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!

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