Saturday, December 31, 2011

I'm baaaaack!

And yes, the astute among you will realize that it's a few days earlier than planned. The retreat was wonderful and I'll talk more about that later, once my mind has a chance to rest. I arrived home yesterday afternoon after about 10 hours of driving (and no, I did not drive straight home, although for the time involved I might as well have!).

Yesterday I took another trip through past memories, opting to take a different route home through North Carolina and my beloved Nantahala River gorge. This was literally the last place I visited before I left Georgia in 1996. I left mid-week in April, and the previous weekend I spent walking my favorite trail up in this area with three of my best buddies. On the way home, we took a side detour to visit the Nantahala Outdoor Center, where I'd spent many a good day.

Thankfully, it hasn't changed much. A new bridge over the river (badly needed!) seems to be the extent of it. The river, of course, is the real draw here. It's hard to imagine emotions about a river, but early in the day when I was around Asheville I got all choked up just thinking about seeing this river, this place, again. It's been a long time.

This is Nantahala Falls, which has the distinction of being the only rapid I ever swam (in non-riverspeak, capsized) in my kayak. I can beg off by saying I was tired after a full day on the river in a  private lesson, and that I hadn't had much sleep the night before. It's a tricky rapid -- a high class III that has taken down many a good paddler in its day. May not look like much here, but it's a doozie. I love just looking at it. Wish I'd had a second chance to prove my mettle.  It wasn't the size -- I ran a high III the very first day on any river (this one in Georgia)  and have run other tricky class III's on various Georgia rivers, but this one called my bluff and won. The Nanty, by the way, is a dam-controlled river which is 'turned on' every day around 10am, and off again later in the day.

Whether you swim the falls or successfully run them, you need to get to shore quickly because a half mile or so down the river, still within the NOC grounds, is this -- Wesser Falls, truly treacherous and not to be attempted (although I'm sure some have done so). It looks fairly tame here, but don't be deceived.

This, and the following two photos, are of Patton's Run, a rapid just beyond the put-in point. I did run this one successfully, as well as the rest of the river. Until the Falls. This one starts you out right -- the launch point is just beyond that bend and this is the first thing that greets you. I made a video of this, but somehow or other messed up the file. All the motion and sound really make it.

And then after reluctantly leaving the river behind, I wound my way home on instinct - which mostly sent me in the right direction. Stopped for lunch in Ellijay at what used to be my favorite barbecue spot, but which left me disappointed this time. $7.25 for a small sandwich and tea, and it wasn't even all that good. I guess Colonel Poole has gotten the last of my dollars.

The house is fine -- although I found that there were tornado warnings on my birthday, and I'm frankly just as glad I wasn't around for those. The temp was a balmy 65 -- which I must say felt awfully good after 2 cold weeks at Bhavana.  I haven't gotten my head back into the 'real' world yet, but in a couple of days, hopefully. It's quite a culture shock to leave such a protected, isolated environment and be suddenly thrust back onto freeways filled with cars and trucks.  The car got right around 40 mpg on this trip! The first tank was a tad over 40, ensuing ones (in the mountains) were a tad under 40. I don't know what brought that on, but I'm not complaining. Could a new fan belt make that difference? That's the only change that's been made.

Anyway, I'm outta here for today. Talk at you later.

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