did find it on my blades, and roll I did, right out of the hole and into the pool below. From Tommy’s on down to Heinzerling there are a few named rapids, they were mostly a blur obscured by right boof, left boof, and hole punching. We took the right main line towards Heinzerling, This was a tight slot move into a swift pool, and up ahead was Gun Barrel. This is a tight V-slot with a slight bend at the end to catch a one boat eddy that we somehow squeezed three creek boats into for the instructions on the Heinzerling move.

Picture a large round rock, about the size of 15 VW Bugs, with fair amount of flow pillowing up on the front, and beat down hole to the upstream left. The trick is to ride the pillow up and off. Always lean towards the rock. This was that move I saw coming for me and my boat as soon as I started, I leaned away, with a slow motion flip and roll I was back and eddied out waiting for whatever was to come next.

Again there was some more of that great class III boogie water on down to Meat Cleaver. This drop and Cheese Burger are my favorites so far, Meat Cleaver is a nice slow straight boof into a slow moving pool. Depending on your angle when you land you can either eddy out or keep on creeping to the edge of the next hole, the Cleaver brothers. At the lip it looks like two triangle rock set in the flow 6’ apart from each other. Placed in the middle of a nice wide hole, you want to paddle anywhere but into the Cleavers.

Meat Cleaver is followed by Powerful Popper, a hole so sweet that it will squirt a creek boat, and then on to Tombstone. Tombstone is similar to main line at Climax on the Russell Fork, in that it is a sieved out under cut rock that wants to eat you. But it is easy enough to avoid, if you make it though the double diagonal hole that points you toward an awesome drop, without rolling hit the far right or far left with a good boof stroke and you will have avoided Fuck up falls.

Next on the list was Cheeseburger, a nice 10’ falls with a pretty line to boof on river right.  By this time in the trip I was smiling from ear to ear, wondering what was next. But with only a few more name drops to go we were close to the end of the road so speak. The rafts were now gaining on us. The remainder of the river passed without incident or pause. As I neared the highway bridge at the take out I was pumped and totally sold on this run, tight and technical in all the right places. If you want to paddle here have a good roll and sold skills. The river passed so quickly Friday that it felt like I was only out there an hour and the holes seemed as large as Mack trucks. Saturdays run was uneventful but it reassured my skills and the lines on the river, it seemed to shrink the holes and ledges back to reality and set the time line in its place. Saturday I was able to see the river for what it really was and to be a good paddler I would have to go there often.  So who is next and when do you want to go?

So By now your thinking this would have been a lot better with pictures, well your right.




3 responses

19 01 2012

One day, you will learn the awesomeness of overnight kayaking vs. regular day trips. The closest comparison would be backpacking vs. hiking, only better because you don’t have to carry everything on your back.

Good overnight goals for you – cheat, upper gauley, new. All mellow and super fun.

19 01 2012

I still feel bad about ditching you guys on that weekend.

20 01 2012

don’t feel bad about ditching us, we had plenty of fun without you. But one day, make it up to me by doing an overnight on a normal section of river like the one’s mentioned above. Add laurel fork of the cheat to that list. Rafters pay $350 to do a low water overnight on the gauley, kayakers can do it for free. Slow boating is the new rodeo.

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