Monday, November 14, 2011

Middle Cherry

June 20, 2009.
I am sitting in my boat, alone in an eddy. Cliffs on both sides, and a 40' waterfall roars below. Double the expected flows are pouring over an unexpected drop.
Everybody else ran it and was fine.
I've never run a drop this big.
The portage has poison oak and wet cliffs. Even if you manage to seal launch in by yourself, you might get spanked against that wall, and in the hole below. You don't wanna be the guy that swam out of a seal launch.
I don't want to run this.
I don't really have a choice.
I'm gonna run this.
Line up here, get to the edge, and send it home...

We had an adventure on Middle Cherry Creek. We put on at the confluence with Eleanor Creek, and found ourselves with 750cfs or so. A lot more than the 300 we saw at the take-out, that the groups the day before had paddled. Guess they turned it up while were running shuttle. It was a bit more of a day than I was looking for, but it was also an experience I won't forget. Middle Cherry is a classic granite mix of bedrock and boulder pile, sieves and waterfalls. I hope to get back someday.



Hiking in. This was referred to as the Ewok jungle. As in, it would be a lot easier to navigate if you were an Ewok. If you hike in at the confluence, DO NOT get down in that ravine.


First Portage. Bad hybrid of heavy water and mank. Adam Johnson photo. I think the river right portage was better, the wall Shannon and I are walking along was slick and exposed.

Jay Moffat boofing into a Big Boulder Garden.

Early Portage. Not sure where/if this gets run at lower water. Adam Johnson photo.

Jay Moffat on a nice clean bedrock falls.

Shannon Carroll on a sweet ramping drop right below. Gorgeous Place.
I drove too far left here, and smeared off the rock with no speed. Fell into the hole below flat, disappeared into the foam, and then hit the green water behind it. It stopped me immediately, and I buoyed back up into a short surf. I'm not sure I'm explaining that well, but it was a unique experience. Enough so that I was laughing as it happened.


Shannon Carroll right above the big waterfall

Shannon Carroll on the big waterfall. (Freebird? Quarterpipe?)

Jay Moffat on the same. I asked what his line was gonna be, and he succinctly replied, "I'm gonna boof the s**t out of it. " He did. Worked well.

Late portage. (Crazy Train?) Boil in the landing area was too aggressive for our mix of time/level/injuries.

Other notes:
1. Observing the others contrasting paddling style was interesting. Don't know why it stood out that day, but it did.
-Jay took hard, precise strokes, like he was literally punching holes. Strong, intense and in control.
-Adam paddled with the efficient, fluid style of a playboater, and of a youngster who already has more days boating than most will ever log.
-Shannon boats with grace and comfort. She tends to glide through the chaos like she's dancing. Even when we made her sit in her boat, in an eddy, for fifteen minutes while we portaged across/through a sieve, next to a huge complex drop. Which she cleaned.

2. I was an extremely happy, relieved dude when, shortly before dark, I saw a diversion dam with a small shed next to it. Building=Access=Egress. Below the diversion dam was a huge slide into falls that we wanted no part of, but has gone nicely at lower flows for other people.

3. There was a lot more I originally wanted to talk about when I started writing this:
-Differences between vacation paddling and expedition paddling (and paddlers),
-Coping with loss and fear, as this was right after Ed Gaker drowned in Colorado. He was supposed to be with us on this trip. My head was all messed up.
But, I could never find a tone I was comfortable with, so you are stuck with some bullet points and a notion.

4. There are more photos from our day at my picasaweb, and Adam's
The Caliproduct crew has several photos from the trip the day before. Start here and click previous to browse through on chronological order. They also have one of those new fangled motion pictures from the same run.
Geoff Calhoun ran it this summer at low flows, but still had a fun time. I'm glad to see his reaction above the big falls was similar to mine. I may be alone on this, but I enjoy his running commentary on go-pro clips.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The art of Porte Crayon

I've always been drawn to the sketches of David hunter Strother, who wrote numerous articles for mid- 19th century periodicals under the nom de plume "Porte Crayon".
Strother covered a wide variety of topics and places, but his words and sketches of the Allegheney Highlands, in particular, appeal to me. You can read about him at the WVU library, and see a huge catalog of his sketches here.
You can read his book Virginia Illustrated on Google Books. I conveniently linked it to open on a page with what looks a lot like Pendleton Falls, a tributary to the Upper Blackwater. The story contains themes familiar to anyone who has boated in the area. Logistical uncertainties, hiking under hemlocks, scrambling through seemingly endless rhododendron thickets.
Another visit to West Virginia, entitled "The Mountains" was written about for Harper's New Monthly Magazine, in April of 1872.

