Monday, December 12, 2011

The Simple Life... Grand Canyon Self Support

Carpooling to Lees Ferry (the put in) my mind was racing; "Do I have everything I need? Will my body agree with paddling 20-30 miles a day? Do I have the mental and physical strength to paddle 280 miles to Lake Mead?" Eight hours later, I realized that all my thoughts would become reality in less than 24 hours. No more questions, time to enjoy the trip and stop planning.

Back in September I hurt my shoulder flying off my mountain bike, so I was a little nervous about my shoulder's strength. I, however, kept in shape by running, pilates, and lots of bodywork on my shoulder. The river was running 20,000 cfs so I knew I could always just go with the flow and use the water to get me down. Luckily my intuition was right, and my body felt strong as soon as I put my paddle in the Colorado River.
The weather was absolutely perfect; 60 degrees and sunny. I almost felt overdressed in my Kokatat dry-suit with built-in booties over my fleece outfit, but as soon as we hit the first rapid, Badger Creek, I was happy that I had a sweet Gortex suit dry-suit protecting me from the cold big water. I was glad to have a pee zipper on the back. My first Grand trip I had no relief zipper, and it became a 20-minute adventure of taking off the dry-suit. A back relief zipper takes less than one minute.

Full of anticipation on what the Grand was going to offer us, we stopped at mile 17 to camp. The days in November are short, so I scrambled to find that perfect spot for the tent. Opening the dry bags for the 1st night is somewhat nerve racking. The question, "Do I have everything?" popped into my head. I started setting up my tent, sleeping stuff, and pulled out dinner supplies. Yes, I remembered everything, at least I thought. Having a big group is always a pro to a self-support trip, because there is an option to trade supplies and food. The freedom of kayaking or hiking when and where you want is grand, however supporting others in the group is priority in having a successful trip.
Having a group that you can trust is key; looking out for others paddling is important on a long self-support trip. At times the rapids actually felt easier than the big boil lines that like to pull the stern into the vortex of the tornado-looking water. Staying healthy and strong is also huge in paddling 20-30 miles a day. I have come to realize after 10 years of paddling, that most kayakers are humble and trust worthy people. I was happy that the group of gals and men on this trip were amazing people. Having 5 other gals to talk to about our past paddling adventures gave us an instant bond.

As the days passed by, the routine of getting up, pooing, making breakfast, packing up the kayak (takes about 20 min), and paddling another 20 miles to a badass hike or camp became a zen-like experience. The simplicity of a self-support trip made me fall in to rhythm of what my ancestors may have experienced. No cell phone, no drama, no deadlines, just pure living. I started to notice the rocks, the walls, the animals living in a complete present time. Looking at the stars between high canyon walls, with absolutely complete quietness made my mind silent for the first time.
The night before Lava, the group brought out many drinks to share, we had treasure hunts stashed for our group so we never ran out of merry drinks, and water. Whenever, I ran out of water I simply purified the water from the Colorado, and so far I feel great. On chilly nights, I put the boiled (purified) water in a nalgene in my sleeping bag for instant warmth. In the morning the water was cool enough to drink. Hydration is key to stay healthy and strong.
The next day we started paddling downstream to the well-known rapid, Lava at mile 180. Having 3 people in the group who have paddled the Grand before, brought old stories back from this rapid. Yet at the same time, the past seemed like a fuzzy dream. Most of the group skirted the left, and a few went right. We had one swimmer, and she kept her paddle, and boat together. She, stayed warm wearing a dry-suit, and the river's power humbled our souls. we paddled a few more miles and came upon a rafting group hanging out on a sunny beach. They were about to have some bootie beers (an old boater tradition, if you swim you must drink a beer from a bootie), we decided to join them. Our group of kayakers and rafters enjoyed cold drinks for at least an hour together.
The next few days, blew by. The rhythm of packing, and unpacking our kayaks became effortless as space opened up in our boats. I realized, after the 9th day that I over-packed food, since I still had a full dry bag of dehydrated beans and rice. The only things I finally realized I forgot were tortillas and socks. I traded gorp for tortillas, and luckily my good friend Lana, let me use a fresh pair of socks for a long hike.

