Saturday, August 15, 2009

MIDDLE KINGS



Group Picture at the Confluence of South Kings and Middle Kings
Just after the Bottom 9 Day 6

Around the morning of July 27th I was eating breakfast with Rok Sribar at his home in Auburn. We were discussing the summer so far and our plans for the next couple weeks. He didnt know this but it would only be a couple of days before I would head back to TN. I was low on money and my ride was leaving on the 4th of July with or without me. My goal for the summer was to run middle kings, but I had already gotten Upper Cherry, West Cherry, Fantasy, Kaweah, South Silver, and a few more so I wasn't disappointed. Rok starts coming up with these ideas of how I can stay for another couple weeks, run middle kings, and then fly home. So its thanks to Rok that I was even able to be part of this trip.  I can clearly remember walking straight from the breakfast table to the computer and buying a one way ticket from San Fransisco to Atlanta, walking back to the table and saying "looks like were running the kings."
A few weeks later and after checking gauges every 12 hours for 10 days in a row, I met Shannon Carroll, Toro Rogenmoser, Rok Sribar, Dave Levitt, and Jay Moffat in Auburn to load up the cars for our week long mission down the middle fork of the Kings river. I had heard so much about Middle Kings and there was no where in the world id of rather been then attempting to knock of this high sierra expedition. This would be with out a doubt the biggest week of my life up to this point.
It would take six days, one day to hike over the 13,000 foot bishop pass and back down the other side, 5 days of wilderness class 5 including the bottom 9 on the last day, which some call the hardest day of kayaking in California, and then one day on the Garlic Falls section of the Kings river. We had a strong group which included two people that had been down before. Being 10 years the youngest on the trip made for lots of jokes and lost votes on my part. Here is a short break down day by day.


Shannon Styling the Money Drop Day 2

Day 1. Woke up around 630 and went to meet the mules where we found out that they would not be able to take our gear all the way over the pass but only 3-4 miles to the last lake. So we carried empty boats to that point and then loaded all the gear off the mules and into the boats to make the final push to the top of the pass(13,000) and back down the other side 5,000 foot decent down to the river. I felt pretty strong on the hike, don't get me wrong I was incredibly beat down at they end, but pretty good given hiking with 13 miles with a loaded kayak on my back. I remember laying down trying not to fall asleep when I see a little white dot making switchbacks down the mountain before realizing that it was Jay who had decided to take a nap, over slept, and had to finish in the dark.


Myself Entering the Money Drop Day 2

Day 2. Got a late start, after packing up all the stuff and saying by to Karin and Kat. We had a long talk with Ranger Rick who signed our permit. I was pretty nervous, we were about to float down a river and we wouldn't be to the end of it for 5 days, I knew that was a lot of time to get hurt and then possibly take on a multi-day hike through the manzanitas, granite, rattle snakes, and bears out of this incredible drainage. The first day was pretty much pool drop, with some good slides, and a beautiful meadow. I think we were all pretty sore from the hike. Shannon told me as we all laid there looking at the most stars ive ever seen in my life that this day would be by far the easiest of them all.


Some Delicious Trout That Toro and Jay Caught Night 2

Day 3. This day brought lots of action and quality rapids. It started out with whats called the money drop a 10 foot waterfall leading instantly into a 30 foot sliding waterfall. Good lines were had by all other then bashing my nose into my implosion bar. I remember running countless big class 5 slide drops with big holes and big boofs. This was the heart of the middle kings and bad injures here would be a 2-3 day walk out in either direction. Near the end of the day was my favorite section of the whole trip, "Mini Gorge." A half mile gorge with 10 monster holes ending in a 25 foot waterfall. Swims here would be epic. Dave and I ran down and met Shannon and Toro while Jay and Rok set good safety and took pictures. These were some of the bigger holes we had run in all of California, but the reward was  completely clean 25 footer. This was the site of our first big action when Rok broke his paddle rolled up and started one blading down the gorge, he made it a couple more holes before he got re-surfed and had to swim. Luckily due to Jay's good decision making he was able to get Rok out on river right and we would spend the next 3 hours getting him and his stuff back to river left.


