Photo: Matt Dalton
Springtime in the Blue Ridge is a spectacular time. Water levels are primed for the many rivers of the area, and mountain bike trails are running tacky and fast since the fall leaves have had time to clear out.
Here are a few events this spring that are worth checking out in the area. I’m not sure if I’ll make all of them, but I’m certainly going to do my best.
Alabama Mountain Games (March 16-18)
This event is a great opportunity for paddlers, bikers, and outdoors folks from all over to rally to an area that you may not otherwise visit and compete. It used to be only a paddling event, but has transformed to include a number of other sports and activities. Get ready for an infusion of Alabama culture too!
Watauga Gorge Race (March 31… or the next Saturday with enough water)
The Watauga River near Boone, NC is an amazing whitewater river with sections that cater to a variety of different skill levels. This race is for class IV to V boaters, and it is a good one!
40+ paddlers will line up in ascending order at the putin according to boat length… shortest to longest. The heavy hitters are then put in the back of the pack so that they have to battle through every single other paddler for a chance at the victory. The paddlers battle through 3+ miles of challenging whitewater and finish at 13 foot Stateline Falls in front of spectators.
ETSU Nationals Qualifiers (April 14)
The ETSU boys are known as a rowdy bunch of downhill, cross country and dual slalom athletes who know how to go fast AND have a good time. These races will also serve as a qualifier for the National Championships, and are held a stone’s throw from campus.
The downhill track is fast and flowy, and is very well suited to an aggressive all mountain or smaller travel freeride bike. The dual slalom track is definitely one of the best in the region, and is always running fast with large features to separate the pack.
Tallulah Fest (April 14-15)
The Tallulah River is an amazing place that needs to be experienced by any class IV+ paddler. This river is a pilgrimage every spring and fall when the waters are released for five weekends of recreational use. This year there will be a full-on festival to reunite with paddlers after the long winter, share some beverages and tell lies about how hard-core you are.
NOC Shootout and Demo Days (April 20-22)
Nantahala Outdoor Center is a mainstay in the paddling world, and always hosts a number of great events for paddlers of all ability levels. The Shootout and Demo Days is an opportunity to watch some of the world’s best compete, paddle the class II-III Nantahala River, and try out the top gear in the industry.
Jerry’s Baddle (April 28)
This is definitely one of my favorite events of the year. This event was originally started in honour of Mr. Jerry Beckwith, an incredible individual who loved life in his kayak and on his bike, and who eventually passed away after a battle with ALS.
The competition lives on after a number of years, and represents one of the most fun biathlons that you could possibly compete in. It involves a class V kayak blast through the steepest sections of the Green River Narrows, and then a 26 mile bike ride through the surrounding mountains and the town of Saluda. This is a great one because it often involves biker/kayaker tag teams, and features great food and beer afterwards.
I hope to see you at some of these events, and good lines in the meantime!