Saturday, August 25, 2007

MIddle Kings: Yuns Come Back Now, Ya' Hear?

We emerged from Simpson Meadow to find a river again stacked with super continuous class V. Here we have, none other than the main man himself, Mr. Patrick Keller chargin' it through some boogie on river day 3.

Christopher Gragtmans does the follow-the-leader thing. Greasin' it up good like his bojangles biscuits.

Lunch break, river day 3. Dylan Bruce explains how demanding the river is. Lunch on the Middle Kings is like Christmas when you're five years old.

A photo-mash of what I think is Monarch Divide. We set off that morning with an idea of where, or at least what our next camp looked like. It was the first time we actually knew where we were going to end up by dark. By this point, second lunch, river day 3, we started to question that comforting thought.

After some searching Chris Gragtmans found our last camp of the expedition, Camp Hideaway. Tehipite Dome, pictured here, is the mark of the beginning of the end. River day 4 holds the infamous "Bottom 9," the last nine miles of the expedition, and arguably the hardest nine miles of whitewater in the Sierras.

I'm the fire starter, twisted fire starter.

We woke up day 6 of our expedition, and this was the last of Chris' food supply. You're welcome Chris. (Note: He did remember to bring his golf pants!)

After about a quarter mile of boogie, you drop in. The Bottom Nine, The Bottom Nine, The Bottom Nine miles of the Middle Kings. One of the things that sucks people into kayaking, are the moments they have on the river when nothing else matters in the world. Welcome to Euphoria. If you let something else, anything else matter while in the Bottom Nine, you're S.O.L. It's you, your crew, the river and the mountains. Game on.

Dylan Bruce looks on, as Pat gives a good hippy-kicky-flip-launch off a ledge, amidst the action of the Bottom Nine.

Pat, again, keeping 'er hairy side up on more boulder choked action. California's scary because rapids that look perfectly good will all of a sudden, without warning, end in a big sieve pile. When in doubt, scout.

We portaged around this. It looked scary.

I once took a class about utopian societies. We studied all sorts of books portraying this so-called idea of "utopia." In the end, our class concluded that utopias can't, and won't exist; they will always end up failing. This is a view of utopia. Whether it will fail or not is up to us, and future generations of explorers into the gorge.

Christopher Columbus doing his best seal impression, as he launches into a new world.

The rapids were relentless, class V, all day. Spending five days concentrating all your energy into doing everything you do without mistake is taxing. Here's Chris doing everything in his power to keep it together during the last few miles of the Bottom Nine. Chris Gragtmans keeps it together when fighting rabid tiger monkeys, we didn't have to worry about him.

Catalyst progress. Again, check out the motion picture of our trip, if you're into that sort of thing.

The crew at the confluence, our get-out. Happy to be alive, not happy about throwing our boats on our backs again. From the confluence you hike a couple miles up to the Yucca Point Trailhead. I considered this hike as a tip, to the river and mountains that let us pass through. You go to dinner knowing how much it's going to cost, but once you finish your meal, you realize you forgot to add in the extra cost of the tip.

What more do you have to pay after the tip? Nothing, unless your car gets broken into while eating dinner. Which ours did. Dylan Bruce's car was left at the Yucca Point Trailhead to provide us with a vehicle to run the 400-mile shuttle a second time with. It was broken into sometime while we were on the river. That was a trying moment for our team as we emerged from the wilderness, from the most epic trip we could ever have reality. With only the few "emergency dollars" we had packed in to get back with, we looked into the future to a long night of cold, hungry driving, hopefully being able to make it back to Bishop with the limited funds we had. Then an angel appeared, in a white Tacoma.

The Biggest of THANKS on the Magical Mystery Tour goes out to Ranger Philip Gross for loaning us some duct tape to cover up the window with, as well as buying each of us our own large pizza at Pizza Hut that night. If it weren't for your unbelievable generosity, our lives would have been hell that night. Thank you Ranger Philip!!!

