Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Raft Guide Training on the Chattooga River

It's been a busy year on the Southeast's signature Wild & Scenic River, with ample rain and stout water levels since May. In addition to regularly-scheduled raft trips, NOC's Chattooga Outpost just wrapped up another year of raft guide training. For eager guides, this is one of the most intense whitewater training experiences in the nation. Here are some highlight's from the Class of 2009.

Pictured above is one of this year's training groups, or 'pods' as we call them. That's head guides Rob McCormick on the left with Carrie, Joel, Claire and Colin (Rob was quoted in last year's Blue Ridge Outdoors). Each group spends as many as three weeks sharpening their skills on both Section III and IV of the Chattooga River. Notice that there is one raft for every guide on that trailer.

Here, the guides-in-training take off from the 76 bridge for an R-1 adventure. This means each guide will paddle a raft alone, all the way down to the Five Falls section of the Chattooga. Doing so gives the guides a deep knowledge of how to use the river's features and current to their advantage.

This is Colin, steering his raft through Class IV Raven's Chute Rapid at a fairly high water level. If you've rafted the Chattooga River, you'll recognize this rapid from upstream by the massive, carved cliff that looms over the rapid from the Georgia shore. In addition to its raven-like appearance, the cliff's beach makes a decent lunch spot on rainy days like this one!

Claire guides through a meaty-looking Sock-em-Dog Rapid. At Sock-em-Dog, guides tie a 'dog leash' to the back of the raft to hold on to. Doing so keeps the guide from getting launched out of the raft! This 'dog leash' maneuver originated on this rapid.

Now Colin gets his turn to drop over the Chattooga's big Class V. Looks like Claire found the camera! In addition to paddling the rapids, the three-week session also includes covers areas like river knots and rescue techniques.

NOC has run trips on the Chattooga River since 1972. Our 38-year history of providing quality adventures has aided the development of our guide training program. This year, 13 new guides successfully completed training on the Chattooga River. Give 'em a hand next time you're rafting the Chattooga with NOC!

thanks to Chris Lakey for these photos

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Nantahala River Fog

Today we had some severe thunderstorms come through the Nantahala Gorge, and for the most part we dodged them. I was out on a "taxi squad" trip (when we have such a big day we pull extra guides from the offices), so I took some photos out on the water.

My trip was perfectly timed; we got off before the storm came through, but we got the cool, almost spooky Nantahala River mist anyway. My attempt to explain this phenomenon is very dependent on the wikipedia entry for condensation, so give me a break if I'm wrong, but I think what makes the mist (or technically fog since it's so thick) is the cold river water cooling the nearby air past its dew point. The Nantahala is pretty much always hovering between 50 and 55 degrees, so it often produces this fog in the summer or after rain.

No matter the science, it's just cool to be out in it. I've only been in the river fog a few times in three season, but I'm not a full time guide either. By the way, if it looks cold, it's not really. I was comfortable without a splash top on, but many of the guests on the trip smartly wore an NOC provided splash jacket because rain was in the forecast.