Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Fantastic Voyage

Self-portrait, 2007 hike out.

My friend David Maurier said of the North Mokelumne, "I went to Fantasy Falls in search of unicorns, and I found them." For myself, I would say that Fantasy Falls was my unicorn, my minotaur, my elusive fugitive that twizzled his moustache in mockery just as he made his get away.

In 2007 I put on with a patched boat, which opened up like a trout with its belly slit when I poorly piloted it down a manky sneak on day one. In the next rapid, my sinking boat free-wheeled over the crux and I initiated a sequence called "beat down to wet-exit." My kayak f-ed, and myself committed a good ways down the canyon, I faced the snow-covered peaks that stood between me and egress. That was it. My reality check that showed me that the granite domes and sculpted walls we float past are more than scenic wallpaper that scrolls by, they are the imposing and real parameters of wilderness. As a friend recently reminded me, these places- rivers, mountains, canyons- are always mightier than us; it is just that sometimes it is made plainly apparent.

The trail was covered under snow, so I straight-lined it to the road, post-holing through balls-deep snow and crossing over an exposed ridge. It was cold, kinda scary, and not fun. Even without my kayak, which I later returned for and removed, it took a day. It was an experience that has changed my approach to river running.

Last month Charlie led Thomas and I down a two day bombing mission, and I got my redemption. The river charged me for my passage however, sending me swimming not in any of the notorious mackin' holes, but out of an innocuous-looking but perfect undercut one rapid shy of the reservoir. Mmmm, boootie beeer...

Charlie bombs rapids, not countries.

Thomas gets barreled in the tube.

Oh, my.

I would also like to give a shout out to our trip expeditor and former world-record waterfall holder Paul Gamache. As Chuck put it, "It is always amazing given how many variables are in play on a trip like this when we make it out as planned." To you prospective European visitors, let Paul handle the variables by hiring him as your expeditor to take care of all logistics, shuttles, and permitting. . Contact him for 2010 High Sierra packages, made very reasonable by the favourable exchange rate.

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