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Moore Run: West Virginia's Most Harcore Creek

"A couer vaillantrien d'impossible (For a brave and willing heart, nothing is impossible)." Duracell3 Many years ago, a good friend named Dinver McClure tipped me off to a creek called Moore Run in the Otter Creek Wilderness. He claimed that it was one of the more extreme runable creeks in the state of West Virginia and that it would likely be a first descent. I stored that information in my memory bank and put it on my list of creeks to hike, where it sat for a year or so. I first laid eyes on Moore Run in the fall of 2006 and knew that I had found the ultimate creek run with a steep, boulder strewn descent into Otter Creek, one of the classic Class 5 runs in West Virginia. I caught it a few months later and found the drops to be every bit as epic as I had imagined but the terrain around it to be challenging and time consuming to move around in. I underestimated the amount of time needed to complete such a mission, we ran out of light and had a 7 mile hike out in the dark. A year later, I returned at a high level and with more daylight but a couple pinned boats caused us to run out of light again and repeat the hike out. On top of it all, my friend, Steve Graybill, got separated from me on the creek with darkness setting in, he ended up flipping, breaking his nose, swimming, losing his boat and paddle, and spending the night in the woods. Luckily, the night was warm for the time of year and he made it out of the woods the next morning. So, with two less than stellar attempts on the creek in my history, I began to set my sights on successfully completing this run. Many would consider it a mistake to keep going back to such a foreboding area that had defeated me twice before. Well, there are no mistakes when heading out on a kayaking mission, only adventures! The spring of 2011 started off with great promise. In late February, there was a good snowpack along with steady rain storms that popped up each week. I put Moore Run at the top of the list for runs to hit. The problem was that the good rain storms were hitting midweek, leaving the weekend paddlers to pick up the scraps of the epic conditions that existed every Wednesday and Thursday. I began to fear that I would never get a chance to run this creek unless I took action. So I started working on my latest invention, the hydrogen can. How it works is you have a can full of hydrogen. When you open it, the hydrogen mixes with the oxygen in the air and creates water. The latest can allows you to use a gauge to determine how much hydrogen it releases so you can choose the water level you want on the creek. The bad thing is that I still have a few kinks to work out before it is creek ready. So, I was going to have to rely on mother nature to provide a little assistance. In early March my luck changed when the predicted forcast for Saturday was a major rain event that promised flash floods and runable creeks. I decided to head to Davis, West Virignia and get a motel room so I would be ready to go early in the morning. Moore Run requires many hours of daylight and a lot of water. Things were looking good and I was sure that this would be the right time to hit the creek. After all, you gotta make hay while the sun is shining! Huh? What does that even mean anyway?!?! Moore1 The heavy rains hit that night and the morning brought high hopes to catch the creek. I had organized a crew of intrepid creekers to join me on this adventure. Afterall, if a kayaker gets SIK on a creek and there is no one there to get stoked off it, did that kayaker really get SIK? The gauges were rising quickly in a Fibonacci sequence and my crew of Steve Graybill, Seth Chapelle, and Matt Sloan were down for some creeking. Geoff Calhoun was also interested but couldn't decide if he felt the creek would be running. I told him that we were committed to the creek and that he was welcome to join us but he had to make the decision and no naysaying was allowed. After all, a house divided against itself can not stand! Huh? Who says stuff like that? We met at the takeout and checked the level on Otter Creek (Moore is a tributary of Otter). Otter was running at a low level but we figured that it had to be on the rise. We decided that we would hike in to Moore Run and if it was too low, we would walk an extra mile and a half to Otter Creek and paddle out on that. Otter is a great Class 5 run in itself so this was no big deal. I couldn't remember all the logistics of the roads to the creek since I hadn't been there in a few years. Luckily, I remembered to grab my West Virginia map that I keep in my file cabinet next to the tupperware container with grandma's ashes and we made our way to the putin. Unfortunately, I had left my CD's at home so we had to search for some music to pump us up for the run. Radio stations are scarce in this area but I was able to find a clear station where some smooth talking casanova was singing, "Hot tramp, I love you so!" But I digress. We arrived at the putin just fine but a new obstacle started to present itself. There was already a few inches of snow on the ground and the snow was coming down hard. Under these conditions and with the threat of things worsening, those paddlers of lesser drive and spirit would have tucked tail and run like a scalded dog. However, if nothing is ventured nothing is gained. No one ever discovered new oceans without first leaving the sight of shore! What in the hell am I saying!?!? So, we bundled up in our warmest gear and began the 1.5 mile walk to the start. I was supremely confident in the success of this mission because I had eaten cinnamon raisin biscuits brought to you by Carl's Jr. for breakfast and no evil was going to be able to penetrate the force-field of sugary goodness that I had built up. My wife Melissa dropped us off and we gave her a time of 7 or 8 until she was to start worrying and think aobut calling Search and Rescue. Moore2 We began the hike and hoped the whole way that Moore would have enough water in