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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Why do we take chances? Revisiting the beast, YULE CREEK!

Looking down at Ball and Wall Check

Thirty days of commercial rafting in a row and Casey Tango gave me a phone call, “Yule’s in.” This was the perfect excuse for a much needed day off.

From the Arkansas River drainage it’s a haul to get to the Crystal River and its tributary, Yule Creek. It’s located west of Aspen, tucked behind the Maroon Bells mountain range, and nestled into the quintessential Colorado mountain town of Marble.

Yule Creek is rowdy! The first section of whitewater is class five and would be considered some of the best whitewater in the region if it weren’t immediately upstream of the horrendous gradient-loss that the creek cascades into, just before meeting the Crystal River near the Beaver Pond in Marble.


The last pitch of the creek is stunning. While scouting from a few hundred feet above it looks irresponsible, and once down in the sheer walled canyon the size of the drops becomes apparent. Everything is HUGE!

Setting safety on the bottom four drops is a misconception. With only two of us the best safety was to have another boater in their boat at the bottom of each of the towering features. Roping in one at a time wasn’t really an option so we decided that we would launch five seconds apart and go with the “we both won’t get hurt” approach. We sat in our kayaks and performed our last second rituals before plummeting: readjusting back bands, rolling my head back and forth stretching my shoulders and neck, checking the spray skirt is seated properly two or five times, dipping my hands in the icy snow melt to get the slightest skin oils off them.

The last second conversation was quick and concise, “Cool, you good?”

“Yea, have fun!”

A nod of heads, then Tango seal launched into the creek.

I was five seconds behind him, no matter what was about to happen we would both be a couple hundred feet below in a matter of seconds.

Lining up for the first big drop, Ball Check, a thirty-foot waterfall, I cleared my head, took a deep breath and waited for the horizon line, a quick flick of the wrist and I was airborne, kind of. The drop is more of a super steep slide then totally vertical waterfall. With slightly disconnected water spraying everywhere half a second passed, then the impact of the pool below, “ughhhhh.” The impact was firm but acceptable, allowing me to have a tiny bit of control. A couple strokes and I was eddied out in the hanging pool above Wall Check, the immense slide that banks off the left wall a third of the way down. The ferry out of the hanging pool was terrifying while trying to line up the six-inch wide line and being tossed around by the boil of the thirty-footer behind me. The last stroke was made and the boat teetered off the edge onto the slippery slope. Speed was a joke, faster, faster, faster, bounce over a ridge and then faster yet as the wall was hurdling in. WHAM! Huge impact, instinctive paddle bracing, and a blur of water and rocks. I was backwards, at least in the correct location, but backwards. Squaring up the boat for the bottom pitch and laterals, I actually started to smirk. Yeah it wasn’t the best line, but I had just been allowed to do another ridiculous stunt.

Skipping into the pool I looked over at Tango, he was right side up but looked stunned. He said, “I got rocked, I hit my head against the wall.” He was mildly concussed. As we went down to the next horizon line to scout Oriental Massage and Happy Ending I continued to check on Tango. Stubborn would be a gentle way to refer to him, he’s a BOSS! Yes he hit his head, and no he wasn’t ok. But yes he was going to paddle the bottom two drops. No more questions.

Once again we sorted out our five-second interval and Tango headed off the next horizon line.

Quintessential Colorado

I’m sure no one has ever used the word “control” while talking about paddling Oriental Massage. This is one of those line-up-the-rooster-tail-and-hold-on type of drops. I slipped over the brink and picked up speed nearing terminal velocity, hit something in the rooster tail, and my head snapped forward from the violent collision. There was spray everywhere and absolutely no orientation. Again the involuntary nervous system kicked in and miraculously I was right side up and careening down the massive slide in some form of mild “control”. Slamming into the pool below my boat skipped and planed out in a violent wheelie. I shouted at Tango that I was going direct into Happy Ending with a Wahoo!  And disappeared into the spray of the last waterfall. At the bottom of the massive gradient I spun around just in time to see Tango launch off the concluding drop, Happy Ending.

Both of our boats looked horrible. The bows were crushed in, but we were ok. Once again we challenged the steepest piece of runnable whitewater in Colorado.

Why do we do this? Pride? Challenge? Are we trying to understand where the line is? FUN?

Yeah, it’s fun. Yes I’m nervous at the top of these monsters but once I’m in the action the fear goes away. There’s no time for fear, there is only time for reactions, and that makes me smile.

adventure by Chris Baer

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Blood, Snow, and Gradient, I love Minnesota!


