Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Stikine- A First Timer's Perspective

When I open up my phone to see that I missed a call from Erik Boomer I know that something juicy is brewing and a wave of anxiety and excitement hits me. Three days ago when I opened my phone to see that Boomer had left me a message it was no different. In his message he said, "Todd we're going to the Stikine. Call me back if you can be in Portland in 3hrs."
Without much thought I called Boomer back and said "I'm in." Later of course reality struck and I remembered that I was supposed to work over the next few days and that I wasn't fully equiped for a trip into one of the most committing rivers in North America. Fortunately John H. the owner of the Kayak Shed, just happens to be one of the coolest bosses anyone could ever work for and encouraged me to get on the Stikine. In addition Jason Shroder at Outdoorplay stayed at work later than usual to make sure that I had everything I needed before heading North. With my last responsibilities taken care of I met Boomer in Portland and departed for the trip of a lifetime...

Journal Entry: Day 1- The Drive
It's funny that only now, 26 hours into our drive and about 3 hours from the put-in I've composed my thoughts enough to put them on paper. Throughout the hours of non-stop driving I've been hit with a variety of emotions. From excitement- "Wow, I'm finally here. About to put-in on what I've heard to be the adventure of a lifetime," to anxiety and second guessing- "Am I ready for a trip like this? Am I as mentally and physically prepared as one should be before such an endeavor?" But when such feelings of question come across me I remind myself that I've been preparing myself for this trip throughout my youth of travel, exploration, & paddling experiences. But what also calms my nerves is when I remind myself that I'm dropping into one of the most notorious rivers in the world with Boomer. Boomer's the fucking man. He, like myself, first paddled the Stikine as a teenager and since has paddled it an additional three times. I've only known Boomer for a couple years, but he's one of the very few people that I can trust is always watching my back and I think he know s that I'm always watching his. Also in the last 24 hours that I've spent getting to know Jeff West, our other paddling teammate, I feel like he's already gained a lot of my trust and become a close friend, which in a trip like this is necessary.

Journal Entry: Day 2- First River Day
Right now it's difficult to bring myself to write in my journal. I've never been this tired after a single day of paddling, but now my thoughts are fresh and if I wait till tomorrow to write them down they will have grown stale. Anyways, today was without a doubt the best day of paddling I've ever had. I've spent my entire youth on low volume creeks where it's easy to tell ow the water moves and how I must direct my body and my boat to get where I want. However, out here it's completely different. Here the river controls me as it so chooses, and I can never completely predict how it will react. One moment I could be exactly where I want and the next the river could swallow me in it's churning boils and spit me out where I least desire. That aside, I feel that I've done pretty well today. For the most part I've been able to stay on line and haven't had any close calls. Boomer and Jeff have also done incredibley well and have made paddling this river that much easier. Entry Falls, Wicked Wanda, Three Goat, Pass-Fail, Watson's, Site-Zed, AFP, The Wall, Garden of the Gods. These nine stand out rapids and everything in-between rocked my world today like never before. But, as Boomer told me just as we got off the river "Tomorrow the hits only get bigger."

