Thursday, November 19, 2009

Middle Kaweah lap two + gawking at big trees.

After my first run down the Middle Fork of the Kaweah, i was pretty tired.
My back was also killing me, so after dinner I decided I wanted to sleep in a real bed, and ended up getting a room for us in Three Rivers for the night. I realize this makes me a sissy, and it hurt my budget for the trip, but that bed and shower were nice. The room also included breakfast in the morning, and an internet computer. The computer was handy to determine exactly where the best Middle Fork take-out was, and we could check what else was going on with water levels. West Cherry looked to be on the high side, and most everything else was low, so we stayed in town for another lap.
Jay Moffat arrived in the middle of the night, having driven straight through from Asheville, NC with just a few naps. He slept in his car and was up early rigging his new boat and (correctly) harassing us for being slowpokes. That motivation probably explains why Jay managed to run Upper Cherry, the Middle Kings, NF San Joaquin, the Stikine, and more this season.
Oliver headed home to do some work, and Adam, Jay and I went back into Sequoia for some boating. We put on at Buckeye Flats, below Chuck's Drop this time. What took hours to sort out the day before, we got done in minutes. We were soon through the mini canyon, and out scouting the heinous boulder pile above V-slide, which Adam ran, and then the V-slide itself.

Jay Moffat runs V-Slide, photo by Adam Johnson.

A spectacular place, complete with live studio audience. Jay Moffat and JB Seay below V-Slide. Moro rock above. Photo by Adam Johnson.

We did not get out of our boats again until the bottom of the 420 gorge area, where a shallow drop with a 90 degree pillow/flume at the bottom prompted a quick portage. Adam and I had both run it the day before, and neither of us liked the chunky stuff we felt in the pillow and flume. It was a good time for some beef jerky and a panoramic picture anyway.

Sitting still for the picture felt like one of those old timey, manual, sepia photos.
Panoramic photo by Adam Johnson.
From there it was more bombing and quick explanations over the shoulder to Jay all the way down to Zero to Sixty. Adam and I probed (scouting again seemed risky to me) and then Jay styled it right up.
Jay Moffat runs Zero to Sixty, photo by Adam Johnson.
We were soon drying gear in the sunshine at the Potwisha campground, the confluence of the Marble and Middle Forks of the Kaweah, unaware that Ben Stookesberry and Darin McQuoid were on a mission just a few miles up the Marble Fork.
We completed our run from Buckeye Flats to Potwisha in a little over two hours, quite an improvement from the 7 or so it had taken the day before while we figured it all out. The Middle Fork of the Kaweah is a great river, and one I look forward to running again someday. I understand it has an early season, before the melt, and that fall rains will also bring it in. What a fantastic resource! Once you know the lay of the land, you can adjust your put-in for how much you want to bite off, and it has a fun combination of drops. When you add in the other forks of the river, its no wonder the Kaweah River has an informative webpage dedicated to it.

After our run, Jay hit the road to Oliver's house, and Adam and I took the scenic route on the Generals Highway through Sequoia National Park. We climbed Moro Rock, a kind of must do since it was always photo-bombing our kayak shots. We saw several juvenile bear cause a "Bear Jam" on the Moro Rock access road, and obviously, a lot of fantastic large trees and mountains. We arrived late that night at Oliver's house to find Shannon Carroll in town to join our merry band with several days off from work and ready to boat.
Adam has more pics on his picasa site, and his take on the Kaweah on his blog.
Keep watching for day three; "A weekend warrior finds his limits" or something. Middle Cherry is up next.

Middle Kaweah day one.