Shannon, Myself, Dave, and Grizzly Tin Getting Our Rest On Night 2.

Day 4. I remember this being the longest day. We knew we would have to get to Tohipite dome if we wanted to get out in 6 days, and we were way behind schedule. Plus, we got stuck in a canyon that we entered and decided we needed to retreat and try to find a way out. I remember 1-2 hour bombing sections dodging holes and eddy hoping trying to make it to tohipite. We probably covered 6-8 miles this day. We ran in to team Jib at camp and hung out with them just above Tohipite. Tomorrow would be the bottom nine and I remember Brian Knight saying "Ben I hope you ate your wheaties." 


Shannon Running the Shit Day 2.

Day 5. The Bottom Nine. By far one of the most intense days of my life. Ive never seen a river hold up such consistent class 5+ for so many miles. This section does not let up, its boulder garden high water for 12-13 hrs. Tuff scouts, tuff portages, tuff rapids, this day really test what  you have and it really test the strength of the team. We ended up running out of daylight with about 3 miles left. 

Keepin' er Flat Day 2.

Day 6. Finishing the Bottom 9 by around 2 o'clock it was pretty intimidating to still have to do 14 miles of the Garlic Falls. We took about a 20 minute break at the confluence and celebrated finishing the Middle Kings. I was totally out of food, and cliff bars, and the idea of a restaurant and a real bed sounded really good. I broke my paddle on this day and started to get really worn down mentally. Although your no longer on the Middle Kings its still very strenuous class 5 kayaking. Finally after 6 days and dropping almost 8,000 feet in elevation I saw a big UT blanket hanging from the tree, which meant they end. Kat Levitt was there with bud light, fried chicken, watermelon, and most importantly the truck.


Rok Sribar, Toro Rogenmoser Day 6.

All together this was an incredible experience. Rok had told me that on the Middle Kings you find out exactly what your made of and how much you can really take, and he was absolutely right. I left that river with a week full awesome paddling memories, 5 new close friends, a broken paddle, a broken kayak, and huge smile on my face. Id like to say thanks again to Rok Sribar for making this trip possible for me.


Lunch Break Just Before Summiting Day 1.



Coming to the Summit Beatdown and Hurting


Dave Levitt Grinding Out the 13 Miler


My Food For The Six Days

Monday, July 20, 2009

Upper Cherry Creek.

