Tuesday, January 30, 2007

i PURA VIDA ! Costa Rica Trip Report

(Finally in Costa Rica! Photo by Brad Sutton)

Several weeks ago, I had never been out of the country before. So when I found out about the Costa Rica trip Brad was organizing, it was more to me than an opportunity to kayak somewhere new; it was an opportunity to experience a new part of the world for the first time! But with $500 in my account, no passport, school about to start, and only 2 weeks notice, it was crunch time if I was going to go on this trip. Somehow I was able to get a passport in less than a week, get my teachers’ approval for missing the first 2 weeks of the semester, get my shots, and pick up my new 2007 Rocker just in time to go to the first day of school and then hop on a plane to Charlotte, NC and then on to Costa Rica!

I’ll never forget that feeling I had, flying with my gear and new kayak and stepping off the plane in another country for the first time... It was amazing to have pulled it together for myself in just 2 weeks and the sense of accomplishment and adventure was fresh inside of me with the anticipation of the drops, rapids, and new friends to come. I made my way through the airport, immigration, and customs, carrying my Rocker and luggage out of the airport, only to be met by a crowd yelling names, Spanish, and holding signs for tourists and taxis. A young man grabbed my boat and rushed me across the street where I was eventually met by friendly open hands (for tips) and Brad Sutton, Mario Vargas, and Mario’s girlfriend Coreylynn (no idea how to spell her name… sorry)… they grabbed my stuff and before I new what was happening I was in our shuttle van for the trip and we went to a parking lot to wait for Lucas, our photographer for the trip.

The Costa Rica trip happened for one reason. Brad wanted to run big waterfalls, and he had his eye on La Fortuna… What really happened on our trip, turned out to be completely different than what any of us had expected. Personally, I had no interest in running something like Fortuna, but with lots of waterfalls on the side and the idea of possibly going big, I joined the trip to put the new Rocker to the test and to film with Ben Stookesberry and to learn whatever I could from my friends. My goal was to improve as a paddler and to push myself a bit more than before while experiencing a new culture in a new country for the first time!

Because of the ice storms, Lucas never made it to Costa Rica. After picking up Ben Stookesberry and his girlfriend, Lizzie, we took off to Sarapiqui and for a warm-up on the upper gorge of the Pozo Azul.

(Getting ready for the hike into Pozo Azul. Photo by: Boyd)
(Brad Sutton dropping off the first falls. Photo by: Boyd)

(Boyd dropping off the first falls while Ben films. Photo by: Brad Sutton)

I hit the lip with a bit of extra speed to get over the small shelf above the lip. The Rocker went right over the shelf without losing speed, suprising me a bit. Overcompensating a bit, I pitched a little off the lip but with a fast tuck the bow pulled right back up to 15 degrees with no problem for a perfect landing and great resurface.

(Ben Stookesberry with a smooth line on the first one. Photo by: Brad Sutton)

The Pozo Azul was a bit on the low side, but the waterfalls were great! They proved to be a sweet warm-up for Costa Rica! I was thoroughly impressed with the new Rocker. It plugged great but was especially smooth on the lip and when resurfacing. It smoothly, but quickly, resurfaces upright and balanced with ease! After some easy, shallow, boulder mank, we eddied out above the lip of the big one, Pozo Azul Falls. It's probably the most run waterfall in Costa Rica, but you can't deny its quality... it's a great drop for practice or a good warm-up.
(Boyd testing the Rocker on Pozo Azul Falls. Photo by Brad Sutton)

After our run down Pozo Azul, we took of for La Paz and a quick scout of the waterfall. Personally, I felt that it was a bit low for a run. The pool depth was about 10' lower than where it's usually run, probably pushing the falls into the 90' range. Brad decided it would go and decided to fire it up "tomorrow'... so the next day after more rain, we all showed back up at La Paz in the morning hoping it would have more water. It didn't. Brad was not feeling well that morning so the La Paz/Fortuna idea was deifnitely off, and our focus shifted from park-&-huck waterfalls and easy access to the places kayakers in Costa Rica just don't typically go. Ben was ready to leave the overdone waterfall silliness and go on a mission. We heard about kayaker running a section of the gorge below the La Paz Waterfalls before but couldn't find any info. On our way up to La Paz we found this waterfall:

(waterfall downstream a ways from La Paz. Photo by Boyd)

We got to thinking, what if we could put in at the base of this waterfall? What would be downstream? Keep in mind that the only thing around this waterfall was fresh, STEEP jungle and that the hike in is "muy peligroso" (very dangerous) to stay the least. It was also a lot farther away than it looks in that photo. More like this:

(the falls from the road. photo by Boyd)

After talking to some locals, the hike sounded like a bad idea... but exactly what I think we were all looking for. Before we knew it, Ben had paid a local man, Senario, to show us the way into the gorge as our jungle guide. With only 5 hours of daylight left (4 in the jungle) we quickly geared up for the hike in. Ben, Lizzie (his girlfriend), me, and Senario took off down a hill and through a field and into the rainforest. Within the first 5 or 10 minutes Senario turned around and warned us not to get an upcoming tree into our eyes and not to rub our eyes after touching it. If we did, he said, it would make us blind. Before I could say much of anything, we're climbing through this tree and another and another, pretty much setting the mood for the rest of the hike. The rainforest is an interesting place, but it seems like everything in it will kill you or mangle you somehow... everything seemed poisonous or sharp, but absolutely beautiful. climbing our way down the steepest, mudiest forrest floor I've ever seen, we could finally hear water! Once in the river and with the sweat washed away for a moment, we began our trek upstream to the base of the waterfall.

(Our fearless guide Senario in rubber boots, blue jeans, and a t-shirt...& he couldn't swim! )

The craziest thing about having Senario as our guide was that once we reached the river, he still kept up. We told him he didn't have to go up with us, but he insisted. He couldn't swim and had no gear. But somehow he made it from one shore to another heading upstream like a persistent, half-drowned rat...with the biggest smile I had ever seen, only stopping to dump out his rubber boots. He really made us feel like pussies in there...us in all our paddling gear, helmets and everything. And we were glad to have it on!

(me looking up at the falls, finally made it. photo by: Lizzie)

After finally making it to the base of the falls, we realized that we had a potentially great run, but that we really needed more water before we could consider it. The yield for good drops at that level was simply too low for the amount of time and danger to get in there. Running out of daylight and with the risk of being in the jungle in the dark growing, it was time to make our journey back out of the gorge. Senario was impressed and we made record time for our round trip! That night after guaro shots and a good meal, we were still ready to go on a mission. Ben had picked out a small section of the Sarapiqui that had never ben done before into a section that we had heard of being done once before... the information was sketch at best, but with a steep 4+ miles of river to run, we put on expecting to spend only a day on the river... with the unlikely possibility of one night out. Myself, Ben, and Lizzie packed our expedition gear with a little bit of food in preperation for the worst while brad stayed behind with Mario and Cory to nurse his sick stomach. I only packed 3 cliff bars thinking we probably wouldn't take long on 4 miles; we all felt more than confident. We had no idea how wrong we were! We were most definitely in for a mission.

(me entering the first boulder rapid below the bridge while Ben films. Photo by: Brad Sutton)

(Lizzie sportin' Brad's Rocker in the upper bouldery section. photo by: Boyd)

(Ben Stookesberry on the upper section of the Sarapiqui. Photo by: Boyd)

The rapids started off as class IV and V boulder gardens, nothing too stressful or difficult. It continued this way until we reached a small powerhouse on the left where we were faced with a difficult boulder choke into a 20' waterfall with a long sliding enterance that all seemed to flush right through a caved out wall. All deciding to error on the side of caution we portaged with our first rapel into the pool below where we entered a new gorge:

(Boyd in the first deep gorge. Photo by: Ben Stookesberry)

Once locked into the gorge, the rapids changed in nature completely. After eventually running out of daylight, we found our camp for the night:

(Our first campsite on the Upper Sara. photo by: Boyd)

Right beneath this waterfall!... well, across the river from it. It was the most beautiful place I've ever camped and one of the most beautiful I've ever seen! The next morning we were thinking... "yeah... we'll get off today." We had no idea how wrong we were. The moment we left camp and around the the next bend we began dropping into a canyon... a deep, overhung, soaking wet canyon with back to back class V and V+ boulder gardens with no escape.