Winfrey's Whimper on the Split Rock

Minnesota, 

Is not for the faint of heart, the conditions are brutal. Hiking through waist deep snow to put-ins is standard. Frigid water, and air temperatures just above freezing are a guarantee. The other guarantee is that the whitewater is going to be rowdy!

Most of the rivers are relatively steep, dropping from an ambient land mass of 1,600 feet into Lake Superior at 600 feet above sea level. This gives kayakers one thousand feet of gradient to work with that usually falls off in under five miles… Steep!  The other thing that helps Minnesota’s whitewater is bedrock, most of the North Shore is made of basalt and rhyolite. Combining steep gradient and bedrock means one thing: SLIDES! Rip roaring low angle slides. The spring thaw pumps seven months of winter’s precipitation down the steep gradient in just a few weeks.


The local boating community…

These folks are passionate about their backyard, and understandably so. Most of the boaters have access to class 3 boating for a few months a year and might attend a pool session or two in the depths of the winter, then the spring thaw happens. They come out in droves, fired up to paddle the class 5 run off for one month a year.

Minnesota boaters come out in droves!


Stewart River

Unfortunately this year, the local crowd took more then their fair share of beatings. The classic runs were dolling out shoulder dislocations and gross lacerations (the rhyolite causes intrusions into the basalt creating razor blade sharp up lifts).

Tony Locken after crushing his head on the Split Rocks' Under the Log rapid, rocks hurt!

The Lester river,

Located just on the outskirts of Duluth, is the first class 5 river to start flowing. No warm up for the locals and unfortunately it showed; I personally enjoyed a three boat pile up. One of the classic big rapids, “Naked Man” was augmented by a huge flood late in the summer of 2013 and has become rather retentive. Flying down a low angle slide into a blind horizon line I managed a quick glimpse of another paddler swimming to shore, and another throwing unintended ends in the new massive river wide hydraulic. Moments later, after a violent tag team surf session, getting crushed by each others’ boats, both Ryan Zimney and I pulled the freedom handle and exited our crafts. All three “paddlers” were now standing on the side of the river laughing, cursing, and tracking down equipment. The perk of the trial by fire paddling style of Minnesota is the local paddlers are used to this kind of carnage.

If you enjoy burly class 5 what are you waiting for? Minnesota has arguably the best whitewater in the world, in April, Get there!

another adventure by Chris Baer

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Is ignorance bliss? Spending time in undercuts of the Wairoa River, NZ



Another sun set on the North Island of NZ
Another sun set on the North Island of NZ
Twenty-six days a year the Wairoa River flows through a densely forested gorge. The other 339 days it’s rerouted in order to create a small amount of hydro-power, destroying a delicate ecosystem.

at the put in for the Wairoa, cliff jumping, paddling, and kids splashing
at the put in for the Wairoa, cliff jumping, paddling, and kids splashing

heading into the beautiful canyon section

With only a few release days a year the locals flock toward the Wairoa. The upstream access point turns into an arena of cliff jumpers, sun bathers, and kids splashing in pools, not to mention the Gore Tex clad kayakers heading into the rapids downstream.

Ladislav Švarc, on the waterfall
Ladislav Švarc, on the waterfall
The shuttle on the Wairoa only takes ten minutes, which means most paddlers make multiple laps during the release days. On one of these laps I was sitting at the base of Roller Coaster, the crux rapid, which has a tight entrance and stacked hydraulics in the main pitch. The issue with Roller Coaster is that all of the water at the base of the rapid flows directly into the left wall, which is distinctly undercut.

playing of getting chundered?
playing of getting chundered?
I floated in the safety eddy at the base of the rapid watching the rest of the crew when a paddler flipped on his descent. I wasn’t too concerned because Roller Coaster has the tendency to roll a fair amount of paddlers. The undercut left wall is located nearly 30 feet from the base of the rapid, which is far enough away that most people can attempt a couple of rolls. The scare came when the paddler botched one roll attempt after another. It wasn’t until he had floated across most of the pool nearing the undercut wall that he finally snapped up. A shaky brace and spastic attempt at getting away from the wall led to another capsize. The overturned boat made contact with the wall and it instantly disappeared.


