Thursday, January 1, 2009

A chance to reflect

I don´t know who created the calendar we used, or why they chose to break things up the way they did. Not that I care, but placing the turnover to a new year where it is seems a little odd. Why isn´t it scheduled with a solstice or equinox somewhere along the line? Or perhaps the day Pangea finally split apart? That was certainly the dawning of a new era, eh? We could celebrate that annually with parades, fireworks, and belligerence. But most importantly, why is the new year scheduled so inconveniently that I have to take the time right now to do this? Reflect.

Ok, so what to reflect on. Well, guess. What am I completely obsessed with such that it consumes most of my time, money, creativity, and all my time to think freely? Boating, of course. As I hang out down here in Chile and the new year encroaches, I´ve taken a chance to look back at the year I´ve had. 2008 was by far my best season of whitewater yet. In fact, it´s quite possible that I´ll never again live up to the season I´ve had. At least statistically speaking.

The following post is really more for myself than anyone else. But if you´re interested in my quick little recap of a great season, join on in.

Saddle Creek, Grand Canyon

The year started out for me waking up somewhere around mile 238 in the Grand Canyon. We made mamosas. But the important thing was being down there for three and a half weeks with 15 other great people.

It really is a very grand canyon

After the trip, I returned to Corvallis for the winter. Boating there didn´t happen for me, but I made plenty of trips south to Ashland or north to Portland to visit friends and explore the local rain-fed runs. By the time the term ended at OSU, I was done. I left Corvallis with my car and savings from the winter, with my eyes on very little beyond new rivers.

Ready for some All-Tracking

Oregon Hole Gorge, MF Smith

Overnighting the lower McCloud

I spent much of my time in Northern California, but also paddled about some in Oregon and Washington, with trips on the Illinois, Rogue, Canyon Creek, Mollala and White Salmon.

Peter Gandesberry, NF Cal-Salmon

Big Kahuna on Canyon Creek, WA

Ryan Morgan, NF Molalla hike-in

Oregon Rafting Team in the Cal-Salmon Race

Darin on one of many, many Box Canyon laps

My favorite move on my favorite run: Upper Clear Creek

Green Wall Rapid, Illinois River

Green Wall Rapid, Illinois River

As May ground onward, I found myself enjoying hot, sunny days from the Cal-Salmon to Pauley Creek.

Darin McQuoid, Kidder Creek

Disneyland rapid, SF Cal-Salmon

But after an unfortunate swim in Federal Falls at flood, I decided to take a little break from boating. Afterall, it was only a couple weeks before the commercial season started for me in Idaho. And it started with a bang.

I was a little thrown off by the colder weather and water when I put in on Marsh Creek in late May without pogies. But a couple days later, I was no longer risking frostbite and was happy to be kayaking on the Middle Fork at 6 feet with the OARS training trip. Over the course of those 13 days, I strung together the entire Salmon sequence, from Marsh Creek above 6,000 feet to Heller Bar on the Snake below 1,000. Altogether, the trip was over 300 miles long. As the Salmon was where I got my start with whitewater, it has always been a dream of mine to run do all three popular wilderness runs as one trip. As an extra bonus, I got to see Devil´s Slide at 40,000 cfs and have a first-hand account of the rapid that keeps people off the river at half that flow!

Dropping into the Slide at high water

It was a busy work season for me with leading several trips and spending a little too much time on the Lower Salmon instead of the Main and Middle Fork. Luckily, I was able to maintain sanity on days off with trips on the South Fork Salmon, Lochsa, and Kootenai rivers.

At the beginning of Summer, very few of us had concrete plans for the fall. Throughout the season, we would discuss options over cocktails at the guide house and ultimately, Mike, Zak and I agreed on Peru after our work was done. So just before I launched on another Grand Canyon trip, we bought tickets.

Mike and I ran a couple laps on the Green Truss on our way to LAX to meet with Zak and fly out. Getting our boats on the plane was a bit of a struggle, but everything worked out in the end and by October 7th, we were happily moved into a hostal in Cusco looking for the next river. Over the course of the next two months, we found our way down ten different runs including five overnighters. We topped off our stint in Peru with the classic Colca-Cotahuasi circuit and made tracks for Chile.

