Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Festival Time

Well, I know it's been a while since I last updated the old blog here, but to be honest there hasn't been  much to write about. Thankfully, the season has changed, and after a long, hot, dry summer here in Cali, a few rivers are coming back to life. Mainly because they are dam controlled and the reservoirs upstream need to be lowered for the winter rains, which I greatly anticipate!

This year, like so many years, I made my annual pilgrimage to the mighty Gauley river in West (by god) Virginia. My brother was keen on the mission, so we bought his some racks from Rock/Creekfor his silver 4-runner, aptly named Sylvester, and started the long drive north from Chattanooga. On the way, I tried to make as many copies of my new film called We Be Charging. It's a strictly kayaking movie, showcasing the classic rivers of Cali during one of the highest runoffs in recorded history, 2011! I only got 2 copies made, so I didn't exactly spread the gospel as hoped at Gauley Fest. But we did have a damn good time!

On the river, Bryce Evans let me borrow his General Lee painted squirt boat. My brother borrowed Bryce's Nomad, and before too long we were happily cruising down the Upper G baby! My brother hadn't paddled in a few years and the hardest thing he had paddled before the Gauley was the Ocoee. We were all a little nervous for his safety, but he made it very apparent he was ready for action when Adrien took him through the meat of the hole in Insignificant. My brother, Andrew, fought out of that hungry hippo like a kindergartner racing for recess! He was doing great until we reached the hardest rapid on the run, Lost Paddle.

People had been going him all sorts of conflicting and confusing beta about the rapid. So, unlike Insignificant, I had him follow me down. Well, we got to Hawaii five-o wave and he flipped, taking a massive shot to the face in the shallow slide downstream. It was a knockout punch that forced a wet-exit and lost paddle. Luckily, some fellow boaters lended us some hand-paddles, and Andrew finished the run strong!

After a long hard night of keg-stands and party antics, we made it back to river and started our second voyage down the river. Bryce put on quite the show at Pillow by splatting the Room Of Doom and stalling there for a while, laughing at the crowd the whole time. He was amped to say the least. Once again though, Lost Paddle had its sight set on Andrew, and he took another massive hit to the face in the 2nd drop. However, this time he took it like a man, and rolled up! On the shuttle ride out, we were making good use of Team Jib's new rig, Vandura, by cramming 12 people in there.

What goes on at Gauley-fest, stays at Gauley-fest. Enough said. When I returned back to my home town of Chattanooga, the skies closed and began to dump rain like it was going out of style! An event that calls for great celebration amongst my brethren, as our favorite waterways become primed for a good charging! Bryce, Taylor Martin, and I routed an old favorite, Little Possum creek. Bryce forgot we were at the 25'er and almost re-inacted the first descent, which gets it it's name Immodium because they almost pooped their pants upon free fall.

We then moved south to the local favorite, Bear creek. We had a nice medium-ish flow of 16''. Our good friend Jeff West had just passed away on the Stikine river in BC a week prior. So, our thoughts were definitely with Jeff, as he had more consecutive laps on this creek, and many others. Bryce and I didn't eddy out before Fishbowl, and upon landing the drop, Bryce said "let's go"! Knowing that we were going to have a spiritual moment blue-angelin' Stairway to Heaven, I gave Ryan Allen the look to follow suit. Paddling into Stairway, Bryce and I called to the heavens above, where we knew Jeff was looking down from, and dedicated our charge to him. We will always miss his contagious passion for kayaking!

As soon as I flew back to Cali, it was time for another paddle festival. Feather-fest! After a few warm up laps, I was feelin a bit tired but anxious o put down my time on this fun racecourse. Eric
Giddens was on hand, so I figured he would be the winner, being an ex-Olympian and all. I had a good fun run, and to my surprise, passed my friend Rusty Sage, someone I looked up to as a kid. The party started with a surfer band keeping people entertained until the award ceremony started. Macy put on quite a show for everyone, as the winners of the different classes in the Tobin race were forced to funnel gross alcoholic beverages. And the crown winners were flogged by a girl wearing black leather. I was forced to take a Felch MacGregor, Old English mixed with whiskey, for getting third behind Giddens and Patts tied winning time. Good times there for sure!

