Today was to be a transition day; a day between musical events. We had to drive a bit more than a hundred miles west, to the small, high-mountain town of Hot Springs. The campground is on the French Broad River, a river known for its whitewater rafting. I learned that the “wild” class III and IV rapids are upstream from the campground, and the section downstream from the campground has several miles of flat water with “some class I and class II rapids.” I felt that this would be ideal for me and for my level of skill with the kayak. I begged E to help me out with the driving so that I could put in at the campground, paddle down stream to a park several miles down, and have her pick me up there. (Since she hadn’t yet driven our pickup truck, this was a BIG sacrifice on her part to be willing to do this. I greatly appreciate her for doing this.)
I put the kayak in the water just outside the campground, and I immediately found myself in white water. It was “whiter” than I’ve experienced before. I’ve been in class I and class II rapids before, and really enjoyed it, but this seemed more … exciting … than I remember. There were some pretty sizable waves, and some of them did manage to find their way inside the boat. When I got through this section of rapids, I pulled in to shore and beached the boat. I took a walk back upstream to take a photo:
The rest of the paddle was pretty exciting too, because during the stretches of flat water I could hear the sound of rapids that I was approaching. After my first experience, I was unsure of just what I would find in the next set of rapids. It was an experience made for a Hollywood movie: moving downstream with the increasingly loud sound of an approaching area of rapids. All that was missing was the dramatic musical background score. If the people who recommended this stretch of river considered what I had just been through to be mild and friendly (which is what they said), then would I be riding rapids like that all the way down to the park? The answer is, yes. Almost every set of rapids was just a little bit more than I had bargained for. By the end I was getting more comfortable and more confident. I guess the only way to learn something like this is to experience it, but I probably would have benefitted from doing it with a guide. In any event, this experience was one of the highlights of this trip for me, and again, I greatly appreciate my wife’s willingness to drive the truck for the first time and pick me up when I completed my run.