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Ocoee Rafting

Date: 28th Oct 2012
No. of Hours: 3 hrs
Company: NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center – Ocoee Outpost)


       

Picasaweb link: here

This river rafting trip was meticulously planned and also happened by luck. The NOC-Ocoee outpost was about 3 hrs drive from where we had booked a cabin for the night (Bryson City). This was during the Smoky Mountain State Park trip we took to admire the Fall colors. We were a group of 10 – My roommates Rajath, Shyam, Niranjana and I along with Bala, Chandan, Karthik, Raveesh, Praveen and Avinash. The river rafting adventure outing was planned on Sunday the 28th and we went around the Smoky’s on the 27th (Saturday). The rivers Nantahala, and another one were closer to where we stayed for the night but NOC had maxed out on rafting trip reservations there (Which was a good thing).

    The Ocoee river – middle and lower has 6 class IV rapids and about 22 other rapids with about 18 Class III.

The Nantahala on the other hand does not have any class IV rapids. So this was a good thing. All of us woke up, got ready and left the cabin by 7:45am in the morning. Reporting time was 10:30am at the NOC-Ocoee outpost. It was an extremely beautiful day with freezing temperatures:-P. After a couple of pit stops along the way, we reached the outpost at 10:30am. It was super cold outside and the walk from the car to the NOC building was unbearable. It was just about a 100 feet but the temperature along with winds made it even harsher.

We were greeted by the cool dudes in the counter and our guide Mr. Willie introduced himself. We were asked to suit up with wetsuits and wait for a briefing. We were the last batch to run down the Ocoee river from NOC for the season (and rightly so. It was damn cold). Wet suits were normally not required but that day, it was indeed very warm to wear it. J. After a brief (30min J) demo on safety and rafting in general, we collected our head gear (helmets :-P), ore and strapped on life jackets. We got onto the NOC bus which would take us to the start of the river rafting point. That was yet another 30 minute drive. It was a nice/pleasant and a wonderful ride with the river/lake and the mountains lined all the way next to the road. We reached the start point at 11:30am. There was a super big artificial dam that was open and flowing down the river. My adrenaline kicked In and I thought – “Wow, now riding that’s going to be fun and definite thrown out of the boat experience.”

We got out of the bus, the instructors threw the rafts in the water, and we were in. I thought if I were to run the dam, I’d have the best chance to stay inside the boat if I sat in the front.. And so I did. Our boat/team now consisted of Me, Rajath, Niranjana, Nishanth (Bala) and Chandan. We were asked to do the 1 & 2 of rafting, 1-left, 2-right, 2-all, left-back, right-front etc. After the drills we got back to the shore and went to the starting point. I was disappointed to see us make our way down the dam to the start point L Alas, we were not riding the hell hole :-P.

    

Here we go, all of us got into the raft, into attack mode all ready to take on what the river could throw at us. The first rapid itself was a Class IV called the Gonzo Shoals I guess. It was extreme fun. At times our instructor took the raft into the rapids which filled the boat completely with water. The boat wasn’t even visible and at times, I felt afloat without any contact to the boat.. It was super fun. After hitting some great rapids, front head on, in reverse, going round and round and other fun moves. Every time we approached rapids, Willie told us about what to do in the event of being thrown out of the boat, swim to which side of the river and stuff. After more than half the way, there were some calm waters. It was freezing cold and none of us wanted to get thrown out of the boat.

After a lot of paddling, we were now drifting slowly down the river. There was slight rain which made the entire surrounding foggy. Willy told us that this was the part of the river where people would jump out of the raft to just float down the river in summers when the weather is warm and sunny. Rajath was asusal thinking about jumping into the river. I then decided “what the hell, lets do it” and both of us jumped into the river followed by everyone else in our boat except Chandan. From the other boat with Shyam, Praveen, Raveesh, Karthik and Avinash, however no one jumped into the river. It was ice cold. Cold = 1 minute. After that, I felt nothing. Everything was really nice. I later climbed into the raft and then realized that my hand, fingers and everything else turned numb. Now, it was keep rowing or get frozen and stiff. The remainder of the journey was as much eventful as the first half. During the journey there were places where we were asked to sit in the boat and try not to fall out.. Willy took the raft right underneath the flow of the rapids. It was amazing fun.

In the end when we got out and got into the bus to get back to the outpost, that was it. Even with the wetsuit and a blazer on top of it, it was freezing. The ride back to NOC is a never ever forgettable experience. Once back, we got rid of the wetsuits, changed into warm and dry clothing, a hot bath and everything was warm again J

Riding the Upper Ocoee would be even more fun with a lot more class IV rapids, even a V I suppose.

Trivia:

NOC Website: http://www.noc.com/
NOC Ocoee River info: http://www.noc.com/whitewater-rafting/ocoee-river/ocoee-river-info/ 
Best time to visit: Although awesome cold, the time when we went.. Not many people in the river. 
Route: Need to follow the route given to you after reservation. 
The rapids that we ran: http://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/River/detail/id/1780/ 
Ocoee river was once where Rafting Olympics competition was held. 
Best Plan: Visit the smoky’s, rent a cabin for a week. Enjoy the stay there and raft the Ocoee with NOC on one of the days. 
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toccoa/Ocoee_River