Saturday, December 21, 2013

California in the Fall - Festivals, Fun, and Granite

Summer/Fall hangin out on the granite beside the play wave on the S.F. American pic by Nate Calhoun
I have been hanging out in California for the last 5 summers and every year I seam to make my stay a little longer. This year was no exception as I first arrived to Cali back in April not to leave until the beginning of December. The scene is laid back to say the least. Hanging out in the Coloma area I was able to surf on the South Fork of the American and soak up sun rays on a daily basis.  California also has 4 annual races held on some of the dam released sections that flow in the fall. The festival/race season starts with the Cherry Creek race. Will Pruett took first place at this years race and tied the course record- congrats to Will!  Note - this year we were forced to relocate the party shortly after the race due to the Rim Fire that would eventually become one of the worst fires in California history. The damage from this fire will have a big impact on the 2014 whitewater season in California as access to Upper Cherry, West Cherry, Middle Cherry, Cherry Proper, South Tuolomne, and Clavey will not be available due to park closure.  

The Rim Fire was one for the books!
Kayakers will not be able to access many of the rivers affected by the rim fire.

The 2nd Festival was Feather Feast held on the Tobin section of the North Feather. This festival is always a good time and is the biggest Whitewater festival on the west coast. It is a big fundraiser for American Whitewater and a good chance for all skill levels to meet up and party down.  The river is not the hardest but has a definite California feel to it with high canyon wall and smooth granite boulders.  For most this dam release represents the first time back in a creek boat since the last of the snow melt. This year Isaac Levinson took first place and learned why winning the Tobin Race has a heavy trophy that can make feel more like you've lost! All of the winners had great attitudes as they were forced to drink victory cocktails that may not have been anywhere near desirable. Tracy Tate placed high on the overall standings at 5th and came in 1st in the Women's division.

Sky view of the N. Feather taken by Shon Bollock
Good to be in the Green Boat on the Tobin pic by Sara James
Charging pic by Wes Schrek
The winners of the race had to spin this wheel to decide which cocktail they would receive! All of the choices were pretty gnar! You have to lose to win at Feather Fest! All include MacGregor and some sardines! 
Hangover paddling the day after the party- railgrab! The run is really good for downriver play! pic by Sara James
This year the 3rd and 4th festival had scheduling conflicts and Burn Fest of the Burnt Ranch Gorge of the Trinity was held on the same weekend as Gnarlfest on the South Fork of the Feather.  Both events are always fun and have a good race.  I had been hanging out in Humboldt and chose Burn Fest as it was considerably closer but as the name hints I believe Gnarlfest is a little more heavy of a race.  I was super stoked to claim 1st place at the race and then more stoked to hear Will Pruett had done the same at Gnarlfest.  As these two festivals wrapped up the festival/race season it was clear that it was either time to move on or get amped for skiing or snowboarding- change is in the air! 

As a mass start race I was able to get prime real-estate at the finish line! 
Celebrating my first place victory! My trophy - this beautiful beer stein! 
Here is a video put together by Robby Hogg of this year's Gnarlfest with Taylor Calvin giving a wonderful spin on the history of the race: 

In California you always have to keep an eye on the gauges as dams may spill or divert water into a river bed at any time.  Hell's kitchen of the N. Stanislaus will typically have a super short and unannounced flow window in the fall. With the low water of the last two years it would of been completely rational for the run to not see water this year. But Will Pruett kept the faith and checked the gauges regularly, allowing himself, Thomas Moore, and I to cash in on the super short flow window of 48 hours.  Hells Kitchen is aptly named and is a hell of action packed run for being a dam release.  Certain runs have big rapids that have seen few descents and for Hell's that rapid is known as Portage 24. For the second time now I have indeed portaged the behemoth but it haunts the back of my eye's and hopefully one day I will fire it up! The big one aside we had a great fall day traveling through the deep granite gorge- gotta love some granite.  Highlights from the day were knowing where we were going (Last time we had an epic!) and ticking off the quadruple drop which we had not run 2 years before. 

Thomas Moore stepping it up on the Quadruple drop!
Heading for the seam! pic by Thomas Moore
Thomas Moore on Mini Curtain
Everyone likes a good horizon line! pic by Thomas Moore
Will Pruett on the Curtain
Here is a short video Will made of our day on Hell's Kitchen: 

Hells Kitchen 13' from Charge Productions on Vimeo.

Once again under the watchful eye of Will we caught a small flow window on a diversion into Deer Creek near Grass Valley. It was a short run but any creeking in the dryness of fall is more than welcome!

Will Pruett and Mike Peacher making their way down the river on a beautiful fall day!
Mike Peacher getting steazy as he flies down the slide on Deer Creek!

 Catch you on the Rio!

