Such was to be the case last week when my pal Evan, from the dry, brown, state of Colorado, came out to immerse himself in the essence of life, which flows in such abundance here in the Promised Land. From the git-go, the plan was focused on our annual Spring pilgrimage to that great Island of Fantasy to our north, which has provided reliable adventure, discovery, & story fodder in years past .. so it seemed a logical destination for early May, but with the caveat that the ever-wonky NW weather would almost certainly keep us on our toes up til the very last second. Heading over to the Island can be a bit of a financial investment & time-suck, so best we make certain them rivers is full before committing. And besides, mainland options would abound, so at least Evan was assured some good BC kayaking no matter what. From the git-go this was the plan, & a team of 8 was on board.
As luck would have it, neither rain nor sunshiny heat would hit the Island in time to justify our intended departure .. so the Mainland would have to suffice in the meantime. We could always just blast over to the Island for a quickie if flows cooperated.
Our 5-day trip began as a leisurely afternoon on the local favorite Robe Canyon. Prior to our trip, I'd only been kayaking like 3 times since Fall, so Robe's a good way to clean out the cobwebs & great introduction for our desert-livin', low-water mank-lovin' friend to the watery ways of the NW. From there we'd blast north to B'ham to drop off the Corey-dog at the dogsitters. It was there that we learned from our non-kayaking dogsitter friend that our trip -- before it had even begun -- was already being called a skunk fest. I was kind of shocked at her ability to see so clearly into the future & so I asked her if I would ever make enough money to buy a nice 3 BR craftsman in Seattle. Turns out, she didn't have the clairvoyance superpower, just a direct line of communication to one of the naysayers who had apparently decided early on along with 2 others to opt out of the plans.
No matter. In reality the exclusion of those guys almost certainly simplified things in a lot of ways. Coming to consensus on anything amongst the existing group of 5 was difficult enough without the addition of 3 more equally opinionated dudes:
"Where are we going today?"
"I dunno, I'll do whatever, as long as it's not this or that .."
"Can we stop & get some coffee?"
"No, seriously, it's almost noon, where are we going today?"
"I dunno. What's even running anyway? Maybe we should go into town & get online & look at the levels.."
"And get coffee!"
So at this point, the crew would be set at Schertzl, Tretwold, Evan & me .. & so onward we pushed, headed for Bryan & Lise-Anne's place in Squamish, with the promise of sunny skies & boring Elaho/Ashlu stuff in the a.m.
Just for fun, here's Sherdle cozying up with the unpredictable Stein Weasel
Just before our trip, I picked up a copy of the recent "whitewater issue" of Canoe & Kayak magazine, & was pleasantly surprised to find that The Range Life was mentioned by writer Joe Carberry in a list of "best whitewater blogs". Since TRL’s inception, we've invested lots of time & energy into building this site. But obviously, in the last year our bloggage has been a lot less prolific. One reason for that is cuz I work full time. Another reason is because we are, collectively, kayaking less; there's a lot of other fun/exciting/adventurous stuff to do other than just kayaking. And yet another reason is that the proliferation of kayaking blogs has kind of turned me off to polluting the airwaves with more of my own mediocre drivel.
Seems the only way to get a leg up in the blogosphere these days is to either point it off a really tall waterfall (preferably with a minimum of 3 Hood River photogs/filmers/bloggers on hand to document it), or more importantly, by loudly proclaiming how "sick", "hella big", "extreme", "dope", "next level" "gnar", "core", etc you & your friends are when you “give ‘er” & “fire that shit” & "get it done".
For every decent, humility-infused story that Darrin or Kirk posts, there’s like 25 other chest-poundin’, fist-pumpin’, “next level” bloggers cloggin’ up the Intertubes like cholesterol. That TRL is even considered relevant in this environment is very flattering, but definitely a little puzzling -- not only have we not been posting regularly, we haven't kept up with conventional WW blogging techniques.
