Canoe Camping on the French Broad

Because we had to delay the thru-hike, Andrew and I planned several short trips for the fall.  Our thru-hike would have featured backpacking, canoe camping, and bike touring, so we planned a short trip in each of those disciplines.  We’ll use these as “shake down” trips, to dial in our gear and nutrition ahead of the thru-hike.

The first of those trips was a canoe camping trip September 26-28 (Saturday – Monday).

We originally planned a 3-day, 2-night paddle down the Roanoke River utilizing the camping platforms built by Roanoke River Partners.  The forecast for the weekend was for 9 inches of rain and 4-ft swells in the sound.  The section of the Roanoke we planned to paddle has a strong tidal influence, so we had a strong likelihood of facing waves and heavy rain.  For my first taste of canoe camping, this seemed a little risky.

Given the forecast, we opted to head toward the mountains.  We settled on Section 1 of the French Broad.

Our gear setup for the featured a MSR Nook tent and a MSR Twing tarp shelter (both used but new to us, from one of our sponsors), SeaLect Designs 60L Storm Dry Bags, Fold-A-Carrier 5Gal Water Carrier, 35-degree sleeping bags, Klymit Insulated Static V Sleeping Pad (Lindsey), Thermarest Ridgerest Sleeping Pad (Andrew), MSR Reactor Stove System, and a couple of Sea-to-Summit Delta InsulMugs (these are our favorite for backpacking!).

Day 1:

We spent Saturday night at Davidson River Campground in Brevard, NC, just inside Pisgah National Forest.  If you haven’t checked out this campground yet, I strongly recommend it!  It was a beautiful facility that would have been even better in good weather – but it rained the whole time we were there.  We ended up being really happy we chose to stay at a well-maintained campground convenient to shopping.  We took a lot of sponsor gear out with us, thinking this would give us a chance to become more well acquainted with the gear we’ll be using on the thru-hike.  Our first night was a comedy of errors:

  • Our tent didn’t come with a ground cloth, so we had to run out to WalMart to get a tarp to keep the floor of our tent dry.
  • Our tarp shelter didn’t have any tent stakes with it, so we had to run out to Backcountry Outfitters/The Hub/Pisgah Tavern (they’re all one business – and a cool place to hang out!) to get tent stakes.
  • The seam tape on our tarp shelter began to flake off, so water was coming in through all of the seams.
  • I own 2 Klymit Insulated Static V Sleeping Pads – one that has a couple of holes in it that I am working on patching, and one that is in perfect condition.  I accidentally grabbed the bad sleeping pad, so I had a flat sleeping pad after my first hour trying to sleep.

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Day 2:

We got up early to give us plenty of time to get on the water.  We drove 20 minutes from Brevard to Rosman, NC, where we were planning to put our canoe in the river.  We worked with Headwaters Outfitters in Rosman to rent a campsite and get a shuttle from the take-out.  Headwaters was also nice enough to drop off a bucket of dry firewood at the campsite so it would be waiting for us that night.  Despite the rain, the French Broad was running at 2.3ft, just under the ideal water level of 2.7ft.  We put in a Champions Park in Rosman, and had a 8-mile paddle to the campsite.  The paddle was beautiful, and the scattered showers didn’t seem to matter once we were on the water.  There were several areas of very shallow water – so shallow the bottom of our canoe scraped on rocks.  There were 4 or 5 Class I rapids, plus a large Class I (which likely would have been Class II in higher water).  I am pretty new to canoeing, so even these small rapids were exciting for me.  The campground from Headwaters was well maintained, and empty except for us (I guess not everyone wants to go canoe camping in the rain!).  There was a steep ramp to take our canoe out, which was quite slick, but I don’t think this would have been a problem in dry weather.  Setting up camp was much smoother after we got all the kinks worked out the first night!  We had enough firewood from Headwaters to have a nice campfire for several hours.  The rain even cleared up for a while, so we could enjoy the campfire!

Day 3:

We had a short paddle to the take out (5 miles) to finish Section 1.  We loaded up our gear and headed back to Greenville!

Takeaways from the weekend:

  • It is TOTALLY worth the extra weight to carry a light tarp shelter.  This saved our trip, because we didn’t have to sit out in the rain, and we didn’t have to hide in our small tent.
  • Don’t let the rain ruin your plans – learn how to work around the rain.
  • Canoe camping ROCKS!  You can carry more weight than backpacking, so heavier food options and “splurge” items are fair game.

News from the weekend:

We’re getting married!  Andrew proposed this weekend, with a beautiful rose gold and green amethyst ring.  Now, I know you guys don’t come here to hear about wedding planning, so if you’re interested in the wedding, check out our wedding website: http://www.weddingwire.com/barrgorbea

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More photos from the trip:

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