Toothache rapid, Apurimac River

Beers under banana trees at the takeout

Black Canyon, Apurimac River

Peruvian children loved our boats

Locked in to the Lucumayo

Portaging through Ollantaytambo

Figuring out the Mapacho

One of countless good rapids on the best river anywhere: the Mapacho

Mike and Zak had been in Chile four years ago, so they had a good idea of where to go. The day after arriving in town, I met up with some locals for a morning run on the local classic, the upper Palguin. It´s a short-and-sweet run with three clean drops, and I ran my first 20-footer that day. It was the perfect place to get used to running waterfalls, which have been the focus of most of our travels around Pucon. After a couple weeks hanging out in town with more runs on the Palguin, we took off for our Christmas road trip.

Falling on the Fuy

Allen on the Llancahue

Zak, Upper Palguin, Drop 2

Blue Angels on the Fuy

Zak finishing off the best rapid I´ve ever run. Río Gol Gol

Christmas day was my last day on the water for the season, with a great warm day on the Fuy. In the week leading up to it, we also ran the Llancahue, Gol-Gol, and the Negro. I ran the first rapid on the Lizan, but don´t quite count that as a full day of boating. So here´s the count:

Total days on the water: 174
Unique runs: 52
Personal first descents: 36
Gear lost/broken: 1 paddle, 1 helmet, 1 mosquito net, 1 cotton sock, some foam blocks, a door on Tupper´s Subaru.
Degrees of lattitude covered: 93
Runs missed out on that I´ll get next time: MF Feather, Clear Creek Headwaters, Bridge Creek, Wooley Creek, NF Feather, SF Yuba

Thanks for reading!

I just love this picture too much to not post it again!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Come out and vote!

The new poll on TeamKettle requires a bit of an explanation, so here´s the latest update on my travels in South America. My return flight is scheduled for the day after tomorrow. I have decided to stay down here longer so I can run the legendary Futaleufu River in the southern part of the country. Now I´ve encountered some obstacles with returning home.

After severals hours of outrageously intimidating phone conversations in spanish, I was finally able to speak with the right person at the airlines and successfully communicate my desire to change the date of my ticket. Much to my dismay, the charge for such a simple maneuver turned out to be much more that I had anticipated: somewhere around $1,000. And then I would still have to spend $150 and four days getting to Lima, a city I have no desire to return to.

So now my search has begun to find an alternative way to get home. Here are the options that jump out at me immediately.

1) Get a new flight
After a few minutes online, I was able to find a more affordable ticket one-way from Santiago to LAX. This would be the easiest, but least adventurous option imaginable.

2) Take a boat
I don´t really know anything about this one, but the travels of my uncles Bob and Rob have gotten me thinking: it could be pretty neat to spend 10 days cruising back north via the great Pacific Ocean, with a few days in port at various cities. But I would imagine a cruise to be a tad cost-prohibitive.

3) Drive
How stupid of me would it be to spend a bunch of money on a truck, plan on driving it the 10,000 kilometers back to California, then have it break down in Colombia, if it even made it that far? But I really do want one of the pickups everyone down here has......

4) Ride
Perhaps it would be even stupider (though cheaper) to buy a motorcycle, learn how to ride it, and spend a few weeks on the saddle working my way through all of South and Central America.

5) Hitch
Alternately, I could stick my thumb out there on the Pan-American Highway and see who I meet. It could save me a lot of money unless I get into some real trouble. Like a kidnapping or something!

6) Give up
It sure would be convenient if I just fell in love with some beautiful Argentinean lady who loved cooking and wanted to take me and my friends kayaking on a regular basis. Then I wouldn´t have to worry about this travelling nonsense.

So look over the options, think about them, and cast a vote in the little box in the right-hand column of the blog homepage. If you have another idea I haven´t yet considered, leave a comment. Let´s see how creative everyone can get!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The New Flavor on the Block

I was wondering through our local market the other day. It was a normal shopping experience. But, as I was perusing the beer and chip aisle I was struck by a huge surprise. Kettle came out with a new flavor! Sweet Onion! Oh momma I was excited. Of course I bought a bag to acompany my six pack of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and headed home. The pairing was great.
The chips are definitely more sweet then oniony, but have a perfect onion finish. I ate the whole bag and drank the hole six pack in the one sitting. I was left wanting more!

(photo courtesy of Kettle Foods)

Sweet Onion is a great new addition from Kettle Foods and I look forward to eating another bag soon!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Smalls Portugal?

One of our favorite young rippers studying abroad in Portugal for this school year. Ben Smalls is an up-and-coming snowboarder, kayaker, mountain biker, and awesome dude. While Ben is in Portugal he is maintaining a really cool blog, so we wanted everyone to check it out!

The link is: Ben in Portugal

We hope you enjoy!