And apparently we created an unintended outcome: Joe’s comment about our “carnage-filled first-descent attempts” gave us some laughs. And a little bout of indignance, like, "Dang! Really?? People read us for the carnage? What carnage??" Hmmm... first off, our trips are rarely carn-fests. No, really, they're not. Seriously, guys, they're not, I swear. Stop laughing.
Also because we rarely label our exploratory missions as "first descents", so how would you even know we're doing 1D attempts when we carn out? How did this happen in spite of all my efforts to the contrary? Shit.
Anyway, getting back to the point .. driving up to Squampton with the crew, comments about our impending "carnage-filled thousandth-descent attempts" were being tossed around liberally. As well as comments about carnage-filled "most-complete descents", "most-successful descents", "first complete-descents", "possible first-descents", "highest-water descents" & "second-descents".
You've spotted this trend, right?
If you're a sponsored kayaker, or even one of the top pros, it's not enough to go explore a river & document it for public consumption; you apparently must brand the experience so the reader makes no mistake as to exactly how "hella sick" you are & how important your kayaking trip will be to the future generations of kayakers. Sometimes it's also important to point out that you're just doing it for the love of the sport & that you're just trying to "progress" the sport. A "second-descent" of any river or big drop, while not as earth shatteringly “killin’ it” as a 1D, apparently serves to bolster the credibility of what would otherwise be a totally pointless day of kayaking .. so you gotta claim that shit! Claiming "highest-water descent" will surely earn you a spot on the Badass List, when you run something that has been paddled more than once or twice before. I was impressed recently to learn about the "most complete-descent to date" of an exotic river .. which is just like saying, "We weren't the first to try this run & we didn't run everything, but we're pretty sure we ran more drops than those last guys who tried it, so, clearly, we're more awesome."
Publicly qualifying your carnage-filled attempt of a river in any of the ways described above (& if you could invite a minimum of 3 Hood River photogs/filmers/bloggers, that would work best) will ensure that your trip to Tibet or Sumatra or Bolivia or Yakima is justified in the eyes of your sponsors, ingrained in the collective conscience, and that you are legendary on the World Wide Web. Just lay down some hella tight beatz on yo film footy & you got a next level trailer to drop on all those headz in the forumz.
“Good morning, Viet-Squam!” Irony is when the UV-addicted Rocky Mountain kayaker comes to the PNW looking for “hella sick” rain-fed rivers & all he gets is dry & sunny, just like back home ..
But that ain’t so bad, really .. is it?
Shrtl ain’t skeert.
Is this “the brown”?? I dunno. And where the hell is Mt. Zion, anyway?
Tret getting squirrelly on Fear
Evan splatty in the funny water
Shrtl lookin’ good in the run-out after stompin’ out the portage. Quote of the day: “My lady loves it when I style the portage line on the big drops!”
Chris in the pinch
Evan, with what we think might be Mt. Zion in the background .. For all you Ras Trent’s out there, stay true to the path ..
Pretty nice little afternoon we had .. but we weren’t done yet. Bryan was doing some carpentry work out the Squamish valley & wanted to meet us for an evening blazer down the Ashlu Box. We got to the bridge & the level looked good enough. I mean, we were hoping for “highest-water descent” material, but that wasn’t the case, it was just a boring old “medium-perfect”. We’d have to go for some other monumental distinction on this run.
Turns out, we nailed it! I successfully logged my “most incomplete-descent” of the Commitment Canyon of the Ashlu when, after blowing it at Kernage, I ended up in a hungry hole & became permanently separated from my vessel. Complacency is a crime. ”Running the brine”, it turns out, is not. The upper canyon of the Box is not an easy solo egress. I made it up a little crack in the wall a couple hundred feet to a ledge where my hopes of “walking” out would be dashed. I’d have to hunker down & wait for my pals to return on foot, with ropes. I ended up ascending the last little bit of slimy vertical wall with the aid of a pair of Tiblocs.
So there’s the “carnage-filled” epic our loyal readers have come to expect from us! Now where’s my effin’ boat? Count that as my first-ever real sacrifice to the river in many years of whitewater paddleboating, cuz that Everest was never seen again. And I hate littering.
