Monday, December 17, 2012

What do you know about your crew? Raven Fork, North Carolina

What goes through your head when you lend out two throw bags before putting on a river that maxes out at an impressive 730 Feet Per MIle?

Scotty Mann starting his way into the brawl that is Mike Tyson's Punch Out, Chris Baer, Raven Fork, NC
Scotty Mann starting his way into the brawl that is Mike Tyson's Punch Out

Rain!


It started to rain in the highlands of North Carolin and my heart started to beat hard. I had been in NC for a few weeks and had only made laps on the Green River Narrows, I wanted a change. Txt message, Face book, and all I heard back was that there wasn't enough water and that nothing was going to run.

That evening as I slipped into the back of my truck the rain pounded down. Through the truck topper it sounded like I was going to wake up floating, all I could do was dream about paddling.

Unfortunately the rain stopped in the middle of the night. I awoke to dry pavement around me. The dreams of unknown white water were fading until I heard the phone start to ring. Brad McMillan had driven to the visual gauge on the Raven Fork and reported that it was a GO!

Brad and I have paddled and worked together over the last few years, and have built a solid friendship. Usually we find ourselves drinking a little heavily, and laughing hole hardily, while intermixing a ton of class 5 paddling.

Brad McMillian classically smiling in the middle of chaos, Chris Baer, Raven Fork, NC
Brad McMillian classically smiling in the middle of chaos

Usual Suspects


Just out side of Cherokee NC I meet Brad at one of our favorite meeting places, Waffle House. I walked in to see the usual suspects. Not only was Brad sitting at the table, but so was his live in girlfriend Kim Miller, and mutual paddling companion Jake Kowalewski. Spotting Jake at the table made me a bit nervous. My memories of paddling with Jake were of  him being solid, but Raven Fork is not a place for solid boaters, you have to be damn good.

The posy loaded into vehicles and made our way to the take out, that is distinctly on private property. Access to the take out involves a piece offering of beer to the local inhabitant for the use of his land for the day. The property owner struck up a deal with the paddling community a while back and now the information is passed down through the ranks.

Our posy was shifting boats for the 4x4 drive to the put in when two other boaters turned the corner. Jake, Brad and I all looked at each other "do you know these guys?" None of us wanted to start an epic with a crew of strangers. Turns out I knew both of the boaters Scotty Mann and Will Dowling. After a quick hand shake and a "lets go!" I got asked not once, but by two different people in our crew, if I had an extra throw bag that I could lend. My nervousness was escalated. Then the classic question "who all has paddled this before?" Turns out that our crew had a whopping four laps spread out throughout the entire crew. My nerves were on fire. Was I really going to paddle one of the hardest runs in the south east with a crew acting this loose? We piled into my truck.

The drive to the put in is distinctly four wheel drive. As soon as you leave the paved road you instantly start gaining a ton of gradient on loose dirt, lock your hubs early. The dirt trail meanders up quickly and then dead ends into a creek, park the truck and put the boats on your shoulder for a 20 minute hike to the put in. The last pitch leaving the hunting-fishing trail and heading down to the river is extremely steep and slippery.

Brad McMillian making Right Right look easy, Chris Baer, raven fork, NC
Brad McMillian making Right Right look easy
The pace on the raven fork is something I have never seen repeated anywhere. 730 feet in three quarters of a mile, and it's drop pool. The first rapid looks scary, there is a ton of potential to crash, and crashing looks very dangerous. At the bottom of the rapid there is a must make eddy and all of the water takes off into the next scary rapid. This is characteristic of the entire run, one impressive dangerous rapid into the next.

Scotty Mann with a huge boof on Razorback, Chris Baer, Raven Fork, NC
Scotty Mann with a huge boof on Razorback
The crew was doing pretty well on the water paddling almost everything until we ran into a funky placed tree in Jedi Training. A quick ferry to the river left side of the river left us in a nasty location, and a hairy ferry was the best way to continue our slow but steady down stream pace.

