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...

No comments: