Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The South Merced

What's that you say? You want to charge festering burl swirls? Well, take a long boat, fully loaded down the South Merced over 1,000cfs and get swirly with it! This was a last second trip, it was only but a whisper and away we went charging into the Yosemite Valley in a tribute to the late Lars Holbeck. I had always wondered about the race to the high sierra multi-day expeditions. Lars was the pioneer of the burl charge into long steep unrun sections of the most remote sierra rivers. I wondered how their boats handled with all that gear, what it must have been like to portage, and how much of it was actually runnable. Lars had mentioned that this was his favorite run of them all. A two day expedition through the merced canyon was the ultimate experience for him. Never having done the run, i sought out to experience it in a similar fashion. I took my Dagger Green Boat and loaded it down with as much stuff as i could, looking to find that feeling Lars must have had way back when. Loaded with a camp chair, air mattress, and all the finer things in life i made my choice to step out of the box on this one, and challenge myself like i had never done before. Humbled.......Chhhhheeeeckkkkk! Scared..........Chhhhhheckkkk! Completely and utterly fulfilled.....Chhheeeeckkk! That was pretty much my two day experience. Day one started off with a bang as the sun beat down on the glistening granite. We made great time as i tried to keep my kayak in control. Anticipating each little feather of my paddle, and edge of my boat, i tried to make precise aggressive manuevers avoiding and embracing swirliness wherever it found me. Eddies were difficult to catch as the flow continued to rise. The boat was hard to control, but using every last bit of my core strength and swirl reading skills, i made it happen. We got to camp early, set up the camp chair and told stories about the day. At one point we all looked at each other with a look of complete fulfillment. Day two was a different story. We awoke to an oncoming storm, the wind was blowing, and lenticular clouds loomed in the western horizon. There was erie feeling that morning as we filled our bowls for a breakfast of burliness. I knew with a tribute to Lars, he wouldn't let us get out that easy. The water was rising fast and we instantly felt like rubber duckies in bath with a bunch of two year olds. Trying to stay safe and warm, we began to make our way downstream. The rapids were bigger than the day before bringing me more of challenge. Johnny Kentucky, a burl master of sorts, was the first to go down. Charging into a rapid with a monster hydraulic, the river ate the Kentucky out of Johnny. I passed him in the hole, just in time to get out and thow him a Troy Aikmen heisman toss! Perfect Spiral. I felt like i was back on the field hitting that wide receiver on a flag route for Friday nights game! I lucklily pulled him ashore with his boat as I watched his paddle dissapear into the flushing mass of water below. It was at this moment we knew things were getting spicy like siracha! We continued downstream where Will Pruett, producer of Swirl Chargers Volume 1: Gettin Spiritual, made his one in a million debut into a rapid named "One in a million". The power of the river grabbed Punky Pruester as he missed his last chance eddy. Making eye contact with him as he floated off into the unknown is a look you don't get to share often with someone. Like a calm peacful warrior, Will charged in with everything he had and made it happen! Johnny swam two more times shortly after haulting the trip and causing for a group safety meeting with a fire to warm everyone up again. Feet freezing, hands cold, we struggled to make it out of the gorge. Arriving at the takeout, we cheered and praised old Lars for giving us the adventure of lifetime!

Dinkey Creek Waterfalls

Yes it is as good as it sounds. An early spring Dinkey Creek mission. This run is typically a two day adventure on the river, but in this case, it was one day of hiking, and one day on the river. The trip started with a horrible shuttle. Running into snow at 4500 ft was not what we had planned. Nature's incredible creativity and unpredictable character had us laughing as we tromped 12 miles through the snow towing our kayaks behind our backs. Arriving at the putin we were tired beat down, but thankful we had made the spring time hike down to the river. This run is another beautiful canyon to visit in the spring. Waterfalls were careening off the gorge walls as we plunged down the steep canyon into the lowland sierra. I slowly felt my Drew-ness start to awaken after hours of plunging, sliding, disappearing, and embracing the river swirl. Slam Dink, two points, move directly to GO and collect two hundred dollars!!!

Chewanakee Gorge of the San Juaquin

This stretch of river might be one of the beautiful places i have traveled in my kayak. The san Juaquin River has been plugged and stuffed with at least 8 dams that have broken this river up into small sections of what once was a long free flowing river with some of the most amazing canyons in California. Fortunately, this particular stretch was left alone, but due to generating issues of upstream dam projects, it rarely sees enough water to come alive and show its true powerful nature. Thankfully, we were in line and on time to get to experience this rarely run stretch of amazing scenery, challenging whitewater, and committing granite walls. The level was high, and the water unrelenting. I felt humble in this place, grounded to a bigger purpose, but so small in the grand scheme of it all. Leading the trip, i had to use intuition, confidence, and humility all at the same time. The rapids were flowing with such intensity it was awe inspiring. Smooth polished granite walls went up 1,000ft on both sides. Feeling so free, but so locked into the river, we began to pick our way down charging massive swirls and currents. Embracing the swirl was our only option and we made it safely back to the car with a feeling you could only know if you had been there yourself.

The East Fork of the Kaweah

Deep in the dry southern sierra spring is happening all around. The red buds are blooming, the grass is green and healthy, and the early snowmelt is providing for a perfect utopian dream land of waterfalls, granite canyons, and unbelievable feelings. Everything is waking up around here, and life is flourishing with extreme creativity and energy!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Kayak Story

Here's a little video i made of some of my travels over the past couple years. Minnesota, Wyoming, and some southeast waterfall hucking.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Clean it Up

Most of the kayakers in the southeast are frustrated with our current situation. Serious drought conditions are forcing us to find other alternatives to having fun in nature. Some of us have bought expensive mountain bikes, while others desperately watch the weather channel in hopes that it will rain. With the green race just around the corner, nerves are running high among the kayak community. A base flow of six inches on the green makes things interesting around here. Low water descents of gorilla are now a normal part of life. We're all just trying to make down without hurting ourselves. It is a sad time for boaters here in the southeast, but with rain in the immediate forecast, we decided to go visit one of our favorite runs; The Raven Fork river. This river is one of my favorite spots in the entire world. Dropping 760 feet in its' steepest mile, the Raven Fork runs off the backside of the smokey mountain national park. The small river bed is full of some of North Carolina's smoothest granite drops. The rapids on this river are some of the most amazing drops in North Carolina. One after the other, they drop in succession ending in deep green bubbling pools. With the leaves changing, and the possibility of rain, we figured we would pay the mighty Raven Fork a visit.

A tree in the road was our first obstacle in the steep drive up the road. Adam Bixby with the saw, making it happen.

The hike down into the gorge wasn't the easiest. Stinging Nettle, a summertime weed, was persitant at working its way into our skin. The name sounds just like it feels.

Big pools in such a steep canyon are what make this river so unique. Here is a classic example. Below is Big Boy falls, one of the hardest drops in the east. You can tell, even without water flowing over it, that there is not much room for error.

For most of our hike, the river was fairly clean. Looking for wood, we continued down the gorge. At the last drop of the run, one that is rarely scouted we found a log blocking the line. With a trusty hand saw we were able to knock it out of play almost falling into the river.

All in all it was a great hike, and hopefully we stimulated the spirits to give us some rain. Not just for kayaking, but for also the horrible drought that our forests here are facing. We can only hope, that soon this will all be over.