Thursday, August 29, 2013

And now, the video

Here is another well done piece from Seven Fingers Media.  Enjoy!

Dinkey Creek from 7 Finger media on Vimeo.

Also, respect the runout!!!

Respect the Runout from 7 Finger media on Vimeo.

Monday, May 13, 2013

40 for 40 on Dinkey

Dinkey Creek:
OK, I'm taking a quick break from Maggie's High Sierra trip report to get a little boating blog in.  Dinkey Creek had been on my wish list for quite some time now and, for various reasons, about 7 trips had fallen through.  Three of those trips I actually had the car packed and ready to go.  I was beginning to wonder if there were some sinister forces associated with Dinkey Creek and that it just was not meant to be...

The often pictured Dinkey Creek takeout
The lesser known warning sign next to it...

Luckily Gareth Tate had no such delusions and made the trip happen right around my 40th birthday.  In retrospect, I don't think it would be a huge exaggeration to say that over the next two days I was able to run 40 class V drops for my 40th birthday. My 50th birthday might be a little scary...

Gareth was able to drag Robby and Seth down from Sac as well as enticing Emily, fresh out from the Southeast, to make the short trek from the Kaweah.  Half of us got a good night sleep in the dirt lot at the takeout while the others had the normal boater 2am arrival - that is just not how us 40 year olds roll.

Emily, Seth, Geno, Gareth, old man Giddens, and Robby ready to go

Our fearless shuttle drivers
 We had arranged a shuttle driver the previous night for one car (ask me about that story sometime, pretty classic) and then found another taker (or two) the morning of for the other vehicle (ask me about that story sometime, pretty classic).  Without getting into detail (or getting in the way of a good story), one of our shuttle drivers smoked all our weed and drank all our beer.  Can you guess who?
Anyway, after making no wrong turns on the shuttle road and only bottoming out the Jetta a few times, it was beginning to look like the stars were aligning finally for a trip into Dinkey Canyon...

Gareth rolls into put-in
The hike a little better than some had made it out to be; sure there was P.O., exposed rock faces and Manzanita, but on the plus side it was all down hill.   With a little sweat and some alleve, I was finally able to see the put-in first hand.

The illusive Dinkey Creek Put-in

We made pretty good time for a bunch of boaters and were able to get started around 1pm; turns out it was a good thing we had that much time since the first mile and a half took us about 6 hours.  As everyone says, Dinkey is pretty full on from the start; our water level was a little bit lower than most would want, but everything on the first day was more than adequately covered.  After a few fun slides (and one nasty p-ton) we found ourselves at Willie's.

Robby went unprotected so that we could all watch the line, then I fired off next.  Yes, it is a little nerve racking running a consequential entry to a 30 footer even with our mellow flows, but if you can't handle that, you can't handle Dinkey, because it just keeps going.  After catching the eddy on the right (it's what slalom boaters do), I slithered off the lip into the maw below with my mind focused on holding onto my paddle (and keeping it out of my teeth).  It was pretty standard; hit the bottom, flip, miss first roll, then roll up, then stoke, then set safety for others.

Geno was next; his far right line kept him dry - something to look at in the future after figuring out exactly where Willy broke both ankles... Then he stayed in the pool so I could get the next couple of photo's.  Emily was next and her line looked good; unfortunately her paddle did not style the line and it decided that it had enough of California.  After a T rescue, some hacksawing and some first aid the paddle was packed away and Emily was ready to roll with her breakdown.  In the meantime, Seth and Gareth finished off the classic without incident and Robby brewed a cup of coffee.  Yep.  Dinkey Creek.

The last shot of Emily's Paddle

Gareth sweeping Willie's

The next mile was pretty much stacked.  At the bottom of Willie's is a nice 20 footer (watch out for the floating log...)

Seth on the "run out" of Willies

Then the 20 footer with the sieve below it...

Emily on the "Malkenator"

Geno facing some demons

Then a minor portage...

Geno does the final jump

Then a triple drop with a nasty sieve.  I was to busy setting safety and feeling uncomfortable to take pictures of that...

Then a little drop called Spikes...

Robbie in the entry to Spike's. 
And a little breakfast slide action...

Geno having a late breakfast

Gareth on the slide
 Then another double drop into camp (photo pending...)

