Thursday, March 18, 2010

A December to Remember. Part 1: The Grand Canyon

The final month of 2009 certainly turned out to be one worth remembering. Departing Mentone Alabama December 1st the thirty-three days that followed were full of good friends and good times on and off the river. The first leg of the journey began with three of us making the long drive to Flagstaff Arizona to meet up with the rest of our seven-person crew for an amazing float down the Colorado River.

The Grand Canyon of the Colorado River is a special place and it is the setting that ultimately draws us to run the river. The logistics, the permit system, the stress and toil all fade away as you lose sight of the put-in and the walls begin to rise. By day two the endless red walls and strong current have refocused our life on the basics. Eat, drink, travel, laugh, sleep… what else is there?

For all seven people on our trip it was our first time to run the Grand Canyon and I can say that without a doubt that that was one of the things that made are trip feel so special. With no one with previous experience there was no one to defer to for the endless number of decisions made daily. We all experienced every bend in the river for the first time together, with no preconceived notions about what we would see or encounter next. Having completed the journey I must admit I am a little saddened by the fact that none of us will have that same feeling of discovery on our next trip.

The crew consisted of a mix of friends with various degrees of river-running experience, but this was the longest any of us had spent floating down any single river, but such a statement is likely true of almost every boater I know. It is a rare and special thing in this modern day to paddle for weeks without seeing a car or road. Such opportunities are growing even rarer as the world continues our perpetual expansion of population and our endless network of roads. However, places for escape still exist and the Grand Canyon in winter might be one of the better ones that I have experienced.

Prior to our departure many friends and family, paddlers and non-paddlers alike, seemed convinced that the Grand Canyon in winter couldn’t be anything except miserable. However, their fears couldn’t have been further from the truth. In fact, there are a lot of great reasons to go in the winter and over the course of our trip we developed quite a list of the best things about a winter Grand Canyon trip, here are 10 of them…

10. Only having one launch a day makes the put-in ramp and rangers relaxed and chill.

9. The cold water is less of a safety concern when you’re already wearing a drysuit.

8. The food won’t spoil, but you may have to put produce in the coolers to KEEP them from freezing.

7. The groover doesn’t stink very much when it’s contents are frozen.

6. The cool weather is ideal for hiking.

5. No helicopter shuttles whizzing overhead.

4. Collecting driftwood for fires is allowed.

3. The booze is always cold.

2. No motorized boat traffic.

1. Solitude, plain and simple. Traveling down the length of the canyon from Lees Ferry to Diamond Creek we saw three other groups, got every campsite we wanted, and felt wonderfully alone for most of the time.

Until Next Time...


kayak session

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mulberry Races 2010

Luke Scott on his championship lap and taking home the most gold medals at this year's race. Photo by Tony Diliberto.

The Mulberry Fork Canoe and Kayak Races (MFCKR) have been in existence for nearly 30 years now with this past weekend marking its 29th anniversery. It might not be the paddling community’s most well-known event—but at least not down here in Cullman County, Alabama. This year marked my fifth race since 2005, and each year just keeps gettin' better. The MFCKR is part of a three-series tournament for the Alabama Cup. Each Alabama Cup race occurs on a separate weekend during February and March with the other two races held just minutes away at the Locust Fork of the Warrior River. Separate classes from OC-2 to K-1 and even a head-to-head boatercross are sure to make a great weekend of competition no matter what type of craft you’re paddling. The rapids may be II-II+ but the slalom and downriver portions of the competition are always challenging. Not to mention, the Boatercross and the new King of the Hole comps are the weekend show-stoppers. In my opinion, this is the perfect event for paddlers of all abilities—whether you’re novice or advanced.

On a side-note, the last Alabama Cup race will be at the Locust Fork as part of the Alabama Mountain Games (formerly NAWFest) on March 18-21. Check out these links for more info about the mountain games as well as pictures and race results from this past weekend:

Here are some cool photos shot by fellow Bama boy Tony Diliberto and Bama gal Christina Metcalf:

Boatercross Comp. Photo by Christina Metcalf.

Boatercross Comp. Photo by Christina Metcalf.

Troy Biggs in the OC-1 comp. Photo by Christina Metcalf.

Luke, Zach and Vander discussing gate set-up the weekend before the race. Wouldn't be possible without the hard work of these guys and other volunteers. Photo by Tony Diliberto.

Dooley Tombras attaining with focus. Photo by Christina Metcalf.

Charlie Simmons rocking the stand-up board. I believe next year calls for a SUP class! Photo by Christina Metcalf.

Charlie Mix during one of his chamapionship laps. Photo by Christina Metcalf.

The first ever King of the Hole comp brought to you by TeamScum. Photo by Tony Diliberto.

The hole comp definitely got messy. Photo by Tony Diliberto.

Photo by Tony Diliberto.

Tyler having a blast with Zach and I dueling in the background. Photo by Tony Diliberto.

One word: Classic. Photo by Tony Diliberto.

Nothing but smiles all weekend long. Photo by Tony Diliberto of Mike Shales.

Late night fire. Photo by Tony Diliberto.

See ya'll at the Mountain Games in two weeks!!

Jordan Sherman