We headed out of Seattle from Bainbridge island on our way to the Wenatchee river to spend a solid week on the river to get Colin comfortable in a kayak on whitewater. It seemed like the whole time we had a group of people to get out kayaking with thanks to Meghan and Rosemary as well as a bunch of others that joined from time to time. Camping at Rosemary's house in Leavenworth and drinking beers around the fire was an excellent way to spend the nights. Lapping the Wenatchee play run twice a day improved Colin's kayaking to the point that he wasn't swimming unless we were trying to surf waves. By the end of our stay in Leavenworth he was feeling comfortable on the Wenatchee Play run and even got a few High A laps in without a swim. Very good first week on the river!
|Gorg Drive on HW2|
|First view of St.Joe|
Because we were ahead of the summer camping traffic we had our choice of any campsite we wanted. We set up our tents, got to cooking a meal, and enjoyed a fire before calling it a night.
The next morning we got our tents packed back up and headed down to the river to scout a few places and see were the put in and take out were. The section we were doing looked pretty tame but had a few parts that I would call class 3. Soon enough we were gearing up for what turned out to be a very nice day on the water at a campground with river access. Near the start of the run Colin swam off a bump rock but managed to get through the rest of the run without incident including a class 3 gorge. We had a great time on the St. Joe and it was very nice to revisit a river that has been in and out of my childhood through family fly fishing trips.
|Heading to the Zoo|
We arrived in Missoula a little ahead of my sisters graduation so we had some time to cruise around and check out Missoula. It turned out to be a great time hanging out. I tried to get a surf session in on Brennan's Wave in downtown Missoula. As it turns out the water was incredibly high so the water was glassy and impossible to catch but it was a good time anyways.
After experiencing how horrible swimming is more times than once Colin was more motivated than ever to get his roll down so we headed to Frenchtown Lake to get a bit of roll practice in. After an hour or so and a few little drills to get the paddle blade cutting across the water instead of digging in Colin got his first roll. A good day for everyone!
|Brats after boating|
Back in Missoula the family was slowly filing into town for my sisters graduation, each posting up at various hotels around town. My parents had rented out a nice little townhouse and everyone was in and out until the sun went down. We knew it would be a long time until we got out of the rat race that is graduation week so we sat back and drank beer with friends...a LOT beer. The next day we went to graduation and enjoyed all the festivities that go along with it...a late start,a brass band, some flags, some speeches, some people walking across the stage (one of them was Olivia), more speeches, and after that came freedom. After my Olivia's graduation we made our back to the house were we drank long into the night
|At least we were having fun!|
Needless to say we got back on the road as soon as we could and drove over Lolo pass and on to the Lochsa which turned out to be a far easier jaunt from Missoula than I had previously guessed. Not long after scoping out the river we met two older guys that were getting on the river and they invited us to join them. I let them know what to expect as a new boater was in the group and we set off. Colin had a fluke swim at the start but soon regained some confidence in an eddy getting 2 very solid rolls under the belt. The biggest waves we had come across came up next but he seemed to have no problem going through the waves keeping upright but only time would tell how long it would take until the next swim.
That night we camped alongside the two kayakers we were with on the river and exchanged stories and beer. As it turns out one of them had been on the olympic slalom and downriver race team back in the 90s which was kind of cool and the other was a meteorologist which came in handy when an unusually warm breeze came rushing down the valley and he could dumb down the anomaly that had just happened enough for even us to understand.
The next morning we woke up to our new friends cruising out of the campsite to go get on the Upper Lochsa. We talked about what to do and eventually settled on trying to get on a river before we headed out to the Payette but if we couldn't find anything not to worry about and and cruise out. We started searching up the Lower part of the Selway but although the river looked like it would be perfect we thought that the shuttle would be super hard to set because almost no cars were going up the road and I wasn't looking forward to running 10 miles on a dirt road. We settled on the idea that we would cruise to the Payette so that's what we did.
|Next time with more water|
|Skinny Dipper Hot Springs|
|Hot Spring at the Campground|
I woke up to a dog eyeing me from across the road and getting closer and closer as I slowly started getting the pancake mix to a good blend. At one point he was laying dead center in the middle of road just staring at me but slowly he made his way into the campsite. Once he was close enough I tried to pet him but being an Australian Shepherd he was stand offish and decided to head across the road.
After breakfast we made our way down to the Main Payette and drove it once so we knew where the takeout was before heading back up to the put in and getting on the river. The Main Payette is one of the best rivers to teach someone to kayak or just practice eddy catching on. The first lap we spend around 3 hours catching eddies, surfing, practicing rolls in the flat water and just having a good time on the river. After running a quick shuttle and eating lunch we were soon back on the rive for round two. This run was a little faster than the first but still memorable. It started with Colin getting his first combat roll which was a major breakthrough. After this major break through weather decided to crap out on us and a cold rain came in. We hurried through the rest of the run and I did a quick hitch hike shuttle back up to the car. The warm cars or the beer must have been working to get me in the mood because when I rolled back down to Colin I decided to leave my dry suit on in the off chance that there would be a group lapping the South Fork run.
