Lean Downstream

“Friendship is one mind in two bodies.”

~ Menclus

Many years ago, my friend Don and I used to travel all over western North Carolina looking for white water, raging rivers and creeks swollen with the previous night’s rain. In the late eighties and early nineties there, was an explosion upon the scene of whitewater boating. Don and I were there for not only an adrenalin rush but also the solitude a river trip would bring. Traveling through the wilderness away from the hustle and bustle, we were at peace on the river. The Poplar Rivers were becoming overcrowded and at times even congested. We began our search for less traveled waters. Our search not only rewarded us with virtually uncharted waters to paddle, it introduced us to a rich mountain culture of people always ready with a wave and a smile, and willing to lend a helping hand.

We consulted what we considered our paddling bible, “Carolina Whitewater”by Bob Benner. Bob either had paddled, or knew someone who had paddled nearly every stream in western North Carolina. He compiled a list of his notes and wrote a guidebook. He listed detailed descriptions, water level information, directions, and maps. Don and I wore out several copies of this book over the years.

Paddling rivers always presents a challenge; you put in at one location and take out at another. With a little forethought and planning this is an easy remedy. The object is to have your vehicle waiting for you at the take out. We called this “Setting the shuttle.” There are many options to make this work, one of which is bumming a ride from the locals. I do not remember ever being refused.

Don and I were a great team on the river, intimate with each other’s skill level, always aware of each other’s presence on the river, and in tune with our emotions. I felt a certain level of comfort and trust with Don, something I have had with few others. I will cherish my memories of these river trips always.

There is a rule in paddling moving water. When your canoe is about to tip over the natural reaction is to lean upstream. This is wrong; it puts you and your boat in a direct conflict with the forces of nature and can flip you right over, however, if you lean down stream you are working with the forces of nature and less likely to flip. Don used to use this in his salutation; tonight I will use it in mine.

“Lean Downstream”

Charley Hoke

© 2008



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