Thursday, July 30, 2009

Shootout Competition Heating Up

We're now a day and a half away from the most notorious kayaking rodeo in the Southeast, the NOC/Dagger Freestyle Shootout. Paddlers have been arriving in droves, eager to pull the trigger on the NOC Outfitter's Store Wave, where the competition kicks off at high noon on Saturday.

Remember, $10,000 in prizes are up for grabs. You can still cowboy up and register the day of the event, at NOC's Outfitter's Store from 7:30-8:30am. We'll see you there.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

It's Finally Here! The NOC/Dagger Freestyle Shootout 09

In addition to a $10,000 prize purse, the second-ever NOC/Dagger Freestyle Shootout is quickly becoming one of the coolest events all year for paddlers. Here's the lowdown on some of the details:


If you know nothing about freestyle kayaking, you're still in for a great weekend at NOC. Three musical acts are scheduled to keep the atmosphere festive. Throughout the event, DJ Terrence Young will spin from the judge's bridge, keeping the competitors pumped up as they thrash the wave. On Saturday, as the competition winds down, Drew Fowler will open a set of acoustic guitar on the deck at The Pourover, followed by headliners Pierce Edens and the Dirty Work. With their gritty tones and fast licks, expect these guys to rock out beside the river.


Local artist Andrew Montrie's work was recently spotted at Asheville's Big Crafty. He created one-of-a-kind pieces for NOC to use as competition medals. Montrie's work is always unique——"no molds, castings or stamps are used in the creation of Muddy Knees ceramics as every detail is attended to by human hands," says his website. Competitors will note that white pieces will be given to third placing contestants, red for second and blue for first.


This year's rodeo rules have been set up to encourage big moves, personal style and crowd interaction. Points are given for cartwheels, splitwheels, blunts, backstabs, loops, godzillas, sidekicks, air blunts, donkey flips, helixes, mystery moves, kickflips and macho moves. In addition to a set number of points for each of the preceeding tricks, judges are required to give a subjective style score, based on smoothness, control, variety and overall showmanship. That means kayakers will need the participation of spectators to give it up whenevery necessary.

Parking is limited for the event, due to the high volume of rafting guests. Please consider carpooling, and be patient with NOC parking attendants. The event begins roughly around noon, depending on when the water reaches NOC.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Video Highlights from NOC on Location

Last week at this time, we were in the thick of our NOC on Location event at Canyon's Burger Company. If I remember correctly, right about now was when we were beginning the "Hold-Your-Breath" competitions!

Here's our video post from last week's fun.

Thanks to all of our new friends and NOC fans for coming out, enjoying the best milkshakes and chicken fingers in the world, and splashing around with us for the day in the kayak pool!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

2009 Camp Cup Challenge Video

Thanks to all the participants of this year's Camp Cup Challenge. This year there were 25 more paddlers in the mix, bringing the number of competitors up to 115! Hopefully the momentum will continue to build for 2010's event. Paddlers, keep practicing.

Thanks to Kristin and Sean Bierle for bringing this wonderful event back to life. Here's some footage from the 2009 edition:

Monday, July 20, 2009

2009 Camp Cup Challenge

The 2009 Camp Cup Challenge is set for tomorrow, July 21 on the Nantahala River featuring over 120 paddlers from ten different summer camps. The event is a one-of-a-kind gathering of young paddlers competing in whitewater slalom under the tutelage of Olympic paddlers and some of the nation's best paddling instructors. The event was very popular during the nineties, but it suffered a five year down period from 2003-2007. Sean and Kristin Bierle of the Alzar School in Boise, Idaho have successfully revived the event that celebrates and perpetuates the rich history of Western North Carolina camp paddling.

Below are some photos from the 2008 event. Come out and join us this year!

Bartram Trail Section 7: Ledbetter Creek

Flowing into the Nantahala River not far after the river's first significant rapid, Patton's Run, Ledbetter Creek is an almost negligible feature on the river trip. Paddlers are usually still settling down after the shuttle, and the creek is just another part of the abrupt transition into a (mostly) natural setting.

