Monday, October 15, 2012

Hunting the White Elephant

There were so many times during this day that we could have turned back. But instead we pushed on, searching for that fleeting beauty so pure that it seems to escape whenever it's within grasp. Kirk and I had stayed patient, avoiding the temptation of the sure thing at dawn. We had stayed true to adventure, avoiding the sure good thing of the West Prong or Ramsey. We almost derailed due to last second hang ups at work, but finally we found ourselves rallying for Upper Santeetlah Creek, or as Kirk put it, hunting the white elephant. Chasing rumored perfection, given enough water to float our boats, open forest service gates, and a creek that can be chocked full of the huge hemlocks which line its lush banks.

There had been days before that we had thought about heading up there before, but twice bitten leaves a man timid, and Kirk had been bitten more than twice. Whether it was low water or closed gates, he had always been shut down, relegating a day full of opportunity back to the Tellico. Fortunately, enthusiasm is contagious, and despite his misgivings on the way ("we're going to check the Santeetlah level and paddle the Tellico... at least it won't be low"), we chugged through the thick fog that blanketed the skyway. At our turn, the first hurdle was delayed, but after several corners we found a forest service gate open. Then, we got our first glance of the river, which looked mighty low from way up high. It still did when we made it to the bridge. About an inch below the footer. Good thing after all the effort, we're not snobs. Besides, exploration always trumps the familiar.

With expectations as low as the water, we put on, hoping to experience the place without destroying our boats. As the boulders gave way to bedrock, we were pleasantly surprised. The creek was living up to the reputation, and the high quality shined through despite the low water. And for the most part the large hemlocks we saw were on the banks, and not in the creek. I must admit, I'm not always into micro creeks, but Upper Santeetlah is the best one I've ever paddled. It was golden.


All Photos JJ.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A turning point

I realized that I haven't put a post up on here in awhile.  Priorities change just as life itself changes, in the past year I have taken a step back in my paddling.  I don't think this change has come on purpose, it has just happened.  Don't get me wrong I have got to run tons of class 5 this year but "the itch" has not been there this year, while up in BC in august I yearned for that feeling of a few years ago and a bit of the I don't give a fuck attitude, but I couldn't muster it.
Growing up occurs at different stages in peoples lives, for me I think it came when I realized that there are other positives and negatives besides those that result from kayaking.  For me I started my nursing career this spring, it gives me loads of time off but I also have the stress of working all night long and having peoples loved ones in my hands, as well as having my own professional life in my hands.
The days of kayaking that were pure fun and when I wasn't worried were fewer this year than ever before, and the days in other aspects of my life where I had pure fun and worried about little were greater than ever before.  Is this just a balancing of my life or am I shifting away from a sport that has defined my life for the past 5 years?
Maybe it is my true realization that I could die doing this, I have tried to rationalize my risk taking in kayaking by saying something along the lines of "I could get hit by a car tomorrow and die".  Over the past few months this year the paddling community has lost many lives, it seems like a never ending horror story to go with the amazing feeling that kayaking brings us.  I don't think I am afraid of dying but I am afraid of leaving my loved ones behind, what would it do to my parents? brother? girlfriend?  My view of death is very black and white, your alive then you're not.  In my opinion all we become is a chunk of cold organic matter that will be recycled into the earth, and I'm ok with that.
I hope that my fire for kayaking hasn't left my but rather took a hiatus this year.  I am in the process of trying to plan how I will re-kindle that fire next season, weight lifting, cadio, more planned adventures, goals.  I hope that next year will change my perception of my paddling ability, lifestyle and get back to the reason I started: for the fun of it.

Enough of my ramblings, here are some of my favorite shots of the year:
Tyson Titensor in BC

Tyson again

Rolf Kelly on the dean in BC

Sunset hiking into BC

Scott dent on bull lkae

Me on the north fork of the little wind, followed shortly by a scary experience

Sunset on the NFLW

Rio Brazo


Maybe my favorite trip of the year: the main salmon.  Six days with four of my best friends