Will Dowling sliding down the last pitch of Mortal Combat, Chris Baer, Raven Fork, NC
Will Dowling sliding down the last pitch of Mortal Combat
The talked about rapid on the run is Big Boy, and like every other rapid on the run it's scary. A 20 plus foot waterfall with a tricky lead. The best part is that there is a rock distinctly in the landing zone. After spending a couple minutes looking at it, it was our crew that truly kept me from wanting to run it. No one had enough beta on extraction. If I did manage to miss my line and hit a rock from 20+ feet up I was going to be sitting in that river basin overnight before I was going to get evacuated. That was a horrible picture in my head, and helped motivate me to walk the amazing rapid. The rest of the crew followed suit.


From Big Boy down the crew moved well again. Cave Man is the last big rapid and deserves to have safety set. The trick is that there is no good way to set safety for the first paddler. Someone needs to charge down and get out on a tinny rock shelf to make sure that the rest of the boaters don't go under the disgusting looking undercut rock.

Jake Kowalewski a few inches off line at Cave Man, Chris Baer, Raven Fork, NC
Jake Kowalewski a few inches off line at Cave Man
Taking it for the team, I offered to go first and set safety. Slight relief set in as Brad said he would come down 5 seconds after me. The theory was that one of us would stick our line and could assist the other before it was to late. We charged into the rapid and both had spectacularly clean lines on the bottom dangerous drop.

Why we paddle as a team


It was Jake's turn, he landed just a couple inches off line and immediately caught the tractor beam of water that leads back under the rock. Brad reached down and gave him a quick yet firm hand and pushed him down stream and away from danger. Scotty was up next, and duplicated Jake's line almost exactly. Once again Brad reached down and with one shove changed Scotty's fate.

Brad McMillian changing Jake's fate, Chris Baer, Raven Fork, NC
Brad McMillian changing Jake's fate

Pondering


It is these moments when I have a tendency to pause, think, and wonder. I am supper appreciative that I get to push my limits, and that I have a crew of amazing paddlers that I get to paddle with, and that those paddlers can make those extremely dangerous situations slightly safer.

Your team is only as strong as the weakest link? Sometimes the strong ones can help limp a weaker member through. Sometimes the people that are amazing on water, have no rescue knowledge, are slow hikers, have pre existing injuries, or conditions…… Know your crew! Know their assists, and their down falls, and play into both of them. They will be very grateful and you might just be the one getting that little push away from certain danger.

Some times your crew will astound you 


Brad, great job on being there for the helpful hands, I'm sure Jake and Scotty appreciated it. But bring your throw bag the next time you paddle class 5.

Jake, Way to step up, you have become a powerful paddler, and were totally ready for Raven Fork. You don't always have to follow the leader, I would have loved to set safety for you at Big Boy.

Scotty and Will, what were you thinking showing up to the take out with out the proper piece offering. Bring the man his beer.

another adventure with Chris Baer, Raven Fork, NC
another adventure with Chris Baer

Friday, November 23, 2012

Green River Narrows Race

Working on getting the nose back down after slipping through the Notch, Chris Baer, Green Race, Gorilla, NC, North Carolina, 2012,
Working on getting the nose back down after slipping through the Notch
Racing usually allows the participant to push their personal envelope on a relatively safe course. No matter how many ropes, spectators, cheering fans, and Frog Men there are The Green River Narrows is NOT a safe course.

I love this race!  …..
Well, actually I don't like racing,
Why would I want to go as fast as I can through such an amazing canyon?
It's an entirely different rush, trying to challenge the stop watch and the river at the same time.

Practice, Makes Perfect?


The Green River water flow is seriously augmented by a damn that is located just a few miles upstream of the race venue. During the week leading up to the race, competitors were greeted with an interesting and unstable two hour dam release. The release water ran at a moderate flow of eight inches.

Race day, the generators were cranked up. Twelve inches was splashing on the gauge. Most of the competitors, weren't ready for such a step up. Competitors from out of town, internationals, and the folks that thought they might be able to make it down at 8 inches with safety set up everywhere, were about to get handled.


