Friday, December 18, 2009

Adventuras en Mexico

Gareth and our fearless guide Fernando

Last month Gareth and I decided it was time to get out of the cold weather of Western NC and head south to the land of cheap tacos, warm weather and big waterfalls. We had heard nothing, but great things about Mexico (besides people scaring us about the border) and were excited to check it out for ourselves. After the long drive down to Southern Texas we decided to spend our last night stateside camped out on the beautiful beaches of South Padre.

Finding our campsite on South Padre Island, TX

After almost being arrested at the US border (Gareth decided it would be fun to set up the video camera to tape our border crossing which as it turns out is a federal offense and resulted in us being frisked, searched and the video camera almost being confiscated), we drove straight to the Micos River, outside of Valles City. The Micos is only a class 3-4 river, but totally worth doing for the fun factor of running lots of low stress waterfalls in one of the most beautiful places Ive ever seen.

After playing around in the crystal clear waters of the Micos, we headed to the Salto River, which turned out to be another one of those magical places. Lots of fun drops, super clean and super scenic. Unfortunately it is also the place where my camera stopped working. That said, the rest of the pictures from the trip are not great quality, but at least you'll get the idea...

Me at the put-in below the 60 footer on the Micos

Classic Micos Scenery

Me boofing a classic Micos drop

Gareth on the Micos

Playing behind the waterfalls of the Micos

Having a beer at the takeout of the Salto

After getting off of the Salto (and a quick stop at a sweet Taco stand), we hit the road for the town of Tlapacoyan, the launching point for running the Alseseca River. We spent two days exploring the Road-side section of the Alseseca and had a blast. The river is dirty, like the dirtiest river I have ever seen, and while that was hard to get past, the rapids definitely made up for it. There were lots of lots of clean fun drops, including one especially big rapid called "S-turn" which involves a 15 or so foot drop into a really narrow canyon. I actually decided to walk it on first inspection, but after watching Gareth fire into it it looked so much fun I carried my boat back up and fired it up!

On a whim we decided to leave Tlapacoyan before having paddled all the rivers we wanted to there in an effort to try and catch up with some other Southeast boater friends. We headed five hours South down the coast to the Rio de Oro, a run we'd heard nothing but great things about.

Gareth on the drop above "S-Turn" of the Roadside Alseseca

Gareth and Jon running "S-Turn"

A typical morning on the Costa de Oro

After camping out near the beach, we woke up early to start figuring out how we were going to get on the Oro. We knew absolutely nothing about the run besides that it had some sweet waterfalls and finished in the ocean. The only beta that we had was from a website that said to drive to this little town and ask for Pepito and that he'd show you the way to the river. At this point we hadn't found our other friends, but just knew that there was some chance they'd be there that day. After about 2 hours of cruising around the tiny town of Arroyo de Lisa, we found Pepito's parents, who took us to Pepito, we then took us to his brother Fernando, who fed us a breakfast of shrimp at his restaurant on the beach and then finally we were off to the river. We didn't fully understand what was going on, but Fernando was wearing flip flops and carrying repelling gear telling us we was going to come down the river with us.

As we were about to the start of the hike in, we heard someone honking at us and looked behind to see a truck loaded down with boats and our friends Toby, JJ, Ben and John as well as their friend Rocky. So as one big team we headed to the river with Fernando by our side.

After about a 45 minute hike in we arrived at the river. The first move of the day involved ferrying across the river above a 50 foot waterfall that has yet to be run.

Gareth checking out the waterfall at the put-in

Our man Fernando

The Rio de Oro turned out to be nothing short of spectacular. After a couple miles of beautiful, clean class 4-5 gorges the river drops off the first 30 foot waterfall. We all fired off it with reasonably good lines (I got a little worked and ended up behind the veil which was a bit scary for a moment) and headed downstream. None of us really knew what to expect, so imagine our surprise when after paddling for only a few hundred yards in a totally walled in gorge we came to our next horizon line. We were at the second clean 30-footer of the run. I was a little nervous because of my mediocre line at the first waterfall, so I took that opportunity to have a little "How to Run a 30-Footer" lesson with Toby Macdermott. Turns out he knows what he's talking about. I stuck my line beautifully.

