Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Grand Start to 2014

On January 2nd, I put on the Colorado at Lee's Ferry with good (soon to be unforgettable) friends, many cumulative pounds of granola, and no idea what to expect beyond some whitewater and a lot of excellent scenery... and that pretty much nailed it!

We spent a couple days exploring Zion National Park before our launch. Zion is best seen from above; find your way to the top of Angels Rest or any of the other hikes climbing up the canyon walls to get a sense of the scale in this incredible place.

Launching at Lee's Ferry is a bit surreal. It looks like Mars, except with a river flowing down the middle. There are piles and piles of gear that somehow must fit in your boats, and the canyon doesn't seem very grand at all. More like a large valley with exceptionally steep sides. That changes quickly.

The crew "marbling" at the beauty of Marble Canyon

Harrison scouts North Canyon for the next flash flood...
Everyone says the grand is mostly flatwater. It's a trip for the scenery, not the whitewater.
They aren't lying.
Redwall Cavern
Just another day in the life...
 While the riverside views were no joke, the side hikes had much to offer.
Nankoweap
The Little Colorado with its crazy blue water.
What the Grand lacks in consistency of whitewater, it makes up for with quality. Most rapids were some variation of "big wave train leads into/past a big hole, avoid the hole, continue down big wavetrain." Sometimes the hole was at the top, or at the bottom, but there was always a wave train, and, as they say "it's hard to have a bad time on a wavetrain..."
Harrison
Katie, with one of the holes at the top
Ben and Claire, on the Granite, which throws a wall into the mix.
Scott catches some air at Hermit
Dan avoiding the holes in Lava
Getting some sick air in my new Pyranha Shiva. Even with 80+ pounds of gear in the back, the Shiva was awesome!
Scott Martin Photo
The Grand Canyon is a must do trip for anyone that loves river life. It was the longest time I had spent without going indoors, and I felt more at home than I do... well, at home.
Havasu Blue!
Scott Martin Photo

Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013-The Year in Review

2013 was a big year, despite its humble (and hungover) beginnings on the Middle White.

After a few warm up laps on the class II-IV rivers in the Portland area, I quickly set out to help my friends get stout. Gus Kilgore, Kyle Gnarsper, and Harrison Rea found ourselves involved in a surprising rescue at the lip of 45 foot Celestial Falls. Swimmers will remain anonymous, but needless to say, we were all fired up at the end of the day. Harrison made 2 laps, allowing me to get some stellar photos, one of which was featured in the Stephen Forster Flipbook from Bombflow.

As usual, Harrison exhibited perfect form.
About 2 weeks after our adventure at Celestial, I skipped out of work to join Harrison for a sunset Eagle Creek mission. Harrison probed Punchbowl, taking a big hit to the nose, and I followed with a line that I would later regret. We were both in some pain in the pool below, but because the level was so good, I had to continue downstream to run Metlako. Harrison graciously took photos, while Dan Phillips headed further downstream to maybe catch a shot or two and more importantly get a visual of me in the pool below.
Harrison looking stylie as always, unfortunately, punchbowl was feeling extra punchy on this day.
Dan Phillips Photo

Me, pulling some hand stroked to straighten out after the paddle toss.
Harrison Rea Photo
My poor line on Punchbowl left me with a torn Labrum, no kayaking for nearly a month. It felt like forever, but forced me to actually earn some money, which I promptly blew on paddling trips when my shoulder was feeling better.

I tentatively paddled at the Creeking Comp held anually at the East fork of the Lewis and Canyon creek in Washington and made a bunch of new friends from Whitman College. Little did I know, these friendships would be my key to a whole slew of kayaking adventures I never would have expected. I also made it onto the C&K blog along with Adam Elliot for our coverage of the event.

Adam Elliott looks down on the East Fork from a unique vantage

Gus pulls the trigger at Big Kahuna.
I believe this was only his 3rd time down... style!
After warming up, I felt surprisingly good. I caught Canyon for another low lap with great friends (and the generously lent DSLR from Chris Rourke), and then was somehow convinced to make my way down the Little White again.
John Edwards with a steezy boof at Champagne
The Little White, which I had held synonymous with "Terrorfest" from my previous speedy laps at med-high flows, was actually pretty fun with Johnny Ott and John edwards leading the way. We took plenty of breaks, and the flow of 3.2 was actually rather perfect. I would go on to make one more lap before other, bigger trips took priority.
Johnny and John lead the way...
Kim Becker Photo
The 3rd annual Sandy River Showdown hosted by eNRG Kayaking allowed me to create more work with C&K, all the while being reminded about my cracked boat by Mike Braun.
Greg Babikoff standing out at the racer's meeting
My budding friendship with the Whitman College crowd would be solidified in early May with a trip to the Lochsa. Within hours of arriving at camp, it became clear to me that a certain Tom Whipple would be a friend and paddling partner of great promise (and incessant self expression, in an endearing way, of course). High water lead to multiple laps of Fish Creek, the spectacular Lochsa, and one nonstop blitz down Boulder Creek.

All you need to know about Boulder
Tom enjoys the ride at Lochsa Falls
And Chloe refuses to accept her fate.

Needless to say, I was hooked on Idaho, and weasled my way onto a Middle fork trip within the week.
Michael Jorgenson, Katie Chapman, Devin Kuh, and Adam Michel would all be making their first trip down, and it was only during the long drive to the put in that I discovered we'd also be paddling the Main Salmon- upping our trips mileage to the low 200 mile range. In 4 days. Not bad for my second ever multiday. 

Remarkably, we managed to find a pit toilet every day on the water... no Groover for me.

