It’s Time to Rethink Swimming

With more and more people becoming involved in whitewater, it’s time to rethink swimming. Many steepcreekers have been swimming differently for years, and their experiences can improve the swimming techniques for both those who take a once-a-year commercial raft trip and the average weekend paddler of Class II, III, and IV rivers.

During recent years there has been an increase in drownings and injuries among even experienced boaters as well as casual rafters, which could have been avoided, had they swum differently. Of course we all go out there thinking and hoping we’re not going to fall out of our rafts or come out of our boats. But let’s face it: sooner or later we will all swim, and swim again. Swimming is an integral part of whitewater, and just like combat rolls and eddy turns, it should be done properly and safely. It should even be practiced.

Swimming aggressively instead of floating passively is the key. A number of paddlers have been killed or injured in a variety of river conditions from long, continuous rapids to fairly small rapids. There are numerous cases of flush-through drownings where boaters were swept for extended periods while maintaining the old float-with-toes up position.

Earlier this year in a different type of incident a tandem open boater drowned in Nantahala Falls, a Class III rapid in North Carolina. He and his partner had quickly gotten into the traditional swimming position: toes up, head upstream, floating on one’s back with the arms out to slow one down. His partner shot along the tongue of the falls to safety, but he dropped over a ledge in the steeper section and pinned. His feet and lower legs became entrapped in a crevice, and he drowned. In the same incident, a would-be rescuer also trapped his foot in the same spot and nearly drowned as well. It is likely the victim would be alive today if he had swum aggressively.

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The Other Nantahala

Big Kahuna - Nantahala Cascades - est flow 950 cfsLooking at the Great Kahuna, crux of the Nantahala Cascades, from a photo dated November 14, 2009 when the Upper Nantahala Gorge was running about 950 cfs.
NOTE: This foto has since been removed and the server is often unaccessible.

 

The Nantahala River is one the most famous whitewater runs in North America. Most people, however, know it merely as a scenic but beginner-level run. Only recently has word been getting out about “the Other Nantahala,” the river of the Class V-VI Cascades, frequent floodstage big water, of shooting the Horns of the Ram into the maw of Big Wesser Falls. Carving a deep gorge across an earthquake fault through some of the steepest mountains in the Southeast – mountains so rough they have earned the dread of many Appalachian Trail thruhikers – it is home to the paddleheads of the Nantahala Outdoor Center.

Located deep in the boonies of Southwestern North Carolina, down there where Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina all butt up against the Tarheel State, the “Nanty” runs year round. Most of the recent International Peace Rally-Nantahala ’90, featuring competitors from around the world including the Soviet Union – were held in the Nantahala’s narrow, heavily-forested gorge. Right before the rally, the Nantahala raged up to a near-record 9.5 ft.

After several years of unrelenting drought, the Southeast has been in the whitewater limelight since heavy rains and frequent flooding returned in January 1989. While disastrous in the eyes of many, the high water has been a boon to paddlers. It has been a special boon to water-starved boaters of the Nantahala area.

Rising high in the Nantahala Mountains, the small river and its headwaters drop into an artificial impoundment, Nantahala Lake. Here Nantahala Power and Light Company (NLP) pumps water through 5.6 miles of pipe and releases at the generating plant about 13 miles downstream.

Most boaters put in below the powerhouse for an exciting dash through continuous Class II-III rapids as the river drops a mellow 33 feet per mile. The icy waters clash with the warm air to create thick ribbons of fog through which one spies bobbing multicolored helmets. In fact, the word Nantahala is Cherokee for “Valley of the Noonday Sun.” The river crashes on until the run culminates in Class III Nantahala Falls, 400 feet above the takeout.

This is the normal run, great for beginners to learn and for intermediates to hone their moves without fear. In the summer the river is often crowded with rafters.

But for others there is the Other Nantahala, the Nantahala of frequent high water. For a time in 1989, NPL was releasing from the lake itself. Water continues to pour down the spillway even now. In both 1989 and 1990 there were numerous extended releases on White Oak Creek, a major tributary of the Nantahala. The character of the river changed as boaters came from all over to experience the Upper Nanty, the Cascades, and Big Wesser. Or even the regular run during high water.