Next day was more Ashlu Box. Here are some “hella sick” angles.. these angles are definitely “next level shit” only available to the hardcore pro photog on foot who isn’t encumbered by a heavy plastic boat.
Tretwold finishing up Triple Drop
Dang! This angle on Kernage definitely illustrates how a fella might free himself inadvertently from his vessel, right? Is it “the brown”?? I think it could be ..
Man Chris, this is some "extreme brine"
Evan Dotcom, guide book author, “fired that shit” whether it was “the brown” or "the brine" or not.
So did Schartel.
First drop of Twin 10’s as illustrated in-sequence by several different paddlers.
Looking up the lower canyon at what could be Mt. Zion in the background
Interestingly, Shertyl logged his own “most complete descent” of the Box just a day after I logged my “most INcomplete descent”.
Last thing on the Box..
Oh man oh man! I was really hoping to get to say “huck” a whole bunch! That’s another one that’s a guaranteed winner for bloggers. I’m in luck with huck, cuz we spent an afternoon conducting a “huckfest” at Britannia.
Huck!!! Even though I love this shot, this is actually kind of embarrassing. Media Frenzies ‘R Us! This isn’t even kayaking. Next time, let’s go kayaking eh?
Bonus: Furry goes un-hucked
Try as I might, couldn’t convince anyone to "give 'er" or "fire that shit". Guess it was too “brown” to huck.
The last day of Evan’s little vacay would be a bit more exploratory. I think we can safely call this one a “possible 5th descent” of Ruby Creek, which is pretty rad because the “possible” implies that we could actually be farther up the chain than #5. Maybe we were #3, which is only one slot down from the coveted “second-descent”. And since no one really knows much about this creek, I might as well go ahead & claim the “possible 2nd descent” & throw that out to the forums, cuz no one will argue. Booya!
We knew there would be a nice waterfall series in here. It was kind of hard to scout from above, but what we could see looked pretty great. I volunteered to go first, mainly cuz I wanted to take photos from downstream, but also cuz I hate dilly-dallyin’ above big rapids & I wanted to just get it over with. I got pretty nervous while I was trying to scout, but that’s exactly when I realized that someone had just survived a 186-foot waterfall & that it was totally ridiculous for me to kook-out about a 30-footer. Seriously, think about that the next time you’re in your boat above that 15-footer that’s giving you the willies – 186 feet. Thanks for that Tyler.
Ev in sequence.
After this thing, we had to portage a ginormous cascading mess. Chris was expedient in setting up the rappel. I went down first & received 3 out of 4 boats before requesting another man. Again, I wanted to take pics. The next hour was spent getting hypothermic in the mist zone while god knows what was taking so much time up on top of that cliff. I never got the real story on what the hold-up was, but I have a suspicion it might have been the result of a fierce Stein Weasel attack, but maybe we’ll just never know..
Evan finishing the rappel
View of zone from downstream
You can barely make out Chris rapping down in the upper-left of the shot
Nice little thing to exit the waterfall series.
So that was pretty much our skunk-fest of a weekend.
One week later, *everything* is running at primo levels, it's sunny & warm ... but all I can think about is going surfing. Why is that? Maybe that's what is causing my blogger-relevance-insecurity complex, Joe Carberry. The swell sucked this weekend so i should've gone boating with my friends .. but I ended up riding my bike a lot, eating too much food, & drinking too much beer. I think I can honestly claim a "most successful run to date" of the Ballard Farmer's Market today. Seriously, when you factor in the out-of-season organic beets I magically scored, & that I sat next to & ate pizza with that hot, tattooed, Uma Thurman lookalike girl that I see around sometimes, man, it was a pretty successful & relatively carnage-free attempt. And to you folks who doubt the intensity level or "brown-ness" of it, try riding fixed, fast & brakeless through the hordes of Fremont gapers on a sunny Farmers Market day, with a bag full of fresh organic produce & farm-fresh cheese, & a beer in hand. Hey, move it, man! There's a beverage here!