it and upon reaching the putin, we were excited to see that the creek was running a nice, lowish flow. Well, not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I locked on my sprayskirt and headed downstream. What? Has anyone ever actually seen a gift horse and what is in his mouth that you don't want to look at?!?! After a short warmup, the creek dropped out of sight. This was a sweet 5 foot boof that fed directly into the first major rapid, Library Smut. You can get away with running it but, if you get caught, the fine is steep! A quick scout revealed a series of ledges with some gnarly, dangerous sieves to avoid on the left. I had walked this rapid on my previous runs but decided that it looked good to me on this day. I entered the first sloping drop, angling right to slip into the right channel. However, I got denied by the small boulder that separates the left and right channel. I spun around backwards and fell down the 5 foot drop in the left slot. Luckily, my high volume stern stayed near the surface and I came out just fine. The flow on the left drops into a narrow crack/sieve too small for a boat to fit through. Since I was facing upstream, I was able to paddle hard to get away from the crack of evil and finish out the rapid on the right, going off a 4 foot boof. The next drop goes over a steep series of drops into a 6 foot boof on the right. The flow heads left and slams into a wall, making the right hand boof all the more crucial. We all had nice runs through here and headed downstream through a steep junky drop. This rapid feeds into another steep series of junky drops complicated by undercuts and logs. I ran first, launching a 5 foot boof and avoiding the tree on the right. My paddle snagged the tree on the right and caused me to nearly flip, It was time for fast reflexes. Running the next series of rocky drops upside down would knock the rust off your tin roof! Don't worry, reader, your kayaking champion wasn't going to let a small paddle snag ruin his day. I righted my kayak and proceeded to check the next several drops into the Smackdown Hotel! Geoff followed and vertically pinned in the junky drops momentarily before sliding through. The rest of the group decided that walking was a wise maneuver. Duracell2 A few sweet boulder drops littered with boofs and tight moves carried us to the biggest rapid on the run and one of the most challenging series of drops in all of West Virginia, Duracell. This rapid features complex zigzag moves as the creek drops about 50 feet over a pile of boulders. I had run it the first time I ran this creek and was ready to fire it up again. I flew through the rocky approach and off a 10 foot drop onto a pile of boulders. I bounced through here and caught the last eddy before the crux of the rapid. I cut to the right bank in front of a sievy drop and cascaded several feet down, cutting back to the left. Once I reached the left bank, I boofed off a rock and headed back across the creek to the right shore where I went through a slot and off The Dream, a 12 foot boof ramp! I launched a huge boof off this drop landing with a huge POW! that caused an avalanche of snow that nearly took out my entire crew on the bank! Luckily, they had their avalanche beacons with them and I was able to spot them and dig them out. Oh Yesh! It was SCHWEEEEEET! My line through Duracell was so beautiful it even made Chuck Norris cry. Duracell As we headed downstream, we all had nice runs through The Rooftop, a steep boulder drop with some sharp turns and were making good progress. The boulder drops kept coming in a seemingly endless fashion, accompanied by some SIK boofs. This creek throws everything at you but the kitchen sink! What? What does that even mean? One rapid contained a steep series of three 5 foot drops in a row through tight slots which was incredibly fun. We portaged a rapid where the entire creek goes off a drop and under a boulder sieve. Attempting to run this rapid is about as good of an idea as going to the bathroom in a steaming porta-john. We rounded a bend and I boofed off a 5 foot ledge only to land on a log. I eddied out and tried to direct the others where to go. Steve was too far left and pinned under the log. I got out to try to help him and Geoff came down on top of him and pinned. Soon Matt also dropped in and we had 3 boaters pinned against/under this log. Luckily, all three boaters were safe with their heads above the water and we got the boats out one at a time. As the creek mellowed for the last bit, we felt a building sense of excitement that we were actually going to complete the run. Soon, Otter Creek loomed in the distance and we knew that we had met most of our goal. However, we still had close to 7 miles of Otter Creek and several Class 5 rapids to run. With just over an hour of light left, we bombed through the Class 5 section of Otter, launching several schweeet boofs and continued to book through the Class 3-4 lower Otter. The snow had continued to fall all day long and by this point at least 6 inches of snow had accumulated. This created a beautiful scene that added to the surreal feeling of this incredible day. As the last bits of light started to fade, we spied the Dry Fork and the takeout just ahead. A true sense of accomplishment came over the group and the celebration began. We had gone into a remote area of West Virginia under winter conditions, ran some of the most difficult rapids in the state, and worked together to make sure that we accomplished our goal as a team of friends. This day was truly one of the greatest days I have ever spent in a kayak and the magnitude of this accomplishment is unmatched by any stream I have ever run. It was wonderful to see Melissa and our dog, Mogi, there at the takeout, ecstatic to see us. To celebrate this momentous occasion, we headed to "The Arts Performing Center" in Parsons for shots of Wild Turkey honey and the finest dancing the mountain state has to offer. It truly was the best day EVERRRRRRRR!!!

Author: Bobby Miller

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