Tuesday, May 17

Trip Report: American (South Fork - High Flow) - May 15/16, 2005

Run: Chili Bar to Salmon Falls
Difficulty: III+ to IV
Flow: 4000 to 5000 cfs (estimated)

Map of the River

After last week's run we headed back up to do the entire South Fork for the first time this year - I have to say it kicked my ass. I haven't kayaked 20 miles in a while. But we still went back for more the next day to do the Chili Bar to Troublemaker section.

There was one primary objective for this run - nail Satan's at high flow since we had to dodge it last week to pick up some swimmers (no names mentioned or fingers pointed). Stay tuned for the Satan's report...

Tatiana the Brave joined us again along with loser Jason R who stood us up last week & missed the party. Jason's the pretty one below.

Tatiana the Brave Posted by Hello

The Return of Jason R Posted by Hello

No river run would be complete without the ubiquitous Brian T who made a surprise guest appearance along with another poor soul who made the mistake of reading this Blog and actually believing we were competent kayakers - welcome "Oh Too Trusting Mike!"

Ubiquitous Brian T Posted by Hello

Trusting Mike Posted by Hello

With everyone re-united and re-acquainted we gather our gear and put-in at Chili Bar. Our peace is however short lived - that recirculating eddy by the Chili Bar Wave on river left can be an absolute bitch and it unfortunately ate up one of our troops before we could get settled who went for a short swim followed soon thereafter by the Brave Tatiana who took a dunk while trying to retrieve a paddle. Her swim wasn't so pretty and the last thing I remember is her legs in the air disappearing over a rock ledge backwards with a little squeal while I was trying to capture her runaway boat.

All joking aside, no one was the worse for wear and once we picked up all the pieces two of our intrepid team decided to shuttle down to Troublemaker rather than braving Meatgrinder since it was one of their first runs of the year. A sign of a good paddler is knowing your safe limits & respecting them, it was a good call. Not to worry, they'll join the storyline again soon.

Brian, Mike & I kickoff down to Meatgrinder and head in for the kill - it's rocking! It's almost just a big wavetrain even the holes were mostly washed out, a killer long intense ride and even eddy-happy Brian struggled to find any respite through the main section (I swear I'm changing his name to Fast Eddy). The rest of the run is pretty consistent with earlier runs this season (see other posts) and both Mike & I skirt Racehorse Bend on river left since the water is high.

CBR Guage 5/15-16 Posted by Hello

I've been meaning to finish the rest of the trip report for weeks, so I'm going to publish this and come back to it later.

Monday, May 16

River Stink & De-Funking Gear

My gear has gotten increasingly stinky, especially those things I've had for a while. I finally decided that I needed to try & find something that was working better than just rinsing or regular detergent. Here's my 25 cents:

- Rinsing with water doesn't cut it.
- Rinsing with water then in household detergent and rinsing again doesn't cut it either.
- Wetsuit Shampoo from Aquaseal (available from NRS). This seems to do OK for keeping new gear from getting stinky. I don't think it is as effective for older already stinky stuff or when items have been used for multiple days without washing if you're on a trip
- "Sink the Stink" for Diving Gear has been recommended and seems to do a decent job. I just got some and so haven't used it for long. You can also let stuff soak for stubborn funk. They recommend not rinsing after treatment, but I actually washed my gear in the Wetsuit Shampoo first, then rinsed, then soaked in "Sink the Stink".

Bottom line, specialized cleaners with enzymes to break down bacteria seem like the way to go. Do your paddling buddies a favor for those long shuttles - no one likes you when you stink BEFORE you get on the river.

I'd be interested in what others do, post your comments.

New Waterproof Camera - Pentax Optio WP

I invested in the Pentax Optio WP late last week and tested it out on the American River - South Fork this weekend. I bought it from Wolf Camera in San Francisco, $349. For some unknown reason they were selling the older WR for the same price - go figure. People are raving about it. I have to say I can't disagree with them so far.

Pentax Optio WP Posted by Hello

It seems to take great pictures. It is relatively easy to use, but you really need to read the manual to get your $349's worth of camera. It has more bells & whistles than you can shake a stick at and more than you'll probably ever need or use - whatever. The funny thing is that it doesn't look waterproof at all! It's a little scary to be dumping a shiny expensive silver thing in the water - but low & behold it appears to indeed be waterproof. Who knew!

