Monday, September 24, 2007
Holy crap, I thought we’d walked all the way to California! Granite domes were everywhere. On the second day of the hike my hips and collar bones were swollen, my feet were bleeding, and I was laying sprawled out on the trail next to a huge steamy bear growler. Who’d have thought… Wyoming.
Day one consisted of 12 hours of hiking over the first 11,200 foot pass (in which I came in second place.) We got to the top and I asked where do we go from here? Ben pointed over another mountain in the distance, “Oh sweet, that’s not that far!” I smiled.
Eric Seymour corrected me. “Yeah it is, that’s really f###ing far!” I think he was just mad that I beat him up the pass. My second place held pretty strong for the first day, and was shattered the second day. We had high hopes of being “almost there” as we camped for the first night. In the morning a group of old fifty to seventy year old fisher men informed us we were not “almost there”.
“I don’t mean to sound sexist or nothin’, but I’m amazed that a girl can do this. That boat has to weigh almost as much as she does.” Actually it’s 2/3 of my body weight. Luckily, these guys knew a way around the second pass, a short cut, and gave us a map of an old Shoshone hunting trail. Evidently the Shoshone had not been hunting in awhile; we lost the trail and ended up scaling cliff bands like turtles scaling a garden wall. This was the demise of my second place position, and I would remain in last place for the remainder of the trip.
Nine hours from first night’s camp, a few more blisters, a broken helmet from a nearly tragic “Turtle Shell” and we arrived at Dead Man’s Lake. (Apparently the first guy who attempted the hike didn’t make it.)
I would have been happy to camp there. But since the pressure to make it farther than the other guys was so immense, we geared up and started paddling towards the South Fork. We scraped our way down the tiny tributary, portaged a lot, and ran a few rapids. As eager as I was to run some good whitewater, I decided to walk the tight manky drop where Seymour stuffed his boat into a boat-sized crack. We camped there. Macaroni and oysters for dinner, and I was out.
Another morning of blue sky we launched day three, eager for the confluence. Less than a mile downstream our creek turned into a raging river just below a massive stunning waterfall. Game on. Immediately was the first gorge, still uncompleted, that Ben seal launched into the bottom two drops of. The remainder of the day was the classic bedrock drops flowing in and out of separate mini lakes- The Lake Section. This is where you’ll find the perfect twenty foot waterfall found on the cover of the new Colorado guide book. Seymour, Ben and Leif ran the perfect drop perfectly. I, on the other hand, missed my boof, almost hit the wall, rolled up against it and back paddled out. I started scouting the drops after that. We had lunch what turned out to be right above Hagen Daz, and I woke up with either a minor case of heat stroke or I was just tired. I didn’t run HD nor did I seal launch into the green water on the right side. Seymour did, and busted his eye brow open- way better than a busted back. From there were more huge granite walls, super clean class five rapids, and gorges with continuous whitewater. One gorge started with a heinous entrance that we put in just after and ran the rest of the gorge to our camp. We camped on a big slab of granite on river right and watched a bright orange sunset drop behind the enormous walls that towered over us.
Day four started out a little stressful in knowing we had a few mandatory class 6 portages. One portage being long and arduous carrying our boats over huge talus boulders, careful not to fall, but quickly to avoid falling behind as I often do. This took half the day and a great deal of energy. A few more class five rapids, Bull Lake, another portage, and then we arrived at the “mandatory class five+ above a 400 foot waterfall”. I excused myself and sat in the woods for a little meditation time before taking this one on. We scouted as much as we could but eddy-hopped until a gigantic horizon line where the world fell away just behind it. Everyone made the last eddy above the chunky twenty-terrace zig-zagging cascade that definitely totaled 400 feet. The best whitewater of the whole trip was the continuous class five just below this portage. We could finally blaze through miles of clean boulder gardens with swift boat scouting by Stookesberry and Seymour. This was a huge relief to have the 400 footer at our backs and sick whitewater all the way to camp. We caught Brooke Trout for dinner and I fell asleep on a 3 inch bed of pine needles before I could make my macaroni.
The next morning was a good one. I woke up to an incredible sunrise, well rested, and real hungry. I ate three packs of oatmeal flavored with dark chocolate chips and we suited up for the day. The river meandered through class four for a few miles then picked up to class 5 above the misnomer “Limestone Gorge” which is actually still granite according to Geologist Stookesberry. More meandering until we arrived at the last few slide drops of the run just before the head of the lake. A few boats were at the inlet so I was volunteered by the group to schmooze a ride from the old people eating fried chicken and potato salad. I didn’t get a ride, but I got some chicken!
Then for the grand finale we had the “nine mile paddle out”. We paddled for about two hours and the boys in front of me became smaller and smaller dots… way ahead. We’ve got to be almost there. Then the wonderful little buzzing behind me became louder and louder. Fortunate for me, the slowest person gets picked up first. (This is a tactic I picked up on the home run Ben & Jerry’s which also has a paddle out.) The boat rolled up and asked if I wanted a lift. I answered optimistically “I’m almost there; I think I can make it, thanks though.” They looked at me like I was crazy, so I held onto the boat while balancing in my kayak and climbed in. As we gunned it across the lake, I realized I was not almost there. Actually I was half way and probably two more hours out from finishing. I drank my beer and held it high as we passed Seymour, then Leif, and then Stookesberry who was 200 yards from the end. I finished in first place.
Just announced from Clear H2O Films, the upcoming release of HTC volume 3 will bring the paddling world not only the latest installment of Hard Core expeditionary kayaking, but will also feature The Crash Course. The brain child of writer Thayer Walker, The Crash Course is a hour-long instruction video that chronicles Thayer's three week push to take his kayaking to a class V level. In addition to class V power strokes and technique, strategies in scouting, setting safety, and nerve control are covered. Check out Thayer's featured article of the same name in this March's release of Men's Fitness Magazine.