Wesley's Wild World of Kayaking & the Jackson Action Wagon (JAW)

News, Info, & Events from my kayaking life

1st Descent of Whitetop Laurel Creek, VA


I received the best phone call of the month yesterday (7-25-07) at around 10:00 a.m.  Stuart Everett was on the other line to inform me that Whitetop Laurel was running and a group was meeting up at the caboose in Damascus at 4:30 p.m. to fire up a run.  I quickly finished up a dead line I had at the office and was out the door by 2:00 p.m. to head home to round up my gear.

I called my cousin, Chad Grindstaff, to see if he would like to tag alone, because I knew he had the day off from work.  Despite his play boating nature, he has always expressed to me that we would like to run this creek.  He was quite fired up when I told him the news and he met me at my house to embark on his first creek boating experience.

Chad and I met Stuart and his usual support crew (Tonya, Abby, and Caleb – Josh was M.I.A.) at the caboose.  We then headed to Brian Combs’ house, who was going to be the trip leader.  All the others met up at Brian’s house to set up shuttle too.  We had a total of 8 boaters in our crew with one open boater (Kevin).  The other 3 guys that joined us were all local boys, from what I could gather (Travis, Jason Bordwine, and a dude in a Burn – Did I mention I’m terrible with names?).  Due to the lack of daylight time left, the group decided that it would be best to put in at Taylor’s Valley instead of Creek Junction. This reduced our trip down to about 6.5 miles and prevented us from paddling in the dark.

Chad and I loaded the J.A.W.’s Rocker and the MEGA Rocker on Stuart’s van.  Then we jumped in the van with Stuart and his support crew to head up to the put-in. We had a quick map briefing in the Damascus park with Tonya, so she could get some $$$ shoots of us going over Big Rock Falls.  After the quick map briefing we jetted up the road toward the put-in.  We missed our turn off of 91 to Taylor’s Valley and ended up in Mountain City, TN to check on everything there in that fine town…  After some directions from a very eager to help local guy we headed to the put-in.

Once we got to the put-in all the others were already getting in their boats or already on the water.  Stuart, Chad, and I rushed to unload our boats and put on all our gear to catch up to the others.  Fortunately they were kind enough to wait up on us a few hundred yards down the creek; which was a good thing considering this was Chad’s first real creek boating experience and Stuart’s and my first descent of the creek.

The gauge for Whitetop Laurel is a visual painted gauge that is located on the last steel trestle the Creeper Trail crosses over before the town of Damascus from Whitetop.  The gauge is on the bridge’s southeast concrete foundation wall.  Brian checked the gauge earlier that morning and it was 7”, which would have been a great flow.  By the time we put-in, the level had already dropped to 2”.  It was still a good level for the run considering the precip. was a July rain after a 2 month long drought.  The run was a little scrappy in places, but for the most part if you stayed in the main flow channels you did not get bumped around to much…

Since we were putting in at Taylor’s Valley, we did not get to run the Slot.  The Slot is a Class IV rapid just below the put-in at Creek Junction.  However, we did get to run Big Rock Falls (BRF) which is the only other class IV on the run (more details below).  There are several other good class III rapids that require much attention in this section too!

Wes on Whitetop Jason in a bow stall Chad on Whitetop

From the put-in (Taylor’s Valley) to the take-out (the last steel trestle where the gauge is located) the entire run can be summed up as WHEW-WHO!!!  The run is mostly non stop class II-III ledges, slides, and shoals, with very few small calm spots in between.  Most rapids are read and run.  The only rapid we scouted BRF.  The greatest danger is strainers.  We had to dodge, boof over, and zip around several strainers through out the run.

BRF was of-course, the highlight of the day.  After a quick scout and watching a few of the local boys and Stuart ace the line.  I was fired up to run the river right line.  Tonya and the support crew hiked down ¾ of a mile from the Straight Branch Trail Access to take our photos in this rapid; which also gave me more incentive to fire it up!  Travis, the Burn Dude, Chad and I headed back to our boats to run the drop.  The Burn Dude was first out of the eddy and was the only guy in our group who elected to run the far left boof line.  He made it look so EASY!  I followed out behind him and had a good line too through the right line.  Chad was feeling a little sketchy about the entrance drop, so he elected to slide in off the rock we scouted from to run the main drop.  Chad nailed running the right line!  Travis came down next and he greased the right line too!  Stuart came down again after running safety and snapping a few photos with his other camera.  Good lines were had by all and no carnage to report, thankfully!

Wes @ BRF 1 Wes @ BRF 2 Wes @ BRF 3 Wes @ BRF 4 Wes @ BRF 5 Wes @ BRF 6

Chad’s slide-in @ BRF Chad @ BRF 1 Chad @ BRF 2 Chad @ BRF 3 Chad @ BRF from above

Stuart @ BRF

After BRF the rest of the run was more paddling fun to the take-out.  There was one rapid along side the road that had two really sticky holes that should be run left at higher flows.  We all busted through them with no problem at the level we ran the rapid.  Once we reached the take-out, Stuart, Chad, and I decided we needed a little more paddling.  We decided to paddle on down to the Old Mill and have Tonya pick us up down there.  There was not much whitewater action between the take-out and the Old Mill, but there were a few nice surfing waves that we hammed it up on the fly.

Overall Whitetop Laurel is a great place for intro into the Creeking world at the level we ran the creek.  No major carnage to report other than: the open boater, Kevin, had one fall out of his boat, Chad found a nice rock to broach himself upon for a while till Stuart came by to pull him off, and I got flipped going through some low hanging trees, but rolled back up (I was not paying attention at the time).  Chad had a good time and he has a promising future as a creek boater if he can claw himself out of his play boat occasionally to fire up a run.  I had a blast and I think everyone else did in our crew too!

-A special thanks goes out to Stuart for the best phone call of the month and Tonya with the rest of the support crew for the photos and cheering!

The Dynamic Duo

One Comment

  1. Hal Jones
    Posted August 16, 2007 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    You crazzzy DUDE

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