But despite its modest enhancement to the Nantahala River trip, Ledbetter Creek is probably the most amazing part of the Nantahala Gorge, though to see it boaters will have to drive back up the gorge after the river trip. The trailhead is just down the road (east) of the Patton's Run pull off. You can park at the picnic area on the north side of the road (where I always park), or at the parking area by the bridge on the south side. Coming from the west, when you see the Mystic Lands development slow down, you're about there. The hike heads north, so you may as well park at the picnic area unless there's no room.

The trail begins winding through a camping area which the Forest Service seems to have marked "no camping". This is a bit maze-like, but you'll be working left (or west) to the creek, spanned by a Bartram Trail Society bridge:

After the bridge the extra side trails through the campsites consolidate into the one yellow-blazed Bartram Trail, and you're off. From here you the trail begins an uphill trek that disappointingly leads away from the creek. It's still very beautiful, but after your first experience with the lush, verdant, soothing creek, you don't want to leave. This portion of the hike gains elevation, and this is where you pay your dues for the beauty ahead. Section 7 of the Bartram Trail gains well over 3,000' in its last four miles, making it one of the most strenuous hikes around the area, and while the hike up to Bartram Falls doesn't do a third of this, it does give you a taste of that climb. This isn't extraordinarily difficult, but if you're not in good shape be prepared to take extra time and bring plenty of water. In summer heat this extended climb can challenge people. I'm in pretty good shape, and I have to pause a few times on the way up myself. This is a typical view on the uphill:

On the way up you'll be treated by some good views of the Gorge. There's no grand overlook, but you can see the other side through the trees, and you can tell you've gained a good chunk of elevation. Unfortunately, you can hear traffic pretty well on the way up too, but when you've put most of the climb behind you, you turn off to the north and this noise immediately vanishes. In late July you start to see some blackberries on the way up too. Here're some from yesterday:

After topping out, you'll wind through a rhododendron tunnel fortified by large rock formations jutting starkly of the side of the mountain. If it's hot this is a pleasant place to cool down after the climb. In here the trail winds back down to the creek. Keep going and eventually you'll reach the first of a series of creek crossings. For me this is where I stop "hiking" and start "loafing", meaning that from here on I'm admiring/marveling more than going anywhere expeditiously. This crossing is where you'll be thankful you either a) hiked in river sandals or all condition shoes or b) brought some in your day pack to change into. There are plenty more to come, so you may as well just leave the sandals on. (I did the whole hike in Chacos yesterday and never stubbed my toe and only once or twice got debris in my shoe, so I recommend those.)

From here, you begin a gradual uphill climb along Ledbetter Creek. This gorge-in-a-gorge features lush flora (including mushrooms--there must have been 25 different types of mushrooms yesterday), lots of wildlife (we saw turkeys, salamanders, songbirds and a bunch of crazy-looking bugs) and countless picturesque cascades. Below are some of the best photos, but for a full gallery go to the Nantahala Outdoor Center Facebook page. These and many more are between the first creek crossing after the climb and the 50' Bartram Falls:

The piece d'resistance, and more or less the end of the day hike, is Bartram Falls. This is a great place to chill out, and it's worth walking up the trail just beyond the falls to see the mini-falls right above it. As always, don't go too close to this (or any of the falls). The rocks are slick, and sadly a few people die every year in North Carolina trying to get a bit too close to waterfalls, so be careful!

Here and back you're looking at a six-mile round trip. The Bartram Trail Society estimates the hike at around four hours, but give yourself a bit more time to mosey about if it's a pretty day. I recommend going in the middle of the day since you'll be in a mini-gorge with lots of shade. Things can get dark quickly, so you probably don't want to get caught in twilight without a light. Though the Bartram Trail map won't be a very helpful navigational tool for this hike (it's a map of the entire trail), it has interesting contextual information that may enhance the hike (William Bartram info, other day hikes, natural history, etc.). You can get a copy of the map, and any other necessary supplies, at Nantahala Outdoor Center's Outfitter's Store about seven miles east on US 19/74. Every hiker of this section should be grateful to the Bartram Trail Society for their diligent trail maintenance.

