To avoid continuing this blog's reputation as the update-less "Same Old S**t", here are a few photos of some kayaking.
It's hard to call the first mile or two of Royal Gorge wilderness, with the "No Trespassing" signs on trees in the water and spread liberally every few hundred feet. Trees clearly below the high water line were plastered with the signs, making most any scout a touchy, though entirely legal affair. Pressure from land owners has lessened in the past couple years(one even waved and smiled at us on the way in), but it still seems like they don't want anybody else in there.
Of course we can respect that. Just scout, portage, and keep the 'booyas' and chest bumping to a minimum, or at least quiet.
Devin Knight minimizing his impact.
Darin McQuoid follows suit, but can't resist a nearly catastrophic 'holla' downstream.
One catastrophe averted, another close at hand.
Darin hit the pool, separated from his helmet due to buckle breakage, and fought to get out of the river left cave/eddy. It must have been pretty disconcerting to resurface without a helmet, on the opposite side of the river from where we were expecting and in a giant dark cave. He battled in there and stayed as composed as anyone in that situation could be, waiting for a rope, its reassuring tightening, and eventual emancipating upward pull.
Hypothermic, shaken, and shaking, I'm sure Darin came into the light with new perspective on risk and reward. Sometimes the highest rewards are not only because of a fun or interesting line, but because of the menacing consequences that await a missed line or unlucky surge in the current. The river occasionally, but physics really, makes us all its bitches.
Darin seemed to have the same line as me off the falls, but must have caught an underwater surge to the other side of the river, ending in a cold, exposed hour instead of a boof out into the sunlight. You just never know.
I love a lot of things about the river and wilderness, but it does show tough love sometimes.
Morning is when I like the wilderness most, empty and echoing, like a half-world, light filtering in through the trees. The fire from the night before smoldering with the nights dew.
That morning at Heath was a little ominous, light breaking out minute by minute, bright splashes on the mountainside and treetops, barely rising enough to reach into the gorge. Pink clouds streaking the sky downstream.
I woke early, knowing I was going into the rest of Heath gorge alone. Pine needles and oak leaves blew along the bedrock in front of me on my way to the ravine access. Birds were going like mad in the trees along the rim as I climbed down to the river.
Paddling down the gorge, really just being there, gave me an almost historical feeling, like I was looking back at myself, as if that morning had already happened. My heart was beating like crazy and my stomach felt queasy with excitement.
I know that gorge has been paddled many times, probably many times solo as well, but it still makes for an exciting and involved short paddle out to sunlight.
The gorge was filled with darkness. I sat at the top for a few minutes, imagining the passing life and the place left to itself, aware of the particular earthy smell, mossy rocks and trees, the horizon line and soaring gorge walls.
I portaged the crux left-to-right move in the gorge, surprised at how easy it was, then dropped down through one of the most dramatic places I can imagine.
We finished out the day on Royal and made it somewhere down in Generation Gap, if that's the one that comes first.
Another reminder of the random power of water came for me at Rattlesnake falls. I landed center-right and was surfed under the falls, upright, way over to the left side and spit out into the eddy. Luckily, it's an easy one to decamp.
Next up, the elusive Yuba Gap.
I don't even know where to begin about Yuba Gap. I just want to go back. It's like Fantasy Falls, but one day, smaller river, no big portages and tons of good rapids.
Okay, actually it's hardly like Fantasy, but go there and experience this rugged gem some time in the next five years if there are ever predictable releases again.