I can remember like it was yesterday, November 4th 2006 I found myself standing at a table stacked full of Daniel Delavergne t-shirts and a bucket full of donations for the Katie Hillike cancer fund. I was in awe of the magnitude of the rapid that was on the back of the T shirt. As I showed the shirt to my friends, the king of the green race Tommy Hillike explained the shot to me. It was Daniel running Cherry Bomb Gorge on day 2 of Upper Cherry Creek, and as the sun went down on the green race party that year I was sure of two things, that one day I would make it to Upper Cherry and run the cherry bomb gorge, and that I ate way to much BBQ.
Two years later on August 29th 2008, I separated my shoulder training for the green race for the second time that year. I knew this ment surgery and missing the green race and they entire winter creeking season, which ment one thing, I would do what it takes to be in California for the 2009 summer. 
Eleven months later on July 3rd I was in Groveland, Ca just outside the Cherry Creek wilderness loading up my kayak for 3 days on the Granite. Bryan Kirk, Dave Levitt, Rok Sribar, and I loaded up the the WaveSport van and Roks Car and headed to the trail head in the dark. Running Upper Cherry includes almost a full day of hiking with the kayak, I don't know exactly how far it is because ive heard everything from 8-13 miles. However we decided to start at 11 pm and hike an hour or two in the dark in order to avoid the heat and mosquito's during the switch backs which are in first 2 miles. We slept about 6 hours at about mile 2.5 and then got up and hiked the rest of the way to the creek. Being my first wilderness run with a 10+ mile hike I was really struggling with my back pack only to run into Ben Stooksberry and Darin Mcqoid who inspired me to shoulder it the whole way. I remember Darin explaining to me..... "Put that Ipod in and switch shoulders every song, that backpack is not helping you." 
At around 3 pm I believe after 8 hours of shouldering a loaded boat Bryan and I finally saw the Upper Cherry Creek. It was a dream come true, I was 36 hours drive and a 10 hour walk from home and there was no where id rather be. I tried to block out Cherry Bomb, mostly because I was nervous, in a way we were so close but still so far. There were some major rapids between me and and accomplishing that 3 year goal from that talk with Tommy at at the green race table. Would my shoulder hold up? Was the water low enough? I knew I had to take it one rapid at a time, and at the time the issue was that Dave and Rok had not made it to the put in yet. 
After 2 hours of resting and drinking water at the put in Dave and Rok come paddling down stream in all there gear and there hands raised. They had gone past the put in and put in a half a mile higher then the put in. So at 5 pm and having hiked all day we decided to put in a couple of hours and then call it a day. 
I was amazed at the audacity of the scenery of this place. Granite as far as the eye could see, crystal clear water, and beautiful granite slides made for some of the most enjoyable rapids I've ever paddled. Im not completely sure the name of the place we camped but it wasn't to far above Gorilla West. 
We woke up early the next morning and packed up only to paddle up on a naked couple swimming in the creek. They were pretty impressed by watching us run a 4 foot slot and I remember thinking man if they only knew what was down stream. I had lent that same DD t-shirt from the green race party to Bryan for the Hike and realized I better get it back for good luck, after all I was going to be at Cherry Bomb that before lunch.  After a few hours of excellent whitewater we found ourselves stratling an enormous boulder that over looks cherry bomb. This was it, I was finally here, and I was actually going to do this. At first glimpse the gorge looked incredibly committing but definitely doable although the water didn't look as low as I thought it was going to be. I tried to block out the horror of the consequences of not getting far enough left and taking a long recirculating ride in the pothole, only to most likely swim they entire gorge. I knew that it happened to a few people before but it wasn't going to be me. If there was one line I was going to clean in California this was going to be it. 
I was a bit surprised at Rok when after 2-3 minutes of scouting Rok looks at us shrugs his shoulders and says "ill go" like it was just another rapid. After all to him it probably was, I dont think he spent time watching it on LVM and youtube videos. The best way to do this would be in pairs so Rok and Dave would go first and Bryan and I would film and then Bryan and I would go. 
Rok peeled out first and looked perfect, boofing off the rock with left to right angle, landing on the slide and didn't over do the angle when he flew 15 feet through the air toward the wall on the other side. His bow completely splatted the far wall just before he brought it down and started his 10 hole fist fight with the ledge holes that awaited him. Dave followed just behind him with another perfect line, perhaps getting even farther left. I felt great about there lines, and it was time for me to follow suit.
I walked all the way back to my boat and started emptying out the water when I realized I needed one more look. I remember wanting to go before Bryan because I didn't like the the thought of the rest of the group being down in the gorge and being up there alone. After all Bryan had run it 2-3 times before and seemed extremely confident in the fact that he was going to get through this canyon no problem. 
I knew weather I was on line or off it would be better to paddle hard then to try to drift it. So I peeled out of the eddy like a bad out of hell charging for the right side of the boulder, and took a huge right stroke. The second I landed on the slide I realized I was far enough left, which was an immediate relief. I don't remember much after that but telling myself not to over lean, because I had seen so many pictures of people flying off sideways and upside down. Next thing i knew the water cleared my face, i was right side up pointed down stream. Perfect, the hard part is over I though, now ill I have to do is punch these holes and im good. That's much easier said than done. I got to the lip of the wier hole and wasn't lined up to well for a stroke and got side surfed all the way to the left of the hole. This could of been terminal, a swim here would mean swimming the next 15 holes(see picture) and God knows what would happen to the boat. I remember surfing and looking back up the gorge at Bryan who was taking pictures of me, and it wasn't until I  saw the worry in his face that I really started to worry. Right about that time I realized how much this rapid meant to me and how hard I had worked to get there and I wasn't going to swim for God sake. I started right stroke clawing like my life depended on it(in a way it did) and fought my way out of there. I really underestimated the holes that are below the bomb. I would say its equally as challenging as running the bomb. 
Making it through the canyon and down to the camp was one of the most enjoyable 15 minutes I've ever spent on a river. To alot of guys that day it was just another California canyon but to me it meant so much more.  Dave and Rok even decided to do multiple laps on the teacups being that they are almost picture perfect waterfalls. 
That day we would make it down to below Dead Bear and camp. Bryan ran an incredibly clean line at Kiwi In The Pocket, where the rest of us decided the water was a bit high and the pocket was a bit to gnarly. I would definitely rate that day as one of the best of my life, the group had become pretty close that day, and we had ran countless 4-40 foot waterfalls not to mention the world famous Cherry Bomb Gorge.
I don't think anyone would argue, Upper Cherry Creek is an amazing paddling destination. Its a must for anyone who enjoys clean steep drops, long slides, and world class scenery.

