A Suck Creek Christmas Story
by Mo Edmiston
I woke up; it was a dreary morning, not to mention that it was Christmas Day. Great, I thought to myself, it is raining. Christmas Day, and there isn’t anyone to go paddling with. Rolling out of bed, something caught me by surprise.
It was a phone call from Chris. “Where are we going paddling today?” he asked. “Checked the radar and looks like Suck Creek has a bit of a chance,” I explained. Suck Creek is a local run that is about ten minutes from downtown Chattanooga and generally runs with minimal rain fall.
It lies at the base Signal Mountain and Prentice Cooper Wildlife Management Area. Plans were made, boats and gear were packed; I wished my mom a merry Christmas and explained I would be back later. Off I headed to meet everyone at the store for a Christmas day on Suck Creek.
We arrived at the take out to see that the river was running a bare minimum. “Looks good,” I said. So we geared up and headed for the put in. To add to the list of great surprises, this would be the first time I would run the newly cleaned out lower section, thanks to Jeremy and Bryce. This was going to be the perfect day, I thought to myself as Chris Brigman, Taft Sibley, Chip Smith, and I shoved into the water to see what kind of adventures lie downstream.
We charged through the first section of whitewater, styling such rapids as Road Construction, Slow and Low, and Pinnacle. Finally we got down to the crux rapid called Knucklehead, which was not frequently run until this year when someone moved the house size boulder in the landing. We decided to take out and run the cars back up for one more run before continuing downstream to the unknown rapids.
Same as before, everyone had great lines throughout the run. Then we arrived back to the lip of Knucklehead. This rapid has not only eaten boats but people as well. I gave it a good hard scout and decided this was going to be my day.
I got a running start and smack I hit the pillow. Just in time, I was able to get off the much needed left stroke, sending me flying off into the pool below. As I bounced through the next rapid I saw Taft go next. Bam! I hear as everyone on shore burst out with the awful “uuuuffff,” which no paddler likes to hear. But to my surprise Taft came floating through the run out with a big smile on his face.
It turned out he wasn’t lucky enough to pull off the necessary left stroke, and it sent him flying off in the wrong direction, smashing his bow into the shallow pool below. Taft paddled away unscathed, only sending a boat shattering blow to the front of his kayak. After watching Taft, Chris and Chip decided to walk Knucklehead saving it for next time. With our adrenaline still pumping high we continued downstream to the next major rapid.
Having not ever seen the infamous rapid, Beyond Thunder Dome, we made up our minds to get out and scout. With the river so low, the bottom drop all funneled into a slot and dumped off a five foot ledge, disappearing into the mist of the peton rock below. Taft decided to probe it first.
The rapid consists of three must-make moves, the last being of the most importance. Taft styled the top drops as if he had been running this rapid for years. He finally reached the crux; stroke, hit, he was through unscathed. I opted to run it next, hitting the same line; followed by Chip. Thanks to Chris, everyone stayed safe, while he was nice enough to set up a throw rope. We continued down the unknown section of class IV boogy water.
There was still one more rapid we had heard about. It had taken a piece of our friend Jeremy’s knuckles the week before. Giving it a proper scout, we gave it a go. The move was to boof a four foot ledge going right, then land in an eddy barely big enough for one boat to turn around, then complete the rapid by ferrying back across the river to the left.
I am not sure what this rapid is called, but they should have named it 50/50 because fifty percent of our group ran the last part backwards. After completing that rapid the river dies down a bit, still delivering some fun class IV boogy water until you reach the bridge.
With the bridge in view, a big smile started to come across my face. It was Christmas Day, we had just gotten two laps and a personal first descent of what is to become the “New” Suck Creek.
Pulling up to the cars we got dressed, ran shuttle, and made plans to come back for another couple of laps the next day if the creek held its water. We said our goodbyes knowing that until future holiday adventures, this was the best Christmas present one could get.