Trip Report on the Bottom Moose: Open on the Bottom!
A 4 1/2 Hour Comedy in Two Acts
by Oci-One Kanubi
Setting: Bottom Moose, Sunday, 10/13/96, 2.6' on the McKeever gauge
Cast of Characters: Curt Gellerman, Richard Hopley, Tom McCloud (OC-1), Tony Allred, Bob Bonnet, John Ericson, Jean O'Steen, Rick Tegethoff (K-1)
Prologue: On a beautifully sunny and warm October Sunday, BRVers Richard Hopley and Bob Bonnet ran the Bottom Moose on a Monocacy Canoe Club trip. Though it was not a BRV trip, I think BRVers will want to know about this river. When we ran it this Class V stretch of whitewater was low enough to be called a IV(V); basically a Class IV river with several Class V rapids. Bob ran all eight of the named rapids, I ran seven, the rest averaged three or four each. We ran unguided, boat scouting three rapids, and bank scouting the other five There were about thirty local boaters there, but our group had the only open boaters on the Bottom Moose that day. It must have been a comedy, because for the next day and a half Bob and I would look at each other, say "Bottom MOOSE!", high five, and break out laughing.
Act 1, Scene 1: The run begins with a bang, with the 40' high slide rapid Fowlerville Falls. If I had known I was going to run everything else on the river I would probably have run this one too, but Bob was the only hero in our group. He negotiated the 6'-8' top drop and turbulent pool well enough to come flying down the 40 degree slide needing only minor correction, disappearing completely in the roostertail near the end before punching through the hydraulic at the bottom, to our cheers and whistles. Pretty courageous, if you ask me.
Act 1, Scene 2: The second drop is The Funnel, which offers two choices: a smooth drop on the left into a very sticky hole, bridgable if you ride a narrow jet, or a fast mass of foam on the right, rushing into a boulder. Jean got turned around on the pinning rock, to finish the run backwards, John got stripped out of his boat by the sticky hole on the left line, and I had to reel him in on my throw rope, then I swam into the hole to recover his paddle while Curt held the rope to pull me back out.
Act 1, Scene 3: The third rapid is Knife Edge, a solid Class V rapid with a Class III sneak. We snuck, to avoid the hole known as The Crucible. Even on the sneak, though, there was an innocuous looking but very sticky little hole that rodeo'd me and John. I managed to backpaddle out and finish the rapid backwards; John paddled out forward and had to gorilla walk down the boulders.
Act 1, Scene 4: Next comes the beautiful Double Drop, a real picture-book cascade of about 18 feet, overall. I ran the two-foot entrance hole into a right eddy; very cool I thought, until I discovered that the eddy was too squirrelly for me to ferry across to the main channel down the first eight-foot drop, so I had to slip down a scrapey river-right channel. Everyone else followed Curt's line, slipping around the left edge of the entrance hole and then turning sharply left to ride the top of a curler down the big chute, across a small pool into a left eddy, then down the second eight-footer on the left. I wanted to run the center chute for the second drop, but Jean was sitting at the bottom of the left chute with a camera, and the top drop made a beautiful background, so I changed my plans. Unfortunately Jean had put away the camera before I came through. "But Richard, you said a couple of weeks ago that you have lots of whitewater pictures of yourself..."
Intermission: Next is a lake, the pool of a diversion dam which is a popular tourist spot for watching boaters run Double Drop and then carry the Portage From Hell around the dam down steep granite walls. Water from the diversion returns just below the eighth rapid, so the second half is only runnable on the 20 days a year that the dam is turned off, though the first half is runnable any time the McKeever gauge is above 2.5' or so. Below the dam is another lake that ends at Agers Falls.
Act 2, Scene 1: Agers Falls is an 18' vertical waterfall. You first run an 8' dam then find yourself confronted by a horizon line where most of the water is rushing to the left, to the low end of the ledge. Unfortunately, another ledge angles out from the left just below the Falls, so if you run it where the water wants to take you, you find yourself in a tight frothy white slot, and would probably be seriously hammered. Bob, Rick, and I ran Agers, and we were each able to cross the current sufficiently to pencil into the deep water below the steepest part of the ledge, and all landed upright, a relief since close below is a class IV runout dropping another 8 feet. Jean set up with Bob's camera on the second ledge, looking us in the face as we came over the cliff, clicking away, not realizing she had not turned on the camera.
Act 2, Scene 2: The sixth rapid is a real boat-buster called The Siphon. In the Siphon there are three or four broken and twisting ridges running 120 yards parallel to the direction of flow, during which distance the river drops 20 feet or more. It is so channeled that once you pick your channel you are pretty much stuck with it (though there are several places you can cross from one slot to the next) to hold on for the ride and rudder, paddle, paddle, and rudder to avoid the many pinning spots. Again, only Bob, Rick, and I subjected our boats to this abuse. But it was worth it!
Act 2, Scene 3: For a respite the Powerline rapid is a fairly easy Class IV with a long Class III runout. Nearly everyone ran this one with no trouble, but the respite is very short-lived.
Act 2, Scene 4 (the Grand Finale): Crystal is the last rapid on the run. The Bottom Moose is another river, like the Lower Gauley and the Top Yough, where the Biggest and the Best -- or is it the Biggest and the Baddest? -- are the first and the last rapids on the run (the first and biggest on the Lower G and Top Yough are Koonts' Flume and Swallow Falls, the last and baddest are Hellhole and Suckhole.) Crystal is a solid Class V at any level. The line is on the right, over two steep drops into sticky holes, around a blind curve to the right and then paddle like hell to get speed to drive right through a tiny slot that wants to push you hard left. If you let the current turn you to the left you will pencil ten feet straight down into a nasty hole, but if you drive across the current you can slide boof down beyond the hole (or onto a barely submerged boulder if you are the unfortunate Curt Gellerman). Only Bob, Curt, and I ran this one, and we did not look good. I flipped at the bottom, Curt broke the nose of his boat, and Bob flopped down upright. We really need to go back and practice on this one, right Bob? Let's see, one weekend, two runs each day... all riiight! Jean got three shots of the Crystal with no-one running it, and one shot of a young Canafian kayaker, before she ran my camera out of film. Three strikes, Jean... no, Jean redeems herself! She was also carrying Bob's camera, and got decent shots of both me and Bob with the last two frames!
Epilogue: This is the most dramatic river stretch I have ever run. At this level it is easier than Chatooga IV and the Upper Yough, but it is my ideal of a low volume, big drop, technical river. The lakes and the dearth of easy rapids between the big ones means that all of the 300' this river gives up over four miles are concentrated in the eight named rapids and one dam portage. I cannot wait for Moose Season '97!
-Oci-One Kanubi, Rockville, Maryland
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