That's it right?  No big deal?  I have to say, it was probably the most stacked mile of whitewater I have done.  And it was really good.  I felt all of 39 that day and, when I was not shaking in my savants, I was grinning from ear to ear.

To celebrate, Gareth busted out a 4 liter bag of Chardonnay.  To celebrate more, Geno busted out a bottle of Jim Beam.  The festive night was capped off with a birthday cake in the middle of nowhere and some sloppy interviews for the camera.  Honestly a great day for sure.

 Morning came a little too soon for the 40 year old and I was beginning to regret my lack of good decision making when I realized I was probably still a little drunk.  That's OK, we were through the hardest part right?  Nope.

Good morning campers

 For the next mile or more Dinkey Keeps going at you with Hallway, Anaconda, the Portage Gorge and more.  Since I was not feeling up to snuff I did not take a bunch of pictures (nor did I run every drop).

Drop below camp

Robby and Gareth getting their day started

There is still a hole at low water

If I was not 100% sure that I was not 100%, I went ahead and flipped in the second drop of the day (I'm sure there will be video pending on this).  Still, it was hard not to appreciate the quality of the Dinkler.

There is one last sketchy portage before things start to open up and give you more options to run or not to run.  After seal launching about 20 feet into a short pool (make sure you don't launch into the sieve hole like I almost did) you have a pretty intimidating drop before you finally exit this gorge.  Lines went well, but heart rates were high.

Geno exiting the exciting gorge

There is a bunch of Dinkey "boogie water" before you hit another perfect 20 footer...

Seth goes for 20

Then there is more boogie before you get to Nicky Kelly's Drop.  My hangover had transitioned into just being tired and hungry as we kept paddling long past my old man lunch hour.  After a quick look from river left above NK, I decided I was best suited to set safety for the others and eat some lunch before I passed out.  Robby Hogg went first (again) and took a line that I did not at all expect to see; catching the eddy on the right above the drop, scooting out the bottom of the eddy and skying over all the gnarly folds and holes in the meat of the drop, skipping gracefully into the eddy below.  This move I could grasp in my current condition, in fact it looked too sweet to pass up.  Others went and made it look really good until Emily missed the eddy and dropped into the meat.

Emily running the gut of Nicky Kelly.

Nicky Kelly is named after a female Kiwi paddler who had an auspicious line through it.  Emily's result was approximately the same with a back-ender in the first hole and capsized finish to the rest of the drop.  I probably would have swam, then cried, then hiked out (if I had not already broken my hip), but Emily calmly rolled up at the bottom in the pool.  Of course it did not help that I was in position to grab her bow and keep all of this from happening; note to self, when in position to be safety, be ready to be safety...

She's OK!

After all of that, I probably deserved to blow my line as well, but things went about as well as I can imagine and I had the best birthday boof of my life...

Eric at 39

Eric officially 40

That drop, lunch and a 20 minute break cleared all of the cobwebs out of my 40 year old brain; it also made my day.  Feeling much better, we continued to finish off the run, which still has some drops of consequence.  Due to our slow progression prior to this point, I did not get any more photos, but I think some video might pan out sometime down the road.  I am particularly looking forward to Gareth's paddle into the powerhouse rapid.  Epic.

In short, Dinkey was well worth the wait.  I have no idea how many more times I am going to be able to get on this run before it starts getting too much for the old man in me, but I am very thankful that I was able to close out my third decade with it.  Great people, great run.  Happy F'n Birthday to me...

Monday, April 22, 2013

Day 5

Day 5: Junction Meadow to Kern Hot Springs

Waking up the morning of Day 5 we knew we had some mileage to make, but we couldn't resist a side hike up the Kern Kaweah river; a spectacular cascade that comes down into Junction Meadow.  Unlike the Kern, which would best be described as chunky boulder cascades, the Kern Kaweah is carved out of Granite with more of a waterfall characteristic.

Of course before we could get moving we had to gather the family belongings, something which is not exactly trivial on a trip like this.  At one point we set Maggie on a mat without her diaper, and of course she decided it would be a good time to pee...

I can't believe you are putting this on the internet, Dad

After packing up we crossed the Kern and headed up the granite canyon to the west.  Mark brought his fishing pole to see if he could slay some trout in the cascade.