This spring, I made plans to try for some Sierra creeking. The trip was to be part vacation, part adventure, part reward for pulling up stakes and moving to a new town. I had a narrow window in the month of June to go, but was able to free up 6 days in between moving and my wife starting her rotations in a new hospital. I started scouring blogs and message boards for dates and flows on runs in California. You guys need to put more dates on when you do those snowmelt runs. For the record, we ran the Middle Kaweah at low water on June 17th and 18th, and then the dam controlled Middle Cherry on the June 20th.
The plan was to meet Ed Gaker and Adam Johnson in California, and hopefully hook up with our friend Oliver Grossman for logistical help and some boating around his work schedule.
We wanted to try for Upper Cherry, and if it was too high, do day trips or maybe West Cherry.
I had my Westbound ticket bought, and was looking for the return flight when I got terrible news: Ed had drowned boating in Colorado. (I wrote some about this in a previous post) I struggled mightily with what to do about my trip, and looked into giving my ticket away and just letting this one go. In the end I decided to proceed, confident Ed would have wanted it that way (cliche or not it's true), but with a heavy heart.
On Thursday the 11th I shipped my kayak west to safeguard against any airline snafu's.
Friday a bunch of us drove to central Ohio to attend Ed's viewing, and his memorial on Saturday.
Sunday and Monday my wife and I packed up our house and moved 3 hours East, to the Panhandle of WV.
Tuesday I flew to Sacramento.

I got there late Tuesday night, and Adam picked me up, with my kayak already on top of the car. We headed south, checked in with Oliver, and confirmed that we would meet somewhere near the Kaweah the next morning.
We got to Three Rivers, just outside Sequoia National Park, around 4:30 in the morning. I slept in the back of the car for about 2 hours, then got up to get a snack and call the wife to let her know I was there and safe. I dozed some more until about 7:30, when Oliver met us and we went to breakfast.
We saw a car with boats and Oregon tags, so I went over to say hello. I asked the guy standing there if he was Chris (Korbulic) as we have a number of friends in common. Oops. It was actually Ben Stookesberry, with Darin McQuoid riding shotgun. We chatted a bit and quizzed them on levels, before hitting the road. Nice guys. They had just completed the 3rd or 4th decent of the Upper Middle Fork, hiking several hours upstream from the end of the road.
We were unsure of put-ins and take-outs, but Adam remembered paddling all the sections of the Middle Fork of the Kaweah, so we figured we could run the whole river, and loath to pay for two cars to get in the park, we left a car in town. We drove into Sequoia National Park, and ended up meeting with a group of 6 guys from the U.K. (who had no more info than us), and we put on at the Paradise Creek Trail bridge, just above the Buckeye Flats campground.
Just a few short drops around a corner, and we were at Chuck's (Kern) Drop. Its big, shallow and gets run occasionally.

Not by us though. Bill Anderson portaging Chuck's Drop. We dropped one team member who wasn't feeling well here, bringing us down to 8 first timers* on the run.
*Adam had run the Kaweah in high school, but when mixed in with the memories of their 200+ days a year paddling pace, he was fuzzy on where things were. Sometimes, at the bottom of a drop he would say "Oh yeah, I remember that one" but that was the extent of his beta.

The first drop of any size below Chucks. JB Seay, photo by Oliver Grossman.

Oliver Grossman runs the same.

More fun read and run brought us to a series of slides in a mini-canyon. We scouted from the river left, climbing on top of a house sized boulder perched on the bedrock. 2/3 of the flow went under the rock, but the left channel around was easy to make at low water.
Oliver and I headed up and ran the first few slides.
While eddied out under an overhang, I found this rock in the embrace of the roots of a sycamore tree.

Bill Anderson on Drop #2 in the series.

Drop #3 and 4, showing the rather large sieve. Photo by Oliver Grossman.

Once we got everyone worked through here, we portaged around a messy rock pile just below. Just a few eddies downstream and we arrived at the V-slide.

Oliver enters the V-Slide. We were under the impression it went best by driving hard right and falling into the trough late.

JB Seay at V-slide. Photo by Oliver Grossman.
Here I am falling into the V as late as I could, paddle carefully tucked upstream. Upon further consideration, it was smoother to get on the pillow a bit upstream and then rocket down it.