Sleep tight honey, cause the chickens ain't scratchin' the squirrels yet.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Middle Fork of the Kings River: Git U Some

Putting on the Middle Kings without a guide was one of the hardest mental undertakings I've ever faced. It was immediately worth it when we got to the first meadow and looked back up into LeConte Canyon, our get-in. Pat and Dylan here, I think are pretty stoked to be in such an unbelievably beautiful place.

Guac explosion, ya'll want some guac for that sammy? Lunch break, right next to the drop on the cover of the Seven Rivers Expedition video. Tommy's the one firing that shit up on the cover, but after he confessed his swim there this year to us at the take-out, we opted for the PB & J line...high left.

Dylan Bruce, fires it up on Money Drop, one of the bigger drops of River Day 1. I didn't take a whole lot of pictures, due to being focused on making "class V downstream motion" Danny D quote right thar.

Pat, throwing down a skyrocket-worm-tail boof off the top drop of money drop. His line? All about the Benjamin’s.

Dylan mesmerized by the fire, another fire, the river, our crew, and our location deep in the heart of it all.

This picture is dedicated to Billy Murphy. If it wasn't for Billy Murphy, we wouldn't have eaten apples at this campsite, known as "Sik Camp." Pat saw footage (from the boy's trip last summer) of Billy getting beat-down on the good morning rapid of Day 2 on the river. Late in our Day 1 we came to a drop, Pat got out and scouted, and we found camp. Thanks Billy for getting your ass beat for us!!!

Ladies and Gents, the Promised Land...the Promised Land, Ladies and Gents. The view from our campsite at Sik Camp, note the stream gradient drop like a one humped camel as he looks around and realizes he's the only one-humper out of the group, halfway across the Sahara.

Our boats, chilling among the erratics down by the river. Pack it up, put-on and it's on like the beats of Jr. Gong.

Chris-tofer Gragtmans showing us how to style Billy Murphy's Good Morning Rapid. This rapid was an intense way to start an intense day, she's got a real tricky entrance that you hope will set you up somewhere near where Chris is in this freeze-still of an actual moment in time.

Pat in the above-mentioned lead-in. It doesn't look as tricky as is actually is...A, because it's a photo and photos don't do shit for justice of whitewater, especially the Middle Kings. And B, because it's Pat, and Pat makes Niagara Falls look easy.

Dylan and Chris acting like they're cooler than Pecos Bill below the famous "Waterfall Gorge." The night before Pat told us stories of the wise saying that "you just find your self in the waterfall gorge." Needless to say, that is just about the situation we found ourselves in.

The Rick of Pat dropping into "the Werner Paddles Drop." I guess Werner has used pictures of peeps launching this one in a couple of ads before. Any-who, it's a long, complex mam-a-jam-a that'll get yer butt puckered up nice and tight.

Again, Mr. Keller a little over halfway through the same rapid. Niagara Falls...easy.

Here we have Dylan Bruce standing next to this slide for scale. No wait, for scale you should direct your attention to Gragglefunk, he's the really short guy chargin' it through the entrance to this big 'un.

Chris, exiting the same slide way below where you can see in the picture above. Nice line, duder. "Chris Gragtmans would autograph your breasts if you asked him to!" -Quote directed to Daniel Talley by she-who-must-not-be-named.

This picture is dedicated to Nate Elliot. If it weren't for Nate-dawg, again we wouldn't have found our next camp. Pat had saw a picture Nate took of bear claw marks on this log. We stopped here for lunch after a very stressful, walled-in situation we found ourselves in upstream. Pat saw the log and marks and said, "this is camp!" "And the people did rejoice and did feast upon the lambs and toads and tree-sloths and fruit-bats and orangutans and breakfast cereals."

We found this tree, that looks frighteningly similar to the same tree, that they used as a model for making cell phone towers that look like real trees. I hope one day I can get a job to search for the model tree that they will use to replace the next tall ugly thing someone has to build.

