One of the coolest sidebars to paddling is that there are opportunities to paddle with and/or be on the river with many of the same kayakers that pioneered the run. No matter how many times you have run a section of river, brag about it and there is probably someone listening in who just smiles and remembers when…. Southeastern boater Ken Strickland is definitely one of those who will just smile and remember when! Ken has been paddling for 40+ years. The Tellico was one of his early favorites.
So to spend the day paddling with Ken is a treat; having it be the Tellico is even better, especially when we eddied out below Jared’s Knee in time to see otters running up the bank downstream of Jared’s Knee!! At the takeout I asked Ken about the Tellico. As he remembers it was 1972—nearly 40 years ago, that he and the then-small group of southeastern boaters were first paddling the Tellico–but only the Lower, as the Upper was out of the question. It was four +/- years before the gang ventured further upstream. Finally it came time for someone to run Baby Falls. Ken will tell the story of the group of boaters there that day watching Doug Woodward make what is considered the first descent over Baby Falls. The story goes that Doug’s wife was sobbing along shore and friends were trying to talk him out of it so that they did not have to watch him run his last rapid. It was a clean line. Ken also paddled early on with Jared – one of the early proofs that you should not have a rapid named after you (Jared broke his knee at the rapid hence known as “Jared’s Knee”).
The rest, as they say, is history (well documented in books such as Doug Woodward’s Wherever Waters Flow. But what is not “history” is that we all are still sharing time with awesome boaters like Ken.