The Starting Line 

 

The starter looked down at me, 

"Chris you got 10 seconds"

Quickly I responded with a huge grin and a solid

"WHOOOOOP! this is so scary"

5    breathe
4    chuckle
3    splash water in face
2    breathe
1    laugh out loud

GO!

as Brad McMillian puts it, "the scariest words I hear all year"

Sliding towards the finish line, Chris Baer, Green River Narrows, Race, 2012, NC, North Carolina,
Sliding towards the finish line

30 seconds later I muck up my line. Instantly I realized that I wasn't going to succeed in my goal of finishing in under five minutes. Then another small bobble, I had to sneak Go Left, someone had already created some spectacular carnage there. A racer had pinned their boat in the drop (a week later parts of the kayak where recovered). Next, I got loose coming through Zwicks, and pulled off an amazing side ways boof over a sticky ledge. Panting hard, I spot 100 of my best friends, along with 700 random yelling people, I was about to enter Gorilla (the big one). A quick gasp for air, a precise stroke, and I flew through the Notch. Skipping around the 90° left hand turn, and flying off the 18 foot fall, I hear all 800 of them cheering. The following slides, where a mess. Spinning through eddies I continued to pant. The last couple strokes sprinting towards the finish took every thing I had. All of the bobbles, spins, and a week of training at a vastly different water level lead to a personal best race time of 5:33. I could have done significantly better, but that's racing. It's not what you can do, it's what you do, that second, when they say GO!

800 friends, and a lot of vertical to cover to the finish line, Chris Baer, Green River Narrows, Race, 2012, NC, North Carolina,
800 friends, and a lot of vertical to cover to the finish line
Five years of racing the infamous Green River Narrows has produced some entertainment for me and the crowd,

2008   7:52    actually got lost on the race course and had to ask for directions
2009   6:03    tried to go fast
2010   6:14    stopped at the Notch eddy and blew a fun whistle all the way to the finish line
2011   6:30    stopped below Chiefs and set off a Roman Candle attached to my helmet
2012   5:33    first race in a long boat, tried  to go fast

After some analysis of my race times, I might just go back to silly antics instead of trying to go fast.

 

Post Race

 

Wandering back up to "Gorilla" hooting and hollering for my friends, I received the information that more then a couple good boaters had crashed. "WHAT? Hale swam?"  I couldn't believe what I was hearing. It wasn't just me that had blown some lines, the entire field was crashing.

 

Frog Men

 

Bill Clipper came over to ask me to join him in the "Pit" (the base of Gorilla) Bill said, "we need to relieve some frogs down there" The pit is a cold place, covered in spray from the falls, and slick as snot. There, we the Frog Men, assist racers that tomahawk off of Gorilla. We had our hands full.

Another adventure brought to you by Chris Baer
Another adventure brought to you by Chris Baer

Monday, November 12, 2012

How young is too young for kayaking Class 5


For the last few years I have been "organizing" a race on the Pine Creek section of the Arkansas river. My goal with the race is to have as much fun as possible and create an amazing spectator event. Chaos is always fun and the crowd seems to love it... so mass start is the way I try to start the race. Over a dozen kayaks, Seven rafts including the current National Champions, a couple duckies and shredders, toss in a pair of tubers, and a Topo Duo to round out the junk show.

Holden Bradford, is a fired up 10 year old with a ton of charisma. His parents have allowed him to have an amazing ability to look at adventure with truly open eyes. Race day he woke up early and hiked to the top of a peak just outside of Buena Vista to go paragliding. Right now he is probable tearing up Breckenridge ski resort, day dreaming of the spring when he gets to go kayaking again. Holden started rafting when he was only 18 months old, and has been kayaking for 5 years. He can truly read white water.

When I first approached Holden's father about the idea of Holden and I racing together I could see a little apprehension, but what came out of Josh's mouth was YES! The Plan was for Holden and I to race a two person kayak through the class 5 section of the Arkansas river. Race day I chatted with Holden at the put in. I asked him if he had ever paddled Pine Creek before, or been in a two person kayak, or seal launched? Holden responded a little hesitantly with "well no, but I have looked at pine creek a bunch, and I know we can do it!" Holden and I were about to experience a bunch of firsts together.

Holden and I charging through Pine Creek, Holden Bradford, Chris Baer, topo duo, dynamic duo, CO, colorado, arkansas, river,
Holden and I charging through Pine Creek
The pine creek mass start has never started cleanly, and this year would be no different. The field took off in two slightly different waves, and at that point neither Holden or I was in our kayak. It took a couple seconds to hop in the kayak and slap the spray skirts on. We pushed off the embankment and skidded into the water instantly cranking out strokes trying to make up for our delayed start.

