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This was the first entry in this blog, scroll down to the bottom and read the comments to follow along with me for the season.

Well today will be my 3rd day on the water this season, kinda sad really, I wish the actual number was up higher. Gonna take my second run on the Canyon section of the Big South Fork today. Every river that we guide we have to do a minimum of three trips before we are allowed to take paying customers, only one more to go after today, for the canyon anyway. I don't have the gear I need but the outfitters is loaning me anything that I need until I get my own personal gear ( helmet, pfd, guide stick) The last trip was the Gorge section and the Canyon, todays trip will be much shorter, about 2 1/2 hours. I'll keep you posted.

By the way there are bears in the Daniel Boone National Forest now. Could make the outdoor housing a little more exciting this summer. :-)

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Comment by Dale Stewart on April 11, 2010 at 9:53pm
Well I had 2 days in a row where my canyon trips cancelled and finaly on Saturday I had the chance to try and check out again on the Gorge. My Gorge run was pretty good except for my line at the Ell. I got pushed way right again, but at least I finally figured out why and with God's blessing I will have a much better run from now on.

The EXCITING part of the day was the run at the Ell, besides going way right and just about dropping into the hole sideways, there were 2 guides that were R2ing that day, involuntarily surfing the hole at the Ell. By involuntarily I mean that they really didn't want to be there, they were hanging on for dear life. To make things worse, I thought that my trip leader, the guy grading my check-out attempt, told me to hit them! He said DON"T hit them, but I thought he said hit them. I thought to myself, OK were gonna bump them out of the hole. HAA HAA HAA. Bad Idea. It was a bad idea but amazingly it worked, we knocked them right out of the hole, and put our selves in it. :) I'm loving it. 4 peaple in the raft, 2 customers riding windshield (the front of the raft, blocking most of the spray, like a windshield), my trip leader (Karl) and me. We surfed around for a bit and Karl who is a BIG guy, threw his weight around a little to keep us from high-siding, I had my paddle in the green but I wasn't able to do a whole lot, the customers were face to face with the worst of the hole and finally with the help of Karl's paddle too we floated free from it. Thank You again, JESUS. WOW!! Just typing about it get's my heart racing.

The rest of the Gorge was pretty smooth, I didn't have the best line at A.K (Ass Kicker) but it worked and I got us to the start of the canyon sectiion without anyone swimming.

The canyon was 5 boatloads of U.K. college students. Rowdy. We (the guides) didn't help matters much, we tend to encourage pirate like acts in safe water. There was a whole lot of splashing, boat boarding, and man overboards. All that college energy was great when I needed it for the rapids and they made my lines look great, all except Echo rock. Echo rock has a fairly long curving wave train that used to go between 2 rocks, but now at certaiin water levels it SPLATS the raft right into one of those rocks. If you are facing it, you ride right up on it and spin around off of the side. If you hit it sideways, the upstream side of the raft is going under and if you don't lose someone or execute a high-side you will flip. I swam 2 people there. One girl fell out and the other guy was hanging halfway out when his buddy decided that it was a good idea to help him fall out more efficiently. With 2 people missing we popped back up and floated on around the rock. "Rescued" our swimmers and paddled to the take out.

It was a good day.

I am checked out on the gorge now with the exception that I have to see it at high water before I can run it at high water.

Oh yeah, the college kids tipped me 33 bucks, not bad for college kids.

I'll keep you posted.
Comment by Dale Stewart on April 7, 2010 at 9:04pm
Great boating for the last 2 days. Got my first paid trip on tuesday plus a 20$ tip and a thank you note. I was supposed to guide the canyon again today, but a group dropped out at the last minute so I just went along for the ride. Did yard work for the outfitters on monday and maybe tomorrow too. Supposed to guide the canyon friday and saturday too I think.

Saw my first snake of the season today, it really surprised me. I hiked off to do a #1, there are no restrooms out there where we are boating, and it was laying right in front of me. YIKES!!! Snakes don't scare me unless I am surpised by them, this one surprised me. Not sure what kind it was , it resembled a gardner snake. It was dark greenish black with 2 yellow stripes down its back. It wasn't a copperhead and it wasn't a rattlesnake, both of which are fairly common in the areas that we raft.

