My wife, Jennifer, and I had a very active day on the Nolichucky Saturday, August 27, 2016. Together with the help of 3 other rive guides we lead a total of 28 paddlers with 7 first timers down the mighty Nolichucky Gorge for the Appalachian Paddling Enthusiasts annual First Timer’s Trip in the morning. Then we raced in a triathlon known as the Nolichucky Triple Threat in the afternoon. Needless to say we were a bit tired after all of the day’s events, but we had a great time together and with many friends!
The day started out with Jen and me towing the Jackson Action Wagon to USA Raft to setup a demo for the Triathlon event. Once I got all the boats set out for showcase Jen and I began organizing the large group to set shuttle for the gorge river trip using a USA Raft bus and some trailers to haul boats up to the put-in at Popular, NC. The group worked together well to load up all the gear and boats to get moving efficiently. On the way up the mountain in the bus I gave my river safety talk and explained how we would be breaking into smaller groups with our five river guides when we got on the river.
We were greeted with a warm summer day and sunny skies with temps in the high 80′s when we reached the put-in. The river flow was on the low side of good at 515 CFS on the Embreeville Gauge, which made for a steeper more channelized run for our gorge first timers. It turned out to be a fine level for all!
We all slide into the river in the large pool at the Popular put-in and split into our smaller groups. Then we headed down river to enjoy a great late morning/early afternoon in the gorge. All 7 of our first timers had a good time and were stoked to complete the run! Big thanks to all the river guides and sweep/safety paddlers who supported the trip to make it another great success!!
We finished the 9 mile trip Noli Gorge trip around 2:00 P.M. back at USA Raft and that allowed us a couple of hours to rest up and refuel for the triathlon we would be racing at 4:00 P.M. Jen and I were excited to be racing with our friends Amy Register, Brain Vermillion and Andrea Gass. Brian & Andrea joined us on the gorge trip that morning also and we decided we needed some sort of Iron APE Award for trying both of these events in the same day!
The Nolichucky Triple Threat is a three part event that incorporates a 3 mile paddle trip down the Lower Nolichucky River, an obstacle course and a 5K Run.
Event website – http://nolitriplethreat.com/
The race started at USA Raft for the paddling portion (Class I-II) of the triathlon and headed down river to a spot known as Red Cliff below Radio Wave rapid. I chose to use my Jackson Kayak Karma Unlimited racing boat to GO FAST and Jen used her Jackson Kayak Karma Sm. Brain and I were there only racers there using racing long boats, so we were the first two finishers in the paddling portion of the race.
Brian and I had to wait for the girls for about 5 minutes to catch up with us once we were out of boats, b/c we all agreed that we would help each other in the 17 obstacles that awaited for us in the course ahead. The race’s official timing did not start until you crossed a pad leading into the obstacle course. Once the girls caught up to us we started the obstacle course. The course proved to be a challenge for sure! There was many different obstacles in the course that included: a barb wire crawl in water and sand, carrying heavy objects, throwing a large rock into the cockpit of a kayak, 6’, 8’, & 10’ vertical walls, flipping tractor tires, dragging kayaks filled with concrete bags, inverted wall, cargo net, monkey bars, balance beam, 15’ rope climb, and a slip wall. If you did not complete any obstacle in the course you had to do 30 squat jumps for each failed obstacle. I ended up doing about 120 squat jumps throughout the course!
After we completed the course Brian had pulled ahead of the rest of us and he took off on the 5K run back to USA Raft. He is a good runner! I tried to hang with the girls on the run back, but I was struggling and had to walk several times. Thankfully the girls were pretty tired too, so I was able to hang with them for the most part. The run back was mostly on the road, but the last 0.3 mile was on an old spur the Appalachian Trail coming into the Nolichucky Gorge Campground. I really enjoyed running through the woods in this section of the race and came though the campground to cross the finish line back at USA Raft with the girls finishing in front of me.
After we crossed the finish line one last obstacle laid in front of us as a bonus and it was to jump across two rafts tied together like lily pads in a pond. We all did this one at a time hoping from the bank of the pond into the first raft. Then scurrying across the thorts to jump into the next raft. Then came the tricky part of taking a big leap from the last raft to the other bank of the pond. We all finished this final obstacle cheering for each other and we were happy to complete the race! It was a good time for sure with each other!!
We headed to the river to jump in to clean up and cool down after the race. It felt so good and a great way to end a high motivation day on the Nolichucky!