Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Dipping Blades into Mirages
The Sespe Creek mission was an act of faith from the very first. When David and I leave Sacramento, a strategic location for getting at classic whitewater, and point the car towards Los Angeles, the sprawling Babylon of civilization gone awry, I feel fibers in my body twitching, resisting the idea out of instinct and principle. With the hydrograph that had held steady all week at a reportedly good level starting to drop that day, reason also joins the protest (see above: we put on the 16th). When the bubble of light pollution from the misnomered City of Angels comes into view as we turn off the 5 and switch drivers near Magic Mountain, I accept the unlikely adventure as it plays out in the style of a David Lynch film. Macy and Luke meet us at a semi-legal camp spot, and we boost towards the river after sunrise. The sight of patchy snow hiding in the shade as we shuttle up and a battleship-sized sandstone formation greeting us at put-in hint at adventure and overshadow the risk of stranding ourselves in a dry desert gulch. As we paddle in, I remind myself of other beguiling put-ins that tell nothing of what lies downstream: the innocuous miles of class II on the way in to the Green Narrows, the float through a swamp leading to the steep slides of Minnesota's Split Rock River. As I bang my loaded boat over shoals and through willows, pinning like a butterfly specimen and falling behind, I keep faith that the snow will melt, the tribs will come in, the river will channelize.
Macy runs this 10 footer on beta. Trick of perspective makes it look like 2 footer.
David reckons, "the heck with boofing, I'm going for the slot with the most water!"
Macy goes with the, "I'm hitting so many rocks as it is, I might as well drive up on them completely!" school of thought.
At this point the river sieved out like a sewer-grate and we portaged through a jumble. I feel justified in stealing this picture from David's blog, because it features my likeness and at no point did I agree to full disclosure of intellectual property.
Luke gets all up in the pour-over's bizniss. I feel justified in stealing this picture from David since I took it.
Once we entered the gorge the next day, our faith was rewarded with stunning topography, rare bird-life, and sandstone rapids, smooth like a single-malt scotch, yet rough as shark-skin. We got a good lead-sweep rhythm going and routed many rapids on boat-scouts and no-scouts, the thought of another chilly night motivating us towards take out. We left one rapid for next time with more water, and saw the river completely sieve-out twice. The general character in the steepest few miles could be described as pour-overs pinched between huge boulders, with a few slides mixed in. The flow was surprisingly adequate for most of the good rapids, but we did well to do the paddle out as the sun set on day two, the flow continuing to drop. All in all a great trip, a good chunk of gradient, and a chance to experience the desert environs that had gotten into my imagination on the drive back from Mexico.
Oh, and check out www.kineticinstasis.blogspot.com for an alternate report of this trip, as well as David's endeavors in New Zealand and elsewhere in California. Whose trip would YOU rather go on? Polling begins next week.