Adam throws a brown claw of joy in the pool below V-slide. Moro Rock looks on in bemused silence from 4,000 above.
Right downstream the river snakes around a blind, fast corner, so I eddied out and was bashing through brush to scout. Ben, Darin, and a group of German? (the Brits guess based on accent) guys rolled around the corner and bombed off. One of the group was portaging, and I relayed his description of Little Niagara to our group and they ran down as well.

JB Seay boofing Little Niagara, photo by Oliver Grossman.
The drop was steeper than I had understood from the German dude, so the guys and I all had a bit of a surprise when we got to the lip. Sorry fellas, my mistake. In the big pool below the drop, we had a dozen boaters, from all over the US and Europe, hanging out. Good stuff.
More fun read and run, and one full scout got us down to (what I later found to be) the standard Hospital Rock put-in.

Martyn Sollars at the bottom of a multi-tiered slide above the traditional put-in.

Oliver Grossman in the midst of the 420 gorge. He who scouts and directs runs last. Oliver is an incredible paddler, and a great asset to any paddling mission. I cannot think of instance, in many class V days of paddling, where I have worried about that dude. Anyway, the biggest drop, and kind of the entrance exam into this gorge was a sweet boulder pile with blind moves and lots of eddy hopping. We had quite a show of traffic direction to get our group of 8 through that one.

Panoramic of part of the 420. One of our group hiked up to the road from this point, bringing us down to 7. Adam and Oliver hiding in the lower right.

Sweet Kicker Falls. We ran out of an eddy on river right, charging across the grain of the current, and then down onto the kicker.

Chris Flavin on a perfect 12' falls.

Zero to sixty.
While scouting this falls, I began to slide down the super slick, polished granite. I looked for something to grab, or a dry place to jump, but finding neither, I decided to commit to the boating line, and ran/skidded/fell down the slide, and jumped over the lip into the pool. I surfaced just in front of the river right wall, and got out on a convenient rock to examine my options.That was dumb. JB Seay feeling foolish at Zero to Sixty. Photo by Phil Higgins.
Adam tried to tow me across the current and out of the LZ, but that did not go well, and I ended up floating back into a cave (to the right of the above photo) out of breath with my elbow pads down around my fingertips, and my pants pulled completely off. I was able to chimney up the back of the cave, and a quick hand from Oliver got me back up on top so I could try the drop in my kayak.
Shortly below there, the 4 Brits wisely decided to take out at a gauging station, and sort out their shuttle up on the road. We continued downstream, passing the Marble Fork and picking our way through boulder gardens in a shallow, widened streambed. With more water, I imagine this section is great fun, but the combination of low flows, being tired, and boat breaking paranoia wore on me. I eventually hiked up to the road, getting nearly covered in burrs and the fine, talcum powdery soil of the canyon walls. I lucked into a ride back to the put-in from our new boating friends. They were on their way back from a supplies run, and took me and all my filthy gear right to Adam's car. Adam and Oliver finally made it down to the confluence just before dark fell, with mixed reviews of the last few miles of river.

I have a few more photos on my picasa account, if you are really bored.
If you know the names of any of the pictured rapids, post a comment or drop me an e-mail.
Stay tuned for day two on the Middle Kaweah.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Captain Thurmond's Challenge 2009

A few weeks ago my friend Jamie said "Me and Mike are thinking about doing Captain Thurmond. You wanna do the paddle leg?" I quickly agreed, and set about finding a fast kayak. Mike and Jaime are both fast, and I didn't want to race the New River gorge in my creekboat. Bobby Miller had a Wavehopper he wasn't using, and I jumped at his kind offer to use the boat. I'd never paddled one of them, but a straw poll of friends moderately reassured me it would be fine. Except Nori, who reminded me how unfun it would be to swim in Double Z rapid. (He gets the last laugh, since he beat me, but at least I didn't swim)

Race Day dawned nice and sunny, and as church bells tolled the noon hour, 58 racers took off on the Le Mans start of the bike leg.