So how does this relate specifically to boating? I took a good hard look at several of the sketches I really liked, and tried to figure out where they were, and even from what perspective they were drawn. In particular, I chose two shots from the North Fork of the Blackwater; one of Douglas Falls, and one looking up toward Double Indemnity.


What's wrong with this picture?



I went looking back in my files for a different photo, and stumbled on this one instead. Both guys in the photo are gone. Drowned while pursuing our sport.
Perhaps it is because I am going to Don's funeral in an hour, perhaps because the two year anniversary of Ed's death is coming up fast, maybe I'm just depressed. Whatever the reason, I saw this and just kind of ground to a halt.

There are a lot of things right with it, this photo. The North Fork of the Blackwater, around 1.7 or 1.8. Good water. Good friends. Mostly good lines, although I think that was the last time I bothered running Junkyard, the put in rapid. I haven't been seeing eye to eye with it since it last shifted around.
The eddy is the beginning of what was a casual run, on our toes enough to be safe and have fun, but not gripped, or anxious about what lay downstream on this familiar creek.

(I realize this is a disjointed mess, and the following paragraphs are nothing new, but I needed to get them out of my head so I could look at it, and solicit ideas.)

I can't get past the questions, not yet anyway. Is it going to happen again? Will I end up watching it happen to someone else? Will it happen to me? Is it worth it, do I enjoy what I am doing enough to keep going out there? Am I good enough? I've talked a lot with friends this week. Talked about boaters whose careers I admire. One commonality is that all the names that pop up are still around, which was probably why I cited them. Still boating engaging, difficult whitewater, but paddling far enough back from the edge of their abilities to be safe and comfortable.
We also talked about different kind of paddlers, how different people pursue the sport, how the adventure smooths out our wrinkles, lets us focus and flow in the moment. And how, for some, it takes an escalating challenge to keep finding yourself locked in. How do you find that balance to stay safe and engaged? I don't want a faux exciting amusement park ride, but Its miserable to keep losing friends, peers, to what is essentially play.
Some people paddle for fun occasionally, some people paddle a lot for the experience and the joy. Some people paddle so much that its a major, if not THE major component of who they are. If I had to guess, I'd say that last group is where most of the people we keep losing came from. Is it only because they have a higher exposure?
Finally, I have to agree with Doug Ammons on this one: "He died doing what he loved" is a cliche that needs retired, ASAP.

Monday, April 11, 2011

2011 Big Sandy Race (when C-1's attack!)

While running the Big Sandy on Friday, a light bulb went off about the coming weekend: The forecast was for a little bit of rain, and then sunshine and 80 degree temps on Sunday. The rain would hold a nice comfy level on the Big Sandy, and what better way to enjoy the sunshine than a race down our mainstay run? (The times are at the bottom if you have to skip ahead)

A bakers dozen showed up Sunday afternoon, with the usual suspects out of Morgantown, plus a few new faces. The agreed upon format was a mass start sprint race from the put-in bridge at Rockville to the pool below Wonder Falls. The course is easy class 3-4, and 1.2 miles long. The day of the race, we had about 6.2' on the gauge at Rockville.

We had ten longboats and three shortboats in a pretty tight bunch. I was behind all the longboats, but could still see the leader, Ben Ledewitz, all the way in to the rapid above Wonder. He had a pretty comfy lead, with Eric Henrickson and Jack Ditty battling for the second spot as they came to the lip of Wonder Falls. Which is when things got interesting.
We had debated whether to end the race as you landed Wonder, or to move it to a rock downstream to allow for final second passes and carnage penalties off the falls. I'm going to let the photos from photographer and artist Annie Simcoe do the talking.






Do note that Jack is looking back to check on Eric.

Hey look, here comes Brad and Brian!