Toby at one of the drops before the waterfall gorge

Me running the first 30-footer

Toby showing us how its done on the first 30-footer

Gareth below the second 30-footer

Besides being really clean, extremely beautiful and having two clean 30-footers on it, the next coolest thing about the Rio de Oro is that it finishes in ocean. So after finishing our run we all spent some time surfing it up in the ocean waves. Then it was time to celebrate an amazing day with fish tacos and beer on the beach. We finished off the night with a bottle of tequila camped out on the beach. Best day in Mexico ever.

The next day Toby, Gareth, John and I got up early for a sunrise lap on the Oro. It was just too good to do just once.

Gareth surfing it up on the coast

Beers and Tacos on beach

Paddling back to our campsite after our morning run of the Oro

From here the story gets less exciting... Rocky was writing a guide book and needed to do some exploratory runs. So as a group we decided to follow him along on his adventures. We basically drove all around, ran a couple class 3-4 rivers, portaged a 150 footer and then decided to drive even farther to do a multi-day on the Rio de Cajones.

It was on the second day of the Rio de Cajones that I fell while scouting a rapid and broke my hand. I grabbed a log that fell, and I fell with it, right on the backside of my left hand. I knew that it wasn't good, but at the time I wasn't thinking it was actually broken. I suffered through a few more miles of Class 4 just ruddering my way down rapids and doing my best to make it to the first bridge where I could take out. When we finally arrived at the bridge most of us decided to take out. John and I hitchhiked the shuttle back to the put in while Gareth and JJ hung out with our gear at the bridge.

Ben loading up at one of the put-ins

A local boy hanging out with us at a put-in

John waiting for a ride while hitchhiking the shuttle

A view from the back of a pick up truck on one of our rides on the Rio de Cajones shuttle

A tarantula we saw while shuttling

Once we got back to civilization after way too may hours of driving from the Rio de Cajones I got my hand x-rayed and confirmed that I fractured my index metacarpal. That was the end of paddling in Mexico for me... I spent the rest of the trip running shuttle, drinking and practicing my Spanish.

Our Mexican Thanksgiving

After about three weeks in Mexico Gareth and I were both running out of money, and with my hand broken we decided it was time to high tail it home (after a night of fresh seafood and drinking on Bourbon Street in New Orleans of course).

And in case you're wondering, I have one more week in a cast (and one week after that of "being careful") and my hand will be back in action and on the river again!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Fall Foliage on the Toxaway

Gareth getting pumped for the day loading up at the take-out

Last week I checked off a new Southeastern classic from my to-do list. I had been wanting to do the Toxaway for a while, but was waiting until the right day to do it. I'd say that a late October day with sunny, 70 degree weather during peak leaf season could not have met my requirements for a perfect day any better. The level was -4" (medium-low) and the team solid.

The Toxaway fullfilled every expectation I had for it and more. Slide after slide after sweet slide we moved our way down the beautiful gorge, making sure to take the time to stop and enjoy the fall colors surrounding us.

Drew Duval at the put-in slide

Drew Duval at the bottom part of the put-in slide

Gareth scouting Energizer before firing it up

Chad Pickens in the meat of Energizer

Chris Baer entering the Feeding Trough

Gareth Tate about to launch into Landbridge

Jakub in the middle of Landbridge

Beautiful fall colors looking over the lip of Wintergreen

A spectacular view from the bottom of Wintergreen

Can't wait to go back next time it runs!

Make sure and check out the video Gareth put together from the trip below.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

California Trip Report: Lower Tuolumne and West Cherry Creek

Taking a "California Lunch" on the Lower Tuolumne

After picking Gareth up from the airport in Sacramento we were both fired up to get back on the water after each taking a week off. Our plan had been to head down to Cherry lake and get on Upper Cherry. Unfortunately, the weather/water did not cooperate with us and due to a heat wave, the water levels rose back up, making upper cherry out of the question, and even making West Cherry too high. So we were forced to wait it out and take another few days off the water. Gareth headed into Yosemite to hang out with some friends and I spent the weekend on the coast with my family who happened to be in town.

