Sep 25, 2012

Low Water

When the water gets low on the classic runs here in the PNW ya gotta head upstream to the not-so-classic, somewhat-remote, and at times uber-committing "way-up-there" kinda runs. The kinda places bears don't even get into. The kinda places the old timers who  invented  the Forest Service put up signs for. Yep, I'm talking about the box canyons, every mountain's got a few. Some of 'em aren't even survivable. When dropping into a box where the only way out is downstream, scout before you route. That way when you find a stout, there's no need to pout. Cuz you know you can get out!

Mt Rainier has just such a Box
Muddy Fork of the Cowlitz

coulda stayed for days..
 just shootin' shots

 unique unformulated perfection

hard to think of anything out here

Karen Marley works on Oblivion

shooting all things large and small

even the ants make little box canyons
first drops of the Muddy Fork of the Cowlitz
terminus of rocky class II

stouts in a box

a box canyon paddler's worst nightmare

Jeremy and I headed downstream to see what other stouts were lurking. I had my Gorge Beast detector set on high... just in case. Hard to see 'em though all that murky water. The Muddy Fork's Lower Canyon is an easier version of the upper canyons, and while still committing much more 'user friendly'. Although one poorly placed log would spell disaster in any of the Muddy's canyons. The upper canyons were much steeper with a kaleidoscope of marginal to unrunnable drops, the main problem being many of the harder drops require different flows for optimal lines. Crushing holes above lethal features have kept paddlers out of many of the Muddy Fork's upper canyons.

bottom of the drop pictured above
*note the severely undercut river right wall
The current exploded at the bottom of this drop, erupting in massive plumes and boils, all going straight into the right wall without slowing or even hesitating. This undercut extended 25 feet downstream and who knows how far under the wall. Just downstream, another amazing wall and bedrock outcrops. The Muddy Fork just keeps givin'!

After several more snakes and curves this happened.

30 feet high?

more raw power unleashed no one ever sees

Hard to see here, but this drop is a beast dropping 45 feet. The river right side falls behind/just upstream of the water pouring off the river left falls. So burly. While there are runnable drops in these upper canyons, access will keep only the most adventurous crews out of here. A crew that's hahdened-da-fukk-up is what it's gonna take. Because rappelling in, running one or two marginal drops, then being hauled back out is the only option.
I'm tellin' ya.. get out to the woods
Jeremy and Karen had to get back. I kept going another mile or so, only to be stopped by a little tributary coming in. Seems like everything in this zone is a box. The 'side creek' dropped into it's own sick little canyon via an absolutely stunning 200 foot entrance falls. No words can describe the majesty in this area. I will be back because one day in here just isn't enough.

more Muddy Fork from waaay up

Box Canyon was still too high to run when we were here

panorama of another little canyon not far from the Box

Mt Rainier has some of the prettier places I've found in WA. And I've poked around a bit. If you haven't been I suggest making a weekend of it and if your leaving from the Seattle/Tacoma area, take Highway 169 to 410 east, up to the junction with 123, through the park. It really is a beautiful scenic drive and in the summer months, when those passes are open for travel, shaves about an hour off your time instead of going the long way around coming in on 12 through Packwood. Happy travels y'all.  Enjoy the woods.

Sep 7, 2012

A Warrior's Path

We are all challenged by our own lives...

         ...face things which tear us down to our core
                                and reveal things we truly fear.
Being dismantled is as much a part of natural life
as finding contentment in a field of grass and radiant warmth.

I have yet to come out the other side...

and find the reason to my life's rhyme. So I keep looking..  
Inspiration comes, and pain is met with a resounding tone 
of acceptance along with a feeling of familiarity. I've been here before.
...trying to love what IS.

The Warrior's path isn't always pleasant..   or rewarded. Often,
 it is not even understood,  and at times feared..   
           even ridiculed. 
It takes true courage to live a life and accept all that comes...

                            and keep going.

Respect to those who continue on into the face of the unknown, making discovery about themselves and the world which surrounds them...   and those things which we all fear. 
Fear of the unknown is the greatest fear of all. For no one knows what we are truly capable of...    how ferocious..   kind..   horrific..   endangered..   artistic..   damaged..    or loving.

...until we test ourselves..    and show ourselves.      Respect.

OF SOULS + WATER: THE NOMAD from NRS Films on Vimeo.

Sep 5, 2012

"Product testing" in Chelan Gorge

A sweet little edit from the boys over at Boogie Water Productions. Testing the limits of what a sprayskirt can withstand. Marco Collela, Alex Podolak, and Brett Barton go deep into the recesses of one of Chelan Gorge's gnarlier drops, Meat Locker. Gorge Beasts salivate at the bottom of this deep, boxed in 20 foot ledge drop. It is imperative to keep it together here as a swim will put you in a swarm of evil beasts with some serious down time. Rolling the dice?? Meat Locker just might be your 'winna winna, chicken dinna!!' Keep it classy, y'all. Thanks to Boogie Water for the sick flick!

Releases in the Chelan Gorge happen this year, the weekend of Sept 15-16, 2012. These releases are part of an ongoing cooperative agreement between American Whitewater, advocacy group for whitewater kayakers, and the PUD for Chelan county. Lots of work and thousands of man hours have gone toward getting these releases, from all sides. We thank all parties involved including Tom O'keefe from AW, and many others near and far, including local town folk who always greet us kayakers with warm smiles as we 'relax' at local watering holes in town during the weekend.

The only way to keep this whitewater opportunity available to.. really, anyone.. is to sign up through Chelan PUD's website. It takes literally one minute, two if you're slow, like me. These releases have been 10 years in the making and are a privilege for kayakers as demand necessitates releases; i.e. no demand, no release. So sign up!!