Holden paddled like a man on a mission. I couldn't help from smiling as our boat flew over some wave and crushed into others, plowing Holden deep into the water. Pine Creek went supper well and both of us were glowing from the cheers of the crowd. Coming through triple drop the stern hung up in a hydraulic and I looked up to see Holden a solid 4-5 feet out of the water. As I set the boat back down level Holden let out a solid laugh and we started to link strokes and pass one white water vessel after the next. I felt like I had an outboard engine strapped to the front of my kayak. We would come into a  hard corner,  and Holden would start cranking out paddle strokes whipping us around the corner.

Twenty minutes into the race we had passed every one but the two fastest raft teams, and three kayakers. Holden's father was in the raft directly in front of us, we paused for a strategic pass. "GO HOLDEN GO!" I hollered as we came screaming past his fathers raft. The last few minutes of the race were grueling and Holden let out a couple groans as we inched closer and closer to the National raft team.


As we came across the finish line Holden reminded me that he came in 5th and that I was definitely 6th. Post race we were bombarded with questions. " I felt a little proud watching Holden go from tentative to confident while explaining that there would be no reason for us to roll, and to watch out for next year when hopefully Chris can get a proper start to happen. When asked how we did, Holden smiled and let it be known that "We slayed it!"

So how old is old enough to paddle class 5? In the proper craft, with the proper guidance, Holden Bradford, and I would agree, you can definitely fire up Pine Creek when your 10.

Thank you Holden for letting me paddle along with you in such a fun event.














Another adventure brought to you by Holden Bradford, and Chris Baer.



Thursday, October 4, 2012

Tubing!

Chris Baer tubing, upper gauley, WV, Jessica Marsan, yes
YES!

I have officially given up kayaking. There is just too much gear, paddle, boat, skirt. I have moved on to a much more spiritual zone... TUBING!!!!


Chris Baer tubing, upper gauley, WV, Jessica Marsan, silly kayakers
silly kayakers

It put a pretty big smile on my face walking into the local tire shop and asking for an inner tube, " yea a tube for going down the creek "



WARNING: this stunt was performed by an immature idiot, it is not a good idea. Please.. Please.. DO NOT start doing this.


Chris Baer tubing, upper gauley, WV, Jessica Marsan
another adventure brought to you by Chris Baer

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Crushing Dreams, 8 Balling at Teva Mountian Games

Teva 8 Ball Race,

Competitors getting crushed during the Teva 8 Ball Race, chris baer, vail, co
competitors getting crushed during the Teva 8 Ball Race
The ultimate mix between Kayaking and American Gladiators. Creating maximum crowd enthusiasm, this race has multiple ruthless concepts entangled together. First there are four kayak racers unleashed onto the course at the same time. Second there is up to a dozen "8 balls" on the creek, kayakers with the sole purpose of changing the finishing order. Lastly put all of those people on an amazingly cozy creek with a thousand screaming spectators.

Chris Baer, Awaiting the next victim, 8 ball race, teva games, Vail CO
awaiting the next victim
Clay Wright gave the pre-race talk. I found it hysterical. "There are a lot of obstacles down there, and they are all there to slow or... stop your down stream progress. If you get hit by one of them it is your fault, it is going to hurt. You are stupid." Clay also gave the 8 Ballers a pre-race talk, CRUSH THEM!

Smiles, and disaster everywhere, Chris baer, Teva mountain games, vail CO
smiles and disaster everywhere

The Coliseum,

 

Directly in front of the finish line lies the "Pit", with embanked walls covered in spectators, a bridge in-front and behind. I had the feeling of being in an old Roman coliseum. Sitting with my stern across the right side of the finish line I awaited the lead kayaker to make their entry into my domain. I predetermined there fate. Leaving what looked like a great escape on river left and a horrible tight exit river right. Racer after Racer made the easy decision to go left and that was my domain. Six quick paddle strokes, my bow flying straight across their cockpit, crushing into their chest, dragging them across the river... leaving them inches away from the finish line.



The crowd laughed, booed, and screamed for more as I took out local favorite 8 year old Henry Hyde. Thirsty for more the crowd cheered as I took out one leader after the next. We were causing NASCAR style crashes every five minutes. Changing the finishing order for hours on end is absolutely exhausting. During the battles I received more than a few wild paddle slashes and a few choice words by the competitors. By the end of the day it was all hugs and high fives, as competitors and 8 ballers were joking, telling stories of being run over and trounced.

