Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Golden Gate

After a great day on South Silver we headed over to the Golden Gate section of the American. Ethan, Keel, and I allong with Riley and Josh pushed off after Nick volunteered to run our shuttle, shortly after discovering that he was missing an essential piece of gear (yeah, the ole skirt). Thanks Nick! More pictures from the Golden Gate to come....

On a side note, Team Swain would like to wish Nick Urquart the best of luck as he heads to the AK tommorow for the start of Salmon season. Don't worry Nick you won't need your skirt up there either....

Pictures: (above) Keel brightman, Keeling it on F-11! (Below) Dropping into one of the first rapids in the day. Same rapid. Waiting for the boys half way into All F#$ked Up. Exiting AFU.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Hello Coloma!

I have come to believe that quite often the best plan can be having no plan at all.... This is not say that all anticipation should be thrown to the wind, but merely there are more important assets than a well conceived blue print. A good plan is malleable and despite popular belief, should always be open to change. So, our plan was simple: Stay committed to the cause, open to the present, and constant in terms of our optimism. That was the plan...

As we stood in "Shuttle Steves" front yard we enjoyed a few cold beers while unloading our gear. We laughed about some of the experiences that had been created on the Middle Feather, and began to say our good byes. We had essentially come to the end our planned time line, and it was time to write the next chapter of our story. Ethan and Myself had traveled together from Portland and were committed to paddling in California for the next week. After hearing our sound plan of "paddling in California" Keel Brightman enthusiastically joined our crew. As soon as Keel had said "yes" he threw his keys to the breeze after Rob, Ryan, and Shawn had agreed to drive his car eleven hours back to Hood River. That evening we camped near the reservoir with Boone and Matt and speculated what would come of tomorrow.

After bidding goodbye to Matt and Boone we set out to find an Internet cafe and a boat welding shop. It turned out that they happened to be at the same spot (the north facing wall of a drive thru coffee house). After consulting levels we concluded that driving south would be a good idea and our intuition lead us to choose Coloma, CA as a destination. A timely phone call from a friend in Georgia informed me of the general location of a good friend in Coloma, and so off we went to Lotus Camp on the American River...

Good timing is always a strong indicator that your "plan" is on track. We arrived in Lotus Camp, and about an hour later my friend Nick Urquart came rolling right in. He had no idea we were coming, so it was a classic surprise. We had a few beers, and as one thing usually leads to another we ended up paddling down to a tiny little wave called "barking dog." We spent the remainder of Memorial Day drinking whiskey and ripping that tiny little wave into pieces. We made dinner at Louts Camp and than headed right down to the Coloma Club. We met Riley Cathcart at the Club and were invited to go to the South Silver the next day with the Kiwis. "8 am a the coffee shop? Perfect!" Now we had a crew, and a solid one at that! After closing the CC down we headed over to Lauren's house in order to keep the dance party alive. Eight a.m came early and within a few hours we were hiking up South Silver to take our first look at the Cali classic.

We hiked up to the vantage point below off ramp where we gained an incredible perspective of this creek. I was, and am truly lost for words... Eventually we returned to the car where we met Riley and the three Kiwis. We put-on and had an incredible day! Now back to the Coloma Club, pronto!

Pictures: (above)No caption necessary, Barking Dog Wave on the American River. (Below) Heading down the Autobahn. Catching the eddy at the bottom of the Autobahn. Keel B. dropping into the mix. Amongst it.. Dropping into Plastic Surgery. Keel Brightman giving the ole "rocket man" as he heads into the bottom of Skyscraper. Nick Urquart and Jay Rolling through the Tea Cups. Keel soloing the Tea Cups. Nick in the spotlight, Skyscraper. Nick below Off-Ramp. A True Classic! Mac "Classing up" the time honored tradition by taking his bubbly out of a Bootie.. Well done Mac!

Cali Dreams.......

As summer begins to show itself in the Pacific Northwest it seems that everyone is buzzing about California. The land of Granite and sunshine is much more fickle than our home and requires careful attention as specific zones begin coming in. Last week a crew from Hood River, Oregon began traveling south en route to California with the plan to put on the Middle Feather for a three day tour. The APB was sent out a few weeks ahead of time and by friday morning 12 paddlers had arrived at "Shuttle Steves" house ready to put on the Feather. The Middle Feather is a classic California Multi-day trip consisting of three full days of fantastic whitewater. Nothing to hard, but constant and absoulutly geourgeous!

We put on the water mid afternoon and quickly became reeassured that bringing down jackets and rain gear was a good idea as a light drizzle began to set in. We paddled about ten miles of great water before finding our first camp. The rain ceased late in the afternoon allowing us to set up camp and settle in.

After setting up tarps and trying to dry gear we immediatly started a fire, which became the focal point as everyone began preparing dinner. Prior to putting on the river I was determined to eat well, but realized that I might have over commited as I began unloading my food. It was estimated that I brought ten pounds of just wine and carrots. So, two bags began quickly circuling around the campfire; one was filled with carrots and the other filled with wine. "would you like an appetizer" became the line as I enthusiastically began to try to reduce the load of my boat. Everyone pitched in and the wine and carrots quickly began to dwindle.

The next morning we awoke to a light rain, and the crew moved slow as we slid back into our drysuits and began making coffee before starting breakfast. Our friends from Tahoe kept joking that this was only the second time they had paddled in the rain. They seemed so excited, like a kid who rarely has the opportunity to play in the snow. Everyone from Oregon would just stare with genuine confusion, as if we were all trying to remember the last time we paddled in the sun. Regardless, everyone was excited about the day ahead and once on the water the rain became less evident. Day 2 brought lots of great rapids as our large group began bombing through in tight formation. After five or six hours we arrived at the PCT bridge which marked our second camp above the final gorges.

The rain cleared as we set up camp, offering a small window to launch into a competitive series of beach bochi ball. Keel Brightman beat me in a tight battle as everyone else enjoyed the break in the weather by lounging around camp. After dinner everyone gathered around the fire to engauge in the time honored tradition of sipping tequila and talking some serious s$%t.

The next morning we were awoken to clear skies and sunshine. The "California Dream" was starting to materialize! After a leisurly breakfast we took the opportunity to lounge in the sun as our gear rapidly dryed on the quickly warming rocks. Day 3 Takes you through the Devils Canyon, and arguably the most dramatic scenery on the river. Granite seems to emerge from the river and climb into the sky creating a dramatic background as we made our way downstream. At this point in the trip I became overwhelmed with just how good the quality of the river was. Long continous rapids and the vantage of 11 of my closest friends bombing down in front of me. The "California dream" was alive and well!

Pictures: (Above) Shawn and Rob sideways scouting as Matt drops in. (Below) Loading Zak's Rig enroute to the put-in. Rob rigging his boat. A Salamander's perspective. The crew: 12 deep on day one. Camp one- enjoying the fire. Dave and Dan keeping it clean. Blue Angel was the style. A home for seven of us. Camp Two. Day 3- Downstream perspective. Matt Gaudete getting into it. John Boone Sending Helicopter. Jay, Rob, an Ryan watching on as Dave and Dan make there way through a mini-gorge. Keel Brightman exiting one of the incrediable gorges on day 3.

All Photos courtesy of: Keel Brightman, Ethan White, and Jay Gifford

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