Monday, November 08, 2010

Green Race 2010

What a scene. Photo by Shane Benedict.

One must love thyself before one can ever try to love anyone else. This may sound selfish; but if, we are not happy and loving within ourselves, how can one ever imagine to inspire the same within another? With that said, I try to do what makes me the most happy. Happiness doesn't come for free. Whether you're a master of the custodial arts, working to pay off your Buick Regal; or a kayaker, stroking through endless flat-water to sculpt that wicked 6 pack for the Given'er Race. Work is a necessary step in the stairway to heaven we are all climbing up.

Will Pruett about to Sting the Gorilla. Photo by Shane Benedict.

I don't know if every kayaker wants to race the Green, but it sure seems like they should. I'm not a big fan of competition, and find it hard to push myself in hopes of beating a fellow burl-charger. However, I believe, or should I say embrace, the idea that we are all out there to have fun and cheer on each and one another, as we push our physical limits on a stretch of river that is not only beautiful and fun, but also difficult and demanding.

Curt 'Bag' Lamberth getting stylish in Go Left. Photo by Robert Haigh

People travel from all over the world to experience the grandeur, excitement, and fun that ensues from kayakers, spectators, and gorillas giving themselves away to a greater sense of oneness that develops from the Green Race. We are all out there to have fun, and in this unifying connection, a great sense of awareness and dare-ness develops that leads to something that is hard to put into words.

Drew Duval getting angry with the Squirrel. Photo by Lee Timmons.

Immersing oneself in the river, we usually feel free and disconnected from the daily external stresses that occur in modern life. The Green Race, on the other hand, actually combines the freedom of paddling with the stress of work and society. You are not only trying to have fun and make it down the river; but also, go fast, stay focused, and avoid eating a stone. Its ironic, how giving away your freedom to go at whatever pace you please, and forcing yourself to go as hard as you can, actually feels refreshing-- especially after you finish the race!

Taft enjoying the Hungee. Copyright Chris Bell/ Used with permission.

I can't imagine a better way to see old friends, meet new ones, charge some righteous swirls, drink some white lightning, and party like its 1999. I hope to make it back for this event of epic proportions every year. It makes me, and what seems like, a thousand other people, really happy; and that, my friends, is what counts in life! This is all I know, and knowing is half the battle.

Nick Murphy and I enjoying a few post-boating-refreshments. Photo by Shane Benedict

Thanks to all the great people who make this race happen, and a special thanks to Charles Armentrout for loaning me his Stinger. Until next time, Charge On!

Here is a little post-race Shine action my buddy Gareth Tate documented.

Everybody Shines from 7 Finger media on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Middle Kings

Greetings fellow Sentient Beings!

The Middle Fork of the Kings river in California is like an old wooden ship, which I believe defines diversity. If you give her respect, proper permission, effort, attention, and admiration; she will reward you with the greatest ride of your life. However, if you neglect these simple principals, she will leave you cold, wet, hungry, hurt, and stranded for Bears to come along and eat your heart out. She is guarded by the towering snowy peaks of the Sierras; so that, one must be strong, willing, and motivated just to catch a glimpse of her majesty. If you so desire to ride her emerald green maelstrom of swirls, waterfalls, and rare pools, come prepared to do battle with yourself, possibly your friends, and most certainly some challenging whitewater!

What I love about the Middle Kings expedition is its diversity of trials and tribulations you must go through to complete such an epic journey. The trip begins as you use a modern chariot to transport yourself 300 miles across the Sierra Nevada's to Bishop, CA. Drew whipped all 200 or so nimble and fast Subaru horses into action, and we enjoyed the scenic drive through magnificent Yosemite NP. Once at Base Camp, Bishop, be sure to stop by the Ranger station, and speak with an old man at first, but then realize, sooner than later, that he is losing his wits, and must be traded for a much more agile young female ranger, who will give you a free permit to legally gain residency in the Kings castle. Find a local market, and obtain foods that are light, never up tight, and out of sight; as you will need plenty of caloric energy to replenish your weary muscles after long days of battle. You should attempt to rig up some sort of kayak carrying device, but really hope and pray that a wise man will come along and show you the way up and over the 12,000' high Bishop Pass. Drew brought his rather pleasant lady friend Karen and her friend Mary Jane as witnesses to the grandeur in which one must work through to reach the headwaters of the Middle King. They began their ascent earlier than I, and thankfully, Jason Hale, my wise man, celebrated the beginning of our hike with a cold Budweiser.