Smiles this big only come from one thing... Crushing! , chris baer, teva games, 8 ball rave vail co
smiles this big only come from one thing... Crushing!

another adventure by Chris Baer

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Animas, and 680 fpm more

Chris Baer cleaning the last drop of Crazy Women Creek, Animas, CO, Colorado, Canyon Creek,
Chris Baer cleaning the last drop of Crazy Women Creek

The Animas, 

The 4 Corners crew, Cruise Quenelle, Joel Cameron, Tony Miley, Dave Farkas, Sasha Stauffer, Eric Munroe, Drew Beezley, and myself took off for the daunting task of paddling from the Third Gorge of Lime Creek aka Cascade creek, down to the Animas, hiking up and paddling Canyon Creek aka Crazy Women, and then paddling down the Animas through the Rockwood Gorge. My entire body was sore the next day and my mind was still revelling in the amazing action of one of the best combo runs I have ever put together.

The Crew, Cruise Quenelle, Joel Cameron, Tony Miley, Dave Farkas, Sasha Stauffer, Eric Munroe, Drew Beezley, and Chris Baer, CO, colorado, durango kayak, 3 gorge lime, third gorge, animas, canyon creek, cascade creek
The Crew, Cruise Quenelle, Joel Cameron, Tony Miley, Dave Farkas, Sasha Stauffer, Eric Munroe, Drew Beezley, and Chris Baer 

Third Gorge Lime, aka Cascade Creek

Get the Backpack ready for another classic Durango hike, luckily the mile and a half hike is down hill and relatively painless. Once on water the action starts quick and the two mile section rips by.

Sasha Stauffer, paddling through Landslide on Cascade Creek aka 3rd Gorge Lime, Chris Baer, Animas, CO, Colorado
Sasha Stauffer, paddling through Landslide on Cascade Creek aka 3rd Gorge Lime

Tony Miley, a preface

Tony is a class 5 kayaker, partial owner of 4 Corners Riversports, and was the first person to take legitimate interest in my kayaking. After paddling with Tony on the Gauley River in West Virginia he offered me a sponsorship program with his kayak shop. Sense then I have received the honor of paddling with him in a myriad of locations, including my first run down Vallecito where he laughed at me and told me that I don't get to scout anything. Tony's vague beta and big smile have created tons of adventures for everyone around him.

Unfortunately Tony was involved in a major ATV accident a couple years ago and lost most of his right hand. Fortunately Tony is exceedingly resilient. He has gotten back up to full speed, with the help of a few prosthetics, and an amazingly strong spirit.

Crazy Women aka Canyon Creek 

This run is legit, 680 feet per mile of action, thank god it's less then a mile other wise my nerves would have faltered. Upon reaching the confluence of Crazy Women and the Animas Cruise Quenelle leaped from his kayak and started into an incoherent stream of words. It's in, let's go, big, waterfall, cauldron, really hard, skate board? I wasn't really sure what was going on. The entire crew quickly hopped out of there kayaks and followed Cruise (who was the only one with a kayak) up the hill. Thankfully Tony Miley turned around and saw me still sitting in my boat on the beach. I asked "Tony what is going on here?" Tony responded with a quick and very excited, "Grab your boat and start hiking there is a couple big water falls, you will want to run these for sure."

In classic Durango fashion, the protocol is to hike the 680 feet of gradient and then paddle back to the Animas. Thankfully Tony is the man, and helped me carry my kayak to the top of the steepest pitch.

Upon looking at the micro creek, I was excited to see very runnable drops. The downfall is that the drops are unnervingly close to each other. The entire posy was running around scouting from every imaginable angle. After a couple minutes Cruise came up to me and asked me if I was ready. Laughter came out of me..... " whoa whoa whoa I'm kayaking this? whats the line?" Cruise took a couple minutes to describe the preferred lines in the tiny and very committing canyon.