Monday, November 11, 2013


With a California season wrapped up I headed up to Washington for sessions on the Little White and anything else I could get on with minimal portaging due to my bum ankle.  Soon after arriving I jumped in the car with Nichole Mansfield and Erik Johnson and headed up to Levenworth to meet some friends and paddle the quality water the area hosts. We visited the Tumwater, Ice Cycle, and the Tye. I ended up staying in Washington for two weeks and bagged roughly 20 laps on the Little White - Stoked to Session! I would return to Washington later in the summer and bagged laps on The Cispus, Lower Lewis, and The Green Truss!

Multiple scenes from Levenworth
After Washington I headed to Idaho for a 3 week stint and eventually another week for a total of 4 weeks on the North Fork Payette this summer! I have grown to love this river ad belive it to be one of the best training grounds around.  There is endless potential on this river as you go from avoiding all the features to charging right into them! I was able to grab 40+ sessions on the river with up to 3 session a day sometimes! I was blessed with good weather and amazing camping and friends to hang out with. Highlight from the trip were simple lifestyle, solo laps - concentrating and feeling confident as I paddled into Jakes each time, and 2 amazing moonlight shared with sick paddlers - Seth Stoner, Galen Volckhausen, Tyler Allen, Ben Luck, and James Byrd! 

Galen Volckhausen slaying on the North Fork Payette
Stoked to be able to get a ton of kayaking in while having a sprained ankle! Little White and Payette are possibly the two best  class 5 sessioning rivers out there! Shall we do another lap!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Substantial Media House Edit of Fantasy Falls

Here is a great edit that Evan Garcia put together from my third trip into Fantasy Falls earlier this summer! Definitely the highlight of the summer!!!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Middle Kings 2013 - Transformative Journey #4

Bishop Pass - An iconic reminder of the scale of such a journey!
I first visited California in 2009 and was instantly hooked on the the clean granite and heavy flows of the Sierra Nevada whitewater. The Middle Kings had been talked up to me as the "Trip of a Lifetime" with epic proportions and the hardest whitewater one could find in the lower 48.  I was forever changed after my first trip to the river in 2009 and 2013 would stand as my 4th visit to the sacred waters of the Middle Kings!

Taking a break from the hike and cruising one of the early lakes! 4th trip - Stoked!
A little older, wiser, and more experienced I set out into this 4th trip with Will Pruett and Jake Greenbaum. This would be Will's 4th trip as well and and a 1st for Jake.  Just the three of us out there- too cool! With damn good beta from Will and Myself to Jake we were able to really flow down the river with minimal portaging and scouting! I could talk statistics on how long, big, far out, and difficult this particular river is but when it comes down to it the Kings just has a personality unlike any other river I have visited! If you have the skills to get in there, then I think you need to get it! Its majestic and will leave you tired of taking class 5 strokes!

We had a great trip with a steady 1500 cfs through out the run! Highlights of the trip for me were: getting to show my buddy Jake down a river that was on the top of his to do list, crushing the hike with way more ease than usual (on my 2009 trip - the hike-in alone was the hardest thing I had ever done mentally or physically), every moment I looked up and acknowledged my epic surroundings, on the negative side - a sprained ankle in the bottom 9, traveling in my kayak, too many quality strokes, and a celebratory 3 hour frolic in the water with my two buddies while we waited on our shuttle ride!  I love the Kings because it is never easy and always provides transformation - A True Journey!

Links to my 3 previous expeditions to the Kings:

A short break on the hike - wandering if Jake was gonna make it! He got mad sick day of the hike!
Will making his way up the infamous switch backs on Bishop Pass
Jake feeling the rigors of a hard hike!
Yay we are half way - up on the top of Bishop Pass
Safety meeting on the top!
Checking out our last views of the Eastern Sierra
Jake pretending to be a happy hiker!
Epicness - Love it!
Will cruising into Dusy Basin
Jake firing mank in shortly after the put-in!
The first meadow you come to is the only flat water on the entire run but man it is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever been blessed with!
Jah Meadow!
Way Out!
Firing into some of the first goods!
Jake doing the same!
Will dropping in on the Pallisade Slide
Skimming through!
Jake at Pallisade
We camped at this drop and had multiple runs on it!
Lifestyle shot - Pretty!
Looking down stream proves to be epic every time!
Will on the Money Drop!
Running the brekfast slide, both Jake and Myself spun out on the left wall and finished out backwards1
Exiting the breakfast slide
Jake on the impressive Breakfast Slide!
Leading Jake down the Waterfall Gorge!
Jake happy to be at Tehipite after we paddled 18 miles in one day from our Pallisade camp!
Tehipite is the best camping on the river and a great place to take a lay over day!
Running some typical continuous boulder garden in the Bottom 9!
Heavy flow in the Garlic Falls section!
Jake getting some Garlic Falls!
Will provided Jake and I with hilarious entertainment at the take-out while we waited on our shuttle to arrive! the sleeping pad is a rather nice whitewater craft!
Back to reality I found myself a bit crippled from my ankle sprain in the Bottom  9!  Hoping for this injury to heal up as it has been a much longer recovery than I originally expected!

Stoked on this 4th trip, I wander how many Kings trips I have left in me! We shall see as I plan to go back as much as possible!