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! 

1 comment:

Brad Wilson said...

I came back and re-read this excellent tr. well written man, thanks for sharing!