The weekdays of July 24 – 27, 2017, Jimmy and JoAnn Caudill led their annual campaign to paddle the wild Tuckaseegee River running near Dillsboro, southwest of Asheville, NC. Jimmy researched the water release dates and JoAnn contacted the outdoor crew. The happy travelers were Jimmy, JoAnn, John and Vickie Barker, Ricky and Beth Lovette, Jim Sebastian and yours truly.
We stayed again at the Best Western River Escapes Inn, which is located on the river beside the paddling put-in. Most mornings we ate the complimentary, but quite nutritious and filling, breakfast at the Inn. Then late morning JoAnn always provided a brunch of fresh sandwiches, tomatoes, chips and related condiments. Then we would paddle for a couple hours in the early afternoon. For happy hour each day we sampled beers on the Inn deck over-looking the river. I am going to take away John’s power to blackmail me about telling Paul Anderson how many cookies I ate; in three afternoons I grudgingly admit to eating six cookies. But, in my defenses, I did not eat any gravy biscuits for breakfast. Supper was usually a nice, local restaurant in Dillsboro or adjacent Sylva (with more beer – what can I say?).
Tuesday everybody paddled but JoAnn (who is still recuperating from a broken arm). The river includes many high class 2 rapids and one heavy class 3 rapid. None of the rapids have potentially fatal “keeper” holes, but several can swamp a paddler and hold their boat. We had the usual several capsizes, which gave the hapless paddler a nice cool dunking but otherwise no harm. Along the way we saw numerous blue herons, ospreys (or fish hawks) swooping down from the tops of nearby trees and diving into the river to catch fish, white tail deer, cardinals, and smallmouth bass and trout jumping from the water. I am sorry my photos and video do not include any rapids; when we were in the white water I was too busy paddling to take out the camera.
Wednesday the Barkers took a long hike on Clingman’s Dome, the tallest mountain in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park; and several trippers headed home. The only paddlers were Jimmy C. and me. Everything went fast and slick. We took no stops for rests or capsizes, and shot through the paddling course in 1 hour 10 minutes. I have found that for me a solo canoe works best. I like it better than a raft, sit-in kayak, sit-on-top or inflatable ducky. The canoe moves faster, tracks straighter and is more stable. Later that day during happy hour John gave me a nice compliment. He is the best athlete I know (besides being a super smart and super nice guy) so I respect what he says. Since I do some kind of outdoor activity or sport (tennis, swimming, mountain biking, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, scuba diving, backpacking, rock climbing and on and on) several times a week, then he says I am the most energetic (old?) guy he knows. Despite my having endless painful joints and muscles, I try to push on through.
Thursday Jimmy C. and I were again the only paddlers. This trip went the fastest and slickest of all. We passed every group that we encountered – rafts, canoes, sit-in kayaks and sit-on-top kayaks. We finished in 1 hour 2 minutes. Today was my tenth descent of this river. Despite the short paddling time, it was my best trip on the river for reasons other than speed. I am beginning to remember the actual waves in each rapid and can plan where to line up my boat without just bashing through in a hurry. I started to utilize the currents to push me where I wanted to go and to trust the boat to handle the waves trying to knock me around. It was my best job of reading the nuances of the rapids and enjoying the ride.
We all look forward to returning next year. Any reader of this article is invited to join us. You will not be crashing the party. JoAnn said for me to tell all my friends to come paddling next year.