The celebration was short-lived, as my so-called kayak backpack rapidly inflicted gross amounts of pain upon my feeble mind and body. After making up to 10 vain attempts to correct the system, the sun was fading quickly in the distance, and I hadn't made much progress. Therefore, I decided to abandon my ship and give word to Mr. Hale that I wouldn't be continuing into The Canyon. Luckily, my wise man, wouldn't take no for an answer and helped fix my spirits, backpack, and energy levels. With a fresh breath of air under my sail, I took off in pursuit of Drew and the ladies. Standing at the base of Bishop Pass is one of the many intimidating sights one sees on the trip; however, with our life-giving sun retiring to the west, our motivation to push on into the cold unknown of the alpine night was lacking. Therefore, the wise Jason suggested we camp below the Pass and get an early start the following day. I concurred, and we set up camp for the night while enjoying a night under our lunar lad. Of course, we didn't wake-up near as early as hoped, but made quick time of the arduous Bishop Pass summit, and re-united with Drew and the crew near Dusy Basin. Trust me, if you've made it this far, don't think its over with, because going down is just as hard as going up with a 100lb turtle shell on your back.

When you finally arrive in Le Conte Canyon where you catch your first sight of his majesty, your muscles are screaming at you to stop, but your mind is telling you to reap the rewards of your hiking, and ride the liquid that will take you through a granite wonderland. Our friend Nathan Klema showed up with a crew of Colorado chargers ready to pilot their crafts down the mighty Middle Kings. After a brief discussion, it was realized that Nate and the crew hadn't spoken with the young lady ranger, and were lacking an important piece of paper. Never fear, the beauty of kayaking is freedom, and with that freedom, we are able to go places where other non-equipped people can't go. So, they took off downstream to reap the rewards of their effort, and we shortly followed suit. Feeling beat down from the energy sapping hike, we didn't venture too far into the Canyon before finding a sweet piece of Granite slab to call home for the night.

The next day, our CO companions started off the Charge by routing through our camp rapid while we were still cooking breakfast on the fire. I was able to document their swift and courageous paddle strokes, which gave them smooth rides down the tight pinch drop into a nice Disney-esque slide. Stoked on life, we geared up and immersed ourselves in the cold flow of the river-- something that feels so natural to me. Soon, we were eddied out scouting the 7 Rivers Expedition cover shot rapid, which the CO boys fittingly called Squeeze Play. Drew and Hale fired into the 4 foot wide slot that the river comes tumulting through and over a 15' drop. I decided to give Drew the documenting device for once, and he captured me Charging though an amazing gateway to the soul. As we expected, our group of 3, that had all experienced the Kings before, caught the 5 Kings virgin Coloradoans, and respectfully played on through.

At one of our breaks, Drew mentioned to me that if I wanted to be a great filmmaker like Daniel DeLavergne, R.I.P, I was going to have to start running rapids first and blind. His advice took hold, and I proceeded to Charge into the Money Drop and so on to capture Drew and the Wise Man in battle. Giving my Full Throttle attention to His Majesty, I was able to successfully navigate through the Devils Washbowl's, which contains many powerful slides, swirls, and stones. Our energy levels were off the Richter, and soon I found myself in the lead again bombing into rapids I couldn't remember. I tried to catch a weak swirl, but the river swept me away and I was forced to look down the barrel of a big burly rapid and giver her what I had, which was barely enough for the toll, but the Wise Man wasn't so fortunate.

I embraced a large stone in the middle of the river after said rapid, and I felt something dislodge me from behind. Jason had followed my irresponsible lead, and as he resurfaced from the drop, his eye made significant contact with the gear laden stern of my boat. The meeting was too abrupt, and forced separation of the skin above the Wise Man's right eyebrow. Hale enthusiastically informed me that my insane bombing techniques aren't exactly 'safe' for the team. A Wise Man is always prepared, and Hale is no exception, which is one of the many awesome reasons I enjoy kayaking with him. He used his Iphone to take a picture of his wound, and being a nurse, diagnosed the cut and guided Drew to repair the damage with his superior med-kit. I took a much needed safety break, and agreed to run sweep to avoid further mad bombing carnage.

Soon, we approached what Taylor Cavin has so eloquently dubbed Raw Dogg Falls gorge, which beholds a magnificent 30' waterfall. Unfortunately, Drew's boat didn't want to scout, and took off downstream without its skilled pilot. I jumped in after it, but had to abort the rescue due to the proximity of another rapid. We took off running downstream after the red beast, and caught a glimpse of it Charging over the 30'er. Drew and Hale decided to probe the nooks and crags close to where the incident happened, where as, I began running down the well established trail praying to see red at every opening. After, about a mile or so, I was rewarded with a beautiful glimpse of red plastic wedged ever-so perfectly against the right wall. I thought I was going to die running back in my super warm Kokatat dry suit, but made it back in time to stop Drew from paddling my yellow boat, which he actually owns, in search of his red boat. Hale and I put back in the river and paddled some standard Class V+ Middle Kings Burl in hot pursuit of Drew's boat.

