We put in about a 1/2 mile above Sunset Falls, which provided a nice warm up before with hit this 17 foot waterfall.
To make the experience interesting, I got flipped in the hole just above the pool and hit a nice roll, which had a great, calming effect on me. We scouted Sunset Falls on the way up, but got out of our boats to look at it one more time. Mike went first and nailed a clean landing. I was pretty nervous, being the highest waterfall I'd ever been on, but ended up running it pretty clean. In spite of my weak boof stroke, I penciled in and came right up, whooping and hollering. Like I said, that was the highest falls I'd ever run and, for me, it was a great accomplishment. Here's a picture of my buddy, Aaron Nudelman, charging over Sunset Falls... and one of Mike "sitting safety" below the falls (the line at these flows is at the extreme right of the photo):
From Sunset Falls, we moved out way down through Hippy Johns Boulder Drop (so named, because someone discovered a guy meditating on a rock in the middle of the river... I've been there, how he got on a rock in the middle of the river, I'll never know), Sky Pilot and the other unnamed drops and chutes above the gorge section of this run. We all had really clean lines through everything and smiles covered each of our faces.
The next major section of this run is called "The Gorge", mainly because the walls of the river shoot straight up and, well, it's a gorge. There are 2 main rapids in the section: Class IV/V "Screaming Left" and Class IV "Dragon's Back". We got out of our boats above Screaming Left to scout. It only took me a minute to decide to walk it with my buddy Mike Glass... the risk/reward ratio just felt off to me. Brandon and Aaron both walked it as well. We walked down to Dragon's Back to make sure wood had not worked it's way down and happily discovered it was clean. After looking at the line and discussing options for running it, we all decided to give er'.
The intended procedure was to seal launch into the eddy below Screaming Left, pop over the little ledge below it and head down. We all set safety for Mike and he nailed the drop... as evidenced by the photo...
Mike got out and set safety with Aaron for Brandon and I. Both Brandon and I had super clean lines... I'm not sure who was laughing harder! We all set up for Aaron's descent. Unfortunately, Aaron got a little sideways in his seal launch and got stuffed in the hole and pinned against a rock and had to swim. He self rescued and we were able to get his paddle and boat.
From the Gorge, we moved down to John's Swimming Hole and got out to look at it... there is a large piece of wood blocking the entry, but we snuck around it on the left and all hit our lines at the bottom nicely. This is a great dope and ends in, yes you guessed it, a swimming hole:
After we all got back in our boats, we floated in awe of the pure beauty of this place...
Below John's Swimming Hole, we hit Mr. Twister, which is a benign looking S-Turn rapid. Yours truly failed to have enough speed going into the second turn and got stuffed and pinned up against a rock. I held on and though I was getting a pounding on my head (my new helmet has the battle scars to prove it), hit an off side roll and popped up, much to the delight and relief of my buddies... we decided it was a opportune time to take a break and we found a nice sunny spot to pull out and rest.
You know, paddling is a weird sport... you experience places and feelings that other non-paddlers don't really understand. As we sat there, laughing and looking at this beautiful, untouched place, it struck me just how lucky I am to have buddies like Aaron, Mike and Brandon.
After we got back in our boats, we floated down to Horseshoe Falls (22 feet) and scouted on river left. I was pretty intimidated by this waterfall, as it seemed appreciably bigger than Sunset (given the heights I found when I got home, I guess I was right). We hopped across the rocks over to the entry slot and all discussed our intended lines. Mike went first and nailed the drop...
I hopped in my boat and made my way to the slot. I got a little hung up on the rocks getting in, but pulled my way into the water and slide down the little chute, steadied myself in the stiller water at the top and dug in for the dome at the top of the auto boof flake. I nailed my intended spot and sailed off the edge, nice softish landing and popped up, whooping and hollering. All I can say is that my Jackson SuperHero ROCKS!
Mike and I set up safety for Brandon and Aaron and both nailed the waterfall.
From Horseshoe Falls, we floated down to the take out, laughing and remarking just how great a day it had been.
When I think back on it, it was a great day... not just because I paddled something that was difficult and required all the skills I've acquired in this sport, but because I was able to paddle this beautiful stretch of river with 3 great friends...
Enjoy your friends and family and, if you get a chance, head out into America's wilderness areas... they are pretty special places and those who work to protect them deserve all the thanks we can give them!
I'll see you on the river...