For more photos visit Nantahala Outdoor Center on Facebook and look for the Ledbetter Creek photo album.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Frieght Hoppers to Play The Pourover

With two top-twenty Billboard Americana albums and a performance on "A Prairie Home Companion" under thier belts, the Freight Hoppers are one of the most popular old-time string instrument bands anywhere. Come hear them play at The Pourover beside the banks of the beautiful Nantahala River Saturday, July 18th at Nantahala Outdoor Center. This will be the band's last local show before going on a national tour, so don't miss it!

Hear the Frieght Hoppers here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Have Lunch with NOC in Atlanta

Here's the scoop. NOC is packing up the roll pool and some kayaks and heading to downtown Woodstock, GA, tomorrow (Thursday) from 11am-3pm. We're bringing the river fun to Canyons Burger Company for the best lunch in the city, and we hope you can join us. Canyons will be offering fresh, Black Angus burgers piled high with toppings for only $2.99. NOC will hold mini-competitions for prizes including raft trips, fishing trips and kayaking instruction.

Throughout the afternoon, you'll have access to roll instruction from 1996 USA Canoe/Kayak Olympian Wayne Dickert and professional freestyle kayaker Daniel Dutton. Bring the kids and their swimsuits for a breath-holding competition, a water-gun-spraying competition and a casting competition for cool NOC prizes.

Best of all, there is a Guess-the-Number-of-River-Rocks-in-the-Jar Contest for our grand prize, an NOC Whitewater Weekend including four Ocoee River rafting passes, four Nantahala River rafting passes and lodging for four at our Nantahala River resort.

Anyone who books an adventure with NOC at tomorrow's event will instantly receive 15% off their trip, reason enough to come out and have lunch with us! Here's the address to Canyon's Woodstock location:

335 Chambers Street
Woodstock, GA. 3018

We'll post live pictures and video from tomorrow event, so stay tuned!

Friday, July 10, 2009

NOC Featured on Top Blogs

Nantahala Outdoor Center has recently been mentioned in a number of blogs. We wanted to say thanks for these great recommendations, and let you know what folks are saying about NOC. Here are four blogs of note that we're so excited to be in. (You can click the image to read the full blog post.)

Daily Candy Atlanta recently visit the Nantahala Gorge, where they were pampered at the rustic-chic Spa at Lakeview, and stayed in one of the luxurious Watershed Cabins. Daily Candy recommended NOC's Relia's Garden Restaurant as a top-notch place to dine. We agree! recently posted a story on their "Where Next?" blog entitled "Top 10 Whitewater Rivers for Tubing & Duckies". Three rivers that NOC rafts were nominated in this list—the Nantahala, Nolichucky and Chattooga!

The famous Saturday Evening Post mentioned NOC in their story on "America's Hidden Treasures", a feature on lesser-known areas of scenic beauty in America. The Nantahala area was included among such locales as Waimoku Falls, Hawaii and the Northern Cascades in Washington. We know this area is a treasure, and we're glad The Post thinks so too!

Here's the most recent article, from Outside magazine's July 2009 issue. Selected in their "Summer Road Trips" story, the Cherohala Skyway near Robbinsville got high marks as a 'motorist's dream'. The Skyway is popular with road bikers, too, with intense climbs and pitched curves. The Cherohala Skyway connects Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee with Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina, and is close to the Ocoee, Cheoah and Nantahala Rivers.

Thanks again to these bloggers for their great recommendations! We hope you'll visit NOC soon and find out for yourself what makes NOC so memorable.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Nantahala Area Hikes: Siler Bald

(Barbra Rodichok is NOC's Online Relations Coordinator. This trail is accessible from NOC via Wayah Road, where the Nantahala Public Put-In is located. From the put-in, the drive to the trailhead takes about 30 minutes.)

