Packrafting the Rockcastle River

BJett

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May 3, 2013
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519
Some packraft stoke from the southeast...

I just couldn't wait any longer. All the trips reports and packraft blogs detailing epic multi-day/multi-discipline adventures made me do it. I bought an Alpacka...probably the only one in the entire state of Kentucky.
I've become too one dimensional lately, strictly whitewater kayaking for the past 5 years with the occasional backpack trip thrown in. Now that I have a fancy new DSLR camera, I'm motivated to get back out and use my legs again and add some variety in my life. What better way to combine my favorite things...backpacking + boating = packrafting!
Whitewater kayaking will always be my go-to, but the more passions the merrier.

These vessels aren't as practical out east, we don't have millions of acres of public land to lose yourself in. That said, there is still plenty of remote and wild land to explore. I've mapped out some 2-4 day trips that explore some of the wildest areas of the southeast...the Obed National Wild & Scenic River, Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area, Red River Gorge, and there are plenty of smaller watersheds in the southern Appalachians to push the envelope and paddle some very remote, difficult whitewater. But these trips are just training for my 4 week epic southern Utah 40th birthday trip next spring. The boss already cleared it...thanks boss.

My test run was a day trip on a Kentucky Wild & Scenic River, the free-flowing Rockcastle in the Daniel Boone National Forest. The Narrows section is short but sweet, a handful of class 3 rapids at lower flows and harder with higher water. Unfortunately Lake Cumberland has risen after years of historically low levels due to issues with Wolf Creek Dam on the Cumberland River. The last 2 rapids are now under the backwaters of the lake, but everything upstream is still wild and remote with 5 fun rapids to play on.
I did a solo, no shuttle 2 mile hike and 3 mile paddle. I used my whitewater paddle but plan on getting a 4 piece breakdown for overnight trips. The Alpacka performed flawlessly...easy to inflate, super light, made easy class 3 seem like class 2. The wonderful women that run Alpacka are awesome, they donated a boat to our National Paddling Film Festival and are big supporters of Wild lands and river conservation.
Map I made of the area and the route...
https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/...6005096366919983042&oid=105768283703063059928


Start of the hike. Bee Rock in the background.




Up and over the ridge...




Bee Rock Overlook. In a few weeks this will be all green.


Beech Narrows rapid


Blow it up


GoPro still shot of my butterfly buddy


Start of the Narrows


2nd Drop of the Narrows




Sure beats television


The end

More pics...
https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/105768283703063059928/albums/6004105207077010305

Featured image for home page:
slide.jpg
 
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BJett

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May 3, 2013
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519
Short video...not much excitement , but funny music makes everything better...scenery ain't bad though...

 

steve

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Dec 11, 2013
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awesome! Which model alpacka did you get? I'm a small person, and the alpacka alpacka would fit me, but I'm wondering if I'd benefit from a bigger raft.
 

Aldaron

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Jun 16, 2012
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I'll meet you on a river as soon as I talk myself into spending the money! I wanted to get one for my western trips, but since I'm moving back to the south-east next month, maybe you can convince me to do trips there, too.
 

Kullaberg63

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Mar 6, 2014
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We might have thousands of acres of wilderness out here to get lost in, as you say... but that river in your backyard is beautiful, and probably runs for more than 2 weeks of the year unlike our smaller ones.

Have fun with the raft!
 

steve

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Dec 11, 2013
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I'm trying to resist buying a packraft, and this thread is not helping!
 

BJett

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May 3, 2013
Messages
519
Don't fight it...
I have the smallest Alpacka. I'm 5'4" 140, I always get the smallest of everything.
Aldaron, I'm planning a 5 day Citico/Joyce Kilmer backpack loop in early June. Shoot me a message when you move back down here. I'll need another Alpacka friend too, so far all my packraft trips planned are solo...my whitewater buddies might shun me.
 

Aldaron

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Jun 16, 2012
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Don't fight it...
Aldaron, I'm planning a 5 day Citico/Joyce Kilmer loop in early June. Shoot me a message when you move back down here. I'll need another Alpacka friend too, so far all my packraft trips planned are solo...my whitewater buddies might shun me.
That's funny...I'm already planning my first backpacking trip after moving back for Memorial Day weekend up the South Fork Citico.

I've never done any paddling other than flatwater sea kayaking and canoeing, but my brother is a big whitewater kayaker, and I've already told him that I want to learn this year.

I'm definitely game...I'll keep you posted on my calendar after the move. I'll stop hijacking your thread and PM you :)
 

steve

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Dec 11, 2013
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Don't fight it...
I have the smallest Alpacka. I'm 5'4" 140, I always get the smallest of everything.

so you have an alpaca model, or a scout/CuirYak? Do you wish you had gone with a Yukon Yak, or do you feel that your size boat is perfect?

How long did it take to arrive after you ordered it from Alpacka?
 

Kullaberg63

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Mar 6, 2014
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541
He's got an Alpaca with the cruiser spraydeck.

Choosing an Alpacka is pretty simple: only the Alpaca (small), Yak (medium) and Llama (large) are optimized for whitewater: upturned bow, voluminous extended stern, etc. Your body size determines which of the three.

All the rest are best for flatwater, generally speaking.

Fit is important mostly in whitewater, as you want to be snugly wedged in there.

If I was only doing shorter flatwater stretches as part of long wilderness trips I wouldn't get an Alpacka, not even the Scout. The best choice for that application, imo, is the cheaper, 1.5 lbs Supai.
 
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steve

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Dec 11, 2013
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nice. What about stuff like labyrinth canyon? Would you use a supai for that? The cost and weight savings are huge on a supai. I may just have to try one out.
 
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Dave

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May 5, 2012
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Interested in your compare/contrast on the experience of the packraft versus hard hell. Obviously, different tools for different conditions but what's your first blush?
 

BJett

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May 3, 2013
Messages
519
If you are wanting to get into whitewater, get a kayak. No question. Packrafts aren't strictly made for whitewater, but they can handle it well...the longer stern they added in 2011 apparently made a big difference. Yeah people are running class 4/5 in packrafts but they are customizing their boats with thigh straps and better backbands, among other things. If you want to push the limits of an Alpacka, you need to learn to roll it. Not an easy thing, I'm guessing but its becoming more common. Whitewater kayaks are already made for this, and are much more fun.

What I love about the Alpacka is its ability to handle moderate whitewater and carry so much gear...and weigh so little. Personally, I will use it strictly for overnight trips where I want to combine backpacking and paddling or just camp out on the river. I doubt I will ever run anything more than class 3+/4- in mine. I don't care to learn to roll it and add thigh straps. It's great for what it is...a tool for combining multi-disciplines and getting out there for long treks while not weighing you down.
 
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