I also figured out the easiest way to pack my boat. Here is a quick rundown...
Put the big yellow dry bag in the front (sleeping bag and thermo rest), shove canned chicken, purifier, and pan behind the foot pegs.
-Put groover in next and press with all my strength against the other dry bag to fit my water bottle in.
-Pack the back crevasses with fuel, canned food, and sandals.
-Put tent and poles into the back hatch area, along with 4 other small dry bags. Press hatch down with full strength.
-Put plastic box with day supplies in the back of the seat as well as, two other small dry bags that contain day supplies (food, hiking shoes, camera, sunglasses, first aid kit, and hair conditioner that I applied daily before paddling).
-That's it, takes about 15-20 minutes and a cup of coffee to load about 80 pounds of gear.
The last 2 days we had 40 miles of flat water, I was excited to see the Lower Granite Gorge past Diamond Creek. The rapids that started off the canyon, were beautiful and long. As soon as we hit the flat water, we realized the impact of Lake Mead: 10 foot silt banks, lined the river walls, and rapids disappeared. Looking for the last campsite became and adventure due to rain and no available campsites. I learned patience is a true virtue. We luckily found a campsite that sat upon about a 20-foot bank. We pulled each kayak up with a 75-foot rope, and it became a team effort that made us appreciate each day we had a perfect campsite and sunny skies.

Finishing off most of the drinks and food that night, we all had a feeling of true accomplishment.

A week later, I look back at this trip and, ask myself, What is the purpose of a self-support kayaking trip? I realize that my life can be claustrophobically filled with drama, cell phones, computers, TV, and Americanized material things. The irony of feeling opportunity and openness in between the deep narrowness of the Grand Canyon walls answered my question.
The answer is...Simplicity of life brings true joy of survival.

Cheers-Lisa Marie

*If this is goal of yours, to self-support kayak down your favorite river, go do it. Plan, save, and achieve. It's well worth all the effort. I suggest starting with 2 days down your favorite river with a loaded boat. Then check out new rivers for extended days. Protect, share and enjoy! :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Self Support Grand Canyon

Next week I will be paddling for 13 days on the Grand Canyon with a fun group of paddlers from Colorado, New Mexico, and Oregon. 10 guys, and 6 badass women! The women are Lana Young-Hood River, Tammy Ritchey-Colorado Springs, Susan Hollingsworth-Portland, Jenn Peterson-Portland, Tina Swan-Denver, and Lisa Marie-Salida.
The last few months I have been pondering on what I should br
ing and how I should pack. 2 years ago I went with the liquidologic self support crew on the Grand. It was a trip of a lifetime and that is why I'm coming back to the deep ditch for more fun!

As a virgin kayak self support I learned from Boyce, Woody, Ted, Kelly, Will, and Klause the best way to pack the XP, to be comfortable, and enjoy the canyon at its best in Jan. of 2010. Thank you guys!

Self support is the
way to go down the Grand (self support basically meaning, you carry all your food, home, clothes etc...) No rafts helping! Having everything in your own boat is awesome. If you want to eat, you eat. If you want to poo, you poo. If you want to go on a side hike, you hike.

There is a magical feeling when you paddle through fun class 4 with over 80 pounds of food, your house for the night, clothes, a
nd of course drinks. Its an amazing experience and I'm excited to see and feel the mighty Grand again.
The big question that keeps coming up.. how do you fit everything in the Remix XP 9? So I thought I would write a quick Grand canyon prep blog and then come back to tell you how the trip went. We launch Nov. 20th, we will be back into reality on Dec. 3rd

Here you go! Also check out this awesome website for more information...

Below is a photo of the kitchen: Food, bowls, fork, spoon, 5 gas ,Pocker Rocket MSR stove. The red NRS dry bags has snacks and lunch (did not want to unpack). Soap, sponge for cleaning. Small pan for pancake making. Water purifier and waterbottle, coffee cup, and canned chicken for dinners. The only thing that is missing is a small pot. Gotta get one of these before I go.

Here are the items packed in 2 drybags for kitchen and food.Everything else can fit in the nooks of the Remix XP. (will show you photos of how to pack your boat on my next post)

Here is the house: sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tent, and of course a foam pillow. Pillow can be used as back support when paddling if in a drybag. Pretty sweet! I make this a priority due to having a bad neck. Remember the word...comfortable, that's how I roll! Lol

Sleeping bag, pillow, pad and tent fit in 3 drybags.