We carabinered a throw-rope onto Drew's pinned boat and began tugging, but our strength was too much for the grab-loop, and it broke, sending the carabiner directly into Drew's shin. He was a bit disappointed to say the least. However, after Hale and I paddled some more super-scary rapids, we saw Drew re-united with his boat downstream. Come to find out though, that Drew's Watershed dry-bag was missing, containing his precious food, camera, and amenities. Luckily, his dry-bag carrying his sleeping bag and pad were still on board. Without the kayak's skilled pilot, and full of water, the boat came into severe contact with a few hefty stones. These encounters left the boat mangled on the bow and stern, but still sea-worthy.

The next day, we continued our rapid descent into the section of river that beholds the Big Bad Beaver. We could tell the river-level was definitely on the 'High Side of Good', and upon reaching the BBB, our thoughts were confirmed by a massive stream of white cascading down the perfect granite. We scouted the rapid thoroughly, and discussed possible approaches to running the beast. In the end, the Wise Man was the only one brave enough to run it, and he did so with style. His energy was rampant having completed the largest of the runnable rapids on the Kings, and it is something I want to experience someday. We thought there weren't many more significant rapids below the BBB, but we were wrong, again, as the King never seems to let you put your guard down.

Finally, we reached the sacred Tehipite Dome camp-site, and were stunned to see a non-kayaker camping at our usual spot. I quickly realized that this man, named Bob Kannen, was a Ranger, and went over to see what he was doing. As most Rangers are, he was very serious and inquisitive into our doings. We explained that our permit was in Drew's lost dry-bag, and so, he wrote down our information to confirm validity of our stay. He was very dissapointed that we didn't have a map, but we tried to explain why we don't need a map, seeing that the only way out is downstream, for us, at least. He took a picture of us, and explained that the Park Service wants to monitor our tirps in there. I guess they want to feel apart of it too. Knowing that our Colorado com-padres didn't have a permit, I hurried upstream to their camp where I informed them of Bob's presence. Once again, they used their freedom to elude a possible confrontation.

The bottom 9 miles of the Middle Kings is by far the most continuous stretch of whitewater I have ever paddled. Many of the rapids are simply too crazy too run, and so, you must expend a lot of energy carrying your kayak around and through the maze of boulders, trees, and poison oak that lines the banks. Nonetheless, this is my favorite section of river, as you are able to 'Mad Bomb' many of the sweet boulder-garden style rapids with a firm grip on your black shaft. We made amazing time through this section, having planned to paddle the lower Garlic Falls section the same day.

I was tired around noon, when we passed the confluence of the Middle and South Kings rivers, where we planned to take a break. Jason and Drew were way out ahead of me, as I was pleasantly floating along enjoying the spectacular scenery. They didn't even notice the confluence, which doubled the flow, and added a nice warmth to the river. I guess they were still in Charge-mode. Drew, having a leaky boat, got out to drain at the first big rapid of Garlic Falls, but Hale decided to fire right in without having a scout. I followed suit, and saw Jason get back-endered out of a big hole. Luckily, I also went super-deep in the hole, and back-endered my way out too, but enthusiastically motioned for Hale to pull over as I was lacking energy to continue into the next rapid.

As usual, Hale did as he pleases, and dropped over into the next rowdy pour-over hole. I looked over my shoulder from the eddy above to see Jason getting pummeled in the swirl. I quickly jumped out with my throw-rope to rescue him from further torture, but he made it out of the hole on his own accord. However, as so many paddlers have also experienced, he hit a stone just as he was attempting a desperate roll, and ended up swimming into the pool he had already floated it into. I laughed at him, seeing that he was alright, only to see Drew getting destroyed in the hole that Hale and I barely made it through. I was already set-up for rescue, but as Drew swam out of the hole upstream, he was swept over to the river-left, where if, I would have thrown him a rope, he would have been pulled into the hole Jason swam out of. Therefore, I just yelled encouragement at Drew to swim for the pool at the bottom with his gear. He wasn't too happy that I didn't throw him a rope, but I took off paddling downstream as he wasn't able reel his boat in himself.