Video by Dave Seay.
If you look close at the :17 second mark, you can see Mike (in gray on a red bike) take off through the pack. The bike leg ran from the Fayetteville town center to Cunard, via a mix of pavement, gravel road and single track. Mike, on a hardtail single speed (34x16), grabbed the lead and held it as he bombed through the course in 54:52, a full 3 1/2 minutes in front of the next finisher. He would have been a little quicker, but a wheel came out from under him on a bridge crossing and the wreck twisted his handlebars around. He tried to ride 'em crooked, but eventually stopped and yanked them square. Also, there was the matter of divebombing around raft buses and trucks on the paved descent into Cunard. Just before 1pm, someone said "Here comes the first rider" and I looked up to see Mike blasting in. He handed me the team bracelet, and I sprinted off to the river.
I was a bundle of nerves and twitches as I sorted out the Wavehopper and my pacing in the first few miles of the race. (I squeezed the inside of the boat so hard that my legs ached for days.) It was indeed counter intuitive to paddle, (lean right to turn left) and the initial stability was almost nil. It took some time to learn to trust the wings and secondary stability the boat offered when heeled over or engulfed in whitewater.
There was no question it was fast though. Terrified I would lose the lead Mike gave us, I probably asked a dozen different rafts if they could see any racers upstream. If you are a raft guide, and a guy in a red Wavehopper paddled past and said "Seeanyonebehindme?" in a single grunt, that was me. Thanks for checking my six.
I passed a few friends and grunted hello's, and several people cheered me on in the pools. I got a little surge of speed every time someone cheered me on, which felt foolish and fun at the same time.
I rolled through Fayette Station rapid and nearly eddied out on the left, but managed to stay in some current almost to the beach, where Jamie was waiting. My kayak time for the Cunard to Fayette Station paddle was 53:23, good for 5th overall. I got beat by a Sea Kayak, two Pyranha speeders, and a K-1. It was fast enough, however, to keep us in the overall lead and send Jamie up the run in front.
She did a great job running up the seriously steep trails back to Fayetteville; nobody caught her and she cruised back into town with a bigger lead than she started with, still in front. Her run was 1:02:45, and our total time was 2:51 flat. Sweet!
Our team at the finish line. Mike Vanderberg, Jamie Fields, and JB Seay. Photo by Brian Menzies.

Brian Menzies, another Morgantownie, and winner of the Men's Solo with a stellar time of 2:59:25. 6th in Bike, 2nd in Kayak and 6th in the run. Fastest individual competitor, and he beat all the teams except one.

Messing about in boats after my leg of the race. I even had time to get in my boat and chase down a pilotless kayak. The Wavehopper proved to be a surprisingly good bulldozer for the swamped Mirage.
We hung around in town for the awards ceremony, and picked through the big pile of prizes onstage. I scored a pair of END trail runners via Water Stone Outdoors. I like em, and the company appears to have a great approach to making environmentally responsible shoes.
I had a great time, and look forward to defending our team title next year. Full results of the race can be found here. Thanks to Adam of Marathon Bikes for keeping the race alive, and thanks again to Bobby for the use of the fast kayak! Its pretty fun to paddle those quick boats...

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Ed Gaker

Photo by Adam Johnson

It's been two months, but it still stings.
The phone rang at a late hour, and I knew intuitively it was not good news. I sat on the steps outside my in-laws', stunned by what I had just heard. The Morgantown kayaking community lost a member.
Ed Gaker was more than that, of course; he was one of a big family in Ohio, a doctor's son, headed to med school himself in the fall. Ed talked about how he needed to get all his boating in now, before he really hit the books. That's funny considering that he had just graduated Summa Cum Laude from WVU with a degree in Chemistry, while boating all the time. That dude was motivated.
Ed was in love; he asked his fiancée to marry him in the big eddy above Sweets Falls on the Gauley. He raised money for the ring he gave her by selling his Dagger Green Boat.