The team went into action. People clambered onto rocks with throw bags, but there was nothing to throw at, he was under the rock. At this point I stayed in my boat, unclipped my tow tether, and patted down the front pocket of my PFD where I carry a CPR mask. Thoughts of how to deal with an unconscious victim started ripping through my brain. Everything was in place for some bold rescue attempts, all we needed now was a body. After a few seconds the crowd of rescuers started getting quiet because we hadn’t seen him in a while. Other thoughts started to roll through my head... previous accidents, and the thought of setting up a lowering system to start probing the undercut. Panning back and forth across the water line there was no sign of the paddler - he, his boat, and paddle had all vanished. I neared the wall looking for any signs when a helmet finally emerged from under the corner of the rock wall. That half a second while the helmet was on the surface of the water face-down felt like an eternity. I took a couple of huge strokes toward the would-be victim, he finally tilted his head upward and took that first surreal gasp of much needed oxygen. With one more stroke my bow was in his face and he grabbed onto it. I paddled back into the eddy. Amazingly he had no idea how close he was to dying and seemed rather unfazed by the episode.

the tight entrance into Roller Coaster
the tight entrance into Roller Coaster

Is ignorance bliss? He said that he just tried to stay calm and not do too much. I know from experiences that I would have been super aggressive down there. I’ve had a few friends come up from beneath undercuts with their fingernails packed full of moss and debris. Then again, struggling hard for an unknown escape route would certainly have deprived me of oxygen more quickly.

wheelie through stacked holes of Roller Coaster
wheelie through stacked holes of Roller Coaster
Steven Johanson, boofing Bottom Drop
Have fun out there friends, and do not be complacent, especially on your home runs! Just because you have paddled a section a thousand times doesn’t make the rocks any softer or the undercuts, strainers, and sieves any less dangerous.

As the five month trip was wrapping up it was time to sell the van and other gear. Time to go to the beach for a couple days of true relaxation.





adventure by Chris Baer

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Road Tripping, New Zealand


Looking back at Lake Hawea, New Zealand, Chris Baer
Looking back at Lake Hawea

Kayakers are meant to road trip! Local rivers only hold interest for so long; when attention wanes, it’s time to explore. Traveling brings me so much joy, wild landscapes, new paddlers, local beta, reuniting with old friends, crashing at random campgrounds and couches – all culminating in paddling new rivers. Traveling is what kayakers are supposed to do!

the densely forested New Zealand coast line looking out onto the Tasman Sea, Chris Baer
the densely forested New Zealand coast line looking out onto the Tasman Sea



endless beaches on the West Coast of the South Island

 

Kawarau


looking into the depths Of Nevis Bluff

When searching for whitewater, gradient is usually the first major ingredient on the list. Amazingly, the Kawarau River Valley is relatively flat. Long sections flow with huge volume almost unfazed by massive cliff walls on either side. Thankfully, on a few occasions, rock formations and gradient come together to create immense rapids. Probably most noteworthy is Nevis Bluff, a rapid which upon inspection at 280+ cumecs ≈ 10,000 cfs, looks terrifying at best. Scouting from 300 ft above definitely squishes scale, but what I saw looked like huge laterals feeding into river wide frowning holes with boils reaching thirty feet downstream ripping back into the troughs.

yet another multi tired stack of boats heading to the put in

Thankfully, Ben Young and James Webster quickly arrived and hinted to move down stream towards the Citroen Rapid. Citroen gets paddled at higher flows than Nevis but still looked like solid class 5 upon first sight. The saving grace was that none of the major features looked terminal, the only major concern was a violent revolving eddy on the left side directly across from a main center pour-over. We took turns paddling the rapid. Only a few expectations were achieved, every paddler was clobbered with huge laterals and blown way offline.


Taipo 

 


Gorgeous scenery on the Taipo, New Zealand, Chris Baer
Gorgeous scenery on the Taipo

Kerry Hoglund, in the canyon section, New Zealand, Chris Baer, Taipo
Kerry Hoglund, in the canyon section
Chris Baer, making his way down stream on the Taipo, New Zealand, kayaking
Chris Baer, making his way down stream on the Taipo
Gorgeous scenery and classic class 4 fun. This section would get paddled regularly if it had road access; unfortunately, it's a 23 km helicopter flight to the put in ($180 – save your money!
The rapids are good, and the scenery is solid but with so many amazing options in New Zealand this ought to be left on the back burner.

flying up the Taipo, helicopter, river, New Zealand, Chris Baer
flying up the Taipo



Maruia Falls 

 