In the meantime... here's a little somthin' to get ya fired up!!! SYOTChelan

Sep 4, 2012

Nomads and the SF Sauk

       "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
         I took the one less traveled by,
         And that has made all the difference"
                                          -Robert Frost

I've always been one to explore and push it a little. Exploring my own limits mostly. When I got my first mountain bike I figured out how to ride down stairs and haul ass in rush hour traffic pretty quick. I liked seeing new things and places. A few close calls, but I never got squished during all those lane changes, curb jumps, populated-stairway-descents (even when I had to stop halfway down for some girl who had to tell me I was endangering lives pulling a stunt like this). I stopped long enough for her to say her peace as she stood defiantly in my path. I never put a foot down, just let her finish and focused on the middle of my bars. People turned around to see what was happening, then parted as I slowly ka-lopped down the other 212 treads.

I remember the first time I ran the Foss, I was with Rob McKibbon and Andy Bridge. At that time I had been paddling 5 or 6 years, but had only done a handful of rivers. I remember telling Andy that I was scared and this was some of the biggest stuff I had ever paddled and he told me that I just needed to paddle more rivers.

I took his advice. This year started out with big plans and high hopes. I spent a lot of time on the Olympic Peninsula, spent a lot of time exploring in general. Had to deal with the first real injury of my life and.. well, had to pull back some to allow myself to heal. I've never thought twice about anything I've ever physically done. I used to jump off roofs, roller blade down hills at 40 mph, passing cars. Rode through rush hour traffic downtown Seattle on a mountain bike... a lot. I've always been one to need to see new places and have a constant supply of fresh stimuli to keep my going and maintain a feel of breakneck speed. I won't tell you how many transmissions I've gone through.

One day, I was paddling with my good friend and fellow Creek Side nomad, Kris Wilson. We met up at a little creek in the North Cascades around 9am. He'd camped the night before and since I was a bit "late" he decided to paddle the first lap solo. By the time I showed up he'd already completed the run and jogged the shuttle. I met him as he was driving back down from the put in. "It's LOW dude!" were the first words out of his mouth as we greeted each other with ear-to-ear grins. I figured he would've already done a lap before I got there even though I left Seattle at an early hour. That's Wilson for ya. That guy's soloed more hard stuff than just about anyone and he's one of my closest friends. The first time I ever talked to him we spent 3 or 4 hours on the phone and knew pretty quick we had the same blood coursing in our veins.

We cracked a couple beers and flipped through the Bennett Book, to decide what our next run of the day would be. Sure it was 9 am, but we were in the woods on a fine spring day with nothing more important to do than discover what else was out there to bomb down!

After a fair bit of deliberation (read=more that 2 minutes) we decided on something in the Skykomish drainage. From where we were I figured it was going to take a good couple hours to get there and there wasn't going to be a straight shot. There were two routes, one I hadn't been before. Being of the nomadic persuasion, our path was clear.

Our destiny laid unwritten as we drove south following the Sauk River upstream to Barlow Pass and the forgotten mining town of Monte Cristo. Finally the Sauk disappeared and another very boatable stream came into view not long after. The South Fork of the Sauk which I had never heard of bumped along, of the class II-III variety. It was pretty and the water was clear. A pleasant feeling overtook me at the discovery of the unexpected. Soon enough the character changed and became class IV, then V. It didn't take long for our wanderlust to kick in as we hatched a plan. Did I mention the SF Sauk is quite roadside?

Soon enough we were at a fine spot to get in. We were off. The continuous nature and gradient matched the SF Sauk's big sister, the Cascade River. Lots of great IV-IV+ with just the right amount of class V made this newfound roadside gem a perfect way to celebrate an early start to this day. We would revel in our discovery for weeks to come!

We did a great little section with lots of continuous IV-V boulder gardens, ledges and boofs. It was all I could think about. The following weekend a group came up from Portland and we did the same stretch again following a stellar run on Robe Canyon!! We camped up near Barlow Pass as I tried to convince them to 'pass' on Ernie's Canyon, a section of the NF Snoqualmie (a really looong drive), instead to explore more of the SF Sauk with me. They passed on my idea, but I had a fever... and, well.. Bruce Dickinson wasn't around and I had left the cowbell at home. So there was only one thing to do, put on at the top..

I put on about 8am and was pleasantly surprised with more of the same character as was on the lower section in a slightly smaller river bed. There was a fair bit of wood, but there seemed to always be a way through. I got out to scout a few times, but overall the character was reasonably clean with some really great drops and continuous nature. Stoked!! By now I had driven this section of road a few times and knew there was a lake which split the run into an upper and lower section. I was just going to run the upper and hike back to the van. Did I mention this area is chocked full of meth-heads?? Watch your stuff in here. I got back to the van around 11:30am to find 3 of my windows had been 'dusted' off (it's pretty dusty, too) as if someone were peering in... don't leave anything you aren't willing to part with if you do this section. Fortunately, the windows were still in tact and everything safe and sound. SF Sauk is a hit!!

putting in below Elliot Creek for a sweet run down the Lower SF Sauk

one of the big stompers on SF Sauk

there are a few active sieves on this run, as demonstrated here
 halfway down on the river right and left

plenty of sweet bouldery action

Overall I would rate the two sections IV+ (V) at the lower end, and solid V as levels rise. The continuous nature combined with wood and sieves will require paddlers to stay on their toes all the way to the take out! Plenty of good boat scouting for experienced class V paddlers as well, which was good for my knee as it was still not 100%. If a big flood or some hungry beavers made homes here this section would get even better. As this stretch gets paddled more the lines will become more defined and it will certainly be a good alternative if Robe is too high in the fall or locals are looking for something off the beaten path to explore. It's worth doing and you can be this Creek Sider will be back! Until then, thanks for stopping by. Happy boofing to all and to all.. a good flight.