Thursday, October 27, 2011

Forkin' Fun

So Colorado just received their first foot of snow!  Cheers to a good season in the Rockies this winter and next spring.  But meanwhile, I plan to continue taunting y'all with a little Southern comfort - whitewater style.  I am always hungry for new personal first descents, so it has been awesome to live in a different neighborhood where they come aplenty.

Last weekend, in-between 16 hour operating room shifts, I was able to squeeze in a trip to the legendary Russell Fork Gorge.  On the way there, my beta was relatively limited.  I knew there was a release happening and I knew the river had bad sieves.  I didn't have a guide or anyone in mind to meet.  The only important piece of information, however, is that there was a water release happening - I was on my way with a cooler full of PBRs looking to make friends.

Some texting paid off and I was able to link up with a true legendary whitewater paddler as a guide down the Fork!

The Man, the Myth, the River Gypsy - Leland Davis

 If you have not paddled with the River Gypsies, then you haven't been around the proverbial whitewater block.  After all, they wrote the book on the classics of your whitewater neighborhood.

Speaking of classic - peering down into the Russell Fork Gorge with full Kentucky fall colors in effect

Yayaya, so it is purdy.  But how about the boofing you ask?  The Fork is down right boofalicious.

Rolling into Triple Drop (courtesy of
I should mention that the Russell Fork at 8-900cfs has relatively easy IV+ with a spice of V- rapids.  However, it is not a place for those looking to progress to IV+.  Any of the rapids could prove disastrous again as they have in the past.  The sieves live up to their reputation.  You're playing for all the marbles in this gorge.   

Jeff Matonis laying into the Horrendous white fluffy pillow of joy
People always talk about this infamous rapid El Horrendo - spanish for 'The Horrendo'.  The name brought sweat to my palms as we rolled up to the huge horizon line and witnessed the whitewater spray distorting our view of the large group of gathered spectators.  Leland and I spun circles in an eddy while he described the line to me.  As Andria and Leland disappeared off the lip, a little light of joy flickered in my mind.  The thought brought a huge smile across my face while I remembered the legendary Daniel DeLavergne quote, "You only get one chance to run it blind!"   
Some of the best Glory Boofing east of the South Fork of the Stillaguamish! (courtesy

The River Gypsies missing their faithful hound Hudson - possibly one of the most famous river dogs?

Leland proving with his Golden Stroke that he's been in the game longer than you know.

Thanks for making all these pretty pictures!

So check it out.  The Fork is holding heavy with intense fall colors, glory boofs, one of the deepest gorges in the Eastern US, a sweet play wave at the takeout (bring the playboat!), and great camping.  But one of the most important things in my criteria is good eats near the takeout.  Again the Russell Fork comes through with an unbelievable Southern BBQ joint smack in the middle of the shuttle!  Five star paddling trip, represent!
Baby back ribs, pulled pork sandwich, smoked sausage, spicy baked beans and homemade potato chips covered in a spicy vinegar based Southern BBQ sauce.  Legit.
Andria, Leland, Jeff, Sean and I got into a conversation over a 30 rack of PBRs about how guidebooks are dead.  People are not willing to pay for what they perceive they can find for free on the internet.  These are sad times my friends.  I surf the world kayaking web as much as anyone, but it has limitations.

I love guidebooks because you get tons of information from people who actually know what they are talking about unlike the internet.  All the information for lots of runs is in one place (putin, takeout, nearest watering hole, kayak shops, camping, etc)  The authors perceptions and stories enhance my enjoyment of the river.  For a prime example, read the description of the Clark's Fork Box in Whitewater of the Southern Rockies.  

Most importantly, as one author stated, "I love buying guidebooks to all regions of the Earth because the act of buying one significantly increases my chances of finding myself on an adventure."

In that thought, I bring you a list in no particular order of some of my favorite whitewater books:

...Colorado Rivers and Creeks II - Out of print.  Mine is double laminated to help me keep my first guidebook forever.  The book to which all others will be measured.  Still has the best directions/maps for kayaking Colorado classics.
...The River Gypsies Guide to North America - Spectacular book that will get you on the classic runs all over the Continent.  It'll steer you toward the nearest watering hole as well!
...Whitewater of the Southern Rockies - Probably the most complete compilation of kayaking runs ever created.  Legendary stories, epic commitment.  Easily the new standard that is likely to never be met again.
...North Carolina Rivers and Creeks - Continued the stellar tradition of CRCII for the Southeast.  Introduced me to a whole new world.
...Canyonland River Guide - This book welcomed me to the idea of 7 days, incommunicado.  Beautiful.  Probably one of the best covers!
...Montana Surf - also out of print and I can't get my hands on one.  Bummed.  One quote for you: "Poach that Shit!" - YLA forever.  
...New Zealand Whitewater 4th edition - A classic book that will help you get it done Kiwi style.  Excellent illustrations and Kiwi speak.  The West Coast is truly one of the best kayaking destinations in the world.
...The Kayaker's Guide to Ecuador - The best travel destination for Class II-V- boaters on the planet!  This book was written by the people that made it the destination.
...Whitewater Classics - I love kayaking culture and this book brings all of the personalities into the rivers that made them.
...The Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande - My only companion and advice for 7 days on the Mexican boarder.

So go buy yourself a whitewater guidebook and have one hellva adventure!  I can't wait to hear about it.

Every river should end in a huge Climax:



Powhoundus said...

Very cool write up on probably my favorite local river. I wanted to add that there are frequent low flow runs outside of the scheduled fall release season. Runnable down to 200 cfs (with a carry at Climax) and truly low stress fun from 300-500 cfs as the push towards the hazards is much lower and some hazards come out of play (we swim in the cave at Fist below 300 cfs). Most locals feel it's Class IV- to IV at lower flows. The hole at 2nd drop gets stickier in the 500-600 range, but other than that, the run gets easier as flow decreases. However it's still plenty fun with plenty of boofs and all the vertical with less push. Also the Upper Russell Fork offers a short (3mi) but fun Class III run for those not up to the Gorge.

Regarding guidebooks - I use them to give me the bullets, or to get me interested in a run. Then I'll turn to the web (like the AW page) for details regarding the rapids, emergency access (map) and hazards - as wood can come and go and some rivers change significantly after high flow events. As an example Fist on the Russell Fork, and Climax both changed significantly in the last high flow event there. Climax became much more hazardous to run at 800 plus so that few tangle with the main line there since then at higher flows. I will also add that offers up to date info on the Russell Fork and is a good description on how to run the gorge for your first time. However, I would recommend that for your first run that you also go with someone that knows the run to point out lines / hazards as some rapids are difficult or impossible to scout from just above the rapid (First Drop of Triple).
Wes Prince

The Cup said...

Hola amigo, I like something printed in front of me as much as the next guy, but these changin' times don't need to be sad times. Check out:


Before comments like: "I love guidebooks because you get tons of information from people who actually know what they are talking about unlike the internet." have a look at this resource; I challenge you to find someone who knows more about what they`re talking about.

Does it have: "All the information for lots of runs in one place" Check.

"The authors perceptions and stories" Check.

And lots more like downloadable Google maps and GPS coordinates...


Anonymous said...

Seriously? There's some great photos on your site, but it's not even close to a guidebook. First, you actually have to throughly cover a region to be called a guide.

That being said, the stuff you have looks great and keep up the good work.

Alaska Luxury Fishing Lodge said...

That rapid sure spells fun!