Kayaking the Hiawassee River

I took a break from hiking this weekend to go kayaking with some friends on the Hiawassee River in Reliance, TN. I’ll be the first to admit I’m an amateur kayaker, having only done it about five times or so.  It’s always a lot of fun to do something you’re unfamiliar with and polish your skills, however. 

For this trip, it was my first time in Hiawassee, which is a dam-released river.  That means the water moves and it’s a little chilly, but given the heat and humidity in the south lately, it was a welcome chill indeed!  We used Hiawassee Outfitters and I’ve got to say it was pretty packed when we got there.  I’ve noticed that as far as rafting outfitters go, they’re usually scatterbrained and unprepared and the same goes for this place.  At least the people were nice and helpful for the most part.  David and I got placed in the wrong group, despite having told them at least three times who we were with.  This also happens a lot with outfitters for me.  I have no idea why.  

Anyway, after being crammed onto a tiny little bus and driving up curvy backcountry roads we finally reached the put in point and were able to get in the water at about 1:15.  For this trip, David and I both got our own sit-on-top kayaks.  Usually we go for the inflatables with a rental company, so this was a new experience for both of us.  I have to say I really like the sit-on-tops the best so far.  I’ve used a regular kayak for a flatwater paddle before and I wasn’t really a fan.  I think I feel more comfortable in the sit on top as they have the foot pedals and you can bail out if you flip instead of trying to roll.  I did end up flipping on this trip, which is the first time I’ve fallen out.  Instead of being nervous, I was oddly calm and serene.  The only thing I had a problem with was getting my feet up.  No matter how hard I tried, they kept going under me.  I’ve also decided I hate rental PFD’s and I think we’ll probably get our own from now on.  I really don’t like all the padding around the neck area.  Not only does it creep up when you’re paddling, it pretty much keeps you from being able to communicate when you flip.  It was hard to get any words out when that thing was up around my ears.  

As far as day trips, we did this paddle in 2 hours and it was pretty enjoyable other than the fact that the river was just so packed.  The tubers were the worst part of it I think.  They were linked together by throw lines most of the time and were hard to avoid for a novice paddler.  Other than that, it was a leisurely day followed by a BBQ with some friends afterwards.