She was there watching helpless when everything came apart on Ed's run of Sherman falls, on the Lake Fork of the Gunnison in Colorado. You can read Sarah's brave account of what happened here. Her ability to collect her thoughts and post that to multiple message boards is impressive and appreciated. Thank You Sarah.
Ed's Facebook page quickly became a memorial of sorts, with words from friends and information about what happened pouring in. A number of boaters made the trip to Ohio to attend the memorial service and burial. Matt Fithian spoke of the recent marathon day of paddling that Ed and Ben Ledewitz had completed: Deckers Creek, the Big Sandy, the Upper and Lower Blackwater, and the Top Yough in a single day. I told you he was motivated. His parents invited everyone out to their home for food and fellowship after the burial. I think Sarah was the only person who knew both the boater and the hometown side of Ed. It was a nice chance to meet much of his family, learn more about Ed and each other, and find common ground in memories and recollections. Thanks very much to them for their hospitality.

One of the last times I paddled with Ed was a unique, spur of the moment opportunity. Clear skies and a full moon coincided with a good water level on the Big Sandy. I called Ed about 9pm, and of course he was game. C-1 extraordinaire Jay Ditty was game too, so we met up around 10:30 and headed to the put-in.
We blinded ourselves pretty well trying to take a picture at the beach, then clipped glow-sticks to the back of our pfds and set off. Everything went great. Wonder Falls was in full, direct light; from downstream it appeared to glow from within. Beautiful. Familiar rapids and lines passed by, and we found ourselves at Big Splat, the largest drop of the creek. As we crossed from river right to left to approach Splat, two large rocks loomed like a gate, with deep shadows behind them. I eddied out to think about the line, and ask Ed what he thought about running it in the dark. He made it pretty clear what he thought when he paddled right past me, into the entrance of the falls. I've run Big Splat pretty high, and I've run it in a playboat, I've even run it pretty high in a playboat, but no previous run compares to peeling out behind Ed and running through our familiar beast at midnight.
I'm gonna miss you buddy.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Its A Family Tradition

My Dad and I have been doing whitewater trips together for about 15 years. He helped me learn this sport, and we have had some fun adventures over the years. We got into the habit of doing a river on or around Fathers Day to make sure we got on the water together at least once a year. I now have kids of my own, and these trips are even more special.

The first trip was with Patrick, at 18months on the New River:Fire Creek Pool between Thurmond and Cunard

He enjoyed the trip, and giggled when we went through the waves, but I don't think he really got the river until next year, when we went out in duckies on the same stretch.

In 2008 we did the Cheat Narrows in duckies, his third time down that river. He had a great time, yelling directions to hit waves and insisting on having a paddle.

This year I was on a trip to California, which I will get all written up soon, so we did our Fathers Day celebration in July. This year, we had a new member on our team:

Isaac joins the Seay Family New River Rafting Team. I look forward to years of trips and memories.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Whitewater Blogger Malapropism of the Day

Its CHOCK full people. Not chalk full. As in "Dude, that river is chock full of wood"
Its like Chock full o'Nuts, but different.
You might also say "A log was chocked well overhead in the narrow canyon, evidence of high water" But you might as well use wedged that way nobody gets confused.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A weeklong Celebration of the Cheat River drainage, Part Two (Hiking through the woods with a kayak, Waiting for the water to go away,and Red Run)

