July 27, 2013 - Natural Flow - 3.4ft @ PE Gauge, equivalent of around 12000KW release
The GoPro locked up at the put-in and the door opened on my waterproof PlaySport (not so waterproof anymore), so no footage and very few photos from the day. That means I'll have to go old school with a big, long TR.
With plans to attend Floydfest later in the afternoon, I arrived in a wet, foggy Kibler Valley early on race day. Rain had fallen heavy all night and the river was noticeably higher than a normal full rec release. With the hydrostation closed for repairs, there had been concerns that the race would not happen this year or that there would be no water. Mother Nature eliminated those concerns and provided an exceptional, rare high water run. The only thing we had to worry about was a little mud at the race finish. Personally, I was happy about finally getting to use my truck's four wheel drive. And then there was the nasty double strainer below the second bridge, but everyone made it past that unscathed as well. I was the second person in line to register, with other eager beavers Sammy, Brooks and Nate right behind me. With all that water flowing past us, I just couldn't sit still. I was enjoying watching friend after friend make their way in through the mud, like Pam and Trent, but with every minute I got more anxious to get on the water. I finally couldn't take it any longer, pulled my boat off the shuttle rack and put it back on my truck. Jeff Hatcher was ready to paddle too and joined me on the ride to the top. They let me drive all the way to the end of the drive. We dropped our boats, I backed out and parked at the basketball court, catching a ride back up with Woody. Jeff scouted the top and since it looked pretty beefy, he decided to warm up first by starting at Basketball Falls. Not a bad decision as Jeff was also in his playboat.
So there I was, sitting in my
Fun, just a few paddle
strokes above the Powerhouse rapid. The rapid and everything below it was
thumping, rain was falling, water was dripping from the trees. I was thinking that it was probably a better day to be in a
creek boat. And then I thought, "hell, this is Kibler, my home turf, I got this..."
and shoved off. I skirted Powerhouse on the right, then hit the series of holes
below it, bracing hard in the process and thought "well, I think I got this..." It didn't take long to realize that it was going to
be "game on" in the playboat. Public Enemy was a wash with no defined
slot, but I decided to run that line anyway to see how it would go and found the
bottom of it pretty squirrely. I think I braced here too. I think
someone that knew me was asking me something from the bridge, but I had water in
my eyes and ears and water moving fast under my boat. I think it might
have been Mark, but I wasn't able to figure
out for sure who it was before I went under the bridge and hit the fun stuff
leading into Basketball. Little holes were scattered
around making for some fun read and run action. I caught diagonal lines between the
holes and had a plan of hitting Basketball in the center, skipping the boof rock in the process.
But as I approached it had a sudden change of heart. I looked over at the
boof and thought "now when are you going to get another chance to hit it at this
level?" So I turned right and hit the boof rock. But when I landed,
I went deep. It felt
like I was headed toward a squirt with the bow coming all the way over, so I
paddled as hard as I
could under water and luckily popped up just in front of the big rock.
The water was bubbling high enough on it to make my broached position a
non-issue, I just had to lean into the rock and slowly work my way past it.
As soon as I made it around the edge of the rock though I flipped. When I rolled up
I saw Jeff on the bank, but I had water in my eyes and ears and water moving
fast under my boat, so I was not able to pull over until the end of the jumble
below the rapid. It was an exciting way to start
the run and the most challenging I've ever found that section. When I ran
it a few weeks earlier it was a foot higher, but I was in my creeker and it seemed like
it was not quite as busy. Not sure if it was the boat or the level that
made the difference, probably the boat.
Jeff joined me and we made the short paddle to the 2nd bridge. We both portaged the double strainer by walking around it on the right. I was really concerned about the danger the strainer would pose to anyone that might find themselves out of their boats or that might flip on the first tree. Luckily, everyone made it past the obstacle on race day unscathed. It did not hurt that the weather made tubing the river pretty undesirable. I really enjoyed my paddle with Jeff down the river. Lots of wave trains and holes. I don't know how many times we looked at a hole as we paddled past it, as if to say "did you see that!" Jeff is a great paddler and it was a pleasure to get to make the run with him. Rain fell for much of the trip and it seemed odd to be that chilled during July. Most of the fun was in running the river and we only stopped to surf in a few spots, which meant that we were at the take-out much faster than I would have anticipated. Along the way we discussed the amount of carnage that the level would probably cause over the course of the day. Within minutes of pulling my boat out of the river, I was riding back to the top with Greg, Donna, Barrett and others on a Ruritan shuttle. After changing into some dry clothes I got to watch a little of the carnage that we had anticipated. Boats, paddles and paddlers were floating through Basketball Falls in mass. Really something to see and I'm glad there were no injuries.
Ann and I were discussing our concern for the safety of the less experienced paddlers. Barrett was starting his race run at that precise moment and in the flow of the conversation Ann said "but I'm not worried about Barrett, he is as good as it gets." In the time it took her to finish that sentence, the hard eddy line where Barrett tried to launch flipped him. I punched Ann in the shoulder and said "Ann, that is the worst jinx I have ever seen laid on someone." Since Barrett was on the far side of the river with no easy way of chasing his boat, I drove down to keep an eye on it with hopes of stopping it before it reached the strainer trees. Luckily it stopped on river right before the 2nd bridge and I was able to pull it out fairly easily. And with that, I called it a day and headed back to town. It was another great River Run and I super appreciate the Ruritans pulling it all together, especially since it rained all weekend, their field got muddy and the level was a bit of an unknown. As always, seeing old and new paddling friends is what makes the River Run so special to me. And another shout out to Ken for letting me borrow his paddle!