We have all been stuck on those roaring hot weekend afternoons when you find yourself slave to the lawnmower, and your mind begins to drift downstream on your favorite river. How do you squeeze more than one day a week or even worse one day a month of boating into your hectic schedule? You gotta make it happen! The good news is that ‘mak’n it happen” is easier than you think. Long summer evenings and local runs are the answers to your problem.
It’s Monday evening and yesterday’s run down the Nolichucky is still swimming around in your head. You’re on your way home from work and you can’t keep yourself from entertaining the thought of a quick run before dusk. Like a seasoned accountant, you begin to crunch the river numbers in your head. You come up with a time estimate, and although it’s tight, it’s also just the dose of adrenaline your Monday needs. Before you know it, you and a buddy are pulling out of your driveway at 7pm, loaded down with the biggest and fastest boats you can find, and putting on Section Nine of the French Broad by 8pm. The other car in the parking lot looks like another boater’s truck, but you’re just not sure. A three-mile shuttle run won’t kill either of you, and besides, you’re about to take in a killer evening on the old FB. As you slip through the warm water and negotiate the insurgent whitewater, all the day’s problems fade against the setting sun. You pick up the stroke rate and head for Stackhouse. Turning the last corner you both faintly notice a group of what appear to be kayakers on the beach. You realize you’ll shamefully have to beg a shuttle out these folks, but one last glance upstream washes away all hesitation.If you’re a resident of the Southeast and you can see mountains from some vantage point in your hometown, the chances are good that there’s a whitewater river within an hour of your house. The evening whitewater run is available, so you just have to decide where you want to go and how often you want to be there. There are many important considerations to take into account when finding the right evening river run. First and foremost consider safety. Since the trip will be relatively hurried and the light may get bad, select a river well within your paddling ability, and don’t go light on the safety gear. Second, you need to find a partner in crime, as paddling alone is a recipe for disaster. The third consideration is how to best use your resources. Take a bike or a pair of running shoes for shuttle. If play boating still strikes your fancy, then there’s no easier way to get on the river for as little or as long as you want. For those of you who are still hesitant, I’ll go ahead and spell out some options endemic to your area. Starting in our Nation’s Capital, there is the mighty Potomac. The Potomac serves as the border between Virginia and Maryland, and it offers both an intense whitewater run in Great Falls, as well as an assortment of play spots in the Mather Gorge, like S-Turn, Maryland Chute, and the O-deck waves. Moving south to Virginia, the town of Richmond claims the James River. The Ponypasture section of the James runs right through the heart of downtown Richmond, and it’s known for difficult whitewater and good play spots. In the mountains of Western N.C., the local paddling options are as abundant as the everyday low prices at the local Wal-Mart. Inside the city limits of Asheville there are numerous sections of the French Broad and Swannanoa Rivers. And in Tennessee there is the Nolichucky heading West on 26, and the Pigeon heading West on 40. Keep in mind those dam-released rivers like the Pigeon are good day time options for the summer, but they rarely release past 7pm. Check out americanwhitewater.org for further local paddling info.Shelton Steele can be reached at [email protected]