Boomer, Myself and Jeff West at the Put-in

Site-Zed Portage

Myself in the bottom half of Site-Zed

Jeff West on the same rapid

Journal Entry: Day 3- Second and Final River Day
Today was amazing. We started of the morning leaving Wolf Track Camp. Wolf Track Cam, which I neglected to talk about last night, is an awesome oasis for the whitewater kayaker seeking refuge from the elements. A sandy beach on river left is the indicator to Wolf Track. And from the beach a nearby trail leads to the campsite. At the campsite a large conglomerate boulder towers over our heads to protect us from any rain, sleet or snow. We were able to dry gear cook food, and sleep with ease. On the river today Boomer was right, the hits only got bigger and bigger. The first major rapid we dropped into was Garden of the Gods 2 where once one is about halfway through the rapid and on the right side of the river they must paddle their ass off to ferry back to river left. An enormous house sized rock which separates the left side (where you want to be) and the right side (where you don't want to be) only adds to the extremity of this rapid. Later on the river tightens up and we reached The Wall 2, Scissors, The Hole That Ate Chicago, and V-Drive. We walked both Scissors which seemed to mostly flow into a couple ugly rocks in the middle of the river and The Hole That Ate Chicago which, living up to its name, looked like if one didn't hit their line right on they'd be in for one hell of a beat down. The final big rapid of the day was V-Drive, and let me assure you that scouting this thing from the high overlook on river-right does it no justice. This was quite possibly what I felt to be the most fun rapid on the river. In a short distance the river steepens and speeds up drastically, creating numerous huge waves that hit so quickly after one another that's it's difficult to prepare for the next. After V-Drive the river mellows out to some extend, and goats begin to litter the surrounding cliff walls. Boomer spent some time chasing down and photographing goats beside the river, and came home with some exceptional photos (hopefully soon you'll see these in a Nat-Geo Magazine). After enough flat water to take every ounce of energy out of my body, we arrived at the take-out. I don't think I've ever felt as accomplished as I did setting down my boat on the beach and looking back up the Stikine River. I love this place.

The Beach at Wolf Track

The Grand Canyon

A cool place to be

Boomer scouting V-Drive

The Tanzilla Slot- Here the entire river constricts to be about 4ft. wide

The paddle out

The Goats

Looking down river from the take-out

Hiking down to the Tuya River

The day after we took off the river we took a 'rest day' and hiked up and down a couple tributaries of the Stikine. But after our rest day we were ready for more. Back at the put-in the next morning we woke up at 5:30 A.M. and by 6:00 were back on the Stikine floating, in the dark, towards Entrance Falls. We took the day slowly, but with all the lines fresh in our heads, we arrived at Wolf Track within four and a half hours. Even with some lollygagging and a short hike during our run, we comfortably arrived at the take-out by 4:00 P.M. That night we ate a big ol' home-cooked meal of roast beef and mashed potatoes at the Tatooga Lake Resort, which is a must visit destination for any traveler in the area, and then proceed to drive the following 30 hours non-stop back to Seattle. This was for me the most epic trip I've ever been a part of and I look forward to seeing the Stikine again next year.

Photos by Erik Boomer and Jeff West

Monday, September 6, 2010

Annual Lower Lewis Huckfest

Every year as water levels on the Little White and White Salmon River begin to fade from their optimal flows whitewater connoisseurs of the Columbia River Gorge head North in search of water. This year after doing some paddling in British Columbia, Griff Griffith showed up at our house with slalom friends Liam Malakoff, Rogan Brown, Nic Borst, and Luke Palko-Schraa for some quality summer paddling in the Columbia River Gorge. While I was busy at work at the Kayak Shed, Griff showed the boys down the truss, where they got their first taste of the CRG's kick-ass whitewater. As soon as I got off work we rallied up to the Lewis River for a camp 'n huck mission. We camped out at the Lower Lewis Campground, and the next morning awoke ready to huck. As everyone hauled their boats to the put-in I set up safety in case anyone ended up in the river left cave or behind the vail. Griff, a highly experienced stoutmaster, was first to fire 'er off and dialed a clean plug before hitting the pool below. Rogan, Luke, and Liam had never before run a waterfall of this height, but they all made hucking this stout look easy and steezy. Nic, who is also a developing stouter, fired off this bad boy and did a sideways stomp to finish 'er off. I was last to give 'er, and coming off the lip a little hot landed a little bit over-vert. Here's how we favored.


Luke & his phatty boof-stomp



Liam at the lip

My line from the paddler's perspective

Taking it all in

Mt. Adams (the lifeblood of The Lewis River, White Salmon, Little White, and many more)

The Crew in our Chop-Top Suby (this thing can mob)

Photos by Liam Malakoff

All in all I had great time getting to take these homies up to Lower Falls, one of my local favorites. Everyone held their own on this drop, and we were all so amped that afterwards we rallied up to the Cispus River for a quick lap before heading home. This will probably be the last of my PNW hucking for this season, but worry not. Soon I'll be in Mexico, the land of countless stouts, tan ladies and good times, and you can count on many more in-depth blog posts with pictures to blow you pants off.

See you South of the border