EJ flying down the river in his Villain SThe Reno River Festival ended where my All-Star got good useage.   The Villain S was calling our names (Dane, Nick, Stephen, Clay, and I who were all competing in Reno).    Darin McQuoid, Chris Korbulic, Nate and Heather Herbeck, Jonas (Germany), AJ, Bryan Kirk,  Phil Boyer, Charlie  Center, Eric,  were also called out by the South Branch of the Middle Feather.    We had 5 Villain S, and 2 Villains on the water, the first true Villain Rendezvous!      That isn’t what this article is about, however, it is about a great new personal run for me and another vivid and wonderful memory filled day, full of physical and mental challenges.

The first challenge was negotiating our way from Reno to Oroville over Donner Pass, which was getting hammered by snow.  Snow in those hills We tried on Monday, but got turned around about 20 miles from the summit due to lack of chains.    Good thing, as we wouldn’t have made it anyhow with the RV pulling the Mini.    We drove all of the way back to “Boomtown” and holed up there until morning.    Our second try over the pass was successful, but as you can see from the photos, we were only hours after the roads were cleared and the drive was a hard 4-5 hours.     The RV was in 1st gear much of the time, and barely making it up some of the steep hills.    Once we got to the road to the put-in, it was another hour of single lane steep, “let’s get up this mountain” driving.    The “theory” was that the RV would fit in a turn-off somewhere, but actually turning around was going to be tested.   After Nate and Heather’s car overheated on a big hill, we made the final run with no stops or incidents.    We were all quite fired up to see the little bridge over the creek signifying the put-in.    There was a pull of and a trail on either side of the bridge and that would be my RV-Trailer turn around challenge.    15 minutes and moving a few boulders later by hand, and we successfully got the RV backed off the road and in striking distance of actually going the other way.    

4-kristine-emily-and-kc-hanging-outThe put-in is a nice rocky beach where Kristine, KC, and Emily hung out, throwing rocks in the river, playing crosswords, and picnicking.     KC jumped in my boat, put on my full face helmet, grabbed my paddle and asked to be pushed into the water!   Yes, I see a future for that kid! 🙂  Dane waded in the water with him and pushed him around, but there were no eddies and the current is fast there so it was not a self-propelled trip.   It was hard to want to leave the put-in, as just hanging there all day would have been a great day.

Our group was large, larger than is normally functional for this type of super steep run.      Darin and Chris lead the way knowing the run the best, and passed directions back on those rapids needing them, as we weren’t scouting.    Dane, Stephen, and Nick all did this run before (Stephen several times) and Stephen took up the sweep position and offered directions to people like me when I was out of ear shot of anyone and directions were a good idea.    Everyone was on their game and this group was a really good one so the rapids were going by one by one with no incident for the most part.   Darin found a rogue curler and got just a little too close to the right wall at the bottom of a slide and hit it square on, soccer balling his bow and knocking him back into the hole to have to claw his way out.  

The river was designed by somebody who likes exponential equations as the profile of it follows this equation:  y= -(X²)+4, 600ft .     As we move along the X axis, (going downstream) the river keeps getting steeper and steeper until it drops off the face of the earth at the takeout.  Then you hike up the hill to the road.    The hike is  y= 3x, yes, very steep and “keeps you honest” as someone said at the top of it.  OK, enough of the math, sorry.  

I don’t know the names of any of the rapids other than the one I walked yesterday called “99 problems” which is a reasonable rapid to run and both Darin and Chris ran it, while both Dane and Nick were seriously considering it.     1-chris-on-99Chris styled it, hitting the reconnect perfectly and smoothing his run out and coming out the bottom in great shape.  Darin had two good runs in a row on it prior to this run, but today wasn’t his day.    He got a nice jump into the hole at the top at the lip and kept moving right where  he wanted, but his bow dropped too hard and too far right and he squarely petoned the re-connect after about a 25 foot freefall, and then flew over the handlebars falling the next 15 feet onto his head.   His boat, already soccer balled from before was now quite a bit shorter, but he was OK.    Another Uni-Shock Bulkead testing day!    It was one ugly run and both Nick and Dane begin their portage immediately, “saving it for later”.      While I don’t remember the order or the most of the rapids, I’ll give you some of my favorite moves that are burned in my memory, most I only saw from my cockpit as we didn’t scout but a couple of drops, like the rapid immediately above a 100 footer that is nasty looking.

