Another trip report by Dave Curry

Fresh Meat on South Sauty
20 March 1998
by: Chris Parker

It is funny how needs and desires affect your decision-making ability. One such example is of my trip on Mar 20th . In Feb., when Mark D and I needed a place to paddle we checked Blackoak and found it too low. On the way to Sauty I asked Mark what gauge reading he was looking for; reply 4’6” or below. Upon looking at the gauge we found it to be 4’10”. Mark felt this was too much for a virgin run on the SSauty. Here is where the story begins.

On Mar 20th , Mark D’, John Parker, and myself needed a river fix. A quick check with Blackoak found it to be too low. On the drive to Sauty I knew there was no need to ask for the desired gauge reading, because he gave it to me last month. The gauge showed 5’0”. This is where need and desire affect your ability to persuade. This was the only thing runable and since no one had run it this high, it needed to be run. “Ah, Chris you can run it. Sure it is higher than it needs to be, but if Dave B. can run this river at lower water, surely you can paddle better than him?!” As we headed to the river, many thoughts passed through my mind. “Don’t look to paddle Sauty until you are bored with Short.” Gary Holder, paddler extraordinare, will not paddle Sauty. 4’6” is a good beginner lever. Undercuts, undercuts, undercuts. By the time I got to the put-in, I felt like I did on my virgin run on the Ocoee. How am I supposed to hold my paddle with my hands shaking like this?

This is what I remember of the day. Big, pushy, technical water. Dynamic eddies. Lots and lots of rapids. Lots and lots of rocks. I became an omelet on Egg Scrambler. I looked down the throat of Jonah’s Whale and decided I did not want to speak with God yet. I dodged the explosions on Mine Field. I surfed the bottom of The Slot. I walked The Bone Crusher. The adrenaline pumped for 4 hours. I was still shaking during the drive home. Now I know why I had run all of the hard routes on easier rivers, why I learned to catch every eddy with confidence and, why I practiced surfing (front, side, back) so diligently.

My conclusions: don’t paddle Sauty until you are bored with Short. Gary, you can do it. 4’6” would be a good beginner level. Undercuts, undercuts, undercuts. Practice, confidence, and presence of mind.