Next weekend was slated for Gnarlfest. So,Nick Murphy and I loaded up the Greenboats, and drove from Grass Valley to Little Grass Valley reservoir, which is still a 2 hr drive. Anxiety was a bit high as the run is pretty intense and we hadn't heard of anyone taking longboats down besides Nick's unplanned Corsica S run the week prior. The Greenboat ended up being incredible on the river, but brutal on the hike-out. Come race day, others were inspired to bring there Greenboats, and we had one hell of a good race! Justin Patt ended up chuggin the OG Four Loko, and raging late into the night. I somehow got second place, besting Nick by 6 seconds. Surprisingly, Jason Hale got last and was also forced to chug a 4 Loko. Inspiring him to put on a skin-tight gold suit and making everyone laugh until their face hurt. It was a great, grand, and wonderful time!

The next day we did what is so great about our sport, the actual kayaking! With that said, don't let the side facets of our small sport get in the way of getting out and enjoying a nice piece of whitewater. Until next time, keep this batteries charged!!!

Cheers-- Will Pruett

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Adventure Chasing

Greetings fellow earthlings! I hope you are charged up for life. My most recent, and only, high sierra river trip this year was on some obscure creek in the tuolumne drainage. My friends Ben Coleman, Thomas Moore, Nick Murphy, and yours truly formed up the team. Most of us, besides Nick, are on time constraints and therefore decided to execute the mission in a single day, whereas most spend a few days. This allowed us to make the scenic hike without the burden of camping gear. Still, the hike is a good distance, and thus, we got started at dawn. Big thanks to Ben Coleman for driving me back down to the take-out at 1AM because I left my bag of gear down there. 

Happy as a bug in a rug.
 The morning glow is an awesome way to start a hike. The temperature is cool and the light glows, as if shining through a jar of honey. Its always a good idea to hike with water, but I thought this organic sports drink called recharge would be as good or better. I thought wrong. When you are really parched, flavor just gets in the way of pure refreshment, in my opinion. 

Good morning.
 Water is scarce in the high, desert-like, sierras mountains. I don't always find a source when I want it, but when I do, I choose straight chugging as my means of hydration in the wilderness. What you believe is what you get. And I believe high sierra water is purer than anything you can get in, or from 'society'. 

Swamp crossing.
Throughout history, fires have scorched the forest we hike through to get to this certain creek. Fires are like a natural de-tox, I feel like, and we are preventing them all the time. Seems like a de-tox every now and then would be a good idea. I think it leaves a beautiful mark, wiping the slate clean for a fresh beginning.

Enjoying the scenery.
 Change is hard sometimes, but creates these places I enjoy so much. I started the hike feeling fresh as a pie, but after around 9 miles of hiking, I began to feel like a stale leftover. Perseverance must always be kept in mind, looking forward to the reward, but also, enjoying the current pain as well.

Granite wonderland.
 Once I arrived to the glorious sight of the creek, I was swarmed by a bunch of bloody insects, know, in parts, as skeeters. I'm not a big fan of skeeters and put on my drysuit with great haste, even though I was exhausted from the long hike I had just finished. We paddled down a short distance to the first main rapid of the run, hoping the skeeters would be less aggressive over there. Lets just say we didn't spend much time there either.

Joyfully greeted!
 The water was cold and swift, but not quite padding out the massive granite slab we were grinding over. I wasn't complaining, as I knew it would eventually channelize into one of the world's greatest slot canyons. I believe Ben was on the first descent of this creek, not that it really made a difference, as he does what we like to call, 'mob'. Whether he is on a river he has never paddled before, or on a run he has done a hundred times, Ben charges with great speed and skill! I consider him one of the original gangsters of califorina creeking.

First good rapid.
Eventually, after moving swiftly through the first few miles, we passed another crew of kayakers. What a coincidence! Its amazing they knew of this little creek also. I could tell they were from another country by their wide eyes and funny looking gear.

Entering the main gorge, we saw two fellows doing some boat assisted rock climbing. I have done that there before too! Upon seeing our first glimpse of the super-deep, walled-in, and spectacular gorge; we noticed three people, but only, two boats perched on a small riverside-ledge. This was confusing at first, as it seems nearly impossible to enter that gorge without a kayak.
Thomas in his element.
As usual, Ben charged off the slide with sweet grace, setting another safety option for us, still waiting to drop in. Nick went next with a good line, but Thomas went off a little too far right, and by the luck of Lucifer's taint, exited the pothole and weir, upside-down. I had a nice ride and immediately asked the other people on the, before mentioned, ledge what was up.