1 From a right micro-eddy the river drops away just 15 feet downstream….  Peel out, boof right over a 15 footer, and then take a few strokes and boof down the middle left of another 15 footer.   Picture perfect  double drop, soft landings, super fun.    2  Squeeze through a small bush, drive over a boil against a rock that looks like it has an eddy behind it, and then the river drops away for a vertical 20 footer with the lip a good 10 feet earlier than I expected and the quick visual of the drop and landing well engrained in my brain now, with only a second to see it and process.     Great drop.     3 River right  15+ foot drop with a wall backing it up and a major kicker that looks like you could ski jump straight into the wall and bounce off.   Small to no pool at the bottom, just a single eddy on river left before 99 problems (1 of the problems would be missing that eddy).     Ferry out, past the take off point, drive back with left angle big boof off the edge of the kicker, adjust boat tilt mid-air to land sideways and driving towards left eddy,  land flat and drive straight into eddy.     Great move, cool drop.    4  Portage around a 100 footer.   Part of the day- standing at the lip of the 100footer and scrambling around the rock face to get to a place to lower the boats down by throw rope and then climb down the exposed cliff.   Seal launch 15 feet into the final part of the 100 footer with the water pushing hard against a wall.   Nate Herbeck seal launched in and was pushed into the wall and hurt his shoulder, bummer.     Water hits hard from that distance.    5 grand finale’ a 50′ waterfall.   I scouted this one as it was just downstream of the 100′ portage.     This was a good photo op as well as it is truly picture perfect.     A sweet little hole to line up on at the lead in, followed by a slow rolling lip, into a nice vertical freefall with a small re-connect to wake you up at the bottom and a not very soft landing to remind you that you are dropping 50 feet and stopping quick.    Dane ran first, and had a good line.  It is quite exciting for me to watch my 16 year old son having so much fun on this type of run and really wanting to run drops like this.    I followed him down second and was quite happy with my line, tuck, and landing.       The group followed and we had 3 broken paddles (none of the Lightnings broke!  Just other brands, cool!)    

Trevor Clark (www.trevorclark.com ) hiked in to take photos and also brought a 12 pack of Bud American Ale for a takeout party before the hike up.    A great finish to the run!     The hike is like the Gauley River hike, just steeper and longer, whew!    I was so fired up to get back to the RV and Kristine’s spaghetti dinner with meatballs and sausage.    Yumm.    I was asleep in no time and feeling good.


EJ- Tuesday

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Woke the next morning to clear skies, warm weather, and another day with perfect levels after a great night’s sleep, tired, and happy with Kristine, Dane, KC, Emily, Nick, and the crew all just happy to be where they were at the moment, off the grid, out of reach, and about to have another great day.  

We ran the same section of River, and it went really well again, so no need for a description again.    I did make it up out of the gorge in only 29:15 minutes this time, pushing the lactic component pretty hard to the point of my legs no being able to push me up the hill a few times and nearly buckling.     I heard the record was 32 minutes by Andrew Holcomb, but not sure if it was accurate.   Returning back to the RV,  spent, I could certainly have just hung out with the family, but I had a 6:10 flight out of Reno, a 5 hour drive in the RV (hard driving) away.   We loaded up and were on the road early enough to get out of the mountain one lane roads before dark.   

Kristine took over after 90 minutes of driving and I took KC in the back to try to get him to go to sleep.  It worked like a charm, I just lead by example.    I woke up at a Hotel parking lot in Reno at 4:15am and Kristine dropped me off at the airport to head to the “Summit Series”.   I have never been to such a thing, but it sounds incredible.   The people there will be leaders in some capacity in all kinds of fields and I can’t wait to meet them.    It will be a quality group in every sense of the word and I imagine that I’ll be like a kid in a candy store, wanting to hear more and more stories about the cool things they do.   Whether being an internet start-up, creating and running Guitar Hero, being an ex-president, a renowned scientist, a leader in lifestyle design, or a venture capitalist, each person will be there because they are exceptional in some sense.   I can’t wait to get there!     


EJ- Wednesday