I eventually was able to dock Drew's heavy, water-logged, kayak as he made his way downstream on foot. Drew and Hale, having just gotten beat-down, weren't feeling too 'fired up', and so, we played it conservative in the remaining burly big-water of the Garlic Falls. We were surprised to see some rafters down there, scouting a rapid with a typical big hole at the bottom. We walked around it, but one of the rafters, also named Will, Charged in there, and got worked a little bit, but came out fine. I was feeling really good at this point, having completed the majority of the rapids without getting worked. Therefore, I resumed 'Mad Bombing' many of the remaining rapids, also pulling over to let the others take the lead. I Charged into one I couldn't see, and got worked in a big swirl, but after embracing the chaos, I was let free, still connected with my boat.

We made it to the take-out sometime in the afternoon, having paddled 19 miles of epic whitewater that day, we were relieved to be off the water. My rock house worked at keeping my cooler full of PBR in the riverbed, but the water had dropped so much that it was no longer submersed. No worries though, the beer was still chill, and we toasted to victory. Cruising out in my 84' Ford Escort diesel, we weren't in luxury, but we were moving along for super-cheap at around 40mpgs with kayaks on top. The 300 mile shuttle is quite an endeavor in itself, and forced us to camp out near Tuolumne Meadows, running out of stamina to push on through the night. We made it full circle, as we were greeted by the beauty of South Lake once again, and parted ways, hoping that this wouldn't be that last time to experience the exhaustion, relief, and satisfaction that comes from finishing a Middle Fork of the Kings 'high-water' expedition.

I was able to get some pretty good footage from the trip, and made a little video using music from my friend Omega. All photos were taken by The Wise Man. Check out the video here...

Peace, Love, and :)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Southern Boys doing South Forks in Cali

South Merced

I always had the impression that the South Merced is the 'easy' class V overnighter of Cali.... boy was I wrong. Drew is a big fan of the late Lars Holbek, and heard that this was Lars's favorite run. So, Drew wanted to experience it as Lars did by taking his 13' Green boat, fully loaded with air mattress, camp chair, beer, and soup. I think he went a little overboard. Johnny Kentucky was our guide, and declared it to be medium high at 900cfs on the first day, which we routed down quickly, having Drew probe many large continuous rapids in his hole-killing torpedo. In action below.

Johnny fires it up.

There are some swirls in there.

Immersed in the chaos, we feel at home.

We camped at Super Slide and went to sleep hearing the massive slide become louder and louder. The next morning we awoke to drizzly rain and high water.

An ominous feeling filled the air as we ran the first few burly rapids.

Drew hit some clutch boofs with grace in the big old barge.

Kentucky nodded and said the rapid One In a Million wasn't far downstream. I came around the river bend, seeing Drew and Johnny eddied out on the right, but realized I couldn't make the eddy. I locked and loaded as it became apparent that I was about to run One in a Million blind. The line was clear, and I charged right giving her a big old boof, landing in a turbulent swirl that launched me into the right wall. I embraced the wall and unknowingly avoided the hole. It was a spiritual moment, where I was swept away by the river, resisting any desire to back out or scout, I turned and burned. I find that I run rapids best when I feel as though I'm going into battle fighting for my life. Here is Drew eddying out below One in a Million.

This was Cali tongue just below 1 in a Mil.

Drew ran some massive rapids.

He was fired up about it too.

Kentucky ended up fighting for his life in a massive swirl, and Drew threw a touchdown pass to real Johnny in to safety above more burl. Hand paddles are better than no paddle, and KY got it done with them. Here is a video Drew edited of the footage I captured on the trip.

South Branch

Soon after that adventure into Yosemite, my good buddy Nick Muphy flew in from Chattanooga, and gained residency into the millennium falcon, aka the veggie wagon. Word from Darin arrived that the South Branch was running; so, we rallied on over to run some waterfalls with our fellow brethren. Heres Nick letting the turbo booster out on a fatty boof.

Darin decided to style 99 problems.

Jonas decided to run it switch.

Jakub Nemec was in the area, and routed off China Slide with ultra funky fresh style, like peanut butter on rye.

Jakub also made a video from the stellar day.

It was good to be on the water on a warm sunny day with good friends at a good flow.

photo by Laura Farrel

I rolled the dice and got lucky.

photo by Laura

Rodrigo from KayakPucon was there and fired it up.

Nick isn't afraid to Charge.

The perfect 50 gave me a little smack on the lip the 1st day, and so, I used some hand paddles to be safe on the next run, but still got my redemption with my paddle on the 3rd day.

photo by Darin Mcquoid

After 3 days of hiking up and out of the edge of the world, we headed up to the Silver Fork and found high water. Heres Nick charging into the first rapid on the SF.

