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Owls and Ostriches

Some kayakers that I know have a death wish. They bomb down Class V runs with reckless abandon. It seems like a matter of time before they run that waterfall that has trapped deadwood underneath it.

The Perfect Storm

The power and the fury of the storm caught us off guard. El Niño, a weather pattern famous for producing a continuous stream of storms in Texas, seemed to misfire over and over

Crown Jewels

After the sixth drop in 40 minutes, I looked back up the river, and reflected. I was colder than I'd ever been. I hadn't eaten in six hours.

Glass Breaking

I don't know for sure when I decided that the kayakers behind us were in trouble. Our minds were occupied by the chaos around us, and the situation kind of snuck up on us.

Rules of the Game

In 10 years of relatively heavy kayaking, a few scary rapids stand out. The Chatooga River had many such rapids. Bull Sluice on the Chatooga had a waterfall pouring through a hole in the riverbed.

Ruby in the Rough

I stood on the bank of the Watauga River, looking at the 16-foot, Class V monster known as State Line Falls. It had five boulders in the current with four chutes running through them.

Ruby on Rails

As I screamed uphill toward the 3-foot ledge, the voice inside my head said "Don't fight it. Go for it." Knowledgeable mountain bikers called the move the lunge, but I had neither named nor internalized it yet.

Continuation Servers

I rarely run rapids on blind faith. If there's any danger, I like to know exactly what the water and rocks could do to me, and I need a plan to deal with any potential trouble.


It was my first Class IV river, and I approached the infamous Five Falls. In the typically tame Ouachita mountain range, the CassatotIndian for Skull Crusherwas serious.