Thursday, March 13, 2008

Day #1 and #2 The Old Days Have Returned.

The southeast has been dry for nearly five years. Finally, the rains have returned. Our first day was the Raven's Fork for two laps at 12 inches. The level was juicy and we took it slow. Day #2 was on the Upper/Upper and Upper West Prong. We paddled well, but still didn't manage anything big.
The days are warming and getting longer. Hopefully we are ready to step it up and try for a few big ones.

Day #3 Suck Creek, story by Kat Levitt

Steamers Drop 7,275 Vertical Feet on Suck Creek in the Snow!!

David launching off Pinnacle on his 12th lap...

At 5AM Saturday, we got a wake-up call from Jeff and looked out the window to see snowflakes just starting to fall from a dark sky. After checking rain gauges, Bear was a gamble, but Suck was almost definitely going all day and there would be enough light to paddle in less than 2 hours. Time to get motivated! I knew David wanted to paddle a vertical mile, and I was happy to help him meet his goal. Afterall, I am his wife, and besides, it was freezing outside! So when Jeff asked me to do shuttles, I grabbed the camera, some snacks for the guys, and was glad to do it. Below is Jeff at Pinnacle, around lap 8, boofing the Dagger Nomad like a champ:
So the plan was to shuttle David and Jeff from daylight until 9-10 AM, and then Mark would join them. Chris was going to make it by 3 PM. They would go all the way from the confluence to the bridge and Jeff was planning to run Knucklehead, a commonly portaged drop, as well. When we arrived at the bridge, a cold wind was whipping and snow was really flying. But I never heard Jeff or David even mention the ominous weather. Neither would back down from the goal...a big TVF score for the day!

The gauge in snowy twilight:
David and Jeff getting ready:

The first lap was just before dusk...yet Jeff fired up Knucklehead anyway!

By the second lap, the light was getting better...The snow and wind would occasionally subside, but it continued for most of the day. Soon, the ground was blanketed with snow, a rare sight in the southern corner of Tennessee. But the laps continued...
More snow fell, and yet they never complained. It was a beautiful day.
David at Road Construction on lap 3:
Jeff at Slow-N-Low on lap 10:
Jeff running Knucklehead for the 5th time in a row:
Mark Bowman showed up and started his laps, but Jeff and David never sat out. They all 3 just kept lapping! Finally, Chris Townshend, who handpaddles, made it by 3 PM. Here's Chris at Pinnacle on his 1st lap:
David runs the bottom of Road Construction while Jeff enters:
David at Slow-N-Low on lap 10:
David and Jeff did 14 consecutive laps before Jeff got dressed, and David sat out for one lap. After some number crunching, David headed up for one more to secure the vertical mile. Jeff called Ben Friberg to verify gradient and we realized that if Dave did ONE more lap he would clear 6000 and break the personal TVF record. So I fed him a Snickers, fired him up for one more, and he delivered. He dropped 6,320 vertical feet of technical, manky class V in just under 11 hours. Both Jeff and Mark dropped over a vertical mile, and the Steamers shattered the previous Suck Creek gradient records, both personal and team by over 1000 feet. The team ended up logging 7,275 vertical feet!!! Not to mention the fact that Jeff ran Knucklehead at least 10 times in a row, a definite record!
Some people asked me why I wasn't paddling on Suck Creek at such a great level. I have been wanting to run it some more. But I just kept seeing the goals get closer and the numbers get bigger. I wanted to help make it happen, not get in the way. I learned that it can be as rewarding to help your friends meet their goals as it is to meet your own. The Steamers have almost all helped me meet paddling goals of my own through the years. These guys have boated with me and encouraged me when my confidence was low. And David is a wonderful husband. The day after this exhausting ordeal, David still went with me to the Tellico and took a kid from his school down the Ledges. He spent the entire next day giving back to the sport. So few class V boaters are as unselfish as these guys. I would be proud to have them as my friends, even if they could only paddle one lap on the Hiwassee.

Longboating the Grand Canyon

Steven Hughes plugging the center:

Chris in his 15 foot sea kayak punching Crystal:

TVF started for us on a river dropping a whopping 6 feet per mile. We needed conditioning and fun so we packed our bags and headed west.

During January the Steamers and friends spent 11 days longboating the Grand Canyon. This was our spring practice in preperation for TVF. We loaded all the food and camping gear needed into borrowed sea kayaks and longboats and headed into the depths of the mystical and amazing Grand Canyon. Averaging 30 miles of paddling per day in forty degree weather toughened us up a bit. The Canyon, as always, provided much challenge and adventure. We felt like Rocky Balboa in Rocky IV heading off to Siberia to prepare for Drago.

Paddling was only part of the adventure. Hiking in the Canyon is amazing. We spent a day climbing the full distance to the rim and while returning to the river we got to truly appreciate what a vertical mile looks like. On day number 8 we explored Havasu Canyon and hiked to 90+ foot Mooney Falls.

The whitewater was amazing. Giant holes and waves everywhere. Steering a longboat loaded with 100+ pounds of crap was a great daily workout. There was always the hole you wished you could miss, but just couldn’t turn the aircraft carrier in time to avoid. The better technique was to simply plug the meat of it with as much speed as possible and hope to mystery through it. The plugging method was a blast when it worked. If it didn’t, as House Rock Rapid illustrated, you felt like an old-school rodeo boater exploring the first cartwheels. In all, the whitewater was awesome and I look forward to paddling there again.

After returning home to Tennessee we finalized the team and got a few great creeks in for practice. The amazing Bear Creek finally ran at a great level and it was wonderful to paddle. The Raven’s Fork has gone a few times and paddling there is such an honor. TVF has started and we are as hungry as ever.

Lee's Ferry:

Elves Chasm:

Redwall Cavern:

Hiking to the rim:

Close to the top:

Chris with 11 days of supplies:

Nick driving his sea kayak

Deer Creek Falls drops 50 feet to the Colorado:

Jonathan, Mark and Nick at Nankoweap:

Beaver Falls in Havasu Canyon:

River Right at Lava:

Deer Creek Confluence:

Jonathan in Matkatamiba:

Rainbow above Lee's Ferry:

Thunder River flowing from a 1,000 foot cliff:

Lower Falls on Thunder River:

O'Neill Butte along the South Kaibab Trail:

Chris and Mark enjoying the sunshine:

Typical downstream view:

Baby Big Horn:

Monument Valley: