From the Shop: Thinking about ALF

Winter has arrived in earnest here in New Hampshire, and that’s got me looking ahead to spring.  I’ve started taking preorders for deliveries to Ain’t Louie Fest (ALF), so I while it’s on my mind, I figured I’d write up a few answers to the questions that come up commonly.

Semi-typical Tellico, Photo by Caleb Roberts

  1.  What the heck is ALF?  ALF isn’t what we usually think about as a boating festival.  There’s no organization to speak of. The dates are a little fuzzy (if it has official dates, it’s March 8-17th this year, but some some people start earlier).  There’s not necessarily a central location.  Think of it more as a gathering, or better yet a pilgrimage.   It’s like the Hajj for open boaters (er… something like that.)  You have to do it at least once.  Basically people show up in east Tennessee, meet up, and go boating for a week or so.
  2. If there’s no central location, where do people stay and meet up?  The two most popular options for accommodations are 1) hotels in Lenoir City, or 2) Cherohala Mountain Trails campground near the Tellico.  CMT has become increasingly popular as the base for ALFers, and that’s where Blackfly bases out of, at least for the first weekend.  The Lenoir City crew usually meets up at the Shoney’s in Lenoir city to make plans for the day, and there’s communication between the two groups as to where people are planning on paddling.
  3. Am I ready for ALF?  What about skill levels?  One of the greatest things about this “event” is it’s accessible to paddlers of all skill levels.  Groups break up to head to rivers of various difficultly, so even if you’re only comfortable on Class II, there will be something for you to do.  Many of the rivers also offer different sections of varying degrees of difficulty, so it’s possible for someone to join you part way down the river if they aren’t feeling up to a particular section.
  4. How to I know where to paddle?  The best advice I can give is to be honest about your skill level and follow the locals.  They know what’s running, where the rain hit, what won’t be running tomorrow, etc.  And they’re very happy to point you in the right direction.  Pretty much all the runs are rainfall dependent so don’t try to plan too far in advance: go with the flow and follow the  local knowledge.
  5. What about the weather?  March in eastern Tennessee can be a crap shoot.  I’ve seen everything from snow to 75 degree sun.  Maybe you should just bring all your gear, I usually do.
  6. What else should I do?  Make new friends, get pointers from paddlers who are better than you, and try out a new boat!  We’ll have a fleet (or fleets) of demo boats available, so it’s a chance to try out a new ride.

I also need to mention that if do order a boat for delivery to ALF before Feb 18th, I’ll waive the delivery charge ($40).  Just use the discount code ALFPREORDER when you check out.  Getting orders in early helps me plan and get boats assembled ahead of time…and ensures your boat has a spot on the trailer.