by Erin Dodge

One of the things that our annual Kids Camp teaches all the adult milling about is how much we can learn from our “shorter” kayakers.  Future ERA staff member, Erin–a veteran Camp participant set us all straight this year about being able to deal with making a mistake, picking yourself up and going and doing it again. Ouch! We can all learn a lesson from Erin and her experience at Nantahala Falls.

Last year, the ERA Kid’s Camp ended with a run through Nantahala falls. I tried it and made it and couldn’t wait to do it again.  Fast forward to this year and I am back at Kid’s Camp again.

We made it to the last day, Saturday the 5th and heading down the Nanty. It was great! We ran rapids, dodged rafts (or maybe they dodged us), practiced eddy turns and seal launched. And it was a dry hair day for all. No swims! But best of all the falls were at the end and I was going to run it. No doubt!We got to the takeout above the falls and we all got out to look at the lines.

Our instructor Miss Whitney talked to the group about the run we were about to do; the way the water flowed and what it would mean to us; the eddy’s that we could catch; and many other things that we could use on rivers in the future. It was time to run the falls.

Tyler, James and I had made the choice to run the falls. The rest of the group got into position to watch the carnage.We got in our boats and headed to Truckstop eddy. This is a really big eddy at the top of the falls. We sat there with Miss Whitney going over our lines, safety rules, other what ifs. At that point Miss Whitney ran through and set safety in the eddy below. We had to wait for a huge number of rafts to go before we could head out.

James went first and had a good line. He made it through with hardly a splash. I saw him eddy out with a smile on river left. Next was my turn.

I had to wait forever for all the rafts to go by. I should have brought a tent!  Finally I found an opening and Mr.Brett gave me the clear sign. I headed out of the eddy and made it past the top hole. It was about now that I realized that I was left of my line and was about to go through the part of the bottom hole that I didn’t want.

Not good. The picture that was taken as I went through shows exactly what I was thinking and it wasn’t good. ( I won’t be buying that, thank you ). I hit the bottom hole and got twisted, turned and dumped on my head. Next thing I remember is floating down the river being rescued by Miss Whitney and people on the bank with throw ropes.

After they got me to the bank Miss Whitney set safety for Tyler which he didn’t need because his run was awesome. I sat there on the bank mad, sad and very disappointed in myself. How did I miss my line? Was this what it was going to end like? Miss Whitney came to check on me. Instead of answering her question about being O.K., I told her I wanted to run it again. Back to the top we went.

This time was different. I was nervous because of my swim, but not scared. I was on the water. I made it to Truckstop in no time.  Miss Whitney said a couple of things and asked if I was ready. Yes, I am ready!  She peeled out and went to set safety. I peeled out shortly behind her.  As I passed the top hole I saw it–my line. It was big and green and smooth and showing me the way.  Before I knew it I was in the eddy below the falls.

My buddies came to congratulate me. Strangers congratulated me. Miss Whitney congratulated me (Thank you).  Did I learn anything? Yes, running the wrong line may not give you what you want. Being on the river with your friends is the best. If you do mess up try again, because there really is a do over.