In Ouray we checked out the box canyon in town that sets the stage for the town's artificial ice climbing wall. The gorge itself looked impressive, but we couldn't get down into it. We ended up putting in just below the second scary portagey rapid and boated the rest of the run, some real intimate V- stuff, with a dash of boat scoutable IV in the run out through town.
We then headed over the pass and into Durango. On Saturday, the boys ran Vallecito, a river that ostensibly boasts some of the best expert creeking in the state, but I wasn't feeling up to walled-in class V with no escape options whatsoever. I hiked around instead.
We had plans to run the Upper Animas, but it was somewhat low and some of the crew were feelig somewhat lukewarm about it, probably because if we did it in a day as originally planned, it would be a long, cold day. Hopefully I can get back there sometime and run it as a 2 day, train-supported trip.
Sunday we ran the first gorge of Lime Creek, which boasts the 25 foot tall, 3 foot wide Adrenaline Falls. Josh and I hiked it, since it's a mite bit scary and it'll be there next year. Below the falls, the river walls in. We hopped out to scout a rapid called S-Turn, which had a big hole in the middle of it. Josh and Tom ran first, then I was up. I screwed up my entrance and got flipped in the hole, spun around a few times, then jammed into an undercut wall while still upside down. Not having any of that, I swam. I reached the surface right next to a rock ledge, which I scrambled up onto, watching my gear whirl downstream. I found myself on a 2 foot by 5 foot ledge in the middle of a box canyon with no escape options. Shit.
Goody and Jason ran the drop and set up safety below, and then I had to jump back into the rapid to get to the opposite shore. I walked along the side of the river, found my paddle on the way, and scoped out where the walls closed in again, this time on a 14 foot falls called Dragon's Back. Josh was around the bend, standing on shore. At first I thought he had my boat, but he just stood there, looking sheepish. Then I looked down into the falls.
Josh's boat was getting worked in the bottom of the falls, recirculating over and over again into the froth. I signaled to Jason and Goody that they would want to see it.
I signaled them through, telling them to paddle when the boat was on the left; they ran the falls on the right, and Josh's boat eventually worked its way loose. I still had to get downstream though. I clambered along the rock wall, about 20 or 25 feet off of the water. The rock was chossy, and at one point a TV sized block almost let loose. Once I had the boys check the depth of the pool, I jumped for it, jumping out as far as I could to avoid getting pulled back into the falls.
Eventually everyone was reunited with their gear, and we all paddled out safely.
Monday, we headed to Henson Creek in Lake City, which was encased in a 100 foot box canyon. We scouted as much as we could from the canyon walls, and then jumped in. The first major rapid crept up on us, but everyone had good lines to start the day. Then we entered the canyon, paddling through a holl in the base of an old dam and past some mining debris. I walked one jumbley, ugly rapid, but after watching the boys run it and after hiking the steep portage, I realized it probably would have been easier (and maybe safer) to just run the rapid. The gorges were beautiful, and the boating was adventurous, since though we did scout, there were still some blind corners. Thankfully, the river was clear of wood.
As I walked a big stompy rapid near the end of the run, I talked to an older man who owned property along the stretch and was interested in what we were up to. It was a nice boater PR experience, and he wished us luck.
After a few more rapids, we were back to the cars and ready for the long drive home.
Avalanche Falls. Notice the giant logjam at the bottom, and the people in the right hand side of the frame.
I had a hell of a 4 day weekend.
Things started when I headed out to Buena Vista on Thursday to meet Justin to paddle the Numbers. The Ark was running near 2k, and the numbers turned into a fun roller-coaster ride of big holes and waves. We had a fast, clean run, and I only got slapped around once when I quit paying attention.
That night we camped near Elephant Rock, where Keith, his wife, and daughter were also camping. We watched paddling videos in the RV while we ate dinner, and then hung out around the campfire, where I, the bleeding heart liberal, managed to get into a political discussion with an ex-Marine and a Navy pilot.
