Thoughts On Running Tallulah

I’ve been kayaking a long time. However, until this past year, I’d plateaued in what I would run. I’d gotten complacent and wasn’t challenging myself. Running bigger and harder stuff is not for everyone and I’m completely cool with anyone who wants to boat at whatever class of river they are comfortable at – it’s just not me. I like pushing myself.

I started the year by challenging myself with a trip to Ecuador (dang I still need to write about it). It was where I found my mojo so to speak. Then I found some people who helped me up my game. Playboating on the Ocoee (thanks Andy Shirey!) Running Upper II on Little River Canyon with Dane (AKA the Dane highway) and Lynn and Andy. All of these new runs uncovered some skills I was lacking or had become lazy in. And, while I’m still working on things (always will be) I feel like the work paid off in running Tallulah this past weekend.

First, I have to say I can’t even believe the words came out of my mouth, “Hey let’s go to Tallulah.” Almost immediately I was like – maybe it won’t work out and I can take it back. It turns out others thought it was a good idea too so we had a small group going. Here are my impressions on the run, but communicated in bullets – because it’s how I think.

1. The stairs. If I had looked at the stairs before I started to venture down them I wouldn’t have done it. Not because of the number, but because of the height. I’m not good with heights and about halfway down started experiencing some dizziness. Then I saw the footbridge I thought holy cow I will never get across that with my boat. Then I was told you don’t cross the footbridge (whew!). We were asked to stop on the steps for like 15 minutes to wait for people to clear out at the put in. It’s a small wooden platform and you need to get into your boat and go. The line of boaters back up the steps grew long and it was crowded – I hate crowds!
2. The Put-in. I felt like a rookie. My skirt was dry and I had problems getting it on. There was a line of boaters behind me – waiting! Then the hardest rapid is right there – like right there. “Did you see the line?” – “Yes, I said.” “No from here, because it looks different.” Crap, I had not looked again and was immediately nervous. Would I be able to pick out the line from water level? Here goes nothing…
3. First rapid. It’s called Last Step and there is apparently a sneak on the right. But I saw the line from the platform and watched a couple of people ahead of me take it. So I was like, I’ve got this. Well I didn’t, and flipped at the bottom and took a couple of roll attempts to get back up. I took my pogies off my paddle. They were just in the way. Pull it together Helen was a reoccurring thought in my head.
4. Second rapid. Tanner’s Launch. Super fun auto-boof into a pool then between 2 rocks. Felt better.
5. Oceana. Yeah, it comes up that quick like within 15 minutes and you are there. Decision time. I almost immediately paddled right for the portage then Andy and Luke yelled for me to come and look at it. So I did. And apparently I watched it too long, I didn’t realize people were waiting on us. All of a sudden the words came out of my mouth and I was like – I’m running it. I watched several people do it successfully. The line was not that difficult, basically you go river left, hit that first boof – (I actually thought to myself -- I can’t turn back now, here goes nothing…) then there is a second boof and that rooster tail (closed my eyes) and it was over. If you watched the video I flipped at the bottom and after a couple of attempts finally rolled up. My best advice – relax, it will be over really, really, quick.
6. Gauntlet was next. We had lost our lead boater, but I was like – what could be worse? Actually Oceana is easy compared to some of the these rapids. I don’t remember much other than some big holes.
7. Bridal Veil. It’s like a small Oceana. I looked at it and thought – whatever, that’s nothing. Perspective is everything.
8. Zoom Flume – super fun rapid after you get over dropping into a little slot and riding it all the way down.
9. After that I remember arriving at Amphitheater. It’s a couple of drops that narrow down quickly into a canyon. It’s noted by the huge rock walls. Andy swam at the top but self-rescued, I remember running it, but looking for his boat the entire time. I quit worrying about it when I realized everyone stops here. It was like a rock concert audience of kayakers on river left. Cool surf holes here and a chance to catch your breath. Unless you were Andy stuck on the other side of the river with three people trying to get him ropes. Where he was it was super slick and every time he tried to grab a rope it would just miss his hands or he would slip and fall. Finally, he caught one and got back over to his boat. [Did I mention how sick he was, and that the seat of his boat came loose and was sliding around -- that's why he couldn't roll.]
10. I don’t remember many of the names or features much after that. I know there is Tom’s Brain Buster, Twisted Sister and then the Powerhouse rapid. (I know I’m missing a few). I couldn’t help but think – who named these? On the Ocoee you have Hell Hole, Diamond Splitter, Table Saw…it was almost as if someone took my suggestion and started naming rapids Pink Fuzzy Bunny Slippers just to make them sound nicer and more friendly.

Bottom line. It’s the real deal. Almost 4 miles of non-stop big creeky rapids. You definitely need to go with someone who knows the lines – thanks to the Lamby’s for letting us hang with them. And, thanks to my Crossfit Coach Kelly Olcott. A) Those 100 plus box jumps the Thursday before helped me prep for the stairs. B) When I asked him about running Oceana. He looked me square in the face and said…if it’s something you’ve always wanted to do – do it.

Also be prepared to walk like a 100-year-old person 2 days after. Those stairs once again are no joke!

Tip: Make sure you call Greg Sluder at Chattooga Sounds Campground for a lake shuttle. He’s the bomb and does them on both the Chattooga and Tallulah when it's running.

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