(a view down the canyon... before it really closed in. photo by: Ben Stookesberry)

The canyon was definitely full-on to say the least. And with minimal information on what was in the canyon, we had to tip-toe our way through the gorge to stay safe. Typically, only one of us would scout while another would probe the rapid based on river signals, moving on to scout the next drop while we moved through. Eventually, we saw heavy mist exploding up the canyon. Knowing it was a very large waterfall, we continued into the mist towards the rapids in the base with no other option (and a bit of curiosity of course). We came to the brink of a manky class V or V+ rapid right in the base of a 250 ft waterfall. The Canyon walls were so closed in that the wind and spray from the high volume falls could only fly upstream and downstream and straight back up! It was litterally like a hurricane at the base of the falls with winds strong enough to flip you if you let you guard down, making the rapid in the base even more difficult to run. I ran first on Ben's directions... Lizzie came down next and we all just nervously commited around the next blind corner, hoping our creek didn't drop over its own waterfall while knowing from what little information we had that another rapel lurked downstream. After one of the longest, highest stress days of paddling I've ever had, we finally made it out of the canyon.

(A brief moment of relief, we were finally out of the canyon. Photo by: Ben Stookesberry)

Finally out of the canyon, the nervous tension broke into laughter; but our mission wasn't over. We knew we hadn't covered much distance and the sun was going down. Once above a manky class V+ or VI- rapid with few portage options, we were forced to call it a day and spend another night in the canyon. With very little food, my left-over cliffbar was not very filling and with no good sleeping options, my pile of lava rocks felt like the most comfortable bed on the trip. We were exhausted, but hopeful that we would make it out the next day. The next day we started bright and early with our second rapel of the trip, our only option for portaging... and downstream we were met by some of the highest quality rapids of the trip:

(Boyd at the lip of another drop into a wall. Photo by: Ben Stookesberry)

The rapids gradually leveled out and the stress level gradually dropped allowing us to make some serious time again. The banks got closer and closer to river level. Before long we began seeing signs of civilization again and we knew our mission was almost complete. With smiles and grins, we made our way to the take-out bridge to meet up with the rest of our worried crew... probably as happy to see us as were to see civilization again... 3 long days later!

You would think after being locked in a canyon for 3 days, that we would be in the mood for a break. Brad was feeling better though, and fresh rains meant the Rio Patria would most likely be prime. We immediately began to prepare for another overnighter... the Patria. The next morning we got a later start than we hoped, and the whole day just seemed to stay slow. Once geared up and at what we thought was the beginning of the hike into the Patria, Ben and Brad realized we were at the wrong spot... it was a mad search for the trail and their memories as we were running out of daylight. Not long after, Ben found the right trail. With the thought of just trying again the following morning, we decided to press on into the gorge.

The hike into the Patria is the steepest, mudiest trail I have ever seen. Roots and vines were a constant problem while the trail seemed to constantly give way into a mudslide through the forrest below for hundreds of feet. Many times the trail was only wide enough for one foot while the mud on it was deep enough to reach my knees, nearly pulling my shoes off a few times. A 3 hour hike through the rainforest doesn't do the hike justice at all; it is much harder and more complicated than that. It was too wet to drag a boat and carrying the heavy boats meant constantly dealing with vines and trees while trying to just stop sliding down the mountain. This was quite likely the most difficult hike I've ever done with my kayak, and it was loaded down with full overnight and rescue gear. Eventually we made it to the Rio Patria, where we scraped and beat our way down about a mile to our first campsite of the trip...shortly above "the gorge." The next morning we made our way to the gorge on the Patria, sporting 3 drops in a mini-canyon with the last one nearly 70 ft tall. Ben portaged with the camra and I set video above the drops... thinking of running it, but opting for the portage. I'm still kicking myself for not going for it, but that is just a part of the experience of it all... maybe next time. Brad was the only one who ran it, having waiting for his second chance for about 9 years! He styled the canyon and the falls, but breaking his paddle on impact, he had a bit of trouble hand rolling up... It was really cool to see Brad step up his game and run the biggest waterfall of his life. He had a sweet line!