Friday, Justin and I decided to go check out Clear Creek, after I picked up a new drytop at CKS. As we were scouting, we ran into Jason and Josh, who knew Justin. We scouted the gorges together and then got on the river, which was somewhat low but running fast. We boat scouted just about everything, careening around rocks and skipping eddies. We scouted one drop in the second canyon, but read-and-ran everything else, for a quick trip. Then we hit up the Numbers again.
Justin had to head home for a family deal, and Jason and Josh invited me to head out to Crested Butte with them. A bunch of runs I was eying in the guidebooks were out there, and I had pretty much run everything that interested me in the Ark drainage (Lake Creek was cranking) so I headed to CB with them. We met their buddy Goody, who lived in town, and did an early evening run of the East, which was an espresso shot of a run that jumped down some steep slides and some boogie water. I helped run shuttle down a rough road with my car, and managed to remove an extranious piece of plastic from under the front air dam.
We grabbed dinner in a bar, where I ran into Link, a kid who lived below me when I was studying abroad in NZ. Crazy. Then Goody and Jason ran off to the bars to cause trouble, and Josh and I went to bed.
The next morning we fired up the East again, then ran the Slate, which was another V- creek with some fun drops. Josh and Jason ran Wicked Wanda, the V+ at the end of the run, the latter running clean and the former joining the swim team. Then we went to head to Oh Be Joyful.
Sunday dawned, and we got a (relatively) early start, getting on the river by noon or so to run the Slate again. Then we headed to OBJ. I walked up it again, memorizing the order of the drops, and decided to fire it up. I was feeling good. The first drop, a 15 foot waterfall, is about 4 paddle strokes past the put-in, leaving no room for a warm up. I hit it with a clean boof, let out a woop, and was on my way. The next few drops went cleanly, and then Mike C, who joined us for Sunday, flipped below an 8 foot falls and had trouble rolling up. He eventually made it, but was shaken and elected not to finish the run. Jason and I went on, hitting a chain of ledges before the big one, a 30 foot falls with a rock shelf in the right side LZ.
On the bright side, in 2 weeks I'll be in MN, and in 3 I'll be creeking in Colorado.
I also noticed that the ass dimple that the boat got from Gorilla has popped out, just due to the effects of some warmth and the memory in the plastic. Looks like the Nomad should be ready for the Colorado steeps.
After borrowing a paddle from Thomas' dad (which I couldn't afford to replace, therefore couldn't afford to lose) we picked up Ryan in Indy and Chris and Shelbyville, and then we started driving. Or we would have, if we hadn't stopped in for a sit-down at Bob Evans. Finally on the road at 9pm or so, we made it to Knoxville where we grabbed a hotel room and crashed.
We hit the Green River Narrows on Friday after some phone calls to locals we knew, we convinced a friend of Thomas' to take us down. She did a run in the morning and we met her at the takeout at 11 or so, ran shuttle, and put on to the Green. After some boogie water we got to the Bride of Frankenstein and the start of the narrows. We had a group of five, plus a handfull of locals, and altogether too many people in the group for the 3 boat eddies of the narrows proper. Mark, one of the locals, pointed at me and said "All right man, you're my buddy. You're gonna follow me and just do what I do." I nodded, and we were off. While others in our group scouted drops like Frankenstein and Go Left, Mark and I would take a look from the eddies above the drops, he would feed me some beta, and always follow it with "stay on my ass," and we'd be off.
I found myself in a not altogether uncomfortable side-surf, and supported myself with a low brace. I couldn't go forward or backward since the slot was only about 9 feet wide. I tried to muscle over the pile, but the hole was too deep. I tried getting my nose into the green water, which only managed to windowshade me. I rolled up again, and as I struggled to pull over the pile my knee came out of my thigh brace, punched out of my sprayskirt, and I was swimming. Making sure to hold onto the paddle I couldn't replace, I was hit by a rope on my way down to the waterfall but couldn't hang on. I slid over the falls and out the whitewash below, swimming hard into the eddy to avoid sliding into Chief, when I was hit by Mattus' rope. My boat floated into an eddy, where it hung out for a moment, but before anyone could get a hand on it, it slid down the river. I had to jump across the river and hike downstream, hoping that my boat was still in one piece.
Gorilla, the largest drop on the river, all was not lost. I had a new dent in the stern and a crack from where my paddle had tried to punch through the side of the boat, but the crack was above the waterline and the dent wasn't all bad. The only losses were the crunched paddle shaft of my split, and my skullcap, which I had in my boat somewhere and which was claimed by the Green. Somewhat shaken, I fetched my paddle and followed Mark down the next rapids, Powerslide and Rapid Transit, two big slides which reminded me of the North Shore. After portaging nutcracker and Sunshine (Sunshine was way scary) we were into boogie water and I was starting to hit my stride again. The rest of the crew was still upstream, taking their time, and I bombed the rest of the run with the locals, skipping past eddies and blasting through the last major rapids. I found myself in a horizontal pin above a small slot for about 5 gut-wrenching seconds, but I scooted back enough to let my bow clear and I was downstream. Our group managed the rest of the run without any carnage, and we were off to Tallulah.
On the way, we grabbed some tasty BBQ by the Narrows and did laundry so that we wouldn't have to slide into wet paddling gear the following morning. We stayed the night off of a forest service road (free, yippee!) and stoked up a fire, since it was starting to snow. Jordan rolled in late (or early, depending on how you look at it) after a 10 hour drive.
After a chilly night, we grabbed breakfast at Nanny's (grits, biscuits and gravy, and other assorted wonderfulness for less than $5), set up a shuttle, and started down the 600 or so steps that lead to the Tallulah Gorge. The Tallulah only runs a few weekends a year when Georgia power schedules releases, and it's a southern classic. Wes, Mattus' friend from CO (who looked a bit like a skinny Mel Gibson; the Patriot Mel Gibson with the sideburns and long hair) lead us down. The first rapid was 20 feet from the putin, and after one more sweet boof over a 6 or 7 foot falls, we were at Oceana.
We loaded up boats in a hurry, since if we wanted to make a second run we had to be at the top of the stairs by 3. We made it, but not by much. Our second run was a little more exciting, since Jordan smashed his hand up on the first rapid, I hit the center line on Oceana without scouting (sooooo much fun) and then Jordan swam above Bridal Veil (skeerey) which necessitated some tricky rescue techniques and then again in some of the boogie above Lynch's Wrench. We made it out though, tailed by the sweep boaters who were there to make sure nobody was left in the canyon. After an amazing dinner at a Chinese buffet (sushi, Mongolian grill, crab wontons, and all sorts of other wonderfulness) we dried our gear, bought some beer, and headed to the campground for a warm fire and video footage of the day.
Sunday we rolled out a bit later than expected, dusted the frost off our gear, and after breakfast fired up another run of the Gorge. Ryan bowed out this time, and the rest of us hiked down the steps and put on to a higher river (700cfs instead of the 500 the day before). Chris swam on the entry rapid (which he deemed "crapid") and after Tanner's Boof we scouted Oceana again, which was thrumming with more water. We all hit the left line this time around (aside from Jordan, who took the dry line). A few of us were slowed up some in the hole at the bottom, which was pushier this time around, and Thomas was flipped by the pulsating thing and skidded into the bottom hole, getting pushed against the side of the river and eventually swimming. His paddle hung out in the hole for a long time, but eventually washed out. The rest of the run was cake; everything was much smoother and more padded, but nothing was too big and thrashy. At the takeout, I ran Wes to the top so he could get another run in, and then we all saddled up and headed home. The drive was a haul, and I had to pull the last 5 hours on my own, but passed the time by calling up some friends and listening to a Harry Potter book on the iPod, finally rolling in at 2:15 in the morning after a great weekend of boating.
Mattus' line on Oceana (my camera battery died shortly thereafter)
After dinner and a somewhat frantic search for a campground, we found safe harbor at the Stonewall Jackson state park, where we were treated to a wonderful little tent site with a wodden platform for tents and a nice little fire pit down by the lake. We called our web bunnies to feed us level and run information from AW over the phone, had a cheery little fire, and then crashed.
