I've wanted to paddle the Nolichucky since I crossed it while hiking on the
Appalachian Trail nine*** years ago. At that time I owned an aluminum canoe
with a keel, so I knew then that it wouln't be any time soon.
I finally got my chance today. I had a time getting there as the road I was
taking was closed. It was blocked by steel beams that they were getting
ready to put in place for a new bridge over the North Toe River. The detour
probably saved me time driving, but I spent a lot of time pulled over trying
to read my map. It's pretty rural out there. A cluster f four or five houses
can put a name on the map.
I met my two buddies about 10:30am at the put-in at Poplar. They drove up
from Asheville and left a truck at the campground near Erwin, TN. I geuss I
should say for the sake of those not of the area that the Nolichucky begins
as the confluence of the Toe and Cane Rivers in far northwestern NC and
flows through a gorge into Tennessee. We were the first ones in the parking
lot, but just after we put on a big group arrived. They looked like they
might have been a class or something. The only people we saw the next ten
miles were railroad engineers, one fisherman, and a group of five
backpackers on the railroad track near the end. I had my 15' Legend, Sam his
Impulse (open boats), and Ben was in his Centrifuge. I don't mean for this
to be a Dagger ad.
It was a sunny day with temps maybe in the low 60's. Sam forgot his pump and
had to make a bailer. I think the reason I'm mentioning such an
insignificant fact is because I'm not going to be able to give a lot of
details about our run. The first time I go down a river it's hard to
remember which rapid was which and what happened where. I do remember the
action starts right away. The first hour is almost solid class III and IV
rapids. I had a lot of ugly moments early on, but as I got warmed up I was
ok. It was big water. I did some pumping and had to dump my boat a couple of
times. It reminded me a lot of the French Broad but the rapids are a lot
more technical. We didn't play a whole lot and it's good thing; we were all
worn out at the take out (we're old men in our mid 40's).
The scenery through the gorge is really nice. Leaves haven't come out yet so
all the rock formations are visible. One section was full of overhangs and
what looked like caves. I always think those locales look like a good place
for Eric Rudolph (the Olympic and *** clinic bomber) to hide. As an
aside, I understand that they are still looking for him and maintain a task
force in Robbinsville of law enforcement agency personnell from all over
that they rotate in and out. A friend of mine met a guy on the Nanty once
who worked for the Georgia Dept. of Corrections. He was on temporary
assignment to the task force. He said it was a very popular assignment for
boaters. Nothing like a paid vacation - whoops- I mean an assignment in
western NC for a boater.
Anyway ... it was Sam's third trip down the river. Ben has been so many
times that he lost count years ago. Towards the end, the wind really picked
up. Of course it was against us. Sometimes it would hold me still in pretty
fast current. None of us capsized, but there was one swimming incident. We
had pulled to shore to take a break. It was a high sandbar, and as a canoe
was pulled up, a paddle fell out. It started drifting downstream. The unamed
person went running after it in shallow water. He fell flat on his face was
almost completly immersed. As if that wasn't enough, he picked himself up
and went after it again with wreckless abandon. His hand was inches from the
paddle when he fell again and busted his knee and shin on a rock. It's a
really ugly gash. It was very embarassing for the person because he knew
better than to do such a foolish thing. We put back on really quickly and
got the paddle, but my knee is pretty sore.
We got to the campground about 3:30pm. The raft guides were gathering for
the weekend, so the party had started. It was a four and a half hour trip.
When we got back to the put-in about 4:30, a group with a couple of
catarafts were just getting ready to put on. We talked to one of the guys.
He said he was from Pa., but his buddy knew the river pretty well. They had
to have done the last couple of miles by moonlight, but there's plenty of it
I can't believe I'm still up. I was nodding off while eating supper a few
hours ago. Just thinking about those rapids is keeping me pumped up.
So I got to paddle the Nolichucky. I can't wait to go back. I think I've got
a new favorite river.