By Ed Byrne * The Brillion News
WRIGHTSTOWN – Flying over 30-foot waterfalls or crashing through boulder-strewn rapids in a little plastic kayak isn’t the ideal spring break for everyone – but for a trio of extreme sports enthusiasts from Wrightstown, it as perfect.
Jeremiah Euclide, Willy Heindel and Alex Maes made the trek to the Appalachian mountains two weeks ago looking for a bigger challenge thatn the rivers in Wisconsin offer.
They found it at the Nantahala Outdoor Center, the jumping off point for whitewater kayaking adventures on both sides of the North Carolina-Tennessee border. The rivers have the same names given them ages ago by the Cherokee people: Nantahalam Ocoee, Chattooga, Pigeon, French Broad, Nolichucky and Cheoah.
“I booked a cabin for us up on the side of a mountain,” Euclide said.
That was right in the heart of the whitewater country, and each day, the group – which included four other paddlers – went out looking for a bigger challenge.
The Nantahala Outdoor Center is an outfitter’s shop, but there are dozens of whitewater streams for kayakers and rafters within an hour’s drive.
Unlike most Wisconsin rivers, these are not placid streams. The Nantahala River was the warmup. After the first day, the group ventured out to more challenging streams.
“Rivers are classed 1 through 6, with 1 being basically flat water and 6 being un-navigable or too dangerous,” Euclide said. “We were looking for Class 4 rivers, and there are a lot of Class 4 there. Up here, there’s a lot of Class 2 and Class 3 … but they’re not challenging any more. We wanted to step our game up as paddlers.”
“That was the perfect place to do it – it was ideal,” Maes said.
He is a sophomore at the UW-Stevens Point. Euclide works as a diesel mechanic and Heindel is a student at Fox Valley Tech.
The most challenging waterfall the group conquered was a 15-foot waterfall called Baby Falls. They didn’t take on an 80-foot waterfall with two stages.
“It’s one big drop right after another big drop,” Euclide said.
Euclide was the first to get hooked on whitewater kayaking, when he went to a YMCA camp at age 12 and tried the Peshtigo River.
Euclide got Heindel, Maes and some other friends into kayaking in middle school and high school.
Every one of them fell in love with the experience from the first time out.
These days, they are all at home in rough water and paddling through rapids is second nature.
To read the full story, please read the April 2, 2015 print edition of The Brillion News.