I had alot of trouble uploading more photos since there all in RAW you can see them all at. http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2015778&id=1563180011

West Cherry












Wrapping up almost a week down at the Kaweah's lapping up the Hospital Rock section I drove to Groveland to meet Rok Sribar to go put on West Cherry which runs into Upper Cherry Creek about three quaters of the way down. We drove to Cherry Lake in the middle of the night and met up with Don and Darcy from Colorado and got a couple hours of sleep. When we arrived at the put in we saw a good number of other cars including Jakob and some of the team teva boys. I was told the hike should take only about 1.5 hours and that its pretty much downhill anyways, so after packing the boats with only one night worth of gear I opted for no backpack and that I would just carry the boat on my shoulder to the put in, so far so good. The tail went along a ridge for a bit and was pretty unclear, but just in the time that I would think I was lost I would get back to some sign of trail. So after 1.5 hours I thought to myself, ive never seen a river that flows on the top of a mountain so at some point I should start heading down. By 2.5 hours I was 100% bushwacking and was starting to feel the effects of shouldering a kayak for that long of time. At 3.5 hours I started to think that I might be spending the night in the Cherry Creek Wilderness due to the fact that the ground I had been bushwacking would be very hard to find my way back to the car. So I decided I would put the kayak down and walk to the top of the mountain and I would be able to look out and see where I needed to go. Doing so I saw cherry lake in one direction which I knew was the take out, and a tiny orange kayak as far as the eye could see in the other direction, which ment that I had hiked way off course and was about parallell with the camp(halfway point). So finally making it to the river after 4-5 hours of bushwacking I came across some Czech guys who were able to tell be where my group was. As far as the river is concerned it has some of the most beautifull scenery and if long granite slides and waterfalls are your thing then this is the place for you. My favorite part about this run is after the confluence with Upper Cherry the water level picks up and you get to run the last couple miles of Upper Cherry at very high flow which makes for some different lines and enormous holes
Camped Out Below Charlie Beavers


The Take Out Where Americans Are a Minority.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Fantasy Falls

In February 2007 I was riding the Green shuttle listening to some Canadian guy I had never met explain to me the details of finishing his P.H.D. I figured this was another typical green shuttle poach where you get to know someone for 20 minutes and then probably never hear from them again. Little did I know 2 years late I would meet Steve Arns in a parking lot in Sacramento to load boats to put on the Fantasy Falls, a three day run that would take us from the still snowy high sierras to the heat or the central valley. The group consited of 5 Canadians and myself, Phil and Matt Kompass, Steve Arns, Max Kiniwasser, and James Mole. 
After losing all six boats and racks all tied together, we were barely able to make it to the put it due to a snow storm. We decided to put on a day later after hearing there was beer and pizza at ski resort just 30 minutes down the road. We found the water level to be almost perfect, I got a tip from Clay Wright that if it wasn't scrapy at the top that I was in for an action packed third day and sure enough it was scrapy as hell for the first two miles. A few scrapes is a small price to pay for two days of countless granite slides, beautiful scenery, and a number of stories to tell.  Enjoy the pictures.
Fantasy Falls on Fantasy Falls

After losing all six boats and racks all tied together, we were barely able to make it to the put it due to a snow storm. We decided to put on a day later after hearing there was beer and pizza at ski resort just 30 minutes down the road. We found the water level to be almost perfect, I got a tip from Clay Wright that if it wasn't scrapy at the top that I was in for an action packed third day and sure enough it was scrapy as hell for the first two miles. A few scrapes is a small price to pay for two days of countless granite slides, beautiful scenery, and a number of stories to tell.  Enjoy the pictures.



