Forward motion, headfirst & horizontal to gravity!
In mid-September we got a good bit of rain in the North Carolina mountains. I checked the normal runs on my wish list, but the Madison county runs weren't going yet and no one wanted to go down to the north fork of the French Broad with me. Finally, later in the morning I corralled a friend who had boarded with me before into checking out the Red Roofs section of the Watauga river. I had previously run the more difficult gorge section downstream, but have always wanted to pioneer the riverboard descent down the Red Roof's run. Since Zack had done some class III with no problems, I thought that he would do fine with me on this class IV run. We started driving towards Banner Elk and Seven Devils where the run is located.
The first mile of the run is class III. The hilarious part is that it flows right beside one of the most exclusive golf clubs in the area. After the first mile, there is a dam, but it's more like an old stone wall that has holes cut in it for water to flow through. Nasty stuff, so we portaged. I wanted to put in directly below, but there was a river wide tree in the eddy and outflow. We opted to go up around a cliff and come back over to the next rapid. The steepness of the shore made it too tough to simply walk downstream at river level.
We took a look at the next rapid and it was truly ugly. After two drops, then there was a very crux move to avoid a plethora of seives and undercuts. Perhaps less water would make this move seem less pushy, or more water would cover the dangers up and make this rapid runnable. More portages and scouting followed, and most everything wasn't looking runnable. There was one fun, fast, short slide that would have been fun if not for there being two rocks that were two close together at the bottom. A kayak could fit between them, but a riverboard would be too wide.
Finally, we were able to get into the water again and I took the lead on eddy hopping and scouting. There was one rapid where I couldn't see the middle drop between two other drops and was planning to just probe it blindly and then signal for Zach if the line was good or motion him towards a different line. Right before I was going to drop in, I spotted another eddy and thought “ Aha, now I've got the eagle eye view on this drop “. I am glad I hit that eddy as once I pulled in and looked, I noticed a tree limb caught between rocks exactly where I was going to probe. We opted for a sneak and portage in another channel. We settled into a pattern of running as class II or III drop, but having an absolute must make eddy in order to not come into the next drop blind. Finally, we finished the second mile, tired from all of the scouts and portages. At this level, the Red Roofs run is definitely underrated as I thought it was more difficult than the class IV – V gorge section downstream. Someone asked me if I will ever come back to the Red Roofs run. Definitely, just not at the same water level as when I went to do it on this day.