At this point Eric is downstream of his boat swimming hard for the finish line. I imagine Brian (green Green Boat) had quite a view as he came over the lip here. Charlie Walbridge was standing next to Annie when she took this photo, so that makes it all okay right?

The above series all happened in about 10 seconds, and included but not shown was Eric Nies running the falls and passing a swimming Eric Henrickson to claim third place.
The remainder of the race was pretty tame. We had less than 90 seconds separating the first and last finishers, which made the jobs of Mike Vanderberg and Ty Miller, our official timekeepers (translation: buddies I conned into helping at the put-in) VERY busy. No further wrecks or carnage, however.
Thanks to everbody who came and raced, Thank You to Ty and Mike for helping keep times and finishes, and Thank You to Annie for letting me use her pics from the day. Much appreciated.
More of Annie's photo's in a chronological order slideshow below. Note the race winners attire, obviously drytops make you slow.


Ben Ledewitz 9:10 LB
Jack Ditty 9:43 LB C-1
Eric Nies 9:48 LB
Eric Henrickson 9:49 LB
Brad Buddenberg 9:50 LB
Brian Menzies
9:51 LB
Art Barket
9:52 LB
Dave Gore 9:58 LB



James Fogartie 10:08 SB
JB Seay 10:10 SB
Brad Romano 10:19 SB



Kathrin Allen 10:37 WLB
Lila Menzies 10:37 WLB













































Wednesday, April 06, 2011

2011 Top Yough Race

Almost 40 kayakers came out on a snowy, chilly April morning to race down Maryland's Top Yough . This was the largest turnout by far for the Isaac Ludwig Memorial Race. This year we had about 250 cfs on the gauge in Oakland. Not as much as previous years, which is reflected in the times. Speaking of times, here is race organizer Jon Harmon announcing them to the crew:
Roger Loughney provided start times for everyone and ran sweep on the race, and Walter Augustine went out in front and recorded everyone's finish time at Suckhole rapid. Thanks Fellas!
Jason Beakes won for the 2nd straight year, and Charley Bartlett won the shortboat class for the 2nd time in 3 years. Jack Ditty was the fastest C-1 as usual. We had a ladies class this year, which was won by Paula Knochel in her inaugural race.
Full spreadsheet of times is at the bottom.

The pre-race HQ and post race party were held at Streams and Dreams rental cottage, which was perfect for getting ready beforehand, and for partying after the race. The cottage is a great location to stay if you wanted to paddle in the area. Sleeps 8+, right at the Top Yough takeout, and close to a whole lot of other boating.
We got to eat great food, and check out several hundred photos of everyone's run at Swallow Falls:
Kayakers Love Pictures

Zach Yomboro shot this video of all the racers on Swallow Falls. Pretty cool, and much appreciated. You can see a mix of lines, with a lot of the longboats choosing to go left of center.



The snow on the course made it extra beautiful out there. Good for snowballs at the finish line too.

Full times for the 2011 race:
Jason Beakes 10:26 Overall Winner
Ben Ledewitz 10:34
Jack Ditty 10:42 Fastest C-1
Jon Harmon 11:01 AwesomeOrganizer
Geoff Calhoun 11:05
Matt Fithian 11:08
Andrew Robinson 11:10
Charley Bartlett 11:45 Fastest Shortboat
Bobby Miller 11:51 #2 Shortboat
Micah Weglinski
11:51
Art Barket 11:52
Travis Coles 12:07
Martin Wick 12:09
Justin Teague 12:10 #3 Shortboat
Randy Greidever 12:16
Blake Huber 12:26
Jeff Blood 12:31
Roger Loughney 12:35
Seth Chapelle 12:37
#2 C-1
Andrew Miller 12:38
Andrew McCauley 12:38
Chris Schwer 12:38
Dave and Rob Fusilli 12:48
Matt Burnstein 12:49
JB Seay 12:56
Nori Onishi 12:57
Matt Sloan 13:04
John Stephens 13:15
Paula Knochel 13:18 Fastest Womens
Sean Chapelle 13:27
Max Harbert 13:39
Chris Heim 13:44
Mackenzie Hatcher 13:49
#2 Womens
Bob Norr 13:56
Nico Zegre 14:02
Laura Lindzey 14:26 #3 Womens