Tony set himself up in the middle of the canyon to be safety, the rest of the crowd huddled around the rim of the canyon waiting to watch the entertainment. Cruise and I sat at the put in for a couple minutes contemplating our lines and cooling off after the exceedingly steep hike. Quickly we slipped into the creek and the action started. One 15 footer into the next into a small rock that fortunately stopped me only inches away from going directly into the Skate Ramp drop. I was on an eddy line looking 20ish feet down at Tony setting safety. The boil under me subsided and I was luckily able to back paddle into the eddy and set up correctly for the next big drop. Skate Ramp is a 20 footer with a launch ramp near the bottom. Both Cruise and I get thrown around and Tony was at the bottom grabbing our boats before we washed into the next rapid. With Tony's classic big smile, he high fived us and shouted out "nice lines boys!"

Cruise Quenelle in the middle of the second canyon, chris baer, co, animas, crazy women, canyon creek, colorado, durango
Cruise Quenelle in the middle of the second canyon
The second pitch it the big one. Cruise and I decided to skip the first manky 4 foot ledge. The plan was to seal launch off a very precarious rock ledge that instantly shoot us into a funky 8 foot drop. It was Tony Miley with (one hand) that helped us into our boats and gave us the final shove, Seal launching us into the mess of white water below. The second drop was an off-vert 20 with some serious piton potential half way down. The last and biggest drop is a 30ish footer that lands in a very containing cauldron that to our luck had a large log wedged into the left side of the landing zone.

Cruise Quenelle with a beautiful line and a little log loving at the bottom, Chris Baer, Animas, Crazy women, canyon creek , co , colorado
Cruise Quenelle with a beautiful line and a little log loving at the bottom
Cruise and my lines went exceedingly well and after some high fives and hugs, we were back on the Animas paddling towards Rockwood Gorge.

Beyond Rockwood,

The Animas river is absolutely amazing, one spectacular section after the next. The white water contained below Rockwood is as pushy and committing as I ever want to test. For a full write up click here.


Looking down into Pandora's box, animas, chris baer, co , colorado, Backer's box, durango
Looking down into Pandora's box
Luke Hanson charging between the sieves in the Baker's Box, chris baer, pandora's , dunango, co , colorado , animas
Luke Hanson charging between the sieves in the Baker's Box
Just an average run out in Pandora's box, animas, chris baer, co, colorado, Baker's, kayak,
Just an average run out in Pandora's box

An adventure brought to you by ChrisBaer









Sunday, July 29, 2012

Vallecito


Joel Cameron sailing away on entrance falls, Chris Baer, Vallecito, water fall, CO colorado
Joel Cameron sailing away on entrance falls

Gangster rap, rowdy college kids, and a beautiful polished granite canyon. 


Life continues to amaze me, after traveling across the country I stopped into Durango CO for a quick visit and immediately was given a tour of the local goods. Vallecito Canyon might be the best mile of creek boating in CO, the drops are plentiful, the access is just tedious enough to keeps mobs out, and the quality is a good as it gets. 

Hiking a mile into the wilderness, Chris Baer, Blunt Family Paddle, Wave Sport, view, Valliceto, CO, colorado,
Hiking a mile into the wilderness
The hike into the canyon is a mile long stroll up every inch of gradient you are about to paddle down. A good backpack system is strongly recommended, and making more then one lap in a day takes determination. 

Joel Cameron, heading deeper into Vallecito canyon, Chris Baer, CO, colorado,
Joel Cameron, heading deeper into Vallecito canyon
The Canyon is pretty and pretty remote, there are only a few ok options for hiking out. Make sure the crew is strong and that someone has the lines dialed. I personally like getting super vague beta from Tony Miely. 

Cruise Quenelle, buried in Trash Can, Chris Baer, CO, colorado werner, green boat, dagger,
Cruise Quenelle, buried in Trash Can
Even the best boaters get crushed, come prepared. Cody Beach got rolled in Trash Can, and destroyed his helmet and sprained his neck. It took the rest of the crew close to an hour to help Cody out of the canyon. Thankfully he was beat up but alright.

Reece Hanson finding his stroke on Entrance Falls, Chris Baer,  Vallecito, water fall, co , colorado
Reece Hanson finding his stroke on Entrance Falls
When it's good it's great, Vallecito usually puts on a show. Amazing boaters in an amazing setting.

Dealing with the mank and logs in Trash Can, chris baer, CO , colorado , vallecito,
Dealing with the mank and logs in Trash Can

The boys finishing up another evening lap, enjoying cold beers and another amazing sunset, CO colorado, vallecito, chris baer
The boys finishing up another evening lap, enjoying cold beers and another amazing sunset
another adventure brought to you by Chris Baer
another adventure brought to you by Chris Baer

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Tallulah Fest and a test run in the Recon and Ethos.

