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 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.

Monday, February 4, 2008

I'm no geologist, but I'm pretty sure this sh!# is granite...

The Rio Zacate flowing out of Pico Bonito national park. This whole mountain range has largely intact rainforest and rises up just a few miles from the Gulf of Mexico.
Did I first d the Rio Cuyamel? Only it knows.
Udo shows me down the upper Congrejal, a cherry-creek style run, at a great level. Udo goes way back in Honduras, all the way to '92 when he went on a badass kayaking trip on which he and his boys found a totally runnable river with a clean 30 footer and a bar at take out (Hopefully I'll make it back for that one). He decided Honduras was the place and has run a raft company on the Congrejal ever since.

Honduras- As big as you want to go...

Honduras marked the turn-around point of the road trip. Kat and I motivated down through Guatemala to go Scuba diving at an island off the Honduran coast which we had heard was the cheapest place in the world to blow bubbles amongst the coral. It was a crazy place, most of it was at most a foot above sea level and swampy and though there were hardly any cars on the island the locals constantly tore around on 4-wheelers and mopeds, providing a droning back-drop. When we were ready to leave, a 4-day storm system moved in, preventing the ferry that had taken us to the island from making its trips. So we stayed a while. When we made it back to the mainland, some of the rain was still draining out of the mountains, as you can see above. This part of Honduras really made an impression on me with its natural beauty and the extent to which it has been left pristine as compared to other places we saw on the road trip. I really just scratched the surface here and I think it is the most under-rated kayaking destination in Central America.