Here's a video about our expedition made by Chris Gragtmans and Catalyst Media. I don't know if Catalyst Media made it, or Chris Gragtmans made it, I can't tell. Either way, it puts the pictures and stories into motion...

If you can't view the vidayo, try THIS!

Stay tuned for more pictures and stories of the adventure.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Dusty Trail to The Middle Kings

Groveland, CA. This is the closest town to Cherry Creek, and it happens to also have California's oldest bar, The Iron Door Saloon. Every week the Iron Door hosts the most rockin'ist karaoke gig in Cali.

Dylan, post karaoke, tweakin' to the max. Big ups to John Warner for taking us in underneath his armpit, and showing us a good time in the promised land.

One day we tried to run the Cherry proper run. We were too being too late. We did however get to drive around with boats on our car and look cool. That was cool. No, actually what WAS really cool was our adventure later on in the day jumping off tall rocks and swimming under a waterfall.

Mr. Cool himself, Scott Harke, carved this Greenboat carving out of wood. Really, that's real wood. Like, knock-knock, who's there? A tree. A tree who? Like a tree that's made out of real wood tree.

California trees like sun, I like California sunsets. This picture was taken on the way into Kings Canyon National Park, after we got the green light from Al G. to go to the Middle Fork of the Kings. After hearing the NC crew's description of their trip down as "epic, the trip of a lifetime," I was all of a sudden terrified. I envied their position, sitting at a table eating pizza with all their worries behind them. While Grace insisted we needed to go figure it out ourselves, Robin Betz offered up the most useful wisdom of the group...1.Bring a lot of food 2.Go slow 3.Keep a positive attitude. These three things made this expedition a reality for us.

The weight of the adventure that lay ahead sank in as we dropped Dylan's car at the Yucca Point take-out trailhead. My legs felt weak as I stood there gazing upstream into the gorge that held the infamous "Bottom 9," (the last nine miles of the trip, considered nine of the hardest miles of whitewater in the state of California)

We packed everything we would need for six days in the High Sierras into Pat's truck, our shuttle vehicle. What seems to fail to always be mentioned about the Middle Kings, is the shuttle. You've really got to pay to play, 400 miles worth. Down off the west slope of the Sierras, south around the bottom of them, and then back north, up the east slope to Bishop.

Bishop was our grocery stop, as well as our Father's Day call stop. Here the crew, Dylan Bruce, Pat Keller, Chris Gragtmans and myself, held "the explosion." The gear, boats, food, bags, and more food was strewn across the Bishop Pass Trailhead parking lot as we tried to cram it all into neat compact systems that fit into our kayaks.

A view into the unknown from the trailhead. We started hiking in around 7pm, attempting to knock a mile or two off the 11-mile jaunt over the eastern Sierra ridge before dark.

The gang, truckin' hard after sundown.

Even when it gets dark, the Promised Land is stunning.

As daybreak broke, Chris Gragtmans' eye fell out. Always bring an extra eyeball when traveling in the backcountry.

Turns out we nabbed a rather pretty camp spot when we collapsed the previous evening. From the top of this hill, we could finally see Bishop Pass off in the distance. It seemed like light years away, but I knew if I put one foot in front of the other, I would eventually get there.

Lunch, near the summit.

Chris thought he deserved a statue near the top, so he hiked in this life size wax figurine of himself. Pat was impressed.

The view east off the top of the Sierras, down the path we had just traveled up.

The first view down into LeConte Canyon, our get-in. Mountains towering above, I suddenly felt smaller than a termite. The fears about T-Rex suddenly bounding over the ridges at surrounded us returned in full force.

Again I proclaimed, "That was the most intense thing I've ever done in my whole life!" Here at Camp 2 of our trip, we questioned the sanity of our decision to hike in without someone who had done the river before. It was decided that, "We got that shit!"

Stay tuned for pictures of kayaks and kayakers actually in water!!!