Me kayaking. Photo by Nick Murphy
Turns out one of the members of their group wasn't as lucky as Thomas, and got severely thrashed in the pothole and weir for about three minutes. Which left him life-less when they finally pulled him to shore. Being good educated kayakers, they performed proper CPR and brought him back to life. However, in the process, they cracked some ribs, and his boat was lost.
They informed us that they had activated their Spot device, which sends out an emergency signal to nearby rescue crews with their GPS coordinates. There wasn't much we could do to help, and being on a time constraint, we continued on downstream after giving them some positive re-reinforcement. 
Space-ship on the moon.
Sure enough, the cavalry flew over us as we had just completed a rapid with a couple of potholes. We motioned to them we were all good, and they continued upstream to where they needed assistance. Amazingly, the helicopter flew into the epic slot canyon, and plucked the injured kayaker out with a high-tech fishing rod.

Nick was on a trip, on this same creek, last year when our friend Alan drowned in a stacked section of waterfalls. We paid respects to Alan, and our other deceased kayaker buddy Daniel DeLavergne. Ben even had some of Daniel's ashes that he scattered above a 30 foot waterfall that he said Daniel never ran. He had a great line as usual, without even scouting.

The river mellows out, shortly after said waterfalls, before it gains more volume from another sizable tributary. From there on, we routed the rapids, taking few breaks, pulling over to make a rare portage, and drain our leaky boats.

Nice pool.
At a certain point, you can start to see the lake, which is basically the finish line. Nevertheless, there are some burly rapids saved at the end. One of them even beat down upon Nick, forcing me to boof on top of him, and give him a little tow to shore. Further cementing the quote from the 7 rivers expedition van, "Pray to God, but row to shore!"

We finished the one-day mission with plenty of daylight. Meeting some more old friends at the take-out, further leading to mystery of multiple kayakers on an obscure high sierra creek. But hey, the more the merrier right? Not always.
Old buddy Jake G.
I can honestly say that it was a great trip, but for whatever reason, seeing multiple different groups on a so-called wilderness run, definitely takes away from the experience in my opinion. Not to be a prick, but I prefer not seeing anybody besides your own crew. You experience solitude on so many remote class V rivers that you get spoiled, unaware that it might not always be a secluded spot. But in the lyrics of the Rolling Stones, "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need"! I needed that trip like a squirrel needs nuts.

Be charged by what makes you feel joyfully alive! 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cali Scrapbook

Sometimes I capture moments in time with a digital device that allows me to share my experiences. Some say sharing is caring. If that is the case, more people are caring than ever. Its amazing how many people view a video of someone's cat being 'funny'. So, I guess, its not too bad to post a short kayaking video with some profane obscenities at the end. I'm sorry if I offend anyone, but I was letting off some steam from a wicked thrashing. In my opinion, if it makes you feel better, let it out. Without further adieu, here is the video that Cody Howard and I made a while back, that I think you might find entertaining. I hope so... Cheers

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Winter Wanderings

Well, winter has been here for a while, but it hasn't felt like it, for the most part, in Northern California. We have been blessed, or should I say cursed, with abnormally warm and dry weather lately. However, there is hope in sight, which brings to light, thoughts of kayaking. No matter the weather, there always seems to be somewhere to go play in a little plastic boat that I have become so attached to. Dagger has designed two really amazing kayaks I love to paddle, which are the Nomad 8.5 and GreenBoat. They stay locked into the flow, and have a tendency to just go. Combine that with a Werner Shogun, and you're ready to put on a show. What else do you need to know? Here are some pictures I've taken over the past few months. Celebrated a most righteous 27th birthday with a bunch of fellow Chargers on the Bald Rock Canyon, always pleasing to the eye. Hope you are feeling prime, for whatever makes you feel Charged.

Justin Patt sails his brand new, to him, Nomad on his birthday, on his favorite run, Purdons of the South Yuba. It was a good day!