Clothes for the 13 days (warm layers, hiking clothes, shoes, hat, gloves etc...) Kokatat drysuit. Other paddling gear not shown. Fits in one dry bag. Photo that is not shown (first aid kit, flashlight and poop pvc pipe)
In my next post I will show you how to pack the Remix XP 9 and give you more details on the Grand Canyon 2011 trip.
Oregon and Colorado kayakers paddle together on a magical ride! Yippie

Be back soon!
Lisa Marie

Saturday, August 06, 2011

The Elusive Left Line

Ok so I did tell everyone that I would do my next blog post on South Silver but I got a request to do a post on the Elusive left line of Sunshine. So here it is. I've been running the left line for a few years now with many different variations of the line. I started in a long boat and then slowly moved into being more comfortable in a short boat running it. Now that the rapid has changed, at the lower levels its actually more comfortable to go left than right for me. There's days where you have really really good lines like the one above. And...There's sometimes lines like the one above that hurt a bit more and aren't nearly as pretty.

So heres the deal. The left line is more scary than being in a cage with a Great White shark. Yes, I'm watching Shark Week. Ok, its not that scary. But there could be some bodily harm done if the line is messed up bad enough. Running too far in the middle could be a back breaker and too far left could mean hitting the left rock and breaking ribs, flipping right into the rock in the middle and hitting your head really hard. Here's a photo of Sunshine from the left side of the river with no water. You can kind of see the landing area on the lower left side of the photo. Its tight. Between the rock on the left and on the rock on the right you have to land just right to have a good soft line. These photos are just from the other day. I am coming out of the river right staging eddy with a little bit of speed but just enough to make sure that I will make it all the way across the river.
As you can tell from these photos I am really only taking one stroke. Its a really big right stroke. Making sure to keep my core taught and being sure to not drift downstream too far too early.
At this level, this photo shows a really good spot for the lineup of the rapid. I really like to have my right hip just on top of the last amount of water coming off of the rock. My left hip would at that point be on wet rock still but barely. Lining up the landing. Keeping my bow pointed straight or even a little to the left taking a right stroke. And launching off of the sweet spot!

So, there it is. My breakdown on the elusive left line. Hope you all learned a little bit!! For real now, next up a sweet blog on South Silver!!

See ya'll on the river.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Opening Day of South Silver

Sorry for the massive delay. I can't believe that its been almost a month since I've been home from California. A lot has happened in the last few weeks and I havn't really been in the mood to make a funny or entertaining blog post. Alas, I really want to share my adventures with everyone that enjoys reading my posts so here we go.

Another post with not many photos but I think that comes with the territory when the only eddies to stop in are all washed out... South Silver is known for one of the "most forgiving class 5" runs in California. At high water I wouldn't call it forgiving at all. There's no eddies and there's some really big holes. Toby being a stud while running the extremely stacked up "teacups" section. Ross, being a good boy and standing at the bottom of the Teacups holding a Speedloader rope making sure no one goes accidentally floating into Skyscraper. Skyscraper at this level was definitely runnable but it also had a terrifying pocket on the right at the bottom which would be a really scary place to end up.Ross Herr amidst the 4th teacup in the rapid. Alongside him, his amazing girlfriend who hiked in to take photos.
Myself, enjoying the sunshine and the heat of South Silver. The rapids in here (at this level) are large and in charge for sure.
Telling Toby thanks for the grab into the eddy so I didn't drift into Skyscraper backwards. Also telling him how much fun this river is!!! We headed downstream to the portage and then gave Plastic Surgery a good look over before blue angeling down the meat of this stacked up set of rapids. I sadly have no photos of this rapid since we were all so excited about it!After that awesome day at South Silver, Toby and I drove to the Sierra National Forest. It was dark by the time we made it out there but the moon was so bright that Toby told me where Dinkey Dome was. I had dreams about granite slides all night long. I woke up in the morning and looked out of the back of my car to see the view above. I knew there were good things to come out of this day.

Up next, Super Dink! Also known as the "Infinislide". The name says it all.

The Wedding of a Century

Yea I know this is a kayaking blog. But there are no kayaking photos on this post. Sorry. This post is to show what I saw through my lens during John Grace and Chelsea Christiani's wedding. As most of you know the name John Grace as the maker of LVM and Penstock Productions I know him as my big brother and a huge inspiration. Being able to be present during this union of people was really special.

