Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Welcome to the NOC

I am the newest member of the NOC marketing team.  Although it is not a requisite to be a paddler to work here, not being on the water in some capacity is almost a shame.  I have some whitewater experience, mostly in highly stable rafts, but kayaking, not so much.  For the record, I would not call myself a paddler, I would call myself a beginner.  Kayaking, in my mind, is reserved for the folks in extreme videos who have more chutzpah then yours truly.  But working at a place with so many paddlers, I am eager to learn. So over this season my goal is to learn the basics of whitewater kayaking and to run the Nantahala in a real whitewater boat.  And if time allows, maybe a raft trip on the Chatooga or Cheoah.

The Nantahala River, or, “the river” as my good friend in Asheville calls it, is a training ground for all levels of whitewater enthusiasts and the NOC is the epicenter of activity while not on the river.  As part of the staff, I don’t feel out of place as everyone here is enthusiastic and supportive, no matter what level you claim to be.  On the water, you run into many levels of paddlers; beginners, intermediates, and likely a lot of people who are in the videos you see playing around the NOC.  Like most people, I am drawn to the water and working for the NOC is a perfect balance of nature, hard work and great rewards.   Simply walking over the Appalachian Trail footbridge to the outfitter’s store, makes you want to detour and grab a boat. 

I find myself at the crossroads of once being very active in the outdoors, to now trying to get active again in my early thirties.  I typically prefer safer sports such as hiking, mountain biking and sometimes climbing. So for me, to venture onto fast moving water with rocks in the way is something foreign. Prior to moving to the Southeast, my experience on whitewater has been on guided raft trips in the Northeast; notably the Black River in Watertown, NY, the Deerfield River in the Berkshire Mountains, and my most memorable trip, a spring thaw on the Moose River in the Adirondacks. 

In comparison to rafting, kayaking is a wholly different animal.  Rafting, you are mostly safe from the rapids, and you can roll over anything in your way on a moderate river.  Moving to a kayak gets you closer to the water, and closer to the rapids. On a moderate river like the Nantahala, this is similar to going from a snow tube to downhill skiing. My first trip to the NOC to go “kayaking” was mixed with nervousness, pride and ultimately swimming.  I started out in a sit on top kayak, which is basically an open boat with slings over your knees so you can bail if you need to.  My friend steered me away from the safer “ducky” option and we headed off down the river.  The sit on tops are a good training tool for people who are apprehensive like me.  The sit on top is very stable, and easy to control.  Over my first trips I practiced catching eddies, ferrying and other fun skills, and even got dumped a couple of times into the very cold Nantahala.  This is something to remember for beginners on this river.  Sit on tops and duckies are self bailing, and your butt is in the water all day, so stretch and warm up often.  I had so much fun on that first trip that I returned roughly ten times last year to “learn” on a sit on top. 

On each of these trips my friends and I camped nearby the NOC and hanging out after these trips is what led me to want to work for the company.  To me, the atmosphere and the camaraderie is what drives people to sit all day in hard plastic and cold water and to continue to do these sports.  I loved my experiences so much, that instead of giving up last year, I am back for more.  This year, I have made one trip down the Nantahala, I sheepishly admit, in a ducky.  For me it is still early in the season and I should be able to get out more before the end of the season.  I see kayaking as a challenge, much the same as doing my own taxes; it should be left to professionals, but oh is it gratifying when you do it the right way!

Keep your eyes open here for more updates on my impending adventures in whitewater skills.

For more on whitewater instruction, check out http://www.noc.com/index.php/paddling-school.html

Monday, May 25, 2009

12 Hours of Tsali Video

What were you doing over Memorial Day Weekend? You and three of your friends could have been orbiting right loop at Tsali Recreation Area in Gone Riding's 12 Hours of Tsali race.

To me it's a perfect event: you get to enjoy a fun tailgating atmosphere at your pit (while your other friends are riding the course), and you get to race. For the more hardcore folks, there's a six-hour and even a twelve-hour solo option.