Unknown Paddler making his way Right of the Thing! GA, Georgia, Chris Baer, Oceana, Tallulah, Fest
Unknown Paddler making his way Right of the Thing!

Tallulah fest

Paddling with a ton of buddies from all over the world on a great river is always a blast, especially when there is a couple fresh boats from Wave Sport to test out. Bryan Kirk, Chris Wing and I set out on day two of Tallulah Fest, with a second generation Recon ( the new creek boat ), an Ethos ( the new cross over boat ), and a Project X. Needless to say the quiver was loaded and it was about time to test out some new Boats.

Walking down the immense stair case to the put in, Bryan, Chris, and I were hounded with questions, What boat is that? How big is it? When is it going to come out? I want one!

Bryan Kirk, Tallulah, GA, Georgia, Recon, Creek Boat, Chris Baer
Bryan Kirk launching the new Recon Creek Boat
I started in the Ethos cross over boat, which was a quickly produced prototype boat. The out fitting felt great, and the shape looked good; the only problem was the quick activating drop down skeg didn't have a control. A few strips of duck tape later and I was feeling confident that the skeg wasn't going to self deploy half way down Oceana... I was wrong.

Upon sliding off the put in stairs into the river I felt a very odd sensation, the back of the boat wouldn't go anywhere. The duck tape had removed itself and the skeg that is supposed to lower a few inches into the water, was submersed 18 inches. The thought of hiking the boat to the top of the stairs was ridiculous. After a quick deliberation Bryan Kirk and I decided to shove the skeg back up into the boat and to break little branches off on both sides of it. The thought was that we could wedge the Skeg back up and into the boat. I was pretty sure this plan wasn't going to work, but to my surprise, the little sticks held way better then the Duck tape.  The Skeg stayed up, and I got to paddle the huge Ethos Cross Over boat down the Tallulah gorge.

Unknown Paddler in a Dagger Green Boat entering the THING Georgia, GA, Chris Baer, Oceana
Unknown Paddler in a Dagger Green Boat entering the THING
Paddling down, we took the time to check out each others boats and give some great feedback that will certainly be used in the final products.

Unknown Kayaker blasting past the Thing on Oceana, Tallulah, fest, Chris Baer, GA , georgia,
Unknown Kayaker blasting past the Thing on Oceana

The Recon

This boat is going to be amazing, the tiered rail on the back of the boat allows it to aggressively carve. The nose is soft with plenty of rocker to get up and over anything in it's path. The best part is there is plans for a 90ish gallon model that is going to be great for self support, the big guys out there, or any one that love to float supper high.

Bryan Kirk with a prototype Recon at the base of Tallulah falls, GA Georgia, Chris Baer, Fest, kayak
Bryan Kirk with a prototype Recon at the base of Tallulah falls

The Ethos

I almost hate to call this a Cross Over boat, except for the fact that it has a drop down skeg. I truly could paddle this down most class 5 and it will be an exceptional 5- muti-day self support boat. I am already dreaming of a solo self support Grand Canyon trip.

Check out what Wave Sport has to say about the Ethos, along with some other video of it charging down Tallulah Geoge here.


Most importantly well at the Tallulah check out the rowdy rope swing, it's right before the take out on the right. This swing is impressive!

Another adventure brought to you by Chris Baer
Another adventure brought to you by Chris Baer


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Laurel Fork, Doe Gorge, and a Marginal Monster

Mark Taylor controlling the first reconnect on Laurel Falls, photo by Chris Baer, NC
Mark Taylor controlling the first reconnect on Laurel Falls

Home on the kayak tour

 

Kayak homesteads take on a myriad of different shapes, mine is a 1984 Ford F150, The Boone North Carolina homestead was a classic rambler only inches above a creek that regularly flooded. We awoke on coaches with plenty of empty PBR cans strewn about. Our concentration quickly swung to a strong batch of coffee, and the rain that pummeled the surrounding county the night before. Every one hoped on there internet tools and started blurting out levels of different local runs.  

