A brief write-up about paddling a vertical mile on the amazing Bear Creek.
Bear Creek has it all: a gigantic slide, multiple waterfalls and complex boulder gardens, packed into a 3 mile run dropping 859 feet with no mandatory portage. Throw in a horrible sieve, scary undercut and short shuttle and you have one of the classic creeks in the country.
The Bear starts innocently enough. It gives you the chance to warm up and build confidence. Then the big drops come stacked upon one another for nearly a mile: Surrealistic Pillow, Fishbowl, Snake Pit, Knocking on Heavens Door, Stairway to Heaven, Cosmic Trigger, Big Bang, Revelations, Momentary Lapse of Reason and Armageddon. If your confidence remains in tact as you finish the drop section, you must turn your focus to the Gnarl. You see, after you finish the named drops you start into a one and a half mile section of continuous IV-V moves. You fly along, hoping to remember where to go. Hoping you stop in time to work around the tree in Omega. Hoping your boof strokes carry you over the ledge holes and that you can help your buddies if something goes wrong.
The Bear is an amazing place. Nestled in the Georgia mountains the gorge is incredible. As you paddle, you must remind yourself to look up and see the 600 foot overhanging cliffs. Remember to glance to the top of the cascading waterfalls of the many tributaries. Remind yourself to watch your buddies gracefully navigate the chaos of steep whitewater.
A few days ago David Levitt and I were very fortunate to secure a vertical mile on Bear Creek. Seven laps in the course of a single day. We spent the day mesmerized by the beauty of one of the most magical places on our planet. Before that day Cory Hall, Brad Hinds, Lane Rankin, and Marc Lyle had all once held the record for most laps on this southeastern giant. And soon enough our record of seven will be surpassed by a hungrier crew. But, for now, David and I know how lucky we are to stake claims to the Bear Mile. How lucky we are to have kept going when it would have been easy to call it a day. How lucky we are to have individually dropped 6,013 feet of gradient without injury. How lucky we are to have spent a day immersed in the magic of Bear Creek.