(Brad Sutton going huge. He waited 9 years for this one! photo by Ben Stookesberry)

Below the gorge Brad and Ben remembered easier rapids (V- with some V), but the river bed had completely changed. Only one rapid was recognizible to them and more portages and sick boulder gardens were waiting downstream. Trying to make it to the Rio sucio before dark, we started making some incredible time down tight, technical class V rapids through blind slots and stout holes. Late that evening, it became apparent that we weren't going to make it so we found a camp for the night, hoping the rain would finally let up (it rained the whole time). It didn't. After pouring on us the whole night, the rain brought the river up 2 ft that night. This seriously juiced things up for the next morning, nearly reaching our camp. We geared up for an exciting run to the Sucio... we had no idea. The first rapid of the morning was a slotty drop into a large fold and into some really big holes; and it didn't stop there. We were in for a serious ride, fully testing the big water capabilities of the Rocker in an extremely technical and dangerous environment, fully loaded down with expedition gear. Once we made it to the Sucio, the water turned yellow with sulfur and the water got even bigger... a fun stomping ride to the bridge in Puerto Viejo... the completion of our second 3-day expedition in a row!

Finally off the Patria, it was time for me to pack. The next morning I had to get back to San Jose from Sarapiqui to catch my plane back to Memphis... and that was a journey to say the least! I can't wait to see the video.... you can check it out in the upcoming Hotel Charley: River of Doubt movie by Clear H2O Films. I learned a lot on this trip from a group of amazing new friends in a place I can't wait to visit again! The journey was amazing and the change of plans lead to exactly what we were all looking for... though once at an unexpected time. Mario and Cory were awesome for driving us around a showing us a great time....HUGE thanks Mario! Thanks to Jackson Kayaks, Ben, and Brad for bringing me on this trip!

Pura Vida !

Boyd :-)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Whitewater WHERE?!?!