Sunday brought on the Middle Fork of the Tygart and a section of the Tygart Gorge. The Middle Fork had a lot of water in it, and after a quick shuttle we were into it. Sharon had a swim on the first rapid we scouted and didn't feel like her head was in the game. She considered walking out, but was talked out of it. As we dropped further into the run things became steeper and more continuious. It was by far my favorite type of boating, class III+/IV boat-scoutable boulder gardens. We scouted a few drops, but for the most part I stayed in my boat, caught eddies on the way down and probed the rapids. The rapids were wonderful, tight, technical, but not real scary (aside from one house-sized undercut at the bottom of a rapid). If there would have been a couple walkable big V-ish drops it would have been my ideal river. Sharon had a bit of a tough time, taking a few swims and getting knocked around some.
We eventually got to the mouth of the river where it fed into the Tygart, which was running with big, muddy water. Some big water class III followed until we got to S turn, which we scouted. Sharon hiked it and Shoulder Snapper, just downstream, since she was a bit shaken. The rest of us ran 'em both, punching through holes and big haystack waves. The smaller creekboats got slapped around by waves some, but I had finally dialed in the Nomad and once I put it onto a line I was able to stick to it. I was real happy with the boat. Sharon had another swim after following Jordan right into the largest hole on the river (though she surfed it for just long enough to realize it wasn't going to be fun to get out of). A little further downstream we noticed a couple by the side of the river. Our conversation went something like this:
me: "I wonder if we're interrupting an intimate moment"
*we get closer*
me: "Uh... they're definately making out." *beat* "And she's not wearing any pants"
Matt, Chris, and I floated by without the couple noticing us, almost dropping into a pourover unawares as a result. Jordan, the last boater in our group, shouted "yoo hoo!" Then a scramble to pull on clothes ensued.
I love good river scenery.
After one more dip in the water to cool off and a few more big rapids, we made it to the take-out and hiked the tracks to the cars. It was a long river day; we probably spent 6 or 6.5 hours on the water, but it was a great day on a great river. I didn't get home until 3:30 on monday morning, but it was definately worth every lost hour of sleep.
The run was good; hopefully I'll have some photos up soon, but it was a river full of big (car-to-house-sized) boulders, real pretty. Lots of class III, with a few III+ drops. I would have liked something a little meatier, but I had a good time trying to take tough lines through the easier drops. We had planned to go to the National Paddling Film Festival, but getting 11 people down the river took a long time, and people were pokey once we got off, so we stayed in Oneida. In the morning I made some phone calls to check flows (thanks A.) but we were too far away from all of the rivers that were up. I felt refreshed though, after sleeping in the van for 10 hours (there was a nice bed setup) and we ended up running the BSF again. It warmed up some, and it was a nice run, but then it was followed by an 8 hour haul back home. It was a good weekend, but I don't think I'll be making the drive out there again for class III business unless there's some better play. We shot some video and such; hopefully it'll show up on youtube soon.
May be heading down to the National Paddling Film Festival in Lexington, KY, if I can snag a carpool. There would be boating too; I'll bring my camera if I can go.
The first day of ’07 kicked off with some paddling; D-Rad and Brian Z talked me into boating with a full kit of borrowed gear. I headed down to the Verm and was met with some odd stares at the parking lot; I showed up with a haircut and in my overcoat (Scottish Wool, $15 from Savers) and without a boat. “You don’t look like a paddler” they said. Fair enough. Eventually D and Brian showed with the gear, and I was somewhat decked out in a wetsuit and a semi-dry top. No helmet liner, and no neck gasket. It was not a good time to flip.
The Verm treated us well; the level was up a bit with the rain/slush and Railroad was nice and playful. Doughnut was even a little more dynamic than expected, and everyone seemed to have a good time. Though changing out of the wet gear was no fun (I envied the dry suit brigade) it was a good day of paddling, especially since the little canyon was gorgeous (heh, pun); no sun had hit the south side and all of the snow was still on the trees. Hopefully I’ll beg/borrow/steal some photos and get ‘em up.