Thomas Moore is one of the few brave enough to take the GreenBoat on Purdons. He would say it makes some stuff easier, and some stuff harder, depending on your line. This is a good line.

World Traveler, Ben Stookesberry, charges into a burly rapid on Bald Rock. I think it was around 700 cfs for reference, and everyone felt like it was a great flow.

While not the greatest picture, you can see just how backed up this hole is. Taylor Robertson is like the Mayor of Bald Rock, and has earned some serious charge-ability in there!

We had a huge crew on my birthday, and thanks to Sarah, our awesome shuttle driver, all ten of us crammed into Jason Hale's trusty Tundra for a one way trip.

Water, granite, gradient, good times. Drew Duval and Alex Herr in the gorge.

Peacher and I decided to route the smear boof, which made the portage interesting. You can see the tip of the GreenBoat in the pic. It was awesome on the river, and the lake.

The crew chilling next to the un-run Atom Bomb falls. Maybe one day someone will run it...

Jason Hale executing a beautiful seal launch into a nice swirly pool.

Curtain Falls is the highlight of Bald Rock. Even at 500cfs, Alex Herr sends his Nomad flying.

And when no other rivers are running, we can count on recreational releases every weekend on the South Fork of the American. Mike Peacher, surfs out into Barking Dogg on a sunny sunday.

Speaking of Barking Dogs, I just got a new pup I named Jah Lion. Here he is scouting South Deer creek falls, but knows it needs more flow. His wisdom is deep, just like the pool below.

Cheers-- Will Pruett

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Farewell 2011

All come to Bald Rock. Out in the street, they call it murder. At around 300 cfs, most people will, at least, say its too low. A 'Wild and Scenic' river shines forth though, showing that while other rivers may be too low, it still has 'just enough' flow. The Middle Feather's source high in the Sierras is still melting, giving us water to enjoy a fine river gorge over New Years Eve. Serving as the take-out for multiple other kayak runs, Milsap Bar is the remote put-in for this California classic. What lies downstream is a deep, dark, smooth, and spectacular gorge that demands respect. Even at, what could be, the lowest flow ever paddled, this river still packs a punch you wouldn't want to serve to an unknowing bystander.

Meet Mike Peacher, he's a whitewater assassin. Lead him to the burl, and he will charge.

Looking at the river gauges on Dreamflows.com, I began to realize how dry the state of California actually is right now. Nonetheless, having probed the South Yuba river at extremely low flows recently, I began to question whether Bald Rock would still be relatively runnable at 300cfs. I convinced myself and Mike Peacher it was. Therefore, we set in motion a plan to kayak into Bald Rock canyon and spend the night on December 31st 2011. What we would take away from the experience was a series of trials and tribulations that you can only get from an expedition, of sorts.

Committing to the canyon at Milsap Bar, later than hoped, as usual.

After getting lost a few times, we made it to Milsap Bar and made our vessels ready to launch for an over-nighter. Having heard stories of car theft at Milsap, I made sure to hide my keys in a super-obscure, debris-infested, hillside, to prevent possible foul-play. I was asking for it.

It channelizes well, making it feel somewhat pushy, even at meager flow.

To our pleasant surprise, the river was very gentle and pleasing, as we found the narrow lines easily. Sure, the huge granite stones were exposing more of their ugly under-sides, but the river also allowed us more freedom to avoid them. With the bad, also comes some good. Peacher, having never done the run before, was stoked to be mobbing some burl, as was I.

The eye of Bald Rock looks on.

Before too long, we reached the entrance to Atom Bomb gorge, the crux of the run. Unfortunately, the lead-in rapid was a bit too rich for our taste, and so we made a sketchy portage up and over some icy boulders. I decided to check out the river-left side of what is normally a portage at higher flows. I quickly exclaimed, "Oh my god!" to Mike, as I caught my first glimpse of the drop. It was good-to-go!

Squeezing through, like mustard out of a bottle.

Speed is the key to bridging a gap. I charged the not-even-boat-width crack and somehow found purchase in the meager 50cfs flowing through. I propelled myself through that gap successfully, and enjoyed the calm, deep, pool below. Peacher went next and didn't have quite as much speed, and somewhat wave-wheeled the drop. But it still looked pretty tight.

Finding the path.

