Sunday, August 24, 2008

"Let me tell you about two of the hardest chicks I know..." -Jay Gifford

Last week Anne and I took off on a 3,000 mile roadtrip across the country, from Bryson City, NC to Portland, OR. Throughout the six days on the road there were lots of boating and biking adventures, very little eating or sleeping and a whole lot of laughing. Heres an overview of the trip...

The night before the big drive was the NOC instruction party at Chris and Anne's house. As you might imagine if you've ever been to a social event at the Port-Sontheimer residence, there was lots of good food, great friends, and of course fireworks, banana liquor and wrestling.

Chef Port making a kabob

Jeremy making a weird face

Tequila shots!

JC and Sean getting the firework display ready

After an awesome night of celebrating the end of another great summer, Anne and I hit the road at 3am (after two hours of sleep) and started the long drive to Colorado. Many people doubted our ability to make the drive in one push, but as we expected, Anne and I were more than capable of knocking out the 27 hour drive to Salida, CO without any significant breaks. I must admit, however, that the brain simulators and gossip really helped out in those final hours.

After cruising around Salida for a half an hour dragging our trailer carrier throughout the neighborhoods, we finally came to a resting place off the side of a random road up a mountain at about 4:30am. I am not sure if it was the meteor shower or the brain drugs, but even after that much driving we still managed to spend a while just staring up at the sky before finally dozing of to sleep.

Wonderful, glorious Kansas

Anne taking over during one of the tougher shifts

Finally laying down after the 27 hour push

After another two hours of sleep, we both woke up, loaded the car and headed into town to catch the 8am shuttle up to Monarch Pass where we would be starting our bike ride. The Monarch Crest Trail is a one of a kind trail, consisting of 35 miles of varied terrain, most of which sits above 11,000 feet. The air was thin, the views were amazing and the trail was awesome. Start to finish it took us about six hours and we were definitely feeling the lack of sleep by the time we hit the car. After taking a short break to check out Salida's whitewater park, Anne took one for the team and drove us the two and a half hours to the takeout of Gore Canyon, located near Kremmling, CO.

The start of the ride

Anne and I taking a break on the pass

Just one of the many beautiful views

More moutains

The view we were granted at the top of the climbing portion of the trail, right before the sweet downhill

We arrived at the takeout of Gore just before dark, set up our tent (the only time the tent was used on the entire trip) and headed to bed early to rest up for a day on the water. We woke up the next morning after a good nights rest ready to get in our boats. The day involved paddling class 3 and 4 rapids through a beautiful Colorado canyon. We paddled with Hobie and Scott, two local kayakers who were kind enough to show us some lines as well as hook Anne up with a creekboat. Good lines were had by all and it was great to get out on a new river again.

A view of the river as we drove out of town

Our loaded down ride

On the road in Colorado

After leaving Gore Canyon, we drove six hours southwest to Moab, Utah and were eventually throwing down our sleeping pads right around midnight. We spent that evening and the next morning trying to figure out what to do with Kiwi while we were riding, since with the extreme heat we didn't feel comfortable leaving her outside. Eventually we found a kennel that would take her for the day, but unfortunately that was not figured out until after we missed the 7am shuttle ride up to the Porcupine Rim trail we hoped to ride that day. The ride is described in most books as a 16 mile shuttle ride or a 35 mile loop "for the truly insane." I think that description alone got Anne fired up to do the loop and with the shuttle now out of the question, we took off from the car around 8am to start the Porcupine Rim loop. The first hour and a half involved climbing up the road out of town and through the park, followed by another couple hours climbing on up the slickrock style trial to the top of the rim. All the climbing was definitely worth it when we reached the top and were granted amazing views of Moab and its surrounding areas.

After arriving at the top, we rode along the rim for a while before starting on our steep slickrock desents. It was near the beginning of one of the descents that I decided to ride over a three foot drop without getting far enough back on my seat and had my first over the handlebars "endo" experience. On the bright side, Anne said that after landing on my head, I rolled through the crash nicely. It took me a while to get my confidence back after that, but by the end of the day I was riding things much more technical than the obstacle that caused my wreck. As it turns out, Anne was right along- it is really important that you get behind your seat when riding step trails.

After seven hours of extreme exposure, radiating heat, long climbs and steep descents I would definitely call that an epic ride.

Anne checking out the view at the top of Porcupine Rim

Anne riding up something that looked impossible to me

Anne riding down something that I probably walked

Anne flying down the trail with amazing desert views in the background

Me taking a break to check out the Colorado River down in the canyon

The singletrack portion of the trail

After finishing up our ride we made a quick decision to change plans and instead of staying in Moab another day, we decided to make our move towards Idaho. Since neither of us had ever been to Idaho, we figured that it would be a good place to spend the following day. On our way out of town we took a couple hours to drive through Arches National Park.