Jeff Colgrove dialing the sub 20 line, chris Baer, New Zealand, Maruia Falls, kayaker
Jeff Colgrove dialing the sub 20 line
Maruia from the awkward right hand scout, NZ, New Zealand, Chris Baer, waterfall,
Maruia from the awkward right hand scout
A defining park and huck; park the van, pull the boats off the roof, step over the guardrail, walk thirty feet to the river’s edge, and four strokes later you’re free falling twenty plus feet. Located just outside the whitewater rafting hub of Murchison, these picturesque falls allows locals and travelers a great case study on waterfall boating. The lip is scouted from river right and has a tendency to conceal the lead into the falls. I highly suggest looking at the easy but deceptive lead in from a couple angles. The average hucker gets in their boat all fired up and turns down stream only to ask, “Where is the line?” The other piece of useful beta, unless you are under twenty years old - get your nose down. The landing zone is a large boil, and it hits hard. Ibuprofen and a beer is a solid antidote for a long day at Maruia falls.


adventure brought to you by Chris Baer





Friday, February 21, 2014

Fiordland, paddling Shangri-La, or Death by Sandflies?

Gonzo spotting his next line on the Hollyford River, NZ, Chris Baer
Gonzo spotting his next line on the Hollyford River, NZ
The clouds were low and thick, producing just enough drizzle to keep the constant screeching of the windshield wipers going. It was becoming harder and harder to keep up with the topography. Pulling the van over, I came to understand it wasn't the surrounding clouds that were creating the precipitation; rather the adjacent clouds were formed from precipitation at a significantly elevated atmosphere. It was snowing thousands of feet above, and most of the precipitation had already made earthly impact once. The rock structure surrounding my current location was numbingly tall and just shy of vertical. The precipitation that had landed thousands of feet above was now melting and conjoining into ribbons, veins of water, and recommencing its cascade from the heavens, into my present location.


The valley is bizarre. Dense, dark green vegetation, the kind often found in the Pacific Northwest. The walls are too steep, steeper than any Colorado canyon, steeper than physics would seem to allow. It feels claustrophobic, as if in a major city; the massive vertical rock nearly omits the sky. The rock is a dull grey, splashed with vibrant mossy green, and overlaid with countless streaks of cascading white water. The peaks above glisten in a fresh coat of brilliant white snow.


the nearly extinct Kea, these birds are very intelligent, and have a fondness for eating windshield whipper blades, door trim and kayak back bands?

Arriving in the "city" of Milford, I was immediately dispirited. The scenery was gorgeous but the immediate surroundings took on a theme park feel. There was no town, not a single grocery store, or post office, even the petrol station was unmanned, everything in the valley seemed fabricated for a quick tourist in and out visit. There were ‘no camping’ signs everywhere, and I quickly faltered at the thought that my Milford experience would equate to another tourist obtaining a handful of photos.

looking out onto Milford Sound, NZ, new Zealand, whereisbaer,
looking out onto Milford Sound

Out of the corner of my eye I spotted something brightly colored and out of place: three creek boats strapped to the top of a tiny hatchback. These were my kind of people; these weren't tourists, but people on a mission, a kayaking mission! I tried to contain my excitement as I walked in their direction, and as I approached I received the classic smile and head nod. Five minutes later Oscar Gonzales (Gonzo) was in my van, we were chasing Ben Young and Jimmy Wright over the pass towards the Hollyford River.

WHITE! Water


Gonzo making a tight pinch look good, hollyford river, NZ, new zealand, fiord land chris baer,
Gonzo making a tight pinch look good

The Hollyford River is jam packed with whitewater. It flows true white for kilometers at a time, through tight slots, and over off-angle ledges, occasionally piling into steep hydraulics. The Marian section of the Hollyford River is the crème. That single section holds more off angle features then I have ever seen on any river. It is begging to be paddled… and paddled well! Falling off any of the features early, or not making a slot, forces paddlers into powerful hydraulics and the invariable sieve laden eddy. Hazards included, the Marian creek section is my New Zealand favorite.


the take out for Moraine section of the Hollyford, sun set, new zealand, NZ, chris baer
the take out for Moraine section of the Hollyford

 Staying in Milford


There aren’t many good overnight options in Milford. It's either an expensive hotel, or a very discreet parking spot. Luckily Gonzo, Ben, and Jimmy invited me back to the "Paddle on Inn,” their (sea kayak guide) employee housing. Evenings were shared laughing with new friends, and enjoying the beauty of Milford Sound. The valley truly shines in the evenings; 99% of the tourists leave in the early afternoon, allowing Milford to settle into its surreal quietness. Sleeping in the parking lot of an adventure tourism business felt right at home.