Before I guided the canyon, Melissa and I R2'd (only 2 peaple in a raft) the Gorge and we did pretty good. The ELL got me again though, this time I didn't come out of the raft but I totally screwed my line up and ended up way to the right of the point where I am supposed to drop in at and we went over a rock and dropped of sideways about 5 feet down to a hole, how we didn't swim?, I can only give God the credit. It definitlely got my heart pumping. All's well that ends well they say. I'll keep you posted.
Comment by Dale Stewart on April 3, 2010 at 8:29pm
It was a little chilly and overcast today when we headed off to the Gorge but once we hit the water we forgot all about the weather and drank in the ADRENALINE. The Gorge was really tight and technical today it was only running at about 1400 cfs. All the drops get bigger though, and stickier. I guided the boat for the entire Gorge trip even the BIG THREE; Double drop, The washing machine, and The ell, all class IV rapids today. Did swell all the way to the the ell. At the last drop of the ell i was out of shape and off my mark just enough to where it looked like I was going to bury the whole left side of my boat under a raft flipping curler on the left. I turned it hard right and saved the boat but the curler came crashing down on me and sucked me right out of the back of the boat. The rest of the day went smooth. Easter tomorrow, yard work monday, and back to the Gorge tuesday for another check out run.

Happy Easter everyone, and remember it's about JESUS, not the easter bunny.

I'll keep you posted.
Comment by Dale Stewart on April 1, 2010 at 10:03pm
What a BEAUTIFUL 80+ degree day, wow. I actually felt guilty for being at work today, it was beautiful, perfect. The Senior Guide that I rode with today for my checkout attempt is probably the strictest that we have when it comes to checking-out on a river, but he's pretty good and he's been doing this for years, he was a guide on a couple of rivers in New York. I didn't check out today but He told me we'll give it a shot next time. Should be Saturday GOD willing. I'll keep you posted.
Comment by Dale Stewart on April 1, 2010 at 5:09am
It's April Fool's day and I am up this morning getting ready to tackle the Gorge, our class III-V river. The goal today is to checkout on that part of the river. I feel comfortable running that section but I don't have the names of all the rapids memorized yet and I am hazy about some of the lines, but I usually don't do lines anyway; lines change with the water level. I prefer to just read the water and go. Been clearing a fence line at the outfitters, getting paid by the hour for that. It's not rafting but it is still outdoors and when it's early in the season any work works as long as there is a dollar to be made. I'll keep you posted.
Comment by Dale Stewart on March 29, 2010 at 5:55am
Thanks Nancy,

I don't think I am that amazing, I am just comfortable swimming rapids most of the time.
Comment by Nancy B. on March 28, 2010 at 3:49pm
Wow!!! You are amazing!! I absolutely LOVE rivers....but they want to kill me for sure. Took classes a few years back, but the "river view" was too often for me. I like a sit-on-top because it will fling you off, but not hold you down as you experienced. Wow.... My last river trip was on the American River outside of Sacramento. A bunch of newbies in a 12ft raft...top of "Meatgrinder" which is a quarter mile nearly straight down with waves and rocks...no way out but to finish since the sides were all massive boulders. Right at the top of the slide all control was lost. Newbies didn't quite yet understand what "forward" meant. The boat flipped over and we were all on the ride of our lives. None of the things I was taught would work...swim hard to the bank (no bank); feet down river (yea, right! Feet UP was about all i could manage); stay away from the boat (No problem, the boat was by now in San Francisco....). Gasping, finding some air between the waves, I opened my eyes to see a beautiful purple kayak. I asked for help, as I recall, and I think I remember a shrug from the paddler...anyway, not much he could do, but he road next to me for a time. Just when I thought it was over, I saw my raft up ahead hung up on some rocks on the side of the river. I grabbed the line on the side of the raft and held on as my body swung downstream reaching for the next rapid. Someone yelled to get out of the water (pretty cold) and I scrambled on top of the rocks. I looked around at the faces of those who had gotten that far too and everyone agreed they thought it was over. A 14 year old girl was missing. Her mother was in agony. Some minutes later she was found...no one wanted to get back in the boat. Some opted to join another group. I stayed, but I was really nervous the rest of the trip--which was quite long considering we dumped on the first rapid! Loved your story. The quintessential adrenaline rush without getting wet.
Comment by Dale Stewart on March 28, 2010 at 3:23pm
Friday night we camped out at the outfitters (Sheltowee Trace Outfitters), stayed warm but didn't want to get up to the icy cold morning on saturday. I really didn't want to swim the Gorge in a Kayak and fortunatley Thomas- a veteran guide,Ranger, and photographer- was R2'ing with his friend Tina and I rafted the Gorge with them. That part of the trip went smooth as silk, I bareley got splashed.