The one thing I found out quickly is that when taking it out of your PFD pocket the lens gets pretty steamy (especially on an 80 degree day), so you need to do something to clear it before shooting, otherwise you end up with crappy pictures. So just grabbing it to snap a quick pic of a move isn't really doable. I also dummy corded it to my PFD, since I'm a dummy. I wouldn't want to drop this on a rock, since I think it would break pretty easily. The older model was slightly rubberized, no idea why they didn't make this one a little sturdier. Although it was a hot day the water was freezing so I was wearing thin gloves (NRS Hydroskin) but was able to operate the camera just fine without taking them off - a blessing since it would have been a huge pain in the ass.

The other thing, which is my idiosyncrasy, is that I use paddle wax. I didn't even think about it, but the camera gets covered in wax. It seems to come off pretty easily, but I had to be careful to avoid waxing the lens.

I haven't figured out the zoom deal while taking movies. When I zoom in they get very grainy - seems to be using the digital zoom and not sure why the optical zoom (which has much better quality) isn't working.

I had a flash card in my PDA and so I just re-used that - 512MB. Took a bunch of good quality pix (larger files) this weekend and a few movies and was barely over 100MB. The battery was still alive on the second day after being on for a while both taking pictures (many with flash) and reviewing, not sure how much juice it had left. I haven't found any car adapter charger accessories, so it might suck for a long trip away from AC. The other thing is that you need to very careful changing the flashcard on the river is the camera is damp when you open the sealed compartment.

The software that comes with it loaded fine on my Windows XP machine, but has frozen a few times. The jury's still out on this. I managed to download images & movies without a hitch though.

I'll keep you posted.

P.S. For anyone keeping track of my recent purchases, I DO NOT wish to know the total $$ and will stay in happy denial :-p

Thursday, May 12

New Gloves - NRS Hydroskin

After some sketchy moments the other week when trying to retrieve boats & paddles with a pair of pogies on, I decided that I needed to get over my fear of paddling with gloves since the pogies had to go. My buddy Brian recommended low profile NRS gloves $32 that have "sticky" palms, since I seem to have a slippery paddle or butter fingers.

I like em! Not for freezing days paddling with snow on the ground, but just fine for cold spring days with very cold water.

NRS Hydroskin Gloves Posted by Hello

Tuesday, May 10

Trip Report: American (South Fork "Gorge" - High Flow) - May 8, 2005

Run: Lotus Campground to Salmon Falls
Difficulty: III+ to IV
Flow: 4000 to 5000 cfs (estimated)

Map of the River

My friend T (Tatiana) of Trinity River fame joined me and Brian for her first run of the season down the Gorge. She brought her big ass ugly Wavesport Mutant creekboat and I decided to join the party by doing a demo of the Dagger Mamba. Brian as usual was bopping down doing cartwheels in wave trains in his Dagger Kingpin. I was in an aircraft carrier given the comparative volume between the Dagger Mamba & the Dagger Kingpin - I got a ration of shit for taking the big boat down, but I wanted to check out how a true creek style boat felt on bigger water (see review).

The CBR guage shows that it was hitting over 4000 cfs that day, but given the additional inflows on the way down to the Gorge it's hard to say what the actual flow is by the time you reach Satan's - 750 to 1000 cfs more is probably conservative. Needless to say this was my "new" highest flow day on the American and on the Gorge.

Many of the fun rapids actually get washed out after you exceed 4000 cfs, so it was fun but not what I expected. The one rapid that I really wanted to nail this time was Satan's. On the way we bumped into a lone kayaker who had gotten seperated from his buddy who had decided to portage Fowlers (not an easy place to portage). He had hung out for an hour with no sign of his friend, so given that he was new to the river and visiting from Colorado we took him under our wing for the rest of the run.