For many miles below the dam, the Nantahala runs through dense willow thickets, gradually widening and descending. The rapids begin to build up to Class II, sometimes III, becoming more continuous and technical. The river plunges over three jumbled waterfalls known as the Upper Cascades and finally merges with White Oak Creek to form the famous Upper Nantahala run. The stretch above the confluence is only rarely run due to the congestion of brush and the fact that the Class IV-V+ Upper Cascades are runnable only when the rest of the Upper Nantahala below is just too high, thus prematurely ending the trip.

White Oak Creek deserves mention. It is one of the hardest hair runs in the Southeast. White Oak flows through continuous Class II rapids through a gentle valley into a small NPL lake. Below the dam the bottom drops out as it plunges for several miles through a tiny gorge with continuous Class II-V rapids. Halfway down is Triple Drop (or Becky’s Catapult), a nasty Class VI three-tier waterfall choked with jagged rocks, vertical pins, and shallow pools. It has been run only once to my knowledge. Becky Weiss, one of NOC’s best hair boaters, catapulted end over end, miraculously without injury.

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We’re at the Brink of War

We are at the brink of war. You won’t find this being addressed in our current run of debates between Republicans and Democrats here in America. When I say “war,” I refer to major regional or world war, not the Global Long War on Terror. The black hole of world war is opening right now in the Middle East.

Allied countries, despite their angry rhetoric with each other, are lining up against other allied countries that also squabble among themselves. Common self-interests in the midst of extreme crises have a way of polarizing nations into opposing armed camps. This whirlpool of destruction will quickly pull in a succession of nations from all over Earth. Ongoing smaller wars around the world will likely merge into a planetwide conflagration as fast as news zips through cell phones and the Internet.

You will find little news of these urgent matters in the majority of the mainstream mass media, although tidbits surface now and then. I search through military and intelligence sources, scan news from both the far right and the far left, and sift through educated opinions from ivory tower pundits to conspiracy theory gurus. There is a lot out of detailed information out there, but so little for the public to readily see.

Why is something so vitally important kept out of the public discourse?

Several reasons exist. Primarily no one in power really wants all-out war and thus they seek to ignore or deflect attention away from its buildup. Why not inform the public? We can handle the news.

Many in the know understand such a war will crash the world economy during this Great Global Recession. An economic collapse will lead to greater environmental destruction and possibly famine. Survivors will ravage our environment even further for energy and resources in order to rebuild. We’ve not as a species experienced the collapse of a complex global economy on such a scale before. No one in their heart wants this in their legacy.

Because such a war will upend significant elections such as the American electorate voting for Obama or for Romney or other candidates. No candidate wants a war on their hands in a war-weary nation. Right? After all, we’re inundated with doom and gloom and jokes about the end of the world because it’s the year 2012.

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Public Control of the Money Power similar to Civilian Control of the Military

We need to establish public control of the money power. We must transition away from central bank currency such as Federal Reserve Notes to printing our own currency. Money is currently dominated and controlled by the international central banking system and national tax regimes. In the United States that means the Federal Reserve System, the Big Banks, and even the IRS. Our money is controlled, dominated, and even owned by private interests among the Global Financial Elite and their Allies behind the facade of the Fed and our banking system. Even our Department of Treasury and many government regulators are beholden to the central banks and transnational financial institutions that dominate Wall Street and thus Main Street.

Our money is not truly “our” money. Not yet. The principle of civilian control of the military power serves as a model to apply.

On June 23, 2010, American President Barack Obama relieved General Stanley McChrystal of command of global Allied forces in Afghanistan. It was a quick and decisive stroke by a President often criticized for prolonged deliberation or by war hawks as “not man enough.” The sacking of McChrystal has been compared to President Abraham Lincoln’s firing of General George B. McClellan in the U.S. Civil War and of President Harry Truman firing General Douglas MacArthur in the Korean War.

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Running from Mad Yellow Jackets

Two Days Later... (Click on all images to enlarge.)

Two Days Later… (Click on all images to ENLARGE.)

