Trip Report – Pond Creek
September 11, 2003
Mark D’Agostino (C-1), Dave Curry (OC-1)
By Dave Curry
Mark called me at about 11:30 AM on Sunday. It had just stopped raining in Muscle Shoals. Pond Creek might be up. I was ordered to get my stuff together and meet post-haste. This was “new water” with waterfalls and we couldn’t miss the opportunity. I dutifully loaded the Whitesell on my car and met him by 1:30 PM.
By 3:00 we were looking for the put-in and takeout. After a couple of passes, we figured out where the creek was and made a good guess at the take-out. The put-in was easy to find. It was just off the road at the confluence of the creek with about 50CFS of toxic waste from a factory on opposite side of the road. It looked like we had enough water so we unloaded and got ready.
The factory effluent ran down a pretty steep slide into the creek from its outlet pipe. Mark initially wanted to run it, until he noticed it was full of broken rock and rebar. We changed our minds and lowered our boats to the creek. There was just enough water to keep from scraping. The creek was just barely wide enough to turn the Whitesell around to catch an eddy; this would prove to be a bit of a problem later.
The first rapid consisted of a lengthy tunnel wit a horizon line at the end. I climbed out (with camera in hand) and scrambled over the top to check things out. It was an 18-foot waterfall into a nice clean (obstruction-wise) pool. I yelled back up the tunnel for Mark to come on. He ran the falls cleanly while I dutifully took his picture. I lowered the camera to him and dutifully followed.
The next rapid was an even longer tunnel with a similar horizon line at the end. I barely turned around in the creek, caught the “eddy of last resort” and held onto a rock to keep from washing into the tunnel backwards. The tunnel was really long, the climb up looked difficult, and I couldn’t get out of my boat very easily. Mark thought about if for a little while and then paddled down the tunnel and disappeared over the horizon line. I saw him give the OK sign with his paddle; he then gave me some “mixed signals” as to what to do. I knew he was OK, but I couldn’t tell whether he wanted me to come ahead, stop, run left, or run right. I thought about it for a few seconds and then peeled out and into the tunnel. When I hit the drop, I heard some crunching and grinding and got kicked around by some rocks on the way down. It was nasty, but I made it safely to the bottom without pinning. All-in-all, it was probably easier to run it than make the portage through the briars in shorts.
The rest of the way was pretty easy with a few more uneventful waterfalls to run and some shoals. The creek was remarkably devoid of play spots. The carryout is about 400 yards, all uphill.
The paddler’s guide on AlabamaWhitewater.com rates Pond as a “2 chicken” creek for cleanliness. My estimate was closer to 4 or 5 chickens. It might even qualify as a “Super Fund” site. [Mark: “My bad, the number of the counting shall be three”]