Monday, January 28, 2013

New Beginnings in Seattle

So as I mentioned in my last post, in the last 6 months I moved from my home in Colorado to Seattle, had my first kid then started a new job 2 days later.... oh yeah and I have a 90 lb 10 month old puppy.  So there have been a few minor changes in my life but its really no big deal.... I think...  The 2 things that have helped to keep me balanced are my super supportive super wife and kayaking.  My wife is from Washington and her family has always been here.

Kat and I floating the Colorado into Moab

As we learned we were having a baby the discussion of moving to Seattle became routine.  It wasn't an easy decision to say the least.  I love Boulder and I love Colorado.  I love the Buffs and I love the people of Colorado.  I love the Crystal drainage and I love OBJ.  Colorado is freaking AWESOME!

Tom Janney took this sweet shot of me in the Black Canyon

Having the support of family to help with the baby was a great reason to move to Washington.  As the summer of 2012 in Colorado burned on and I stared at my lonely kayak melting in the sun, a move to Washington seemed more and more attractive.  I stayed for one last CU vs CSU football game at mile high and took off for my new home the next day.

Baby Stella has not quite grown into the Shred Ready Shaggy


I had been up here paddling a few times in the past with Colorado legends like Tom Janney and Nick Wigston.  Wigston and I made several trips up this way in the past and every time my list of rivers and creeks to run would grow and grow.  After 12 years in Colorado and a super dry year, I was more than ready to try my hand at a new game.  The Pac NW is pretty sweet!

A week or two after settling into my new home I kicked off my Washington kayaking career by linking up with the other Wigston and heading to the elusive Chelan Gorge.  The Chelan Gorge is a very special run.  After years of hard work and research the local crew here was able to negotiate a recreational release each year for a weekend in September.  The timing of the release couldn't be better as many of the other run are getting to low and the weather is nice and hot!  The town of Chelan welcomes the kayakers in and puts everyone up at the local baseball field, which happens to be right at the put in. Running water, a place to go number 1 and number 2, and a place to pitch a tent right in town....can't beat it!  At 10am a little man comes out of his house to turn the water, he pats his hand on his helmet telling us he is ok and then we get to walk right past the no trespassing signs.  What a cool event!

photo curtesy of Dan Patrinellis (sicko!)

The Chelan Gorge run starts at the dam the makes the beautiful Lake Chelan.  From there its a 2 mile paddle to the top of the gorge which starts your descent toward the Columbia River.  The gorge starts with a couple class IV+ rapids that jump right out at you.  You quickly make your way to the first class V and the true start of the Chelan Gorge.

The first class V has 4 very tough moves.  
Brian Burger making the 2nd move in the first big rapid.

Rob McKibbon cleaning up the 3rd move

Ellie Wheat on the same - took this with my iphone

The great thing about the Chelan Gorge is you run it with a huge crew.  And by huge I mean 27 people.  So when you get 27 people kayaking class V with tons of safety, there is bound to be carnage. These are not easy rapids.  Lots of features to throw you off line and the holes are very sticky!

a very familiar scene at the first set of drops

After a while you have seen your fair share of carnage and the crew has made it through the first set.  There were 2 rafts that day getting a first raft D which was pretty sick! 

rafters on super boof

The local crew made it very clear while boozing at camp the night before that this was my interview and I better not blow it!  So I laid down some lines that even Chunderboy would have been proud of. 

a shot of me on super boof

Throne Room

Rafter between Throne Room and Pinacle

There are a few other gems in here that I'll be sure to get photos of next time.  This is an short but epic run.  The rapids are all very solid class V.  There are only a handful of rapids but I can't even tell you how many swims we had in there.  

one of the raft crews in fat lady looking toward the mighty Columbia

Thanks to Dan Patrinellis for hooking up some of these sweet Chelan photos.  For more details on Chelan or to see more of his photos, check out

Monday, January 21, 2013

Better late then never!

I want to start 2013 off by rewinding about 1 year.

The last year has been pretty hectic for me to say the least.  There was no snow in Colorado, then I moved out of state (more on that in my next post), then I had my first kid and and 2 days later started a new job.  

I moved to Colorado 12 years ago because I wanted to be close to good skiing.  In the winter of 2011 / 2012 I only got in 3 days.  One was a solo backcountry day on Mt Audubon in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, one was a day at Crystal Mountain in Washington and the 3rd was actually a sweet powder day at Eldora.  It was a horrible season for me to say the least.

Solo mission to ski Crooked Coulior on Mt Audubon
a typical look for the mountains of colorado in the winter of 2012

Epic day at Eldora outside the gate

The worst part about a weak ski season for a kayaker is that you get the double wammy because the water just won't be there either.  But when you are a kayaker, you have to make the best of what you've got, and kayakers tend to be pretty good at that. 

Forrest and I catching Boulder Creek as it flashes from 70 to 700cfs in an hour in July

In 2012 we got a rare mid - March run down Gore Canyon.  Paddling Gore in March is kind of bitter sweet.  You are paddling early and have just shortened the off season which is cool, but at the same time the only reason you can get in there is because it been 60 degrees all winter and there is no snow on the ground.  Gore in the 600 range still goes great.  Yeah you may bang off a couple rocks here and there but its March and you are kayaking in Colorado.  Boofing the rock that makes "Ginger" is a really fun move and I feel like tunnel gets even more technical.   

Here is a shot Alex Clayden took of me trying out a new downriver freestyle move into tunnel.

With positive thoughts....Gore at higher flows is one of the better runs I have ever done.  When gore gets up over 4k again.... Cancel whatever kayaking plans you have in Colorado and put this on top of your list.  You won't be disappointed.  

Here is some Gore helmet cam eye candy from 2011 when Colorado had a good snowpack and a serious runoff.  

I'll keep my fingers crossed for the Colorado core crew this year that it comes up this high again.

On a typical year as we approach spring the class V kayaking crew has 2 early season options to kick things off, the Rio Embudo and Escalante.  Every year it feels like they come in just so fast and you are scrambling to clean the cobwebs off your paddle, make sure there are no spiders in your boat, and knock out whatever other critters decided to make a nice cozy home in your creek booties over the winter.

As we came upon that time once again the choice for our first mini road trip was the Embudo.

  life on the Embudo wouldn't be quite as sweet without the hospitality of local legend Atom Crawford

Every time I run the Embudo I like it more.  Its one of those runs when once you start to learn the lines and get to know where you are going, you have more time to focus on the magnificent canyon.  There is just nothing else out there like it. The Embudo has great continuous action with 2 distinct sections.  The upper section is highlighted by long rapid, cheese grater and mj falls. All of which can hand out beatings but go really well most of the time.  The lower canyon is all about slots!  Its a committing non stop, hole charging, boofing kayakers playground.  The more water the better!

Forrest and I watching the crowds charge through slots of fun

If you haven't run the Embudo but have been thinking about it, make this your year.  Here is a cheesy helmet cam guide video I threw together for the early season chargers that want a piece of the Embudo action.

- Sean Lee -