There it is ... Pandora's Garbage Can.

There it is … Pandora’s Garbage Can.

I pissed off a blizzard of yellow jackets the other day. They were the Mask of Death rising up without any forewarning or expectation. The Grim Reaper swung out his scythe in warning as I jumped high, and we both whirled away in opposite directions. Death by surprise with the horror of a thousand toxic stings. Except it wasn’t my time to pass on through to the other side…yet.

On a sunny Tuesday afternoon in early October 2012, on the 2nd of October to be exact. I stepped outside into the backyard to help clean up some trash and debris. I’ve been staying with my friends Gabriel and Joy in Shoreline, just north of Seattle, as they settle into their “new” home. The backyard was a glorious overgrown wood with tall, beautiful trees and thick bushes bunched around an urban meadow of shaggy grass and dandelions gone to see. In the corner set an old, abandoned metal garbage can. The lid sat somewhat ajar. Bits of trash hung out over the rim. One long, blue length of twine spooled down and out and lay snarled in weeds and sticks.

Behind me on the upstairs balcony Gabriel and his little boy, the one I call “Young Master,” were cleaning up, too. They watched from above. And they just as easily could’ve been out in the yard, too. Young Master could’ve been walking right there with me to peek inside the old garbage can with the same curiosity that possessed me. After all, he was out there messin’ around a couple days earlier over the weekend.

I carried two bags of trash and one of compost. Without much thought I strode up to the ugly old can squatting among the bushes on the edge of the woods. My hand reached out, grabbed the lid, and lifted.

My eyes caught a quick view of what looked like gray paper. Immediately, a monster swarm of bigass yellow jackets rolled out in a thick curling cloud. These were plump, end-of-summer demons all fattened up to die in another month or so. They came together in the air like a biological chainsaw, like a living robot from the Transformer movies, and they were enraged. When I lifted up the lid, apparently I’d ripped their nest apart.

For a moment so brief yet so long I stood there on hyperalert seeing the massed swarm of buzzing yellow jackets pouring out of the can into the air around me. Everything seemed to move in slow motion, way slooooww mooooshunnn. I felt as if I was inside The Matrix movie.

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Don’t Waste Your Vote on Obama or Romney

Don’t waste your vote on two-headed snakes. Do not vote for Democrat Barack Obama or Republican Mitt Romney. Vote independent.

Please don’t get me wrong, as both President Obama and former Governor Romney are fundamentally good men. They do, however, represent the lock on power the two major parties have on behalf of the Financial – Power Elite and their Allies. They already dominate our political landscape from Washington, D.C. to the most remote county. Any major party candidate, left and right, it doesn’t matter one whit, is constrained by dependence on sponsors and handlers. As such they will continue to undermine your Constitution. Their actions increase or allow for others to increase the power of the 1%ers over the rest of us 99%.

Republicans and Democrats rile us up and tear us apart over social issues and yet they differ little on true and significant reforms. There is little or no real movement to address the truly serious and potentially catastrophic issues we face today as not just Americans but as a species sharing this planet.

Instead our major politicians debate like entertainment celebrities and offer bland, band-aid solutions as they stay the course straight toward the edge of the cliff. For example, none of their ballyhooed economic and financial reforms will make a lick of difference until drastic reforms of the Fed, the international central banking system, fiat currency, the tax regime, and the ruptures between our economy, energy, and the environment are resolved.

Over the years you’ve likely heard the mantra warning citizens not to waste their votes on third party, alternative, or independent candidates. We the People are encouraged to give up and surrender to the reality that politics are a corrupt circus dominated by Big Everything – corporations, banks, political parties, special interests, and the military-industrial-surveillance complex. So we are told don’t waste our votes on any candidate who is not a Democrat or a Republican.

I say don’t waste your vote voting for the major party candidates. Save yourselves. Save your counties, towns, parishes, cities, states, territories, wards, and districts. Save your country. Save America. Save Planet Earth. Vote independent. Vote third party. Vote for liberty and the constitution. Vote against the tyranny of a gridlocked, two-party system that divides people emotionally over hot button social issues like abortion but otherwise are the same.

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