The Monday after Cheat Fest it began to really rain. Morgantown got 2+ inches of rain in the early morning hours. My wife had an exam, so I played some phone tag with people, and Ed Gaker and I agreed to meet up once Rebecca got home and settled in with the kids.
In the interim, Ben Dunham called and told me that everything he'd seen around Morgantown was blown out, and that he was on his way to Daugherty Run near Albright. I held out hope that Quarry might just be high, and maybe even falling, but an inspection at the top proved it had at least 2x as much water as was prudent, maybe more. Ed and I decided to leave a car at a nearby parking lot and go catch Ben. While we were parking, a truck drove by with boats. We waved at the guys, and they backed up to talk. They were planning to put on Clay Run, which drains the middle of Coopers Rock State Forest, and flows into Quarry Run in the steepest section. They'd hiked the run before and thought it would have some drops worth doing. I warned them that we'd seen waaaay to much water on Quarry, and wouldn't be able to boat below the confluence of the two creeks, but that we would probably be okay on Clay until then. Hopeful of something new to run, we set off on foot down the creek, essentially starting from the ridge atop it's headwaters.
3.5 Miles later, we reached Cheat Lake, having boated only a few yards of creek. The very top of Clay, out of the pond at the State Forest, was too small, and once there was boatable flow, the constant wood and lack of eddies in the tiny streambed made things difficult.
This 4' diameter culvert was interesting and fun early.

By the time we reached some good boulder piles and slides, the creek was high and still woody. Before long, we'd reached the confluence with Quarry Run, and 600+fpm does not handle the volume of water we saw in a "safe" or "fun" manner.

Big slide just below the confluence. This is the last third or so.

If you've ever seen "A Token of My Extreme" you may recognize this as the entrance to the real big slide where Jeff Snyder paddles into an overhung cave, disappears into the pillow and emerges onto the slide below. (Then vows "Not To Ever Do That Again") The cave is in the upper right quadrant of the photo, and was kinda full on this day.
Once we got back to the cars, the guys were kind enough to get me on the road home quickly, as I was late. They continued over to Bull Run after they ran the shuttle, and found it was much too high as well.
I spoke with Ben that evening, and he'd gotten three runs on Daugherty, including a solo sandwiched in between two different groups.

Tuesday morning brought still high flows and at least 4 different groups checked Bull Run throughout the day, expecting it to have dropped overnight, but it continued to remain much higher than anyone wanted. I stayed home with my kids while Rebecca studied for her next final. Creeks further out were running, but I hoped to stay on runs close to home and fast to do. Ed and I planned to try for Bull Run again in the morning,with him checking it early and hopefully getting a run in before his 11am final in Advanced Organic Chemistry. I also talked to Ben again, he did three runs on Fikes creek. A pattern is starting to emerge...

Wednesday I met Ed at the creek, and I think I pretty much talked him out of a high water run on The Matador, Bull Run's premier waterfall. A small storm cell had put 1/2" of rain right on the creek overnight, and it looked no lower than the day before. In retrospect, we should have put in below the falls and paddled the bottom of the creek at booming high water, but Ed was tired of driving to the creek and not being able to knock off the Matador, and just wanted to get going. Plus he had that final in a grad level chemistry class.
He did make up for it by running Stupid Falls on the East River in Colorado a week later, so hopefully he feels better now.

More rain was coming Wednesday night, so a bunch of people made plans to meet Thursday and try to get a run on one of the Canaan Valley creeks. 11am Thursday found lots of kayakers at the Otter Creek trailhead parking lot, the shared takeout for Red Run and Otter Creek. Seneca was too low, Otter was running, Red Run looked perfect, but might still be rising, and Red Creek had yet to be seen. We left cars at the trailhead, so we would have options, then drove to check Red Creek. It was too low, and the sun had come out, so we decided to get some burritos for lunch then put on Red Run.
Our group of 8 made quick work down to the first slide.
Ben Dunham, trying to keep warm in a pvc rain jacket (drytop forgotten at home).

Soon after is Goliath, a high speed, turning mix of bedrock and boulder
Don Smith starting at the top as Matt Fithian films.

Shawn Yingling up on the big pillow at the bottom, as Fithian continues to document.
Just downstream is the "Seed Spitter" drop, which I chose to walk, and then regretted after watching a couple boats go through. Not enough to un-portage and run it though.

Adam Johnson landing the pourover below the seed spitter slot.

Matt Fithian route finding in Maze rapid as Ben Dunham looks on. Ben is now warm in a borrowed drytop, thanks to the kindness of Jeremy, who abbreviated his own run to get to work on time.

