The Ocoee is the next step for beginners, and it is definitely a next step. This river has been the most fun of all the rivers I have ever paddled. Which isn’t saying much. I have maybe been on the river 10 times, but I like to think my 10th time on the river was the Ocoee though I’m not exactly sure. I started paddling at the lake, then proceeded to the lower Tuckaseegee, the Nantahala, the Tuckaseegee Gorge, the French Broad Section 9, the Pigeon, and then the Ocoee. I have had some great people to give me many welcomed pointers along the way, and this was a great way to work up to the Ocoee.
The trip to the Ocoee was a great. There were 4 of us, Jack, Steve, Kyle and Me. Everyone was on time, and no one forgot any gear. They kept trying to tell me how abnormal this was for a paddling trip, because it was already starting off so smoothly.
When we got to the Ocoee they all wanted to see my face when I saw the put in. I will say this. The Ocoee starts off intimidating. Lots of roaring water and current that is as fast as most of the rivers I’ve been on right of the bat. I was pretty excited though. There is one thing I have going for me, ignorance. I don’t really know how bad something is, and for the most part I don’t care to find out.
Kyle, walked me through the line of Grumpy’s Rapid at the put in. And even though I wasn’t exactly sure where the line was, I knew that really what I wanted to do is follow Kyle. Once we ferried into the current, any nerves I had settled, and it felt great. The trick is not to let it freak you out. I had some great paddlers with me, and I knew that if I were to get into trouble they would come get me. Well at least I like to think that. Jack would probably have a good laugh before he came to help. :)
There were only two rapids I was told to watch out for, Broken Nose, and Double Suck. If you have a good teacher with you it is pretty easy to make it through these unscathed. Lot’s of people told me Broken Nose was right fully named, well I’d like to say you could pretty much call the whole river broken nose. When you flip, you will probably hit something so tuck. The biggest rocks I hit were right after broken nose. I got turned over somehow, not sure how, but probably an elementary mistake. I knew it was going to be shallow so I decided to stay tucked and let my PFD and helmet do their jobs. As soon as it got a little deeper I rolled right up.
The Ocoee has some of the best play spots I had seen. My favorite was a little hole in the middle of the river. It was really easy to surf in, and I even got a back surf which was awesome since that was what I was going for. The problem was that I didn’t know how to get out of it. These play spots are safe, and deep so have a lot of fun.
Table Saw: Table Saw was the most fun section for me. Those were the biggest waves I had ever been on. When I entered the rapid, I was shocked to find my self floating in the air at the crest of each wave and landing with my hull smacking on the backside. I had never encountered this before and honestly didn’t know what to do. By the third wave I was upside down, but could feel my boat shooting up into the air as it reached the next waves crest. I held out for a bit under the water. When the chaos stopped I rolled up and caught the next eddy. It was so much fun!
Hell Hole: Hell hole was really cool. I wish I had been able to get into it, but I only tried once. The water was so swift, I instantly caught an edge and rolled before ever making it to the hole. The coolest part was how small people looked in the hole.
Overall the Ocoee was the best paddling experience of my short career. I can’t wait to paddle it again, maybe next time Table Saw and me will agree. I must also add that seeing Jack get flipped was also a highlight. That was the first time I ever seen him get rolled over. :)
Sorry, I didn’t take any pics. Next time. Uploaded some pics from my second trip, hope you enjoy.