 

Laurel Fork


Ty Caldwell, Mark Taylor, Clay Lucas and I set our sites on the Laurel Fork. The flow looked spot on, and the rumor was, there was a "marginal monster." A 60 foot cascading water fall in the middle of the run. The car got loaded down with kayaks and a quick stop at the local fast food joint got us in the mood for some class 5 creek boating.

Once we reached the put in, we instantly realized we were in the right place. There was a myriad of other kayakers roaming around. Most of the other boaters were complaining about the high water... High water sounded like a ton of fun to our crew, and we quickly suited up and put on.
The run starts off with a bunch of fun class 4 moves that are interspersed with a ton of overhanging bushes and downed trees. There was wood every where, I got to the point that I wasn't worried about the rapids but was concerned about where the next ill placed tree would be.

Ty Caldwell launching off of the first ledge at Darwin's Hole, photo by Chris Baer, NC
Ty Caldwell launching off of the first ledge at Darwin's Hole
A few miles into the run we came to the only "hard" rapid of the "normal" run. Darwin's Hole, there was kayakers everywhere. The kayakers were trying to scout, and wondering how they might be able to portage around what our group thought was a "damn good rapid." One by one our team made the "hard" rapid look like another class 4. It started with a fun off angel boof into some swirly water, then another 5ft boof that landed in a protected hole.

A random paddler finding the flake at the top of Darwin's Hole, Chris Baer, NC
A random paddler finding the flake at the top of Darwin's Hole
Heading down stream I started to get lost in the drops, all of the lead-ins looked very similar. Then we came around a corner and saw what we were looking for, a gigantic horizon line. The lip was a hundred feet wide and the old growth trees growing below looked very small.

A long scout ensued, it was definitely a "marginal monster." Mark Taylor set his eye on the center line, a bouncing, reconnecting, slope to vert to slope. After watching his very clean but bouncy line, my concerns were reconfirmed. I really didn't think I would have much control on the third reconnect. The speed and violence of the reconnect looked like it could be a career ender. So... I contemplated a far right line. It was a triple drop jumble, the first two drops looked like the tea cups on the Paralyze rapid of my local run Lake Creek. The third feature was a 40ft drop with a light reconnect half way down.

Mark Taylor sending Laurel Falls on the Laurel Fork, photo by Chris Baer, NC
Mark Taylor sending Laurel Falls on the Laurel Fork
Standing above the drop visualizing my line I looked down at my new friends, Ty gave me a hand jesture that made my 80% certainty turn to 100%. I was going to paddle this marginal monster, and I was going to make it look good.

Sliding into the water I looked down at the the beyond tricky lead-in, my hart was beating heavy. Two inches off my line at the lip, meant I fell eight feet onto a rock shelf. Quickly resetting my angle I fired off the second drop and was again a couple inches off line and fell another ten feet onto yet another rock shelf. My ankles were sore and the front of my boat was disfigured. Worst of all I was stuck in a micro eddy inches from the 40 footer and way off angle. The next three minutes were filled with cursing and trying to figure out how to regain the angle I needed to paddle the finale big drop. Contemplating my fate, the decisions was made to turn around in the tiny back yard swimming pool of an eddy. Fate was being tested, there was a decent chance I would fall off the 40 foot drop backwards. The stern of the boat was extended nearly a foot over the falls, as I turned around a smile finally came back to my face. My ankles no longer hurt, and I was super excited looking at the final horizon line. A couple set up strokes and a huge weight shift, I was air borne one more time. Seconds later I was at the bottom of a truly Marginal Monster with a gigantic smile.

Doe Gorge


Upon finishing the Laurel Fork our group received an invitation to check out the Doe Gorge. Our beta was that it was an absolutely beautiful gorge filled with some fun class 4. Our group was pretty fired up after the Laurel fork, and put in antics quickly followed. We gave Mark Taylor a huge shove off the put in bridge, he sailed through the air landing supper flat off the 12 foot put in bridge.
The Doe Gorge lived up to expectations, the scenery was top notch. We traveled through an old gorge filled with gigantic trees and classic south eastern beauty. The white water was fun class 4, and the only down fall was the fact that the local red necks still think the river is there trash can. We dodged propane tanks, tires, and the occasional basketball while paddling a river that truly needs a good clean up day.

Boone NC has inspired me to revisit northern NC again and again, thanks Boone Boys.