At Pine Creek, the start of the Canyon section, I swapped out of Thomas's raft for RJ's old school Vertigo. I knew RJ before he or I became guides, he is one of the few people that I know that are outdoors to the bone.

There was a great group of boaters with us that day; Ryan (guide/medical student), Dave(former guide), Foley (guide/outfitter), Steve (creek boater), Crazy Kieth (farmer/boater), Adam (guide/class V kayaker) and his daughter, Thomas, and RJ. Later on Scott and Bret hooked up with us too, both are guides.

I am thankful that Ryan led me through the Canyon and showed me the best lines even though I am sure that he would have been happier surfing and catching eddies, he has been there almost everytime that I have been on the water in a kayak, super-great guy. He couldn't do the paddling for me though. My first swim was at a rapid that usually isn't that much of a concern, we call it The Sieve because there is a nasty little sieve at the top of it, but it is easily avoided. There was a little pourover with a hole (a recirculating hydraulic) to the left and a booger of an eddy line to the right, I hit the eddy line bad, subbed out, hit the undercurrent and was on my head. I waited till I was calm, set up for the roll and stuck it like a champ. That's when I really got in trouble. I rolled up right into the hole and got tossed upside down again. My boat (upside down in the hole) was pretty stable, but I (upside down in the boat) knew what it must be like to get a swirley in a giant toilet. The water was super turbulent underneath and I was only able to set up for my roll on the off side, I don't have an on side roll and I sure don't have an offside roll. I went ahead and punched out(wet exit); but, my trusty pfd (personal flotation device, aka lifejacket) didn't bring my to the surface like I wanted it to. I got sucked under and tossed around like a rag doll in the jaws of a pitbull. I've been in similar situations at a rapid on the Cumberland called Screamin' Right Hand Turn, so I just waited knowing that eventually my pfd ( with 22lbs of flotation) would bring me up for air. It did and and I took a big gulp of that essential to life gas know as oxygen but before my lungs were full they were taking on water and I was back under for another trip through the hole. That's when I began to worry a little bit. My lungs were hurting and my heart was racing by the time I came back up again. I was pretty sure that I was in a keeper and that I wasn't going to flush out. I don't know for sure if I was up for air or if I was still under the water but I started kicking hard and thanks to my Lord Jesus I was able to get away from taking a third trip through that madhouse.

I was whupped, I was zapped, I was tired. I am glad that the water wasn't colder. The guys rescued my boat and towed me over to some rocks that were suitable for getting the boat out of the water and the water out of it. I climbed back in feeling like a champ. My roll worked, I was certain I wouldn't have to swim again. I was wrong.

My next swim was at a rapid called Jakes Hole. I missed my line by a little, got squirted and bit it again. I waited, set up for my roll, and to my amazement my paddle wasn't grabbing water. I tried again, still nothing. Eject! Eject! Later I found out that my blade angle was wrong and I was slicing, it's the little things that kill.

This time to keep my dignity I was going to at least self rescue myself and my gear. I came up with my boat, paddle in hand and starting kicking for shore. SWIM HARD RIGHT! SWIM HARD RIGHT! I didn't turn around to see why they wanted me to swim so bad, I just did it. Shoved my boat, abandoned my paddle and kicked like a 2yr old throwing a tantrum. Getting sucked downstream, it was bony and swift. Finally got ahold of a "safe" rock and pulled myself out of the water, looked behind me and saw nothing but waves and rocks, no wonder they didn't want me swimming that. It would have been a long swim and a hard beating.

I was getting ready to make a swift water entry into another eddy so that I could get to shore when Foley rowed up in an oar frame asking me If I wanted a lift, I looked downstream, way downstream, to were the guys had rescued my gear and decide that a lift would be a lot easier than bouldering in aqua socks.

When I got to my boat, Steve had gone through the trouble of getting out of his and hauling mine out of the water and getting most of the water out of it. What a champ! Getting in and out of a whitwater kayak isn't something you want to do a lot of, it was a personal sacrifice on his part and his selflessness is noted.

I finally got back in my own boat and was nervous as can be. Ryan asked me if I was ready and I told him the truth. No. I could see the next rapid and I was intimidated. I wasn't scared of dying or anything, it's just that wet exits are a lot of hard work, frustration and aggravation. I was sure I was gonna swim again and I didn't want to.

Everyone told me to just get aggressive and keep her pointed north. That's what I did. I paddled hard and kept her teed up to the waves. I didn't swim again but I hit Ryan's boat at ramming speed a couple of times because I didn't want to hesitate long enough for a wave to snag me or cause a stern squirt. I made it.

After that run they wanted to run again and I decided to sit it out, which was cool too. The Big South Fork has great scenery. A boulder jumbled river, with sandy beaches and sheer cliffs all along both sides. Just being there is a pleasure and it didn't cost me a thing because it's part of my job.

Afterwards we all went to Mickey D's and hit the dollar menu. My buddy RJ got tipped by the customer paddlers and paid for mine, thanks again man.

This morning while I was at church they were all headed to the Tellico to shoot Baby Falls. That's still beyond my paddling level, but I will get there in time. Steve Price is a big inspiration to me, he didn't start paddling kayaks until he was 34 (I'm 36) and he is 42 now still going strong.

I can't wait till my next run.

I'll keep you posted.
Comment by Dale Stewart on March 26, 2010 at 6:01pm
Going Kayaking again tomorrow, it's supposed to be 29 degrees tonight, were gonna camp out. Tomorrow is supposed to be a beautiful day, but I bet the water will be freeezing. Gonna work on our pavillion's this weekend too. The season is officially open but it still isn't going in full swing yet. The wierdest thing about being a boater-everyone prays for nice weather, boaters hope for rain so that we have big water. The Big South Fork and the Cumberland rivers are both wild and scenic rivers, they have no controlled release. Both are usually classIII with some class IV but when it rains they can get class V really quick. The great thing about it is it's always changing on you. That can be the worst thing too. I'll keep you posted.
Comment by Dale Stewart on March 20, 2010 at 6:55pm
Alright! Got to take my checkout run today and passed, I am clear to guide the Canyon Section now. Got my first tip of the season, 10 bucks. Got info on getting a back country permit from Papa Smurf (he owns the outfitters) for the Big South Fork National River Recreation Area. We head over there a few times a week, so I can take off after a raft trip, hike a few days to a week until the next scheduled trip, and then catch a ride back to the outfitters after another great day of hiking.

I know this sounds too good to be true, it is in a way. I didn't mention packing a 135# raft 1/4 mile down a mountain to the put in, grueling stretches of flat water that you j-stroke your raft full of customer through so that they aren't so worn out that they forget to leave you a tip and a thank you note, getting to the end of the trip and still haveing 2hrs to go till you have everything hauled back and put away, and last but not least bad customers, usually that isn't a problem but when it is, it is; and you still have to remember that it's their trip not yours. I just remember on those few ugh moments that this is the price I pay for the lifestyle I love, and the plusses (for me) out way the minuses.

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