Well, nobody threw an octopus onto the ice, but then again there aren’t many hockey fans in middle Tennessee. It doesn’t matter though, Team Rock Creek celebrated their hat trick victory by taking an impromptu shower under Cane Creek Falls after rappelling down into the pool of refreshing water that signified the end of another brutal RiverSports Adventure Race. Team GoLite Sprint finished second followed by our fellow Chattanoogans on River City Bikes (I think that’s what they raced under but not 100% sure).
As usual, Ed and Laura had several tricks up their sleeve. The maps were handed out at 5:30 in the morning and the race started at 6:00. However, before handing out the maps, they took all of the lead navigators for a stroll around the park while the other two teammates were left to plot points. Luckily, my teammates Dan Miller and Patricia Williams Smith have done this UTM dance many times before. Other teams weren’t so lucky though. When they finally let the navigators run back to their teammates there were only a few minutes left before the gun went off and we headed to the water with our boats.
Everyone knows how much I hate swimming. Apparently, Laura and Ed got wind of that too. Only two teammates had to swim across the lake from the boat ramp to the lodge, while the other teammate paddled the canoe. Once on the other side, the two swimmers jumped in the boat while the lone paddler took off on a two-mile trail run to the far end of the lake and CP1. Once there, all 3 of us paddled back to the boat ramp and ran back up to the TA to grab our bikes.
Given little time to double-check the UTM plots and make route choices, I failed to see the optimal route to the southwest to get to CP3. Luckily, Team GoLite missed it as well and we were soon hacking our way together through the overgrown trails to the south of the horse stables. We passed by the hilltop where CP4 was supposed to be located and went on to CP3. As we approached a trail junction, we saw a water bottle taped to a tree. This was supposed to be the designator for CP4 according to the passport, but it wasn’t even close to where we had it plotted. It was relatively close to where CP3 was plotted so, through the magic known as AR logic combined with group mentality, we decided that this was CP3 and we needed to go back through the downed trees and unrideable trails to get CP4.
After fruitlessly searching the woods on the hilltop where we had CP4 plotted, we heard River City Bikes tromping through the underbrush in search of the illusive trail. That’s when Jeramie Hoff informed us that we need not bother looking through the woods anymore. CP4 was the water bottle and CP3 was to the south near the jeep road where it was supposed to be. I repaid Jeramie with some good Chinese food last night, because without his help we may still be out there looking for CP4.
Bikewhacking once again to the south, we made our way to the jeep road and fond the Mountain Dew bottle with flagging tape around it that stood for CP3. Once again, we bikewhacked north past the water bottle on the tree and on to CP5. The next 4 checkpoints took us along mostly single-track bike trails back to the north and the transition at a maintenance facility just north of the Nature Center where we dropped our bikes.
Following the Overnight Trail we made our way west to the suspension bridge at the northwest end of the park. GoLite and River City were right behind us so we ran as hard as we could to CP11 at the bridge. From there we had to walk the dry creek bed all the way to Cane Creek Falls, with one CP along the way. This was about 4 miles in all, with the size and slickness of the boulders increasing as we made our way south. Concentration was key as we tried to dance through the cobbles and climb over the gargantuan slabs of rock, but inevitably, Patricia and I had a couple of tumbles that we’re paying for today.
Luckily, we hit the cable trail that would take us out of the gorge with no other teams in sight. With a little help from Dan, I forced my cramping legs up the sheer rock face and victory. Although the race ended at the rappel site next to the Nature Center, we still had to complete the rappel next to Cane Creek Falls and into the very inviting pool of water below.
Once again, Falls Creek Falls does not disappoint in terms of sheer beauty and killer ropework; however, there were a few course issues, most notably CP4, that were frustrating at best. The maps are typical old quads that have no, or at best very few, of the trail systems and even roads on them; however, the intsructions, both verbally and in the passport, required us to follow certain trails, etc. Many times there’s no signage and it is difficult to know if you’re doing the right thing or not. Providing a trail map to go along with the quad would be very helpful in this regard. This race is too close to home to pass up each year no matter what happens.
– Jim Farmer