Following the weekend we were dying to get back on the water so with West Cherry still too high, we opted for a big water class 4 day on the Lower Tuolumne. After getting some questionable beta on the run/shuttle, we stashed our bikes at a rafting place half way down the shuttle and drove to the put-in to camp for the night. The next morning we were met by "straight charger" Tim Collins and we put on for what turned out to be a really great day on the river. Since all three of us generally opt for low volume creeking over any big water runs, it was fun to change it up a bit and bust through so huge holes opposed to the creeky verticle drops we'd been paddling for the past month. We were told it'd be really easy to hitch from the takeout to where our bikes were stashed however that turned out to be very incorrect. We almost got stuck at some sketchy bridge far from our bikes but fortunately the one rafting trip that was taking off that day finally decided not to leave us stranded and gave us a ride. Gareth and I then hopped on the bikes and rode the 10 miles down to the cars.

The next day consisted of doing our research and pulling together all the beta we could to figure out just what was going on with the water levels on the Cherries. Eventually we concluded that the water level on West Cherry was somewhere between high and good and the three of us decided to hike in the next day. Tim Collins had done the run once before and became our fearless leader for the trip, successfully navigating us to the trailhead and down the two mile mosquito fest hike to the river.

Taking a break from the hike

Tim hiking into the granite planet

Me hiking in

We arrived at the put-in earlier than expected, but instead of paddling down decided to simply enjoy our time taking in the beauty of the area. We spent the afternoon relaxing, fishing, hiking around, and scouting some of the rapids for the next day. As soon as dusk set in the mosquitos came out in full force and caused us all to retreat to our sleeping bags before it was even dark. That was the most intense mosquito attack I have ever experienced.

At the put in- campsite #1

Tim admiring the scenery

Exploring the gorge after our hike in

Sun set on West Cherry Creek

Using the nomads to set up the mosquito net

The following morning started off with lots of low angled slides followed by this sweet twenty footer that falls off with rock ledges on either side. The line is to boof off the middle narrowly missing the "goal post" rocks on the sides. Just below the that rapid is a big 15 foot drop with a meaty hole at the bottom that you would not want to be stuck in. After a few more class 4-5 rapids we arrived at one of the bigger runnable rapids on the stretch, known as Charlie Beavers Mega Rapid. Only Tim decided to fire this one up (which involves four big drops back to back) but after watching him style it I am fired up to run it next year.

Tim running the "goal post" twenty footer

Gareth at the same rapid from above

Tim stomping the boof below the twenty footer

Tim firing up the second drop of Charlie Beaver's rapid

Our lunch spot looking up at Charlie Beaver's Mega Rapid

Eventually we got down to what most people call "the big portage" on West Cherry which includes the Edge of the World slide. I can definitely see why the slide has that name because as you come around its edge, you get the most spectacular view of the Cherry gorges and Cherry lake in the distance. It was the most dramatic portage I've ever walked.

We decided that the scenery was too good to not stop to camp, so we ended up putting in and paddling down to the spine that separates Upper Cherry from West Cherry and camped there. This spot gave us a view of Upper Cherry creek and West Cherry creek as well as Cherry lake.

Gareth hiking around the Edge of the World slide with a beautiful view of Cherry lake

The crew

Part of the big portage

Gareth relaxing at camp #2

After a beautiful night at our second camp, we hiked down to the river and put on at the confluence of Upper and West cherry. The level was stompy for the Red Rocks gorge and gave us an early adrenaline fix for the day. Eventually we made it down to the final gorge which we decided was too high for us and did our final portage of the day around it before putting in again just above the lake.

West Cherry turned out to be hands down the most scenic run that I did in California. Its high sierra granite nature made it unlike anything I'd ever see before. And the whitewater wasn't so bad either...

The final rapid leading into the lake
Subscribe in a reader