We scouted Lost Hat before heading through, it had a couple of avoidable nasty holes and we booked river right to eddy out above Satan's which we scouted. The problem with eddying out on river right to scout Satan's is that you really struggle to get over and out into the channel to get a good line. If you have a good feel for your line, it's better to go straight in and run it or eddy out right above it on river left. There was a nice sneak possibility on river right of both holes in Satan's and so the plan was to head for that. As we set up to head down, T & our visitor decided to bypass it and head down river right around Satan's, but alas, both swam right below Satan's and Brian & I had to book it down after them to gather up the pieces - so we didn't get to run it!!! Bummer, next time.

Hospital Bar was remarkably routine since it was so washed out and then the worst part - the lake was so high that immediately after Recovery Room it was completely flat water all the way to Salmon Falls - what a hike. Our lone kayaker was re-united with his buddy right below Recovery Room - tears were shed - he'd hitched a lift on a raft and they'd missed each other so no need for a search & rescue.


My latest investment this weekend was a Sweet helmet - Strutter (US$179). I believe the company is from Norway: Sweet Protection

New Helmet - SWEEEEEEEEEEET! Posted by Hello

I've seen quite a few on the river, they're great looking and the bill gives good face protection, especially beyond the helmet that I have now (Rock Headz). I tried the SM/MD and found it to be really small, but also found the MD/LG to be really big. It comes with these red flame shaped shims and I used all 5 to get a good fit. I still don't have the straps adjusted quite right yet and so it pinches quite a bit if you cinch it down to stop the helmet pushing back too much and exposing your forehead.

The one downside is that the helmet is HOT! I had a headache after paddling in 80 degree weather this past weekend and was actually filling my helmet with cold water and dumping it on my head to cool it down. Others have said the same.

All in all a thumbs up! It's what all the cool people are wearing.... ;-)

Monday, May 9

Boat Demo - Dagger "Mamba"

Dagger Mamba Posted by Hello

Since I haven't spent much time in more creek style boats, I demo'ed the Dagger Mamba this weekend on "The Gorge" of the American - South Fork at over 4,000 cfs. I wasn't bowled over - I didn't find it that comfortable and I was surprised that it didn't track as well as I expected on flat water. I'm only 5'10" 155# but the foot brace was almost all the way forward. It was fairly easy to get on a wave and it would actually surf. It seems to be a pretty forgiving boat, but all-in-all I think it is pretty pedestrian in terms of overall performance. The demo shop said that they're using it for a lot of beginner classes given its rollability. It's probabaly a pretty good boat for newbies. Would I take it on a big water class IV? - maybe. But I'd try something like the Wavesport Diesel first.

Monday, May 2

Trip Report: American (South Fork "Chili Bar" - High Flow) - May 1, 2005

Run: Chili Bar to Lotus "Henningsen Park"
Difficulty: III+ to IV
Flow: 3500 cfs

Map of the River

This was Chili Bar "revisited" after my run the other week, again with Brian.

Meatgrinder was a blast. Since I missed an eddy about half way down on river right, it was a long heart pounding ride to the bottom of the main section. I haven't rolled in Meatgrinder for quite a while, but got caught on the edge of a stomping hole this time but managed to pull off some nice skulling braces to get me back on track. Impressed even me - you never what you're capable off until you're scared shitless. :-)

I decided to take the chicken route down river left of Racehorse Bend then joined the wave train about mid-way through. This isn't an option at lower flows since the left gets too rocky.

First threat was deserted!! It so big it was probably unsurfable for most people, you could eddy out on river left and then given the high flows you can sneak around some big rocks away from the main channel to get back up to the wave. Brian gave it a shot a couple of times but we called it and moved on. The rest of Triple Threat was the usual fun squirly wave train and we ran African Queen all the way down river right for a change. There are some strainers you have to watch at that flow, but nothing to be too worried about.

That leaves Troublemaker!! We scouted it and ran the same line as last time - river left, eddying out right above gunsight then peeling out right along the crest of the wave from a hole near the middle of the rapid and just right of gunsight. Pulled it off without incident, very nice satisfying move. Tried a couple of surfs in the wave at the bottom but too beat to hang out for long. But dang, the seams & squirly water right downstream behind the surf wave caused a little bit of concern - not somewhere I would want to swim.

We cruised down to Lotus and took out nice & early. Another day on the American comes to a close. Great training day for me.