Tuesday, June 19, 2007
It don't matter at all where you've played before, California's a brand new game!
Robin and I just got back from an epic trip to the Middle Fork of the Kings River in California with Tdub, Team Idaho, The Vermonters, and Team Sketch. I think it was definitely too big for my britches.
After our last post, Robin, Hale and I met with the McClaren brothers, and Boomer and did a practice run with loaded boats down the Cherry Creek section of the Tuolomne (Cherry Proper). We started to get our groove on through the big holes, seeing exactly what it feels like to get worked with gear in our boats. We were studying the river levels on Jason's blackberry, hoping to get on Middle Kings, but thinking it may be too low. But we got the word from Grace and Tommy that we shouldn't worry and we should start running the eight hour shuttle with the Sketch mobile, the Dirtpatch mobile and Jason's pimp ride. To build our caloric reservoir, we must have eaten In-N-Out burgers at least 4 or 5 times in the day or two before we started hiking.
We made it to Bishop at 3am and found team Idaho camped out at the put-in for the hike at South Lake. We crashed for a couple of hours in the parking lot and woke up and put together our carrying systems and loaded our kayaks for the next 6 days of hiking and paddling.
Let me preface the next part of the story by saying it is not the greatest idea to run the Middle Fork of the Kings Canyon as your first overnighter in California. Or as your second attempt at paddling with a loaded boat. Or only 4 months after completing 12 rounds of chemotherapy. But it was a lofty and valient goal, and we gave it our best shot. If you do try this at home, make sure you bring your Jedi brother along with you.
Here is what we did:
12 miles of backpacking 90 pounds of gear over Bishop pass (12,000 ft of elevation)
Day 1 on the river, manky drops, lots of logs, steep, narrow boofs.
Sweet camping at Sick Camp.
Day 2 on the river, put on the shooshoo right away, bigger drops, big slide, water fall gorge (4 gorges total). One long portage for the dirt patch. One incredibly broken wrist (shout out to Dave...we missed you Dave, and wish you the best recovery) and an amazing evacuation by Ryan and Dave.
Emergency camping 4 miles short of our intended camping spot, waiting for Ryan to hike Dave back to the pass and rejoin our group.
Day 3 Ryan makes it to our camp by 10am. Then on the river, it was like the west prong and the Linville put together, but longer (16 miles). All was good, but burly. Thank goodness for the young gun probes. (shoutout to boomer, ian and tristen) Also, thank goodness that Tommy and John have such a great memory for where we were on that long section of river.
Sweet camping at Tehipite Valley under the dome.
Day 4- Robin's Birthday- Bottom 9- First of all, Robin stomped it down, but katie made it about 75% percent of the way down. Big hole birthday beatdowns. This is where I realized that I wasn't quite strong enough yet to paddle 9 miles of the hardest river I have ever been on with a loaded boat. So, while trying to keep up with everyone, and continuing to get beat down, I got super tired. Eventually I finally swam out of a big hole and lost all, including my shoes being sucked off my feet. As Jason put it, Middle Kings-1, Katie-0. The river swallowed my boat and gear and paddle and shoes and said maybe you should spend the night out here and think about what you've done.
This is where my brother came in (for probably the 12th time since we had put on) and rescued me. He gave me his headlamp, food, and a radio and I bushwacked through the thick, wild forest for 2 miles, climbing steep embankments, scaling cliff faces, and 'angry moosing' through the poison oak (which is currently covering 40 percent of my body). The rest of the group was forced to make it to camp before dark, and Tommy hung back and waited for me to make it back to the bank of the river. We were cliffed out on that side of the river, so he ferried me across on the back of his boat, and we tried to continue down stream, hoping "against the odds" to make it to camp by dark. We didn't make it, and ended up spending the night in an emergency bivi on an animal trail. We did some serious bonding, and pondering the decisions I had made that led up to us being in this situation.
Day 5- We left at first light and somehow made it back to camp before everyone woke up. We celebrated with eating a ton of potatoes, mac and cheese and oatmeal and one bottle rocket that Freddy had toted down the river. I hiked out there, 4 miles from yucca point and hitchhiked to the park entrance and awaited the rest of the crew to finish the Garlic Falls section of the Kings River (the last 20 miles of the trip). (Now Robin is talking here)... So after the bottom nine miles of the Middle Kings (aka, the scariest Birthday of my life), the river converges with the South Kings and we had twice the amount of water. Let me tell you even though we finished the Middle Kings the river gave us no mercy. The Garlic falls section was full of gigantic holes, huge burly boofs and tombstone rapids. It was all so good-to-go especially with the strong crew we had. Such a fun stretch of river, but I was really tired by this point and got beatdown in every hole possible. Basically we just 'mad-bombed' down this stretch so we could get back to car and find Katie. But it was like we were still running the gnar. The Sketch mobile had to fix their racks, change a flat tire, and then get a jump start, and our car had the most dirtpatch rack situation ever (towers falling down, and six boats and people crammed in). But luckily we had enough gas to find Katie awaiting us at the park entrance. We celebrated with pizza and beer.
After running another long shuttle, sleeping in the car and the dirt again, the only goal that Katie and I could focus on was how we would get our next shower and real bed. We found an amazing sanctuary on Lake Tahoe with team member Molly Malone and her mom and sister and lisa. Now we feel like we are almost normal again.
Posted by robin at 10:35 AM