This is a little intro to team CKS member Brock Royer and whitewater paddle in the Great Lakes area. You can see more of Brock, Great Lakes whitewater and CKS gear being used to the extreme on the lastest issue of LVM #21. Enjoy

~~~~So my good buddy Joe C.~~~~ came back to the flatlands on a break from his job at CKS to do a little paddling with me on our local and home runs. These runs are definitely 'not' the goods when it comes to great lakes whitewater never the less it does show a taste of whitewater here in Illinois. Yes, I said Illinois (ill-an-annoyed).
So the main attraction is the Vermillion River. It runs often and has a bunch of great spots for beginners and people who like to throw down.
(Roy Crimmons getting some open boat action in Wildcat)
Photo: Brock Royer
Wildcat offers up fun powerful surfs and changes from a rodeo hole to sweet wave with the water levels. Just downstream from Wildcat is a tributary to the Verm called Bailey Creek. It has some fun little drops including this 30ft. slide. It looks ugly in person b/c it lands on rock with little rooster tails and pin spots everywhere. At high water this thing can get really gnarly! The drop boats much better than it looks though.
(Brock Gettin-R-Done on Bailey Falls)
Photo: Roy Crimmons
The Little Vermillion is next on the list and is a small creek which dumps into the the Illiois River opposite side of it big brother. It runs a little less frequently but has a nice little canyon section that Joe and I hit up after he talked me into playing hooky from work.
(Joe C. on the Little V)
Photo: Brock Royer
All and all we can't complain for the little gems that we have nearby. Once the Superior Creeks start running it is a creek boaters paradise!!! For just a little taste of the action check out this pic and link:
(Joerg Steinbach on Rainbow Falls)

Check back to the CKS Blog for more updates on the regions, info on the latest/greatest gear and the much anticipated grand release of Wavedog Paddles!

The Guadalupe in New Mexico

With all the snow we are getting, The Guadalupe in New Mexico is going to run this Spring. This is the Northern Guadalupe, note to be confused with the southern run.
A quick vid for you of the Guad.

  • Guide Book for Colorado & NM
  • Tuesday, January 16, 2007

    Meet the CKS Squad Part 1: Boyd Ruppelt and Samantha Brunner

    This is Part 1 of a Series of posts that introduces the members of the 2007 CKS Squad. Icluded in each section is the squad member's Bio and a brief photographic Trip Report of their Top 3 days on the river during the 2006 season.

    (photo by: Samantha Brunner)

    Personal Biography

    Name: Boyd Ruppelt

    Birthdate: 2-6-84

    Hometown: Lakeland, TN

    Currently Resides in: haha...seems like My truck ;-)

    Work: Kayaker, Student, kayak instruction, etc…

    Years Paddling: 14 sweet years of whitewater!!!

    Top 3 Rivers: The one I just did, the one I'm on now, and the next one for sure!!

    The Perfect Vacation is: Vacation??? wah?!... Well it'd have to involve my girlfriend (Samantha), some waterfalls, and a campfire…

    Hobbies other than kayaking: snowboarding, mountainboarding, climbing, caving, etc…anything else outside

    Favorite website: www.JacksonKayak.com for the constant content… & Memphis Whitewater! it's my hometown paddling community!!! :-)

    Recent playlist on my MP3 player: Grits, Rehab, Cunning Linguists, Nelly Furtado, Swollen Members, Akon, Spacehog, and more…

    Best day of paddling ever: Can't pick just one, I live for those days when the apprehension upstream becomes the bliss of success below the last horizon!!!

    Sponsors: Jackson Kayak, CKS-Colorado Kayak Supply, Keen Footwear, Stohlquist, KAVU, Fortress Watches, H2O Audio, Native Eyewear, Snapdragon, Werner, and Gaia Paddlesports

    Top 5 Gear Picks from CKS: Jackson Kayak 2007 Rocker, Stohlquist Freefall Drytop, Stohlquist Wet Dry Gross Bag, Snapdragon Armortex Reinforced skirt with implosion bar, Jackson Happy Seat/Thruster Combo,

    See more of me at:
    Jackson Kayaks
    JK Profile
    My Blog
    Gaia Sports
    Fortress Profile

    CKS Squad Blog Special Series Part 1: Boyd's Top 3 Days in Colorado

    From Boyd:

    This year I was super privileged to spend a couple weeks in Colorado, shooting video and pictures for Jackson Kayaks. The trip was amazing because it was the first time I was ever able to just take off from Memphis with my girlfriend & photographer & best paddling buddy, Samantha Brunner, and head off across the country in search of new friends, sweet whitewater, and fun video! It was our first road trip together of that magnitude (almost 3 weeks away from the southeast together). We met so many incredible people and found everyone out there to be super friendly, helpful, and down right AMAZING! We met Michael, Brent, & John from Crested Butte, Josh from Gunny, Lawrence, Greg, and Nicole in Salida, and Marty in boulder just to name a few!! We fell in love with several towns along the way, like Crested Butte and Salida, because the people and scenery are just awesome. So when considering our “top 3 whatever” of the 2006 paddling season for CKS, I had to write about Colorado, specifically about my top three days in Colorado last summer.