Adam Johnson in the middle of the Maze.

Geoff Calhoun finishing up the Maze.

My favorite photo of the day, the bottom of Maze is just visible at the top of the photo.

Below Maze, we at a lot of time up getting around wood, pulling a log out of the water, and dealing with two equipment breaks. A snapped paddle blade, right above the Red Run Falls, and just below it, a badly broken boat, beyond any bituthane repair.

A breakdown solved Geoff's paddle problem, but Adam had to hike his boat out. Don volunteered to go with him, since he was familiar with the trails to the take-out, and also pointed out that daylight was fading, as it was about 6:30pm by then. The remainder of us continued downstream through several more big rapids, and then split up further at the cave rapid, which is hard to scout or film well, as it is ringed with large boulders and rhododendron. Three of us ran through, while the other two carried around and put back on a few minutes behind. With the exception of one poorly placed log, the mile below the Cave drop was fast, fun, read n run boulder gardens all the way to the Dry Fork of the Cheat.
A few more photos are available at my Picasaweb gallery, and at Shawn Yinglings.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A weeklong celebration of the Cheat River drainage. AKA "How I spent my Cheat Fest" Part One.

Woohoo rain. I considered naming this blog something with "rain" in it, because its such an integral part of the boating here. Other than a few Dam release rivers, you can't go kayaking, especially creeking, without rain. I ended up doing something else, as there were several other folks writing under banners with "rain" in them, and I didn't want to seem unoriginal. So I stole a name from an old bumper sticker instead.

Cheat Fest is always the first weekend in May, and it's almost always wet, or at least damp. After a check of Bull Run, which my optimism convinced me was running, I got the kids to the sitter (Hooray! Grandma!) and met Adam Johnson. A second opinion and a few hours of ebb led us to leave Bull Run for another day, so we left a car at the adjacent Big Sandy/Cheat takeout, then backtracked to Deckers Creek. We had about 300cfs, which is a good minimum as the gage reads these days, and then drove up the mountain to the Little Sandy.
We were joined there by Jim, from New York/Connecticut, and headed down the tributary of the Big Sandy River. It was pretty low by that point in the afternoon, but once we reached the confluence of the Big Sandy, we were on big, brown, roiling water. And we were not alone! I have never seen that many people on the Big Sandy River. Dozens and dozens of boaters were enjoying the upper stretch of my home river. Eddys crowded with groups, craning over their shoulders to look downstream, with leaders explaining the wheres and whats. Surf spots were crowded, with friends corralling errant, driverless boats. It was pretty amusing and very colorful.
The river was still at 7.1 when Adam and I passed the bridge at Rockville, and after a quick help to some swimmers, we were downstream and all alone (Jim took out at the bridge, where his ride was waiting). The Lower Sandy was great, fast moving fun. One quick portage around the entrance to Big splat, and we were soon at Jenkinsburg, and then off to Cheat Fest.

Sunday brought drizzle and chillier temps, and after a round of calls and texting, I ended up back on the Big Sandy, with hopes for an afternoon run on something smaller. Ben Dunham, Bobby Miller and I got a quick run at 6.7, and Sean Devine met us back down at the take out. We popped over to check Bull Run, and decided to put on. It was low, but it sure beat folding laundry and watching TV, which is what I would've done at home.
Ben Dunham in the first rapid. If you have ever driven into the Cheat River take out (Jenkinsburg) from river left through Masontown, this is the drop next to the old mill (which is now a house).

Bobby Miller in the wall check rapid.