When I first moved to Wesser six years ago, I spent my afternoons snapping photos of NOC rafters at Nantahala Falls. My evenings were spent chasing sunsets across the county with my own camera. One of the first places I went is still my favorite, the hike to Siler Bald.

First of all, the drive from NOC to the trailhead is spectacular, passing along the upper Nantahala River, by the curvy shores of Lake Nantahala and deep into the Nantahala National Forest. While most visitors turn north toward the historic stone fire tower that sits atop Wayah Bald, this hike requires a turn south, to a Forest Service picnic area. From here you simply hop on the Appalachian Trail headed south towards Georgia.

The hike to the summit of the Siler Bald takes anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes, depending on the speed of your clip. Having hiked it so many times, I tend to divide this trail into three distinct phases.

It begins as most Southern trails do, with thickets of tangled mountain laurel and towering poplar and hemlock. There are a few places where natural springs overflow onto the trail, but never deeper than the soles of your shoes. This first portion climbs gradually in elevation as it heads southwest.

Just when you've reached the ridge line, the trail switches back almost 180 degrees and increases in grade. This is the start of the second portion of the hike. This section is marked by exposed rock and increased variety of wildflowers. Just last week, we were treated to beautiful flame azalea in bloom. The steep stuff only lasts about 200 yards or so, then levels off.

The end of the second section is marked by an ancient oak tree with a double white blaze on it. You'll also know you've made it by the sweeping grassy field that ascends to your right. This third portion of the hike is the steepest, so I like to take it slow and enjoy the many vantage points.

The higher you climb, the more you see, including Lake Nantahala to the northwest. This is a true bald, with 360-degree view from the top elevation of 5,216 feet (just shy of a mile high).

At the top, you can always count on a steady breeze to cool you down, intriguing views, awe-inspiring layers of mountains and swallows dashing among the brush.

After six years, this is still my favorite hike in western North Carolina. It's not as challenging as some of the more demanding hikes in the Smokies, and I know there are other scenic vistas to experience, but Siler Bald still gets my highest marks.

Monday, July 6, 2009

NOC Kids Kayak Camp Video

Next week, NOC's Paddling School will host Kids Kayak Camp for the 29th year. This is one of our favorite weeks of the summer, just ask any of our paddling instructors. Like our good friend and Olympian Wayne Dickert says, "Kids + Kayaks = Big Boomin Fun!" To get you fired up about how cool these programs are, check out this video we found from one happy camper.

There are still spaces at next week's Kids Kayak Camp, so if you know of a youngster who you think would love spending a week paddling at NOC, click here for more details. Kids Kayak Week is open to paddlers of any experience level, as long as they're between the ages of 9 and 17. Kids Kayak Camp runs from Sunday, July 12 through Friday, July 17.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Brushfire Stankgrass at The Pourover

Happy Fourth of July everyone!

We couldn't have asked for nicer days here at NOC. Temperatures have more closely resembled June, with warm days and cool evenings. Gotta love being in the mountains!

Speaking of how good it is to be here, we were treated to an awesome show last evening by Asheville's own Brushfire Stankgrass at The Pourover. Ever though you'd hear a bluegrass rendition of "Billy Jean"? Me neither, but it was awesome! The best part was hearing songs about sitting by the river, since we were all relaxing right beside the Nantahala.

If you're still in town, our Sizzling Sales Days are off and running, with big deals across the store. There are raft trips, ropes course samplers, lake tours and kayaking clinics going on as we speak. Best of all, the Big Wesser Grill is fired up! We hope you'll stop by and see us this weekend.

If you can't make it, join us in a month, when we'll host the second-annual NOC/Dagger Freestyle Shootout, a kayaking rodeo with $10,000 in prizes, a DJ and much more. Have a safe and happy weekend, everyone!