The crew takes a gander at Dagger falls, the biggest rapid of the trip
As we slowly returned to the daily grind, I had the fortune to show Adam and Tom down a near flooded Canyon Creek. They performed well, especially considering they had anticipated the usual intro to class IV+ creek and were met by a pushy class V river.

After an aborted mission to Upper Lewis Falls inspired by Harrison, we concocted a 36 hour blitz to the Skykomish drainage, inviting Mr. Whipple at the last moment, ensuring a true adventure. Faced with a raging Top Tye, we opted for the (still) wood-choked Lower tye, followed by an exciting Foss lap. Poor Tom biked our shuttle... in the wrong direction in the fading light. An easy Skykomish lap provided a good warm down the following day, and we battled traffic to Portland.
Upper Lewis, burlier than expected 
Tom being Tom, and Harrison being Harrison
I somehow found myself joining Jarred Jackman and Nate Merrill on their first Salmon River Canyon trip. We were fortunate enough to have first descent mastermind Jacob Cruser along to offer beta. Half canyoneering adventure, half kayaking trip,  Salmon River Canyon is not to be missed. Anotyher C&K writeup found here.
Nate and Jarred look on while Jacob styles the first drop of Frustration Falls
The next day, I hopped aboard a plane and entered the wettest June my hometown has seen in recorded history. Great friends highlighted the high water, best described via photos.
Whitewater Zenmaster  and Mountain Man Outdoor Manager Will Crimmins
hooked it up in a big way, providing me with a boat to paddle while in NY.
Morning Moose with Brian Murphy
 Chris Peck and Tony Gianfagna followed me blindly down the highest water descent of Brokeback Gorge, a new classic in the Northern NY region. When there's water, this creek offers one of the most committing series of drops in NY, perhaps the entire Northeast, culminating in a blind 45 foot waterfall.

High water Independence is nothing for Todd Caza

Scott Martin's first time down the Otter,
and first time having his photo taken?
Finally in a real creekboat, Scott Martin goes huge, running Rainbow Falls on the Oswegatchie River.
Will Crimmins finishes the crux of Brokeback Gorge, 3rd descent.

David Carey amidst stacked action in Brokeback Gorge's fourth descent.
Just as the rivers were drying up, my flight for the PNW was set to leave. I rejoined my Portland friends for the classic summer season Oregon and Washington, joining Gus Kilgore for his first lap down the Green Truss on the White Salmon
A stellar line through Double Drop
Tom Whipple would again inspire a long string of far fetched boating dreams come true...
Somewhere on the Ohanapecosh

Probing down the lowwater (but still great!) Cooper

Myself, feeling confident in the thick of Last Exit on the Tumwater
Tom Whipple Photo
A successful Upper Upper Cispus and nearly portageless Truss to Columbia run on the White Salmon capped off the summer season in the PNW.
Tom and Connor Dixon at the Cispus
Stuart having fun on the Middle White.
I hopped aboard a plane to revisit the ultra classic Beaver River Festival near my hometown in NY. There, I was joined with tons of friends and family. With nothing left to prove to myself, this year's beaverfest was the most relaxed I've ever had. It was great too, since I got to show Scott Martin around for his first time.
Scott follows Dustin down one of the best rapids in NY, Moshier Falls.

Danny Siger skies the boof on one of many laps.
Less than a week after my return to the northwest, I rallied north to BC with Harrison Rea, Niko Peha, and Ben Ghertner. We joined Matt Taylor and Sam Swanson on an ominously high Clendinning River, which resulted in an epic portagefest, and some seriously stout whitewater run blind in loaded boats.
Stoked on our shuttle
Unwilling to let the dream end, I joined a big crew from Portland for their first time down the Ashlu Box.
Shortly afterwards, the Whitman connection grew yet again, with an invitation to Hells Canyon on the Snake. New friends Kira McGuisssomethingorother and Thomas Moo-My would also be joining.
Thomas took the hero line.

For my 22nd birthday, I somehow convinced Harrison Rea to run Metlako for his first time, and my third time. He ended up styling it. I did not.

Harrison in a classic place
This is what happens when you boof an 80 footer.
somehow I didn't break my back, and I'm still grateful for that.
After my near miss at Metlako, I no longer had a boat, and I was honestly a little scared of running anything too stout. For some reason, Upper Upper Cispus at a high flow didn't register to me as "stout" (more likely didn't register at all), so I joined Ryan Cole and Jah Bradley for their first ever laps down the classic. We decided the water was a bit high at Island, and discovered a relatively easy hike out there.
Ryan boofs, while I realize the river is definitely rather high.
Halloween proved to be a gorgeous day. We even spotted some wild horses on the river.
Myself on Big Bro
Gus Kilgore Photo
A surprisingly warm november day on the Truss with Jarred Jackman
I've been shooting Big Brother a lot, but it's hard to find a unique angle. Some brainstorming and Harrison's background in slacklining provided the perfect opportunity to do something a bit out of the ordinary.
Alex Loren on the line, Harrison Rea on another kind of line.
2013 was a huge year for me, made possible (and even better) by great friends. My new year will start equally blessed by these people in the Grand Canyon. I'm especially excited by the support from eNRG Kayaking and Clif Bar for the extra snacks, Pyranha Kayaks for designing the bad ass Shiva I'll be taking down the river, Goog's Oceanside Pizza for the longest pizza delivery in the history of the world, and of course my family, who have been so incredibly supportive of my ridiculous habits.

Thanks for reading, and for more photos from 2013 and beyond, take a look at the Photo Annual of The Dirtbag's Guide to Whitewater, due out New Years Eve!

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I am a freelance writer and photographer, collector of experiences, adventure lover, and outdoor goer.

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