 Sandfly mania!


The Arthur River is directly across the bay from the "Paddle on Inn". Unfortunately the Arthur is due for a case of Didymo. The amount of visitors to the river is on the rise, and the fact that you must paddle across Deep Water Basin (which is partially fed by the Cleddau River, and already infected with didymo) means every paddler needs to re-clean their gear upon arrival to the Arthur Track. This is compounded by the fact that there are millions of swarming sandflies in the area as well. Wiping down my kayak with a soapy sponge the flies begin to gather on the suds. Swatting the sand flies is futile; every swipe kills a few dozen but attracts another million.

Gonzo, escaping from the sand flies and taking in the view from Lake Ada, whereisbaer, NZ, Arthur track
Gonzo, escaping from the sandflies and taking in the view from Lake Ada


Intensifying the sandflies torment is an hour long hike up the Milford Track to Lake Ada, the put in. Thankfully I brought my pool noodle backpack system, which leaves my hands free to remove the random flies that decide to blitz into my eyes and nose. Upon arriving at Lake Ada, I took a couple of minutes to put on my dry top, skirt, and SANDFLIES! Quickly slipping into the rest of the gear I hopped in my boat and headed out to the center of the lake. A few quick strokes and my jaw dropped. I knew the area that we were hiking into had amazing geology, but it wasn't until exiting the surrounding forest that I was able to understand the magnitude of the scene.

Gonzo looking and feeling small in the Arthur River Valley, NZ, whereisbaer
Gonzo looking and feeling small in the Arthur River Valley



Utterly stunning! We were surrounded by thousand foot waterfalls cascading towards the lake that Gonzo and I were floating on. My smile was huge regardless of the sand flies... I certainly did not notice them. I looked like a child seeing snow for the first time, my face a mixture of amazement and a bit of disbelief.

it's hard to look at your line when you have scenery like this, Gonzo, Arthur river, nz, chris baer
it's hard to look at your line when you have scenery like this

Once again, although unfortunately infrequent, it was a true pleasure to paddle out of a lake (not a reservoir) into a free flowing river. The water leaks from Lake Ada into a handful of different channels that combine to create the Arthur River. The white water is high quality, and as we paddled through some of the bigger rapids I felt slightly annoyed that I couldn't stare up at the surrounding scenery. The style of the whitewater is hard to pin point. Most of the rapids were caused by a large earthquake and the subsequent landslides. The entrance to both of the major rapids are cluttered with boulders backing up the water, creating Lake Ada at the top, and a decent piece of slack water before the second major rapid. The entrances to both of these rapids are tight and technical, passing by a couple of large boulders you can feel the volume multiplying as the cluttered landslide riverbed gives way to big volume features. While scouting these rapids, try to keep in mind the fact that it is big, and you probably are not going to scout the entire tail waters. A run and gun approach works well, boof any big water feature that is in front of you.

Gonzo reaching for a boof on the second major rapid of the Arthur River, NZ, whereisbaer
Gonzo reaching for a boof on the second major rapid of the Arthur River, NZ


The Future of paddling in Fiordland 



Milford Sound is proof that the region and geology create great whitewater. The other bays of Fiordland deserve quality inspection. Logistics will be nightmarish, boats, helicopters, and long hikes. Not to mention half the crew may come back mentally insane from the constant bombardment of sand flies.

adventure by Chris Baer

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Hiking in sucks! How to build a kayak backpack system and a couple of fun New Zealand rivers.

stunning Westport beach sunset, NZ, chris baer, whereisbaer.com
stunning Westport beach sunset

Paddling in remote locations is immensely rewarding. But, to do so without paying for a helicopter usually means super long shuttle drives or… hiking. The physical act of hiking with a boat sucks. Shoulders go numb, sides chafe, and its just plain awkward.

Chris Tulley's van making the first pitch of the journey into the crooked

There are a few things to think about before the hike: How much does your boat weigh? Are there any optional items that you can remove from your craft? Can you spread out the essentials: breakdown paddle, med kit, pin kit. What about interference; is your hike in snow, mud, on a steep side hill or does it have overhanging vegetation? The simplest option is the classic shoulder carry, but sometimes you can benefit from a quick and easy backpack system.


New Zealand beaches drift wood and a staggering forest , whereisbaer.com chris baer
New Zealand beaches drift wood and a staggering forest

The few backpack systems on the market that I've tried (NRS Sherpa and Salamander Bak Yak) have all failed. The production packs all score high on initial comfort but fail in longevity, hefty weight, and dizzying complexity.