Allison soaking up some rays while Marc slays some trout

Pi and Dad scoping out their lines

The Crew
 You could spend the whole day exploring the Kern Kaweah, and if you you were to keep going up you would hit probably the most remote part of the Sierra between the Kern, the Kaweah and the Kings; but alas we had to get moving downstream.

From Junction Meadow down to Kern Hot Springs is one of the most scenic and enjoyable sections of the Headwaters by boat.  By foot it is not quite as spectacular, but close...

Rebecca and Pi at Junction Meadow
 This section of the Kern is classic; tall pines, crystal clear water and glacially carved canyon walls with waterfalls cascading in from the high plateaus on either side.  The gradient of the river (and the trail) is not very steep here, so you can make pretty good time. Some of the crew would stop periodically to fish; we just stopped for a bite to eat and a mellow sit by the river.

Lunch Stop

There is one major rapid on this section of river; I have dubbed it "Nine out of Ten".  The story goes that during our first descent at high water, we got to this long rapid with a series of possible bad consequences.  Sam Drevo, who I would consider to be a very accomplished boater, elected not to run it because he was a "Nine out of Ten guy".  Meaning that, in this situation so  far from any civilization, his threshold for running something would be that he thought he could make it nine out of ten times.  None of the rest of us ran it either.

This trip, with low water, Nine out of Ten looked pretty friendly, marking the first time I wish I had my boat with me on the trip.

Looking down the center of Nine out of Ten

The run-out of Nine out of Ten
Dave, Allison and Andrew fished some of the calm pools here (which had been raging whitewater 7 years ago) and we continued on down towards the hot springs.  The scenery along this stretch is top notch as the canyon opens a little and the trees thin out somewhat.  There are some creek crossings that are no big deal at this water level, but can become treacherous at higher water.  Then of course there are the waterfalls...

Yet another waterfall cascading into Kern Canyon

With about 10 miles to cover this day, we got into a big of a grove.  The heavy packs, however began to take their toll and knees were beginning to get sore as we descended.  The awkward load of Maggie in her pack also was starting to wear on Rebecca and we were all looking forward to the hot springs at the end of the hike.

Rebecca making her way down
There was a point at which I was too tired to take a bunch of photos and, needless to say,  the bear box at camp was a welcome site as it meant we minutes from soaking in the hot springs.  Compared to our frigid dip in the river at Junction Meadow, the afternoon bath here was quite relaxing.  Also, for those who appreciated my Crabtree Meadow pit toilet story, the pit toilet at Hot Springs camp probably had an even better view (plus a privacy wall).  Of all of the places past Whitney, this is the most likely place that you might run into other campers.  Still, the option of soaking in a hot bath makes it a worthwhile stopping point.

 One thing I never had to consider on a multi-day backpack trip was baby diapers.  Usually pack-it-in-pack-it-out works just fine.  Ten plus days of diapers would, however, probably weigh around 50 lbs, not to mention the fact that it would be a bit of an olfactory issue.  We had brought biodegradable diapers, but the plan was actually to burn them, creating as little impact as possible.  If you have not yet sat around a diaper fire in the High Sierra (or anywhere for that matter)... well, let's just say it is an experience.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Day 4

Rebecca and Pi looking into Kern Canyon with the Kaweah Ridge in the bacground
 Day 4: Wallace Creek to Junction Meadow

Waking up in the morning at the top of Wallace creek was a good feeling.  Not only were we very close to the Kern, but we had the majority of our uphill out of the way and a very easy day down to Junction Meadow.  On top of that, the smoke that we had seen in the canyon the day before from the George Fire was no longer evident, which meant a couple of things.  First, we would not be breathing smoke the whole day, and second, there was a good chance that the fire was contained and that our helicopter (bringing us boats and taking Marc and Ann out) was probably going to be there when it was supposed to be.

Heading into Kern Canyon

Even though we had an easy day in front of us, some of us were pretty beat down (read me) from the heavy packs and long days leading up to this point.  Dave, Allison and Andrew, however, were not, so they elected to go on yet another adventure while the rest of us made the descent down to the river.  

First look at Junction Meadow
The hike down was pleasant, following Wallace Creek pretty much the whole way.  Views of Black Kaweah and other peaks the whole way down.  As you get closer to the river you get to see the Glacially carved valley, of which pictures do no justice...

Back at this sign 7 years later

When we got down to where Wallace Creek Trail hits the Kern Canyon trail we took a minute to snap a picture at a sign that we had visited 7 years earlier on our Headwaters of the Kern expedition (Rebecca was the first Woman to paddle it).  Funny how much has changed since then.

Looking up into the Kern-Kaweah river
While Junction Meadow is a beautiful place, it is well know to be a mosquito haven, so we took a minute to find our camp just north of the wooded area where the bugs would be less likely to ravage us.  We then took a trip through the bog to hang out by the river, which was low, but still a wonderful sight to see.

Marc and Ann chilling

Pi and Dad floating sticks in the river
Of course we had to jump in and "bathe", but none of us lingered very long in the icy waters.  Invigorating would be a mild way to put the experience of a dip in the Kern at Junction meadow, but if you can't feel alive hanging out at this place, a quick jump in the water will definitely bring you to your senses.

Rebecca debating the merits of jumping in

Um, it's cold...
After our swim we set up camp and poked around a little bit checking out the cascade of the Kern coming down into Junction Meadow.  7 years ago we had considered boating this section of river, but looking at it at high water we had deemed it unwise to attempt.  Looking at it now at low water did not tempt me either. 

After a while we got the radio call from the others and met them at camp.  While it was a relatively leisurely day, we were still pretty beat and happy to hang out at "bear camp".  The next day we had some mileage to make to stay on schedule to meet the chopper, but we were now on the Kern, our home river.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Day 3

Timberline Lake to Wallace Creek:

We woke up to a beautiful Sierra morning; blue skies and warm sun with no wind.  After huddling in the tent to cook dinner the night before this was a pleasant change, so we took some time in the morning to check out the area around timberline lake, and it was worth taking the time.

Maggie adventures from home base at Timberline lake

The string of lakes in this area is connected by a cascading creek, the section between Guitar lake and Timberline is particularly interesting with a stair-step rock character.  The cold night had left ice formations on the cascading waterfalls that made it even more enticing to wander around and check out the scene.

Pi and Dad checking out the ice formations
It also felt nice to sit out in the warming morning sun and soak up the scenery, that was pretty much all ours to enjoy.  The few people we had come across during our trek down the back side of Whitney were pretty intent on staying close to the peak; presumably to bag it early the next day.  The extra effort we had made to loose some altitude and get into the tree line paid of with what ended up being one of the most relaxing mornings of the trip.  I really wanted to just do a layover day and enjoy this place for another day; alas we had to keep moving so that we could meet the helicopter at the prescribed time.

So... where are we going today Mom?
We did not have a ton of distance to cover on day 3, so we had a leisurely morning and a relatively leisurely hike.  At one point I hiked an extra half mile or so to check out the pit toilet in Crabtree Meadow.  Not being much of an outdoor pooper, I had a fascination with this toilet ever since I read about it on another headwaters trip report.  I was not disappointed; the toilet was free standing (no privacy walls) in the middle of the meadow with fantastic open air views.  Of course I had set my pack down to do this excursion, but had I had my camera with me, you would have been treated to a self portrait - next time...

Rebecca and Pi somewhere near Crabtree Meadow

After a bit of descending and a disheartening section of uphill (the previous day had taken its toll), we got to yet another breathtaking view of the Bighorn Plateau and Mts Tyndall and Williamson.  We had lunch at the head of Wallace Creek and decided that we would make a short day of it and finish the hike down to Junction Meadow the following day.  This allowed  the Energizer Bunnies (Dave, Allison and Andrew) the chance to explore the Bighorn Plateau for a bit as the rest of us settled into camp. 

Ahhh,  so that is where we are

Unfortunately, one of the tequila bottles had leaked, putting a serious damper on the evening.  Well, not really, but next time I'm sure Marc will double check the platypus.  We were able to find a camp just below the "fire line" and enjoy a little campfire and cook out.  We were officially descending into Kern Canyon...

Pi and Daddy Jamming some Brown Eyed Girl on the Bear Canister