|South Fork of the Payette|
In the morning we decided that it would be a good idea to head out of the Payette drainage and get on the road in the direction of Moab, where we were meeting a large group to get on West Water Canyon for a two day overnighter. On the way over we were planning on checking out City of Rocks because I remembered it as being a super beautiful place but what I had not remembered so clearly is that it was WAY out of our way and that it was at around 6'000ft. As it turns out I was correct in remembering that it was beautiful but it was freezing cold at night. I wouldn't have been surprised if it would have snowed that night but it turned out all good and in the morning we backtracked and got heading in the direction of Moab. As we were heading out we stopped at a large rock that the immigrants passing through wrote their names with axel grease from their wagons with their fingers. I thought it was pretty cool!
|Cold but yes...very beautiful!|
After a quick look at the arch we hurriedly ran back to the car and started our drive up and out of the park and back to Moab to continue our drive to the put it. WE must have taken the long way to the put in because we found ourselves on back roads until around 1 when we rolled into the parking lot, threw our sleeping bags down a ft off the from bumper and fell sound asleep. The next morning we lounged around making breakfast and eventually made our way to the takeout to wait for the rest of the group to run shuttle which turned out to be perfectly planned because mid way through getting lost on the way to takeout Nic pulls up next to me and we follow him to the take out, swap gear and were soon enough standing at the put in with the rest of the crew loading rafts and securing down mass amounts of alcohol...we knew we were on the right trip!
|Confidence in the structure|
Soon enough we were pushing the rafts off, going through small rapids winding our way through the high canyon walls to our first campsite. Located on the inside of a sweeping left turn we almost missed it but with the other kayakers lending a hand we eventually pulled all the rafts up onto the sandy shore and started walking the gear a hundred yards to a perfect place for camp. After cooking dinner we sat around the fire, drank beer, and chatted about the upcoming rapids that we would come up to the following day.
|No confidence in the structure|
The next morning we got up and got some breakfast burritos in us before loading the rafts and getting on the river. After what seemed like not that long we pulled off to the left to scout the largest rapid on our trip, Skull. It is a pretty straight forward move from right to left but the waves were big and there is a pocket on the right called the toilet bowl that is known to keep boats and gear for a long time. Going into skull I felt good but was worried about how Colin would fare so I decided that the 3 more experienced kayakers should go first to clean up anything that could occur with the second group.
|First hit is the biggest|
After we cleaned our lines we turned around just in time to see Colin flip over and start swimming to shore. Adam and myself go on the boat and soon enough had the boat and paddle over to the side of the river. After emptying the boat we sat down and cracked open some beers, thinking that we had chased the boat well out of the range of any flipped rafts or swimming kayakers would go down stream. As it turns out we were not...five seconds after opening the beers a commercial raft went by upside down with a shocked customer on it with his leg wrapped in a throw rope. We thought we had to get back in rescue mode to get the raft until another group went by in chase.
|Phelps on course|
Being so far down the river we were out of sight of the upper group that was setting safety for the main rapid so we just hunkered down and ate some snacks. After a while it became apparent that another commercial raft had flipped and gone into the room of doom because above us one Indian lady was getting leap frogged down the river by a kayaker in our group, eventually making it to the spot we had posted up. She seemed shaken up but in good spirits.
|Thrill of the Chase|
An hour later we had returned the Indian lady to her raft and we continued on our way. After skull there were a few more fun wave trains and some great spots to cliff jump...many a beer were consumed.The last night we ended up camping about 100 yards away from the takeout and as it turned out the night would have more carnage than I have ever seen on any river. Later the next morning Nic and I ran shuttle while the others gathered themselves and their gear, got everything into the rafts and completed the arduous journey 100 meters downstream to the takeout.
After running shuttle we re organized the car and made the 3 hour journey to visit a Lauren, who is doing a travel nursing program in Denver. I'm pretty sure that the shower I had after we arrived will rate as top 5 showers of all time for me. There is something about river water, canyon-land sand, and sleeping outside for 3 days that makes someone extra crusty. We stayed at Lauren's and her roommates house for the week getting out on Clear Creek, just outside of Golden almost everyday with a few people from the West Water trip. We even made a trip to the Coors Factory with Lauren which turned out to be a good time...3 beers at the end of the tour helped.
During the week we got to talking about heading up to the Arkansas river, just outside on Buena Vista with a few kayakers from the west water trip and soon enough we were back on the road headed back up I70. An hour and a half later we were on Browns Canyon enjoying one of the most rafted rivers in the US with almost no one on it but us. I had heard about this run but mostly about how bad the crowds are on a mid summers day. Making our way through the canyon walls I could definitely see why it was rafted so much. Floating through canyon walls is always a great place to be. A highlight to this week was getting passed by the tomtom car with full camera set up for street view on top of the car just as we woke up from a night of dirt bagging. Another highlight was getting on a harder section of whitewater above the numbers that I ended up getting holed out pretty hard but it all turned out good.
Soon after having a great week on the Arkansas we high tailed it all the way though to VA in two 12 hour days straight through Kansas to Missouri where we crashed in a hotel. We arrived in Fredericksburg at around 1am a day later.