Video by Bobby Miller. Thanks man. I stalled out a little at the lip, and ended up doing a weird twisting thing off the Matador. Ben did a nice job hustling into the eddy sans paddle yes? Bobby says it right in the video: Low but Fun. I'm glad I got on, especially since it eluded me the rest of the week.
I have a few more photos in a picasaweb gallery.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

2009 Top Yough Race

The Second Annual First Official Isaac Ludwig Memorial Top Yough Race was held on Sunday, April 19.
Geoff Calhoun won, (completing his weekend sweep) followed by Matt Fithian, Matt Walker (pictured above), Jay Ditty (c-1) and Evan Garcia (short boat). Full results and multimedia coverage should be available soon at Immersion Research and/or LVM. Evan, in addition to killing it in his Jefe, gets special note because he had never paddled this river before.

The race was from above Swallow Falls to the bottom of Suckhole rapid, which at race flows (323 cfs) is a 10-13 minute race.

Hanging out after the race.

Nori Onishi and Shawn Yingling entering Swallow Falls.

Much thanks to Roger, John, Walter and Matt for administration and timing for the race- it was good fun and much appreciated guys.

I have few more photos at my picasaweb account. If I hear of more, I'll link to them later.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Big Sandy Race

Photo by Katie Buddenberg. Thanks Katie!

Saturday, April 18, a group of usual suspects met at the take out and hashed out the 2009 Big Sandy Race. Jay Ditty was the ringleader, and Willy Witt clocked everyone in at the finish line. I served as start timer, sending racers off at one-minute intervals.
We raced from the put-in bridge at Rockville to the pool below Little Splat, roughly 1.66 miles.
The level was 5.7 ft.
This race was easy to do and fun. We should have more of these all over the place!

Special Thanks to the safety folks at Wonder Falls and Little Splat.

1. Geoff Calhoun Greenboat 13:52
2. Matt Walker T-slalom 14:01
3. Brian Menzies Greenboat 14:10
4. Jay Ditty Response c-1 14:11
5. Dave Gore Response 15:09
6. Shawn Yingling Vortex 15:16
7. Ed Gaker Nomad 15:17
8. Jake Greenbaum Nomad 15:26
9. Nori Onishi Cerro 15:47
10. JB Seay Burn 15:50
11. Ben Dunham Nomad 15:55
12. Lila Thomas Greenboat 16:12
13. Willis Phillips Phat 16:37

After hanging out and chatting a bit, these four decided to add a 2nd leg: Above Big Splat to below First Island.

1. Geoff Calhoun Greenboat 16:30
2. Jay Ditty Response c-1 16:50
3. Brian Menzies Greenboat 17:10
4. Jake Greenbaum Nomad 18:26

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Winter/Spring Update

Its been pretty quiet and dry so far this spring. Last weekend was the first good stretch in a while. Lots of people got out on the Top and Upper Yough, Big Sandy,and Blackwater. We still haven't had that huge rain event where everything is running high and you start checking the little micro creeks.

I did the entire Blackwater a few weeks back. I like paddling all the way down to the bottom. You get miles more river, and you don't have to hike with your boat. I always say I'm a boater not a hiker. I've been working on documenting some of the more visually impressive rapids in there, and at comparing waterfalls with the historical sketches of Porte Crayon for a future post.

JB Seay making the second move in 'Hundred Yard Dash", paddling from the river right eddy. Photo By Alden Bird,

Alden Bird making the same move, viewed from downstream in "Hundred Yard Dash". This is the put in rapid featured in my previous post

Panorama of "My Nerves Are Shot, I can't Take it Anymore" featuring Jay Ditty, Adam Johnson, Ed Gaker, and Alden Bird, twice each. I was pretty close to the river for the shot, so the upstream and downstream portions of the photo are closer than they appear. Without a crane, this was the best spot i could shoot from. Photoshopping by Adam Johnson. Thanks!

Lindy Point from river level. This is a very popular overlook and day hike near Blackwater Falls State Park.

I also managed to get out on the Big Sandy for a quick run with an old friend, and a new one.

Ben Dunham on Wonder Falls.

Nico Zegre on Wonder Falls.

JB Seay on Big Splat, the top of which seems more cantankerous these days than it used to. Pushes right. Photo by Ben Dunham.