 

How to build your own kayak backpack

Ingredients:

10ft cam strap
pool noodle
sharp knife
duct tape
carabiner

the basics, pretty light and as simple as it gets, Chris Baer, kayak back pack
the basics, pretty light and as simple as it gets

 

Recipe:

Putting the backpack together is rather simple, but there are a few tricks to making the system fit well and hold up for the long hikes.


1. There is enough foam in one pool noodle to make two systems, so cut the original pool noodle into four equal parts.

2. Wrap the ends of the pool noodle in duct tape loosely. You don't need a ton of tape, just a wrap or two, as this helps keep the pool noodle from being pinched and cut by the cam strap.

notice the duct tape is tight making the hole compress and actually forcing the strap to start cutting the noodle
 notice the duct tape is tight making the hole compress and actually forcing the strap to start cutting the noodle

looser duct tape and a better finish
looser duct tape and a better finish

3. Slide one of the pool noodle sections onto the cam strap and lace the other end under the rear of the seat.

this takes a bit of wiggling, make sure it is supported by the plastic not the rear foam pillar
this takes a bit of wiggling, make sure it is supported by the plastic of the seat not the rear foam pillar

4. Slip the other section of pool noodle on the cam strap and weave the remaining cam strap through the two stern handles directly behind the seat.


laced up and looking for a walk
laced up and looking for a walk

the carabiner in the middle is essential for a comfortable pack, chris baer, kayak back pack home made how to
the carabiner in the middle is essential for a comfortable pack

5. To get into and adjust the system, stand the kayak up vertically against something stable and take a knee. Before cranking down on the cam strap use a carabiner to attach the two shoulder straps in front of you (this really eases the stress on the shoulders).

No, this system is not perfect, and having a waist belt would seriously help to disperse the load and alleviate some shifting. But, I find the simplicity, lightness, and ease of use literally outweigh any of the other systems on the market.

tight landing zones on the Kakapotahi, NZ, new zealand, Chris Baer
tight landing zones on the Kakapotahi

this is the first slot, of the Upper Kakapotahi and there is a six foot ledge to get you here

The Upper Kakapotahi,

has turned into my staple after-work run. It only takes a little rain for the water levels to come up into run-ability and the shuttle is only about a mile, making the backpack system not necessary, but a great place to test it.

clench those cheeks the landing zone is narrow, upper kakopatahi river NZ, new zealand, chris baer
clench those cheeks the landing zone is narrow
Kerry Hoglund enjoying the upper Kakers, Chris Baer, NZ,
Kerry Hoglund enjoying the upper Kakers

The run consists of seven fun rapids and after some probing they all are acceptable at most flows. The rapids have one consistent attribute, the lines are TIGHT! Whether it's boofing into a narrow landing zone, or unique laterals that flow directly into a confined triangular rock cave, all the lines are more than snug.

Kerry Hoglund zipping out of the triangular sieve, cave, fun line, upper kakapotahi Nz, Chris Baer kayak
Kerry Hoglund zipping out of the triangular sieve, cave, fun line
be patient on the hike in you never know what you might spot, I wonder what this one does, Chris Baer, kayak NZ, blue mushroom
be patient on the hike in you never know what you might spot, I wonder what this one does

 

 Crooked River,

The long muddy hike into the Crooked was what I originally built the backpack for and it turns out the hike in is far from backpack friendly. There is a ton of overhanging vegetation and the steep terrain covered in mud means having a 50 pound oblong backpack on is sketchy at best. The trusty shoulder was more well suited for the almost two hour hike in.

starting into the Crooked River, NZ west coast, hike in, Chris Baer
starting into the Crooked River

Once on water the action starts quickly and after a couple of fun ledges the crux of the run is reached. Bent and Twisted is a fun two-piece rapid that starts with a Raven Fork-esque twisty lead in where all the water smashes into an overhanging left wall. Thankfully a small, but well placed, eddy splits the rapid up and allows a quick breath and reset before paddling into the stacked second pitch. From there down, the rapids ease in difficulty and risk, and allow paddlers to boat scout well.

a couple seals near Westport, NZ, west coast, chris baer
a couple of seals near Westport

Upon reaching the take out I had a solid reflection, no I didn't like the two hour hike and yes the river and location was worth the sore shoulder!

adventure brought to you by Chris Baer