All you can see is Nick's paddle in this giant swirl.

Dustin Marquart was in from Asheville, and stuck a nice boof off the tricky right slot.

As you can see in this pic, the river was very high, and we realized this was too much water for the 400fpm gorge downstream. Thus, we decided to make the easy and short hike out, being my first hike-out due to high water. Good decision.

Then we went back to the ever so classic South Merced for a one day descent and only got out to film the last rapid-- Fire Hydrant. Heres KY firing into it.

Nick was the only one who hadn't done the run before, and wasn't too uncomfortable routing the big burly rapids.

It was good to be back in there on a sunny day.

The weather has been crazy here in Cali the last few weeks as we have been dealing with colder temperatures and some precipitation. We hoped for the Yuba Gap last weekend, but the dam company only gave us flows too high and too low. Nonetheless, we were able to catch Golden Gate and Upper Middle Consumes thanks to the colder weather dropping the levels into a more sane range. Of course, we have been getting regular runs on the Green of California-- the South Yuba from Purdens to Bridgeport. Its the Green of CA b/c its easy to access, always running, no portages, chicks in bikinis, and great rapids. We hope to get Yuba Gap and Kimshew soon. I hope my videocamera starts working again. Until next time... Charge on!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Southern Sierra

Drew, Jason Hale, and I loaded up the longboats in SF, and immediately the smack talking began about Skyhook and Brush Creek Race. Hale brought full on moto gear in preparation for running the big rapid on the East Kaweah that most people happily walk around in the poison oak-- Skyhook. First off, Hale convinced us that the new landslide in the beginning of EK was good to go, and quite fittingly dubbed it "I didn't sign up for this Shit". Here is Danny Salzaar feeling safe in the Grande on said rapid.

Dodging overhanging rocks is typical of Chattaboogie whitewater, and thus, I felt right at home boofing into a sieve of sorts. Heres Hale in his moto gear running the burl, but opted for another day to make the Hook.

Taylor F and Laura F decided they weren't into it and rappelled down the boulder with Taylor Robertson's help.

When we got down to Triple Drop, I was behind Hale and he decided to route off it... so I followed. Luckily, we styled it, and got out to film the others charging it. Heres Laura boofing.

We took a quick safety break, and we felt pretty Charged up.

The next day, we rolled on over to the South Tule with high hopes, but got shut down by the local casino... Indian Reservation Land there and we didn't want to push our luck. So, we skipped over to the upper middle Tule. The flow was low, but the rapids were smooth and steep. Heres Hale flying off one of the better rapids.

Heres a sweet shot by my good bro Darin McQuoid of me on the same rapid.

Besides the portaging, it was a really quality run IMO. Danny firing it up.

Taylor Fearrington on the next cross grainer slot boof.

Old buddies having a good time. Taylor Robertson and Hale.

I saw one that looked like a typical SE manker, and gave her. She gave me a lil' back too.

DD styling another granite smoothie.

Hale dropping the best rapid on the run. Check out the cool tavertine effect on river right.

Taylor and Danny routed into this one blind and said it was knarly... so Drew fired it up of course.

Drew is also an underwater basket weaver.

Here is our German bro Jonas Making the line.

We drove up a nice dirt road next to a sick creek and camped. This was the sight along the way.

Then we headed to Brush Creek race with the longboats and had more fun than a barrel of monkeys. We met some awesome new friends, and of course, chilled with my old friends Eric and Rebecca Giddens. Heres Eric organizing the kayakers, including 9 year old Sage, who impressively styled the race.

Heres the Champ, Jason Hale, charging to ensure the win.

photo by Frank Walden

A brave soldier going into battle.

Boogie men came out of the closet to scare kids on the banks.

The Giant Slalom proved to be quite the challenge, and even served up some carn. Hale jumped in the river to help someone out of a swirl.

It was awesome to get in the Hungee on Brush.

photo by Frank Walden

Then we went back to East Kaweah for some big ole fatty boofs. Drew lays one out.

Cody Howard joined in on the Charge-fest also.

Knarmading down the creek.

This ain't Hale's first rodeo.

Mine neither.

Justin Patt busted a wicked rail grab.


Its just so dogg gone pretty in there.

Wilson Bell drove straight out from Asheville to get this blessed creek. You can see why.

Justin does what he wants.

This is what we live for. Taylor made a cool headcam movie from the Tule and East Kaweah. Here it is.

Tule and E. Kaweah Rivers With Taylor Robertson from Taylor Robertson on Vimeo.