Tuesday, March 27, 2007

And we thought Saturday was good…

Video: Sunday In The Stonycreek Watershed

After a restful night at Zach’s house, Jim Steppenbaker and myself (Jason Hilton) took off for some creeking in the Stonycreek watershed. We met up with Jon Rudland, who had spent the previous day running safety on a beginners trip, knowing full well we were about to expose our newest Got Boof Crew member to some of the biggest drops in the region. After meeting up with Craig Wassinger, Jeff Knechtel, Jay Miller, Ted Pablo and Amy Pablo in Seanor, it was time to get it on in what American Whitewater recently called one of the top five locations to both live and paddle.

We began the day with a couple of laps down the Dark Shade as a warm-up for some of the newer members of the group. This run is a nice quick run, being only about a mile, with an equally short shuttle that is perfect for just banging out quick laps. At its steepest point, the boulder drop rapids come fairly close to one another, and the range of eddies allows you to really get a good feel for your boating skills of the day. There are plenty of boofs spread around as well so getting air is no problem. After keeping a close eye on the newer boaters, and shooting some video, everyone agreed it was time to head to the crown jewel of the watershed, Paint Creek.

Jim Steppenbaker on Dark Shade

Paint Creek is one of my top five runs in the region, even with the bad water quality and the scenery (you do paddle through a strip mine at one point). Despite what it may have going against it, the creek has really big drops for our region, runs more often than a lot of people think, and other than its badly shaped holes, the overall danger level of the creek is pretty low when compared to other comparable runs.

Ted Pablo amongst it

Joining us at the put in was Zach Frederick, who is about to have shoulder surgery that is going to excuse him from boating for about 7 months. If you have seen his name featured here a lot lately, it is because he has taken a rental car attitude with his shoulder now that he knows it is going to become bionic in the near future.

At 70 degrees, we could not have asked for a better day to run this jewel, and all nine of us put in with high spirits. The first rapid contains one of the stiffest holes on the run, and unfortunately this rapid can be a deal breaker for paddlers steeping it up to this level of paddling in this region. Unfortunately for one of our group members, the hole claimed another victim, forcing a paddler to recirc twice outside of the boat, and the boat to require extraction from a pin only after its spent five minutes surfing the hole on its own. The paddler ended up walking out after the near miss, and unfortunately, some @$$#*!% stole the paddler’s boat while that paddler was fetching a car from the put in. The rest of us continued down the run, with no knowledge of the crime being committed against our paddling buddy on the road near the first rapid. All of us do however know the serial number for the boat, so we will have our eyes open.

John Rudland @ Double

Craig Wassinger @ Double

The trip continued on downstream, and with most members of our group being new to the river, I was able to get up ahead and get into position to shoot some footage while others scouted the rapids to come. Everyone had really good lines through all of the rapids, and you could tell people were really enjoying their day and were running some of the biggest rapids they had ever run. However, the trip was not carnage free. One group member had a paddle break, while upside down in a tough boulder drop rapid, but was able to execute a half paddle roll to save from a swim.

Jason Hilton @ Mousetrap

The last big rapid bears two names that we have heard of, mousetrap and big sluice, and I knew when we got there people were going to be excited. The drop is pretty tall, about 20 feet vertically, and requires you to fly down a channel as the river necks down to about 5 feet in diameter into a mean looking hole with a slightly undercut right side rock wall. It is quite intimidating to look at, and people often refer to it as a crap shoot rapid as far as the lines go, with some people subbing through the big hole, others skipping off of the top, and the unfortunate few taking a beating and swimming. Well we had some of all three, with resident technique expert Craig Wassinger dishing up the best beat down award. Now I normally don’t mention swimmer's names, unless it is I, but he’s too good of a paddler not to have his name put up in lights to accompany this excellent display of wet exit technique. After subbing the drop and skyrocketing to the surface upside down, he took another lap in the hole, flipping to both sides of the boat and eventually, punching out and getting recirculated a bit. Did I mention I was ten feet away with a video camera rolling? Well after his show, Craig quickly hopped out and ran back up to the top, not to be bested by this drop after such a good day of boating. He fired up a great second attempt and off we were to the takeout.

Craig Wassinger getting beat and filmed

Everyone in the group left after the first Paint lap, minus Zach and I who stuck around for two more laps, the final one being completed in just 25 minutes. For both Saturday and Sunday, my total gradient was 3025 feet, not too shabby.