Thanks to Dave, Terri and Austin Berger at Gone Riding for putting this, and a whole slew of other cool events, together. They'll be back for the Tsali Challenge Triathlon August 29-30 (another fantastic relay event).

Here's a video. Not much trail action, but it shows the scene:

Friday, May 22, 2009

Knoxville's ABC Affiliate Profiles NOC's Great Outpost

Yesterday Knoxville's ABC affiliate WATE profiled NOC's Great Outpost, an 18,000-square-foot experiential retail attraction opening this fall in Gatlinburg, TN. The attraction's site is at the end of Gatlinburg's strip, on the border of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

From this location area visitors will be able to enjoy a diverse range of affordable, family-oriented outdoor activities in the National Park like whitewater rafting, whitewater and flatwater kayaking, fly-fishing, guided hiking, mountain biking, outdoor education classes and nature tours. To learn more about NOC's Great Outpost watch the segment, read the article or go to NOC's Great Outpost's official page.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

NOC President and CEO Sutton Bacon Testifying Before House Committee on Small Business

Nantahala Outdoor Center's President and CEO Sutton Bacon is testifying at the House Committee on Small Business's "Heroes of Small Business" hearing. According to the HCSB website at the hearing:

"Entrepreneurs from across the country will testify on their small business success stories. The Committee will examine the important role these firms play in creating jobs and growing our economy."

You can read Chairwoman
Nydia M. Velázquez's opening statement and Sutton's prepared written testimony.

Knoxville News Article on NC Smokies

Yesterday the Knoxville News Sentinel ran an article on the North Carolina side of the Smokies ("Rangers say N.C. side of Smokies park is more remote, quiet") mentioning that:

"Outdoor recreation is the calling card of North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Waterfalls, trails, streams, lakes and campgrounds attract nature lovers of all ages, skills and inclinations. They fish in the gin-clear streams and ride horses deep into the wilderness. They seek pockets of old-growth forest, habitats for champion trees and unique wildlife."

Fair enough! They also gave us and our friends at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad some love:

"The area has two major attractions in addition to the park: the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad and the Nantahala Outdo
or Center, a premier whitewater outfitter."

Cool. Read the whole article for more information on the NC Smokies and the area surrounding NOC's Nantahala River destination.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Trainwreks Booked for The Pourover Pub's Grand Opening Celebration

The Asheville-based Trainwreks are booked for The Pourover Pub's Grand Opening Celebration on Saturday, June 20th. The band, known for its unique "dirty-tonk" style of music consisting of rock, country and pyschobilly elements has been voted "Number One Alt-Country Band in western North Carolina" by Mountain Xpress readers two years in a row. Check out some of their rollicking tunes at the band's Myspace site:


It's gonna be an awesome evening!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Pourover Pub Update

The expansion of the Slow Joe's Cafe deck is almost complete. The building is entirely framed in, and it should easily make the Memorial Day opening weekend. The new seating area belongs to both Slow Joe's Cafe, NOC's daytime snack bar, and The Pourover Pub our newest evening and nightspot, offering up to 150 guests seats beside the Nantahala River. A grand opening celebration is in the works, tentatively scheduled for June 20 (giving us folks in marketing time to get the event together). There will be live music, beer tasting and giveaways, so mark your calendars now!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

French Broad River Clean-Up

Thanks to everyone who participated in NOC's first-ever Watershed Week! Our staff cleaned up highways, rivers and trails, trying to make sure the beautiful places where we recreate stay beautiful.

Honestly, I'm a little anxious about posting this video of the French Broad clean-up because I don't want people to think the "FB" was gross beforehand. I figure you can watch the French Broad rafting video from Tuesday (posted on the rafting blog on Thursday April 30th) and see for yourself how beautiful the river was before the cleanup.

Most of this trash was back in the woods and concentrated in one or two spots that were obviously dumping grounds. Hopefully our cleanup will help discourage this practice along with the efforts of organizations like RiverLink (the French Broad's local Watershed Alliance member organization). Thanks to RiverLink and American Whitewater for helping to keep one of Western North Carolina's most popular whitewater rivers clean.