    (photo by: Samantha Brunner)

    Since we completely missed the San Juans, we went straight to Crested Butte for Slate, Daisy, and OBJ. After a fun run down Slate to wash away the car lag, we hiked up to check out OBJ. Seeing it for the first time is a pretty incredible feeling; the quality and beauty of the slides and drops on their way down to the Slate blew me away and I instantly fell in love. The gradient and quality is enough to make any first timer feel on top of the world! We were nearly completely alone on my first run down with only a few hikers in sight! It was awesome!

    Oh Be Joyful Creek, CO

    Add to My Profile More Videos

    After getting our fill of the Crested Butte Creeks, we got word from our friend Marty Cronin that the gate was going to be opened on Big South. We were told by everyone that it is one of the best creeks in Colorado and that if we have the opportunity to hit it, then we better get over there! I was completely stoked that I would catch this incredible gem within our first couple days in Colorado! We hiked up again with our boats from the OBJ Campground to get a few more runs down OBJ (my truck is light and 2WD) and that night we ate an incredible meal at the Ginger Café in CB. Any one who has eaten there knows 2 things: one; the food there is amazing & two; if you eat at Ginger Café, you’re going to be there a while. So at about 11:00 PM that night we finally left for Big South Campground… big mistake! It took a bit longer than we had heard and I drove ALL night from Crested Butte to Big South and made it to the campground just in time for everyone else to wake up and to get geared up and ready. I never slept that night and had an action packed 12 miles of sweet whitewater in store for me that day. Feeling a bit lop-sided from the lack of sleep and not quite accustomed to the altitude yet, I put on my gear and began to psych myself up for my first run down Big South Creek.

    (photo by: Samantha Brunner)

    Needless to say, my lines weren’t the best that day, but the creek and my crew were awesome! I spent the whole day feeling a bit off my game, feeling dizzy and lop-sided when I walked to scout something. So my goal for the day was to enjoy the creek and try to make it down without falling asleep in an eddy. ;-)

    (VIDEO - BIG SOUTH ... will be linked soon)

    Once at the take-out after an amazing day on Big South, I was ready to do some resting so I took off with Sam for Fort Collins and the first hotel we could find. Relieved to finally be able to rest, we checked into a room only to have the back window of my truck shot out! It’s something I would believe in Memphis, but in Fort Collins?! So instead of getting some good sleep, I got to empty out the back of my truck into our hotel room and clean glass off all our stuff. Broken Glass was everywhere. I finished knocking out the rest of the glass after taking some pictures and put up a hell of a duct tape job over the window. The next morning we found a gas station where we vacuumed out the back and did some more cleaning before heading off to our next adventure.

    Later in our trip, we got to spend some time in Salida with Clay. One particular day stands out, my third favorite day in Colorado! We went out to the Salida hole for some mellow, low water surf in the top hole that morning. The water was as beautiful as always with the sun out and a big group around the hole, including the HUGE Experiences crowd. Out of nowhere, the Arkansas River through Salida rose from a low 900 cfs, to a stomping 1800 cfs in just a couple minutes... almost immediately!!! No kidding!!
    Clay described it best:

    "In minutes - no more 'watch the rocks' and hello blunts and pistol-flip style Mcnasty's! But then some sticks come through. Then some logs. And within 15 minutes the entire surface of the water is covered with pine straw and sticks and the hole is a frothing mass of black and brown debris. We've got scouters on the bank yelling which side the next log is coming down on and the whole line just keeps taking rides. Now someone comes up with a stick through their PFD. Now somebody takes a log to the helmet. Occasional break as a 10'+ tree or 4' diameter stump comes through. And within 30 minutes the water starts to drop again."

    (photo by: Samantha Brunner)

    I couldn't have said it better myself. The flow almost instantly doubled from a rain storm upstream and the locals could even tell which creeks were flooding and in what order by the way the water changed color with each one. I’ve never had a surf session in such a high quality hole before, where the water level instantly doubled in CFS like that. It was an amazing experience and one of my favorite days of surfing yet! It was like looping and cartwheeling in an Oreo blast or chunky chocolate milk! It was disgusting, but fun! Those were definitely some of my favorite days of the season and all on one trip to Colorado!

    Boyd :-)

    Sunday, January 14, 2007

