Sunday, May 22, 2005

And so it begins ...

It's been a weird week. I was involved in rescuing & evacuating a paddler who drowned. Our crew worked hard to save this guy's life. He was revived & evac'ed, & is doing well I hear. Def. not a situation I want to relive any time soon .. though it's kind of hard to shake the images of that day from my head.

I suppose this would be the second kayaking-related "grace under pressure" situation for me in 05 ... the first being my shoulder dislocation in the Arizona backcountry. That one occurred on day 2 of our Christopher Cr. first-descent ( ). We were still 3 or so miles from the take-out, with no idea of what the creek or terrain was like downstream. Of course, it worked out for the best, as did the near drowning on the Poudre, but ...

A couple intense days of work meetings in C-Springs helped bring me back to work "reality". I needed some time away from the Front Range, & I had some work to do in Wyo, so I hit the road. With all the recent precip followed by warm sunny days, the entire state is glowing green. Runoff has officially hit its stride, with every creek & river gushing.

I met E-Ross in Cody for some exploration. We hiked Deer Cr.(again) on day 1 & both came away unsure on the big drop. This place is not for the faint of heart. This is probably the most serious gorge I've contemplated paddling. The big drop is about 30 feet vertical into a very tight room with a big hole & boil line that wants to put you either behind the falls or under the river right wall. This is followed by an even tighter exit through a flume barely more than a boat width wide. The gorge is at its tightest here. The "rims" of each side are no more than 12 feet apart, forming a "roof" over the waterfall. Car-sized blocks of ice were calving off an icefall into the lead-in drop, creating an even more nerve-wracking vibe during our rappel scout.

E-Ross resting during Deer Creek Scout

photo:TG/Range Life

Today, we chartered a prop plane to fly us over several of our bigger mission ideas. This was such a cool experience. We were able to see the Tetons & the Beartooth Range off in the distance. The high country is still under a substantial snowpack.

View of the SF Shoshone Valley & headwaters areas from the plane.

Photo: TG/Range Life

We confirmed the existence of a very big waterfall on Ishawooa Cr. After 2 passes over the gorge, we still can't say for sure how big, or really even the size range, of the drop. We are guessing anywhere from 50 to 100 feet. It looks good though. Big, but good.

The big falls on Ishawooa Cr., as viewed from thousands of feet in the air.

Photo: TG/Range Life

After peering into the Cabin Creek gorge from 13,000 feet, it looks like we can get upstream via river-right after hiking up to the bottom waterfall. This is our mission for the morning.

Lastly, Needle Cr. didn't look like what we thought it would look (from the air), but still looks very good. Upwards of 4 miles of continuous steep boulder gardens.

The high country at the headwaters of Needle Cr. still had a very healthy snowpack. In the distance, you can also see the headwaters of 3 of Wyo's major drainages, the Greybull R., the Wind R., & the Snake R.

Photo: TG/Range Life

After our recon flight, we headed up toward the Park to run Grinell Cr. The creek was OK, but the real excitement for me was the grizzly we saw on the way. First one in the wild I'd ever seen. Kinda scary to think that all of our missions up here involve huge backcountry treks through grizzly country. Apart from the bear, we have seeen seen several unmistakeable grizzly tracks along trails ... as well as more mountain lion droppings than anyone would be comfortable with. The South Fork Valley is totally packed with game: elk, deer, big horns, pronghorns are thick in the valley.

Wyoming Local

Photo:TG/Range Life

My friend Kenny is operating Bison Willy's Base Camp, a hostel in Cody. This place is sweet. It's not at all like what you'd normally think of as a "hostel". It's actually a beautifully remodeled Victorian bungalow in the heart of downtown. So comfy & super-affordable. He even had a couple 4-packs of Red Bull chilling in the fridge for us! If you're ever passing through Cody for boating, climbing, or Yellowstone access, definitely don't pass up on staying at Bison Willy's. Check it out:

Evan & C-dog relaxing at Bison Willy's in Cody

Photo: TG/Range Life

And so, with the confirmed departure of Mr. Robinson for his destination in Wyoming, the Range Life project is officially underway!

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