Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Four toes and a phlange...

This is this guy, Daniel (from Pikes Peak Whitewater Club)'s foot, if you notice, his little toe does not even touch the ground, unless he strains to put it there. Weird, huh?

This past week Stacy and I had the opportunity to paddle with the wonderful people from Pike's Peak Whitewater Club. We paddled the Arkansas from Pinnacle Rock through the Royal Gorge to get a total of about 19 miles. Having the chance to paddle with this group of people was a real honor for us.

After my diagnosis with colon cancer, this group of people (who I had not even met yet), headed up by Mike Brown put forth a huge effort to raise money to help me with all the medical bills I had aquired. By doing so, they gave me the encouragement and support I needed to continue going through the treatments. I will forever be a huge fan of PPWC, and will always feel a special connection to them.

Stacy and I had never paddled this section of river before, and we had such a great time with the crew there. We did some surfing and just had so much fun cruising through the rapids.

The Royal Gorge was a really cool place to see. The rapids were fun class IV between tall rock walls. We saw some Big Horned Sheep and a deer next to the river. We also crossed under the Royal Gorge Bridge (possibly one of the highest spanning bridges in the world... or at least that is what we were told) and also a ramp a few hundred feet off the water that someone said Evil Kinevil tried to jump across the river on (that may just be the legend, as told by Daniel).

We had so much fun paddling with everyone from PPWC, and really hope to paddle with them again sometime. Thanks so much to those guys for paddling with us and also for all the support given to me through the hard times last year.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Another one bites the dust...

After the incredible Middle Fork of the Salmon trip, Stacy and I headed to the Payette River to spend some time running the North and South Forks. 5 years ago, Stacy and I had paddled the North Fork, completing our first class V run on our own. Now we were planning a reunion trip down the river. I am honestly not sure of the level, but I think it was a bit high this time, at least higher than last time.

We decided to paddle only the top 5 miles the day we arrived. That section was great fun, but we spent a lot of time scouting these really long, continuous rapids.

The next day, we planned to paddle the the next 10 miles to the confluence. After the first mile, Stacy and I got out to scout another long rapid, and as we were looking at it, we see Robin's blue Jefe I had been paddling come screaming down the middle of the rapid on its own. Apparently I had not pulled the kayak far enough out of the surging river. We went scrambling down the bank, but there was no way we were going to catch that boat.

So, to make a long story short, we found the boat pinned a half mile down stream in the middle of the river. We unpinned it and knew the boat was passed the point of ever again floating down another river.

Fortunately my boat from Pyranha had just arrived in Boise, so we were able to pick it up and try again the next day. We put on right where we had taken off the day before and continued working our way downstream. After tons of scouting and some portaging, we decided it was going to take us forever at this pace and we skipped the next 2 miles and put on at the top of the bottom 5.

We met a guy named Ben who paddled these 5 miles with us to the confluence. It was such a great 5 miles, and more melow than the middle 5 had been. So, all in all we had completed 13 miles of whitewater (in only 3 days).

To make up for lost time, we paddled the South Fork of the Payette the next day from the top (around mile marker 30) to the confluence. It is a beautiful deep gorge, complete with incredible riverside hotsprings. At the end of the day, we loaded up the Matrix and headed to Colorado.

one of the more interesting signs we saw while exploring the area

Scrambled, fried or poached?

The adventure continues... Katie and I left the sweltering city of Boise and headed northeast to run the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. In true dirt patch style, the adventure began with a brief stop at the hospital after running shuttle due to a pretty nasty stomach virus I had acquired. That same day(July 3) we put in at the headwaters of the middle fork called Marsh Creek and paddled 14 miles to the standard put in of the middle fork. We had bought a river book that had all 100 miles of the river detailed with rapids, hikes, history, and geological info. July 4 found us at mile 36 at sunflower hot springs. This was a very important Independence day for Katie and I because it was a year ago that we went searching for a doctor in the jungles of Honduras. We toasted Independence and freedom with chocolate and champagne as we soaked in the hot springs. The canyons in this gorge were incredibly rugged and beautiful. The rapids were class III with a few IV's so we were able to keep a great pace. July 5 found us around mile 74 in the Impassible Canyon. The name is strictly a guess. The book could have confirmed this however I was paddling with it on top of my skirt for easy access and around mile 73 it decided to travel its own way. It might have been extremely informative and waterproof but it could not float. What's the point then, right?
This is a picture from our last camp. We left on July 6th and paddled all the way 5 miles past the normal cache bar take out to the end of the road take out. It was great paddling so many miles through wilderness. I definatly plan to return one day and take more time to fully explore this magical place.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Things to add to your Safety kit...

Kelly Hilleke photo by Polly Hilleke

So, after our last post, Stacy and I met up with a cool girl in Hood River named Lana and ran the Green Truss for the first time in 5 years. That river is so fun, especially Big Brother. The kayaking part was awesome, but there was a mini epic that happened on the banks. Basically the mini epic involved one dropped and lost paddle, hand paddling a large portion of the river, and Stacy getting lit up by at least 15 bees that we know of and then a slightly early hike out to get Stacy some Benadryl.

The next day, I paddled the Truss again with Lana, Heather and Christie G. It was so fun to be on the river on a ladies trip. We fired up Big Brother and BZ Falls.

That afternoon, Lana and I caught up with my friend Jay (originally from Tennessee) and Keel and Ian (who was on the middle kings with me) and Evan and ran the Little White. It was really beautiful there and we had a great, and uneventful run. Ian and Evan and Keel all fired off Spirit and it was so fun to watch them. I wasn't quite feeling it yet, so I decided to save Spirit for the next time (or the next).

The day after that, I paddled the Ldub again with Matt Gaudette and Chris Jones.

And finally, on the last day in Hood River, we paddled down one last time on the Ldub with Matt, Jay, Keel, Ryan, Boone, and Russell. That was a really fun group and I finally fired up Spirit with Jay and Keel setting safety from below.

Then I hit the road for Boise. Stacy and I are here together again with her man, Collin, the firefighter from CA. We are beginning the Idaho/possibly Montana phase of the trip.

Scott Dillard on Spirit, photo by Lana Young

A year ago today, Stacy and I were together in Honduras kayaking the Rio Cangrejal. We didn't realize that that would be the last time I would be kayaking until that one day on Thanksgiving, or that we wouldn't be paddling by ourselves on the river again until the Clackamus almost a year later. If you have time, check out the 2006 archives of this blog and you will see how the whole cancer thing completely took us by surprize two days later. Stacy and I are planning a secret river trip for the 4th of July, celebrating life and independence, exactly one year after C-day.

Nothing in my life has so profoundly stopped me in my tracks and forced me to take a closer look. Life is so amazing and such a gift, and I am, especially now, treasuring these sunny river adventures, peak adventures, and even a few misadventures turned peak adventure with people who are amazing and who also get it.