    Samantha Brunner: Bio and Top Three Paddling Days of the 2006 season!

    Samantha Brunner photo by: Boyd Ruppelt

    Name: Samantha Brunner
    Birthdate: 03/24/1987
    Hometown: Memphis, Tn Currently Resides in: Memphis, Tn
    Work: Student at the University of Memphis and a physical therapy tech
    Years Paddling: 4
    Top 3 Rivers: Oh Be Joyful Creek, Daisy Creek, and the Cascades of the Nantahala The Perfect Vacation is: Spending more time creeking in Colorado Hobbies other than kayaking: photography, snowboarding, working (I love my job), and surviving school Favorite website: the Jackson Kayak site (http://jacksonkayak.com/)
    Recent playlist on my MP3 player: haha, I haven't updated from my portable cd player yet…
    Best day of paddling ever: it's so hard to choose… maybe my first day to huck Big Wood Falls on Daisy Creek
    Sponsors: Stohlquist Waterware, Kavu Clothing, Fortress Watches, Keen Footwear, Gaia Paddlesports, Snapdragon Designs, and (of course) CKS
    See more of me at: my blog, my fortress team page, and my myspace
    Anything else: I paddle in waterproof mascara!

    Samantha's Top 5 Gear Picks:
    (clickable links)
    Stohlquist Kitty, Jackson Star, Stohlquist Wet Dry Gross bag, NRS Kayak Pin Kit, Snapdragon Armortex Skirt (size: XXS!)

    As a new member of the CKS Squad I was asked to write about my top three of last paddling season, I decided to write about my top three days on the river. I know this may sound quite cheesy, but there are so many river days that stand out to me that it is a little hard to choose from. It just so happens that two of my top three are from Colorado…

    One of my most favorite river days had to definitely be on Oh Be Joyful. It was the first place that Boyd and I visited when we went to Colorado this year. Being my first time to ever paddle in Colorado, OBJ was a pretty intimidating run! It took me four times hiking up that wonderful mountain (we didn’t have 4 wheel drive) to finally get up the nerve to run it! I had so much fun once I ran it; when I was at the bottom of the waterfall section I could not believe that I had been so nervous. It is definitely my most favorite run ever! All of the drops completely rock, even though I ran one or two of them backwards. Oh Be Joyful taught me that even though the river may look intimidating, if you think you can do it then you should try.

    Another top paddling day was at the hole in Salida, CO. Until then, I was completely terrified of holes! The Salida hole is perfect, and surprisingly friendly for its size. Working in the hole, along with some great friends, I was able to get over my fear of holes. I hopped in that hole and tried whatever I could in it. It helped me learn my cartwheels and I began to learn my loops. I was able to come back to the Southeast and hop into holes that I wouldn’t have dared to try the season before. Also, the holes surprisingly didn’t look as big either, go figure.

    Me in Arkansas, after getting used to the Salida hole

    The lesson I learned at Oh Be Joyful got me through another one of my top three paddling days: Upper Big Creek, NC. Just like Oh Be Joyful, it took two visits to get on Upper Big Creek. It is the epitome of a Smokies style run. I had run Lower Big Creek before and had a blast, so now it was time for me to hop on the Upper. I took pictures of the guys that ran Action Alley, the hardest rapid on the run, and then put in just below it. I only had a slight idea of what to expect, and I was completely blown away! It was so continuous and full of boulders, but I think my most favorite part of the run was the technicality.

    My favorite pic from Upper Big Creek.

    There have been a few runs last season that have stood out to me, and have even made me quite nervous. One of the things I love most about the river is that it teaches me and I grow with each run. With the days that I just shared with you, I was able to overcome the apprehension that I had before I put on, and that’s what puts them in my top three.

    Saturday, January 06, 2007

    Rio Salto en Mexico

    A Photo report from the Rio Salto en Mexico. The crew this day was Atom, Marjo, Ross, Naomi and Sean. What a great fun run.

    Loading boats from camp. photo/Atom

    kicking it while Ross walks the shuttle. photo/Atom

    The seal launch in.

    scouting the first drop, a sticky hole before the first falls. photo/Sean

    Atom running the first drop. photo/Sean

    Sean running the first drop. photo/Atom

    Sean running the falls. photo/Atom

    Atom running the falls. photo/Naomi

    Atom photo/Sean

    Marjo about to run the falls. photo/Atom

    Marjo running the falls. photo/Atom

    Marjo behind the curtain(look close). Photo/Atom

    Naomi on the falls. photo/Atom

    Same for Ross. photo/Atom

    Sean again. photo/Atom

    One of my favorite shots, Marjo in the aquarium. photo/Atom..

    Ross upside down in the aquarium. photo/Sean

    Ross on another drop. photo/Atom

    Naomi same drop. photo/Atom

    The takeout. photo/Atom

    A beautiful place. photo/Atom

    AHHH, Mexico photo/Atom