So I got to stay at the Grace/Christiani wedding venue pretty much the whole week coming up to the wedding. I got to see the stresses of planning a wedding and making sure it goes off without a hitch. The venue was Chelsea's parents house nestled in the heart of the High Sierras outside of Auburn and every day it looked more and more ready to host a beautiful wedding.On the day, we made sure John Grace was on time (this time) and ready to say his vows. He even waited patiently for his perfect bride to walk down the isle.Chelsea and her father Larry walking down the isle. The hug that they shared before he handed his daughter over to John was a tear jerker for sure. Norbert (the dog) came in shortly after the emotional hug because he was the ring berrer. John and Chelsea exchanged rings and they were married within the hour! :-)The newlyweds sharing a kiss on the "fertility egg". Who knows... maybe there will be some baby Grace's in the future.I feel it 100% necessary to just say that Tommy Hilleke is still a bad ass. He is so good at kayaking but he is also a pro at making kids! Specifically boys! This is his absolutely amazingly cute (and handsome) family. From left to right, Polly (one of the most hardcore women I have ever met in my life), Bodie Green (the baby, 1 year), Tommy, Dax (2 years), Daniel (4 years), and Kelly (the old man, 5 years). Thats right folks, four kids in less than 6 years. All of the kids have their own little attitudes and they are all so so awesome!!!!!!!Every table at the wedding had a different river name or waterfall name. Instead of it being table 4 or 6 it was Royal Gorge and Cherry Creek. A very genius way to mark tables.
Before dinner I found a real live cowboy!The couples first dance together.And we all danced the night away!Just want to note that my perfect boyfriend flew all the way across the country for the wedding and we closed the dance for down! I was so happy to see him for the weekend right in the middle of my three week California tour.

Hope you all enjoyed the photo's even though they weren't of kayaking.

Up next... South Silver!!!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

East Meets West

So we decided a few days before the wedding to go on a mission to Loves Falls on the North Fork of the Yuba outside of Downeyville (which hosts one of the most bad ass downhill trails to ever be ridden). We figured it would be a quick, easy, fun day. Little did we know, Love's was still pumping high and we weren't about to go in there with a crew of 7 that we had. Even though we were all relatively good paddlers...Some of the crew was pretty fired up, until we saw this "little" guy waiting for us in the middle of the scouting trail. You can see it (staring straight into the camera) in the middle of the photo. Very well camouflaged too. We all felt like this was an omen and that we should go elsewhere for our kayaking ventures through the day. We hastily grabbed the dog and turned around to head back to the cars. After a few hours driving (over the mountains and through the snow!!) we found ourselves standing at the side of the Upper South Fork of the Yuba, The Summit Run. I thought this was an interesting place to put a house, right in the middle of the river.We had gathered the river was a bit high but not un-runnable by any means. The first rapid, Three Blind Mice, straight up kicked me in the ass. But really it kicked me in the ankles when I petoned so hard at the first drop that I lost my paddle. There I was, in a huge rapid, with no paddle, and what I thought, no hand roll. Alas, I flipped over and somehow ended up in the smallest eddy on river right that a girl my size could find and I rolled up. Grappling onto the rocks, I watched the whole rest of my crew paddle past me and I was left all alone. That was a lonely feeling. I figured out how to get out of my boat and climbed out of the mini gorge we were in only to see Tommy Hilleke's smiling face at the top asking me if I was ok. It was the hardest hit I have ever taken and I was definitely shaken but good to paddle still so we headed downstream.

Pictured above is Jeff Paine the Freight Train entering into a rapid I can't remember the name of. I just want to note, it was July 5th and there is still snow on the mountains in the distance. There is lots of snow out there this year people!There are so many good rapids on this river but all I had heard about was this one rapid called East Meets West. Jason Hale, styling this rapid down to the "T" for sure. It has a great lead into a waterfall about 20 feet tall into the mandatory melt all the way to Taiwan. The Freight Train taking the boof line, in the new Black Ops Liquid Logic boat, but still ended up somewhere in southern Australia, I am pretty sure. The one and only, Tommy Hilleke, seconds after his swim out of East Meets West. I was sadly sitting upstream (because I was going to follow him) and all I could see was him going off the lip and then everyone on the shore scrambling for their ropes, I knew that he had just swum. Needless to say, I was really scared then!!!So I finally got my guts about me (after I cleaned my shorts out) and I headed downstream, here I come!Looking like its going to be a good line!Oh gosh, maybe I can save it from here!!Nope, there was no saving it. I pretty much freewheeled the bottom drop. It was so soft and nice to land in it was like a pillow under there. I rolled up and paddled out partly laughing partly sad because I didn't get a huge boof!
After the slightly scary and kinda fun run I came home to find the bride to be mowing the lawn! Even while shes doing yard work shes still good looking!!

I got to ice my ankles and sit at the computer the rest of the day. :-(

Coming up next..... some wedding photos!!!