Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Sauce -- BC Trip Part 3

"We're totally committed at this point .. no turning back ..."

That's the thought that kept running through my head as our group bushwhacked through the most intensely overgrown & impassable tangle of vegetation I've ever seen.

We made our way over & through a hundred different varieties of tough, prickly & uncomfortably thick bushes, all the while being sure to make plenty of noise to ward off any would-be attack-grizzlies. A hefty pile of fresh poo was found on the ground near a huge patch of thorny raspberry bushes that we would have to navigate through -- sweet, something else to be nervous about. We were on our way into Tatlow Creek. I had mixed feelings about going in, mostly just questioning my own desire to commit to the mandatory HUGE drops in the box canyon. We would be the first team in the Tatlow this year, so new wood would be a major concern, but at the moment, just getting to the creek proved to be the real obstacle. Without the benefit of having other groups go in before us & beat down a path to access the put-in, I was experiencing first-hand the same 'Nam-like undergrowth on the same approach that inspired the term "BC Hellfuck" (sorry mom). "Devil's Club" is NOT a topless bar in Vancouver (mental note: look into opening strip club in Van), but a bush that was invented by god to keep humans out of the Ashlu Valley.

Reminds me of my tour of duty in 'Nam ... Todd dealin' with it.

Photo: Ethan Smith

Chris & Owen deep into the approach.

Photo: Todd G.

"There is no way in hell I'm going back up that hill ... for any reason!"

That's the thought that ran through my head as we were close enough to hear the low rumble of whitewater, when I considered that Grace carried his boat up & out of the canyon because he'd left his drytop up in the put-in vehicle. Still though, I had to laugh to myself, thinking about what I/we consider a "good time".

"Why do I do this to myself???"

The answer came quick when I saw the crystal-clear tourquoise water disappearing around a corner as Tatlow dropped into the first sheer-walled gorge, a mere 100 yards below the put-in.

"Because I just have to know what's in that gorge!"

Of course, Shane, Jonaven, Bryan, DeLaVergne, Urakawa, etc., etc., had all hosed me down numerous times about how awesome Tatlow was .. & I'd seen enough video to feel like I already knew the run, even though it had only been in existence as a kayak run for under a year .. And still, the desire to "discover" first-hand what was hidden down the dark canyon totally consumed me.

I'll spare you the blow-by-blow details. We ain't running a guide book here at Range Life .. and we have been spraying about Tatlow all along anyway (you can find video & other photos in previous posts). Suffice it to say, Tatlow Creek is The Sauce. It's easily one of the top 3 runs I've ever done. There's a lot of dealing involved -- just getting to the takeout without destroying your vehicle is a mission in itself. Chances are if you go, the "logging road" up to the put-in will be so overgrown that you will be driving over saplings the entire way & the overhanging foliage from either side & above will obscure visibility of even the hood of your truck. There are several portages that involve teamwork & precision, so knowing beforehand where they are is a good idea. Being in the gorge at an appropriate level is of paramount importance -- too high = bad news bears, so get the skinny from a local on what the pool at the takeout should look like prior to dropping in. Your reward for all this work will be one of the most beautiful creeks ever and lots of big clean drops with little to no bullshit. Even the couple boulder drops that occur in the gorge are high quality .. but again, mostly it's BIG drops, one after another.

Prepping the path for the Class V culvert move. High-clearance recommended.

Photo: Todd G.

"You'll toootally make it .. It's just a logging road!" -- Jonaven Moore (Yeah, we made it.)

Photo: Todd G.

The first bedrock series comes quick -- a sweet triple-set of slides leading into a perfect vertical 20-footer. Ethan sliding.

Photo: Todd G.

Ethan boofing said 20-footer.

Photo: Todd G.

Shane sticking the first falls.

Photo: Ethan Smith

Todd tucking into the 2nd major drop.

Photo: Ethan Smith

Chris on 2nd falls (Jonaven needs to name the rapids on this creek!)

Photo: Todd G.

Mr. Robinson on one of the 3 or 4 non-huge rapids on Tatlow.

Photo: Ethan Smith

Tatlow gorge scenery.

Photo: Todd G.

Ethan Smith

Photo: Todd G.

Shane & Ethan runnin' Blue Angels formation. Tighten up!

Photo: Todd G.

The most noteable drop on Tatlow would have to be the big steep slide into the wall. To look at this thing for your first (or tenth) time from the top is an unforgettable experience ... and running it is straight insanity .. good insanity though -- the drop goes .. every time. And portaging would be your worst nightmare.

Having run it several times before, Shane stepped to this one blind .. yeeesh ...

Photo: Todd G.

Readying for impact ...

Photo: Todd G.

Perspective from below. Owen Callahan droppin'

Photo: Todd G.

"Hey ladies!" Owen again.

Photo: Todd G.

After the slide-into-the-wall-thingy, there's still plenty more action, including this 50-ft slide. I got to run this one blind cuz the scout is a bitch .. Highly recommended (running it blind, that is).
View from the lip.

Photo: Ethan Smith

Shane at the lip.

Photo: Todd G.

Ethan givin' propers, Chris dropping proper.

Photo: Todd G.

After running Tatlow for my first time, I was hurting for 2 days straight -- tendonitis, cuts, scrapes & bruises, devil's club thorns in the palms of my hands, etc. But I couldn't stop thinking about it, & I cannot wait for my next trip in.

This creek is yet another in the long list of reasons for the community-at-large to stay vigilent in protecting the Ashlu Valley from hydropower development. A win this past year certainly does not mean that developers won't turn their attention back to this water resource in the future. Rumor has it that, were the original Ashlu proposal to have succeeded, a mini-hydro project was proposed for Tatlow Cr. This would be such a travesty .. You have to visit this valley to believe it ...

Til next time,
TG

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

What are the requirements for being part of Team Range Life? You guys are really out there gittin 'er done, and I was hoping to hook up and run some big stuff sometime. I'd love to get on Tatlow before it runs out this summer.

Mike Fredricks
Mt. Vernon, WA
(360) 472-9513

Todd Gillman said...

what up mike .. we're not a "team" of any kind. just a gang of average joeys trying to milk the most out of our free time. & spraying about it online. glad you're inspired by some of what we throw out there. shane lives in seattle, so he'll be a good contact for you .. & i'll be moving up there in about a month -- my email is toddgillman@gmail.com. drop me a line ..

later,
tg

GDalton said...

Sikness. Looks like fun bud.

GD

Todd Gillman said...

GDalton -- will we be seeing you up north next summer?

Have a great fall back east!

pce,
tg

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