4 days in the Southeast

Last weekend, Natalie and I got to go on a trip to the Southeast US for a Fluid kayaks team trip. This may surprise our more astute fans, because I am constantly making fun of paddlers from the southeast. Well, having taken a trip out there to experience their rivers for myself, I will say this:

I was totally right.

Everything that I said about the east seems to have been completely verified by my trip out there. Paddlers from the east are giant babies about cold weather and cold water, because it seems to always be warm there. Paddlers from the east are terrified of normal rivers because all their rivers are incredibly tiny and have no water in them. And don't try to tell me about such and such from the east who is the greatest big water paddler in blah blah blah. If that person is good at big water, I bet that they are FROM the east, but they did their big watering somewhere else and they now live in Canada or the northwest. Paddlers from the east have bizarre attitudes about rocks, because although their runs seem to be made of rocks instead of water, those rocks are somehow soft and forgiving and smooth. In Colorado, we have real manly rocks. Rocks that knock you off line and break your boat even when you don't touch them. Rocks covered in ice and blood. Mank.

Now, with that rant aside, I will say this: although everything I had thought about the east was true, it still wasn't the whole picture. These tiny little rock-filled creeks are actually really fun to paddle, and maybe I only met a few of them, but paddlers from the east seem to be really nice people. During our trip out there, we had an action packed couple days of awesome runs. (Apart from the Lower Cullasaja. That sucked.)

If you're illiterate (like most of our fans) and just want to look at the pretty pictures, check out this slideshow. Otherwise, read on for more hilarious bigoted one-liners about the southeast.

We started out with the Toxaway, which I hear is one of the better runs in that half of the country. It was ok, I suppose. We had low flows, but the river was so tiny that it was ok anyway.
Toxaway?  More like Tiny-away.

No, in all seriousness, the Toxaway was an awesome run. Natalie and I agreed that we could just about justify the whole trip just based on that single day. There were a ton of slides. It felt like the South Branch of the Feather, except miniaturized and with all the waterfalls replaced with slides. I'd like to go back there some day with more water.
Landbridge.  I won't lie, I was a little nervous at the top of this one.

After the Toxaway, we went to scout out the Raven fork, but it was too low even by east coast standards, so we ended up on the Lower Cullasaja instead. Everyone was saying how we were dropping into a really sketchy and intense run (none of us had done it before), but basically it was just a super rocky jumble of crap. That run was really not very good. Still, it was better than not boating, and there was one nice boof near the end, about 3 feet tall. We didn't take photos of it. To finish out that day, we drove upstream to a steep little 7 foot slide to 4 foot slide combo upstream. It was too rocky for my tastes, so I relaxed on the bank and shot photos and video, and heckled.
I had a whole series of these shots, but they're a little too cliched for my tastes.
Our third day was mostly spent on a nice park n' huck slide (waterfalls are hard to find in the east), followed by an ultra low water descent of some French Broad. In Colorado they make fun of me and Natalie because we're willing to run rivers at just ridiculously low flows (check out these posts for proof). On the east coast, I am apparently a flow snob. Everyone else seemed to think that we had an acceptable flow on the French Broad.
In the east, they tended to call everything a "falls".  This is "triple falls," which is a series of slides.
Seth the canoer.
The last drop on the French Broad.

Of course, we just couldn't leave the southeast without running the Green River Narrows. The Green is like the southeast version of the Little White Salmon, or Burnt Ranch Gorge. It's the go-to classic that everyone must run. We were (as the kids say) mobbing on the Green, with a huge crew of Fluid kayaks. We were pushing more Bazookas than a discount arms dealer. We even had Josh Galt with us, who is THE BEST RIVERBOARDER IN THE WORLD. We got to watch him make the first known riverboard descent of Gorilla. Since we had such a huge crew on such a popular run, I didn't take many photos, I just left my GoPro Hero3 on timelapse mode and caught a couple interesting stills. And because everyone is bound to ask, yes, we ran Gorilla too. I was pretty nervous about the entry, especially after watching Jules Domine flip over there, but Natalie thought it looked good to go, so she fired it up and made it look easy. After watching her line, I said to myself that I didn't bring these shoulder pads all the way across the country just to portage easier (although they do help with portaging) and I also gave it a go. My line was pretty smooth. Seeing the rapid the first time, I think we really focused on the possible problems. After running it, I felt how easy it can be, and I can sort of understand how it would be easy to get complacent about that drop.


I can't believe there aren't more accidents out east.  There were so many undercuts.

Here is a video of Josh running Gorilla:

...and here is another from Adrian Keirnan. Natalie and I are in the background a few times in this video.
Now, in true Leif and Natalie tradition, here are the photos that I found amusing from our trip.
Bobby's face is really amusing, especially when you notice that he's hauling his boat along a flat shelf.


  1. Next time come up to WV. It beats the hell out of Western NC anyday. Colder water, crazier locals, more undercuts, bigger water, more potent poison ivy, smoother moonshine, friendlier paddling scene, cheaper beer, less whining (relatively), and pepperoni rolls! WV kayaking is the best from late November - April. Come get some!


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