My Favorite Rapid or the Trip



Max Kiniewasser avoiding a hole.



Taking a Break on the Portaged Canyon.



Steve Arns running Fantasy Falls


Moments like this that make California awesome.
video

Friday, May 15, 2009

10 Reasons why the Raven Fork is a worthy paddling destination.

1. Hiking through the through the Cherokee Indian Reservation and paddling 2.6 miles of class 5 is enough to humble anyone.


Typical Scene on the Raven Fork, Western North Carolina.


2. The rapids on the Raven Fork pack enough excitment to get even the top paddlers heart rate going.


David Cohen entering Big boy.
3. No matter what there is usaully a story to tell by the time you get to the bottom.


David Cohen Styling Big Boy.
Photo Baker Davenport.
4. If Anaconda doesent warm you up "I cant help you."


David Cohen fired up after Big boy.
5. You will probably either end up running Big Boy yourself or watching someone run it, which is probably one of the more serious drops in the south east.

Looking Down the gorge at Baker Davenport setting safety at Big Boy.

6. You will probably end up running into some friends that you havent seen a while.

Myself in the boogie after Razorback.

7. Getting punched out at Mike Tysons is something every kayaker should experience.

Myself at Wet Willie.

8. Caveman boof has to be one of the best boofs in the world.

Myself at Mike Tysons.

9. Drinking a bud light with Emanual at the take out garuntees some good laughs.

Lane Rankin at Wet Willie.

10. The Raven Fork holds the style of rapids and the incredible scenery that makes it worth living in western North Carolina.

David Cohen entering Jedi Mind Training.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Heavy Rains In East Tennessee

I was sitting at work last Saturday when I recieved word that the Bear was running but little did I know that it would run most of the next 4-5 days. Needing to be at work by noon the next day I met up with Matthew Horton around 7:30 am Sunday morning with high hopes of running the bear. Putting on about 8:30 we had a perfect 15 inches, and when we got to the bottom we caught word that it was 20 and rising. Bear creek is with out a doubt in my top 5 places to go kayaking. It runs through Cloudland Canyon in North Georgia, its one of the only places in the southeast that has big waterfalls, big slides, and even bigger boulder rapids, and is only about 25 minutes from downtown Chattanooga. Each journey in to the bear garuntees a story to tell and carnage is likely. The next morning I met Matt Wallace, Chris McCoy, and Warren for some more laps on Bear Creek, Chris and Warren were first timers which kept things interesting down in the boulder garden since they were going on my beta and it was only my fifth or sixth lap.
Stairway to Heaven, Bear Creek

The rains kept coming, and I met up with Matt Wallace, Clay Wright, Nate Taylor, Chris McCoy, and Warren to run Rock Creek(Lula Lake). There has been alot of talk of this run this winter so I was excited to get on it. The run started off with an awesome 25 footer down into a pool above an unrunable 100 footer. I was a little hesitant to run it, since it looks like most of the water lands on rock but after seeing Matt's line Clay and I decided to give it ago. After portaging the 100 footer, Rock creek holds multiple quality drops. The water was a little bit low but everything went and good lines were had by all.

Matt Wallace on the Falls at Rock Creek
Photo Clay Wright

Myself Just after my run on the falls.
Photo Clay Wright

Nate Taylor
Photo Clay Wright


On Thursday I met up with Matt Wallace, Clay Wright, and Nate Rozell to make the journey into Middle Creek. I had heard alot about this creek from Ben Friberg and since its the closest creek to downtown Chattanooga I had to see what it was all about. We heard from some other paddlers that the best/fastest way to get in there would be to park at the Rainbow Lake recreation area and bush wack our way down the mountain and the put in just below the 40 footer. This may be true in the winter time, but when the foliage is thick I would recomend taking the trail, the poison ivy and briars are very think as I learned the hard way. Middle Creek holds some steep drops with narrow lines. A few of the rapids have some pretty serious consequences if you took a wrong slot or wrong line. If you like remote, tight, class 5 gorges this is the place for you. We had a bit of carnage at "shoot you in the face with a 9" which made for a big day of class 5 kayaking.
Dodson scouting Superman
Photo Clay Wright
Matt doing some mid creek boat repairs.
Photo Clay Wright
















Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Six Months out and the Mulberry Fork Race






With out a doubt six months of no kayaking was nothing short of miserable. Looking back I did learn a alot from it. Up to the shoulder surgery I had pretty much never had any serious injuries or any problems, so I took good health for granted, but six months out of the boat changed that. For the the fist six weeks after the surgery, I had no activity and no movement of my arm.  After that six weeks I had lost almost all muscle in my arm and alot of my body had become soft. Even when the sling came off I still couldn't run, lift weights, paddle flatwater, or anything. There was also a section of time that I had to fill to take up the time that I would be kayaking, and being a 20 year college kid sometimes those weren't the most healthy activities. For weeks I was waking up no earlier then 10:30 am, eating out all the time, and just didnt really have much motivation untill my arm would heal. After 10 weeks I got the go ahead to start running, and running I did. I registered for a marathon, and pretty much spent 2-3 hrs a day running. Around this time the physical therapy also started to pick up so I was beginning to gain a little bit of strength back in my upper body. By the first of the year I was ready for flat water, and although paddling flat water is one of my least favorite activities I learned alot from it.  I started spending the weekends on clear creek learning how to race slalom and doing big attainment workouts, it wasn't boofing holes but atleast I was in a kayak. As February rolled around PT became more like lifting weights and I began taking some real easy trips down the tellico and working my way back into paddling moving water, and on the first weekend of March I found myself driving down to Alabama for the 2009 Mulberry Fork Race.
I had a hard time deciding if I even wanted to go to the Mulberry Fork, I didnt really have the money, all my buddies were going to go to the canyon, and I had never raced any slalom so I didn't want to pay money to get my ass whiped. I decided I would race the Men K1 Downriver in my Dagger Green Boat, and the Mens K1 Championship in one of Dirk Davidsons Slalom boats. 
I cant say enough about the people that run this race. For they entire weekend the staff made sure that I had everything I needed. In the first 5 minutes I was there I asked a guy on four-wheeler where I could turn in my registration form, and he stopped setting up tents and walked me all the way across the festival to make sure I was squared away. I found the guys from the Alabama Canoe and Kayak, and Auburn Whitewater club extremely welcoming and I didn't feel like an outsider what so ever. I witnessed a ten your old kid put all his gear on head to toe, pick up his boat, and proceed to the river, apparently on his way he decided he needed to make a pit stop at the concessions booth where this young man proceeded to suck down a red bull and a funnel cake with out even unbuckling his helmet. At that point it was clear that I was getting ready for some Alabama racing.
The down-river race started 8 am, and it seemed like I barely had time for a cliff bar before I was hammering away in my Green boat. The race was about 3.5 miles and I found it pretty challenging because of the large amount of flat water on the course. After the down-river I had a couple hours break before the slalom heats, I spent a good portion of this time in the sweet ladies in the massage tent. I was a little nervous about the slalom race, mostly because it was my first one.  The crux of the course involved punching a hole through gate 13 and then getting the hole to spit you left to make 14 and 15. My strategy was going to be really clean on the first heat and be sure not to miss any gates and then I would be able to hammer out myheat. This went exactly as planned I had a seconed  slow clean run with no penalties and then a faster run with 6 penalties on the seconed heat. At the end of the day completely beat down, sore, and sun burnt I found myself 1st in the Down-river and 4th in the slalom. You can check out the full results at www.mulberryraces.com. Overall the Mulberry fork was a huge success and will definitely be on the race schedule for years to come. Thanks to all the people who made it a great time. In parting, here are some recent photos.

         Canyon Falls on St. Patricks Day. Photo Charlie Mix
  Dave Levitt on the Canyon Falls. Photo: Charlie Mix


Boats of Choice
           Matt Wallace after the first class 5 rapid I ran in 6 months.


The after of the "Before and After" photos, taken on the last day of Physical Therapy. Unfortunately I lost the before picture.