The exit of the drop was a debris infested sieve, but with minimal flow, we were able to find a safe passage, which allowed us to avoid the infamous 'hairy ferry'. Makes me wonder if anyone else has run that drop before. By this time, it was getting dark, and so we carried our boats around the massive Bishop-sized boulders. Finding a perfect camp-spot, with plenty of weathered driftwood, and a nearby cliff to keep us on our game, even through the late-night Tequila shots.

Living on the edge, quite literally.

New Years Eve is, for most people, the biggest party night of the year. We, on the other hand, were alone in a remote river canyon, reminiscing about all the other great river-trips we had taken that year. It was a windy night that kept the fire raging all night. Luckily, there was a plethora of large, beautiful, driftwood lodged in the high-water sieves, providing wonderful camp fuel, for warmth and cooking.

We awoke, later than hoped, thanks to Tequila, to find a glorious California day of sunny blue skies warming up the trees, rocks, birds, and burl for 2012. We scouted the final drop of Atom Bomb falls from our boats, and I declared I wouldn't run it without heavy back-up on hand, to save me in case of an easily botch-able line. It exudes some serious power, even though the flow had dropped even further than the previous, last day of 2011.

Here, Peacher examines the ultra-burly final falls.

Shortly downstream of Atom Bomb, there is, what I like to refer to as, The Rok Sieve. I haven't seen the GoPro footage, but Rok told me he accidentally charged in blind, once. Which lead to an epic, all-team swim through a nasty sieve. We portaged it of course, as Curtain Falls thunders shortly downstream, stoking us up, for a nice 20 foot waterfall. Well, it wasn't much of a falls this day, but got our blood pumping nonetheless.

Floating down a perfect ramp of the earth, Mike Peacher enjoys the Curtain.

The river was pretty deceiving at the low-flow, as I scouted a rapid I thought was easily runnable. To my dismay, I got pinned on a stone in the middle of the river, and felt the boat flexing under me. Somehow, I wiggled off unharmed, but my boat suffered a devastating blow, that breached its integrity on the side. No worries, I can paddle with water coming in my boat, for a while, at least.

As you can see, it was still pretty exciting in there.

There were many more 'pretty-burly' rapids than I remembered, towards the end of the run. Keeping us on our toes until we saw the massive Feather Falls cascading down the river-left, where Fall Creek enters, with just a trickle on this day. I guess most fishermen were hungover from NYE, forcing us to paddle the 3 miles of flat-water to my friends property on Bean Creek.

It was tight.

I made a horrible decision. It looked like there was a trail going back upstream to a road not too far from the lake. Key word, looked. It didn't exist, and we were forced to do some of the hardest 'shwacking' I've ever done. I lost it at one point. Yelling seemed to help me deal with the stress of carrying a heavy kayak through a steep, thick, and slick forest. But hey, that which does not kill you, only makes you stronger, right?

Bald Rock.

Well, if you are interested in doing this run, feel free to e-mail me at willpruett@gmail.com for directions on where and how to park at my friends land on Bean Creek. He is super-cool and willing to run shuttles for beer. He fed us some amazing lentils and rice that really hit the spot, and then drove us back to Milsap Bar. Where we found that my keys were stolen by some mischievous creature. We thoroughly scoured the hill I left them on, and found no trace of them.

Leaving our trace.

We got the old Subaru hot-wired pretty easily, but didn't realize, until after Joe left, that my steering-wheel lock was still engaged. Leaving Peacher and I stranded in a remote spot. So, we made the best of it, and slept in the car, occasionally cranking the engine to heat us up. The next day, we hiked the 9 miles back to HWY 162 and called our good buddy Justin Patt. He came to our rescue with pizza, beer, and most-importantly a drill.

Its always worth it, no matter what happens in the end.

A little elbow grease later, and we were back on the road, mission almost complete. Keys just weren't on our side this trip, as we couldn't find the key to Joe's gate either. Forcing us to hike a mile down his road, and back up with all our gear. It wasn't nothing but a chicken-wing on a string!

Bald Rock is one, hell of a way, to start a year, which I'm sure is going to test us just like every year. But thats what keeps me 'Charged Up', seeking the next adventure, not knowing how its all gonna work out. Keep exploring!