by Greta Durbin

On a beautiful sunny November afternoon, my mom asked, “Greta, do you want to run the Middle Haw this weekend?” I gulped, “Yeah, sure.” The Middle Haw? No sweat, right? I’ve done the Tuck, the Nanty and the Lower Pigeon. No problem. But you know what? A part of me screamed, “Pause!” You see, I had chickened out on a run on the Middle Haw earlier in the paddling season.

Last spring, I had only been kayaking a few times in moving water so when I got in my kayak at the put-in on the Middle Haw that day, I freaked. Something made me nervous and my heart was pounding in my throat. I said to my Mom and the others, “I’m not doing this!” Since then, however, I’ve learned a lot about kayaking and I’ve been taught by many great instructors including Ron Miller, Seth Yearout, Russ Scheve, Juliet Jacobsen Kastorff, Ken Kastorff, and Brian McPherson. I’ve been paddling a whole season with lots of fun CCC friends: Jen Fahey, Lorraine Burnham, Nancy Guthrie, Steve Gause, Caleb Gallentine, Scott Hughes, the Summerfields, and the Clevengers to name a very few. “I’m gonna do this!” I told myself.

On November 20, we were the first to arrive at the put-in and we unloaded our boats. A huge group of CCCers including Larry Ausley, Nancy Guthrie and Rick Steeves came rushing through and got right on the river while we were waiting. The water level was dropping quickly! It was a beautiful sunny day, and not too cold, but my mom insisted I wear a drysuit. Moms!!! I put on my drysuit (which took 4-ever) and tried to get into my Dagger GT. Uh oh, I did not fit! I had grown since the last time I was in my boat. It’s a very good thing that Russ Scheve and Brian McPherson were on hand with tools to slide the seat back. While shuttle was being run, a few of us paddled around the put-in and I got comfortable in my boat while waiting for everyone else to arrive. “Hey” I thought, “the Middle Haw isn’t as I scary as I remembered.”

When the shuttle was done, I was super excited and ready to go! As we paddled down river, it was fun to chat with Russ, Brian, Joshua, Scott. Ron and (ok, I’ll admit it) my brother and Mom too. I had just taken the Swiftwater Rescue clinic in September from Brian and Russ so I felt super safe. (Not sure why…did you know that Brian jumped off his house roof when he was kid about my age??) There were many little places to practice eddying and peeling out right away. At first I just followed people but after a while I started to find eddies on my own. At some point, another big group of CCCers paddled alongside before getting ahead of us. It was great to see Sonia and David, Jen and Randy, Doug and Mary, and Lorraine. It seemed like a CCC party on the Haw!

I remember two big rapids: Thunder Falls and S-turn. The name “Thunder Falls” scared me! Why do paddlers put such fierce names on rapids? It turned out that Thunder Falls was not so bad and that Zeus was not hiding behind a rock ready to strike me with his thunder bolt! It was over before I knew it. By the time we got to S-turn, I was having a blast and thought, “This is cool!” S-turn was fast and a wee bit scary because you could not quite see what came ahead. It went by too quickly and I wish I could just hit the “reverse” button and do it again and again and again. By the end of the run, I was feeling really confident in my boat.

I was tempted to try the Lower Haw but decided to wait until the next time. One not-so-scary challenge at a time for me, please.

How to get your kids into kayaking so they have as much fun as Greta? Check out our kids-specific kayak programs at Endless River Adventures…..