The Delicate Arch in Arches National Park

After leaving Arches we started to drive north with no real idea of what we were going to do or where we were going to end up. We were still feeling good after arriving to Salt Lake City so we decided to push on to Boise. We arrived into the city around 5am and with no real idea of what to do there, we pulled into a spot that had wireless, busted out the laptop and found out that we were extremely close to the world class Payette River, which was running at a good level. With no more information than that, we drove up into the Payette Wilderness. After another night of trying to find a spot to lay down, we eventually stopped at a pulloff along side the river at about 6:30am.

After two and a half hours of sleep, we awoke to find ourselves in beautiful Idaho country. Since up to this point neither of us had taken a shower since before the instruction party, we both took baths in a little swim hole next to the bank of the river. We then packed up and went on a mission to get some coffee, beta on the river and a creekboat for Anne. Eventually we were able to secure all of those things and the two of us put on the "lower 5" section of the North Fork of the Payette. All I can really say about that afternoon is that it was continuous class 4-4+ big water and I could not stop smiling the entire way down. It had been a long time since either of us had gotten to really read and run that kind of water, or any kind of water for that matter, and it was awesome.

We enjoyed the Payette so much we very seriosuly considered staying for another day so that we would have the opportunity to paddle the ten miles of whitewater above where we put in. After much debating however, we decided that we were both in need of a little steep creeking and set out on the road towards Hood River, Oregon- home of the Little White Salmon.

In classic fashion for Anne and I, we arrived into Hood River around 5 in the morning, drove around for 45 minutes looking for a good place to sleep outside and eventually got to bed off the side of some road in the mountains of Washington. After a couple hours of sleep we headed over to the house of Team Swain transplant Jay Gifford. After a quick talk with Jay before he left for work, we grabbed some coffee and drove to Post Canyon, a sweet mountain biking trail system located just outside of town.

We ended up riding for about three hours on some really fun trails. My personal favorite was the first trail we took that involved climbing up multiple ridiculously steep hills followed by a sick downhill through a horse pasture and a gravel road. The next trail we did took us up to the top of the mountain where there was a man made course that had some jumps and log features. I didn't venture very far onto the course, but Anne was riding some of the obstacles which was cool to watch. Afterwards we took off on another trail that offered up some fun cross country riding with some amazing descents. I spent the majority of that trail doing what I do best on a mountain bike- eating dirt. At the end of it all we were both pretty dirty and decided to head to Jay's and do something we had yet to do on the trip- shower.

Anne and I after our ride at Post Canyon

After a quick nap, Jay got home from work and we all loaded up and headed out to get our boof on on the Little White Salmon River. Ever since the time I was considering coming out here, I kept hearing about the Little White and just how great it is. It definitely lived up to my expectations! All throughout the trip Anne and I were discussing how people kept calling things "class 5" (i.e. Gore Canyon and the Payette) when in reality we felt they were class 4. Well, lets just say that the Little White lived up to its class 5 rating and I would consider it the most difficult section of river that Anne or I have ever paddled. It was full of steep, continuous water and left us always questing what would be waiting around the next corner.

It started off with "Getting Busy" a very continuous section of class 4-5 boogie water and finished off with an array of vertical drops, ranging from 13 to 35 feet. One of my favorite moments was when we all eddied out and Jay explained the next drop- "you're going to go around that corner, go over a hole, look for a hump, then paddle off a 20 foot fader boof." He followed up that sentence by putting in his mouth guard for the first time all day and peeling out of the eddie, leaving Anne and I questioning what the hell we were about to do. We both ended up having good lines on the rapid I now know to be "Wishbone Falls," one of the more significant drops on the river.

Me running "S-turn" on the Little White

Anne, Jay and I's self portrait at the lip of Spirit Falls

That day was a pretty magical one for me as it commenced not only an amazing roadtrip, but also an amazing summer. The summer was pretty much training for this trip. Anne and Chris put lots of long hours into teaching me how to mountain bike (which was mildly successful aside from the fact that I still can't seem to get unclipped from my pedals before falling over) and in return I tried to make them see what bad-ass paddlers they were (the highpoints being running Go Left and Sunshine with Anne as well as watching Chris style the Green for the first time since shoulder surgery).

Its been exactly a week since the trip ended and I am still feeling the need for more adventure. The trip definitely made me realize just how many amazing places there are in this huge country of ours and how many more things there are for me to see and do in it. Fortunately, I am sitting on Jay's couch in Hood River at the moment and plan to hit the Little White again tomorrow. I guess thats going to have to hold me over until my next epic journey....

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