Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Elk River, Fernie BC - 8 rivers in 8 days part II

Leap of Faith Falls, Elk River, BC

The second part of our trip to BC found us being enticed further and further from our plan of going to Squamish. Hanging out with Tarquino in Golden, we heard that the Toby river was at a good level, and was a classic that we shouldn't miss. It lived up to it's promise: amazing scenery and great rapids. Unfortunately, we were too busy paddling the rapids, figuring out the tricky portage, and checking out the wild scenery to take any pictures! The Toby changes from an alpine setting, to tiny slot canyons, to southwestern style hoodoos in just 10 miles. They call it the 7 canyons run, but they must've been counting in metric, 'cause we thought there were more than that!

Glen dropping in

We we're lucky enough to catch up with Jamie and Val as they were setting shuttle for the Toby, and had a great day paddling with them. Their buddies Glen and Bryce joined us for day two, and then they all said, "well if you're this close you might as well come on down to the Elk as well."

Bryce in the canyon approaching the falls

So with Squamish and coastal BC getting ever farther away, we headed down to just outside of Fernie to get on the Leap of Faith section of the Elk.

Darcy making the falls look tall

The Elk is a classic, with reliable dam release water letting you paddle at least some sections all summer long. The canyon has beautiful, super committing steep walls, and the river is a real juxtaposition from the hydro/logging industry that's all over the banks on top. In fact, you have to tread lightly between keep out/no trespassing signs to get in and out of the river.

Don putting his head in the water so he doesn't have to see the landing

The adrenaline start to the Middle Elk is to seal launch in right above Leap of Faith. Again, it may be a conversion problem, but I think it's a bit taller than the 40 feet that people say it is. But it's beautifully shaped, and has a great landing. The entire setting is super cool: a tight slot canyon feeds out into a huge amphitheater-like plunge pool. It's a lot like Pusuno Falls in Ecuador, but on a larger scale.

Below the falls, entering the Middle Elk

It was a rare treat to paddle with four boaters who all knew the lines, so Darcy and I got to kick back and be guided. It was pretty sweet.

Tarquino and Darcy on the Kicking Horse

Our plan was to see Tarquino again and retrace our steps back through Revelstoke to Whistler, but Google Maps said the fastest way from Fernie to Whistler was via the US, I-90 and Seattle! So we dropped down into Montana, got to turn the data back on our smart phones, and are heading the fast (and cheaper gas) way to Vancouver.

This trip has already been all about Plan B, but now we think we'll actually make it to Squamish. More to come when we get there!

Thanks to Glen Carpenter for the photos of Darcy and I going over the falls. Great boating with all you folks we met up with in BC.

Another Plan B

Monday, August 29, 2011

8 rivers in 8 days: Big Silver and Revelstoke, BC

The put-in falls, or as we called it "the falls above the put-in."

We just got off to a great start on our "Canadian Tour" 8 rivers in 8 days in BC. It was a lot like our trips in Ecuador, where we normally get 7 rivers in 7 days, only in Ecuador, there's a lot less driving and a lot less bugs! The mosquitoes are wicked in BC this time of year!

Clear water on Big Silver.

It was a great plan-as-you-go trip, too. We had thought to go up to the Squamish/Whistler area, but thought that the weather and water weren't going to be quite right. So we talked to some friends, looked at some maps, and decided to start out with the Big Silver River up north of the town of Harrison Hot Springs, then head over to Revelstoke for some creeks that we thought would be the right level there. We met up with Sam, Bear and John - fellow Americans on the plan B route - and had a great time.

Big Silver, tight canyon.

The Big Silver was beautiful and felt very remote - two hours of dirt road to get to the put-in. And as our friend and SWA guide Chris Tretwold says, home to some of the longest and prettiest slot canyons in BC.

Another tight canyon on the Big Silver

The Big Silver has a great class 4-5 upper section, a class 5 middle section, and a scenic class 2-3 roadside bottom section. The beta we got warned us to hike out of the upper section before the 3rd tight canyon. It was late in the day and the canyon entrance looked cool yet formidable, so we followed the advice we were given. I still don't know what awaits in the 3rd canyon...

For more information on the Big Silver, check out Chris' full report at: Bellingham Whitewater

Sam on the Jordan River, just outside Revelstoke.

We wanted to get to the Revelstoke area because we heard the water was good and dropping there.

We had great flows on the Perry, Jordan and Illecillewaet, and got to hang out in Revelstoke for a couple days while boating those. (sorry, no photos of the Perry and Illi Box Canyon).

Darcy on the Jordan.

While there we got the rare (to me at least) treat of riding a freshwater ferry. The road from Revelstoke to Nakusp crosses the Columbia River at Upper Arrow Lake, and there's a ferry crossing there. We had great weather and the scenery was incredible.

Little boats riding on big boats.
BC has freshwater ferries, too.

The water was lower on the Kuskanax than we had hoped for, but the ferry and drive to the river was half the fun.

Don on the Kuskanax. Sweet drop. And drytop.

We then got into a funny bit of navigating. Bear and the boys had to get back to the US via vancouver, and we wanted to visit fellow SWA guide Tarquino while he's working over in Golden, so we parted ways and Darcy and I headed over Rogers Pass to spend some time paddling and speaking Spanish. Tarquino has come a long way from the rivers around his home in Ecuador. I can't believe he paddles in water as cold as the Kicking Horse!

Once we were in Golden, then it was only a couple hours south to the Toby river, then just a couple hours south to the Elk... but that's a story for the next blog.

To be continued...

It's easy to get lost in the whitewater in BC.
Here's Bear on the Jordan.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Ecuador Article in Kayak Session

Would you like to read more about kayaking in Ecuador and the incredible amount of paddling in just one province? Darcy wrote an article about it in Kayak Session that came out in May, issue #38. If you have not seen it and want to you can order it at

Darcy has detailed out what has made Ecuador a top international paddling destination; the huge amount of quality whitewater so close together on the eastern flanks of the Andes. I have been kayaking in Ecuador for 19 consecutive seasons and even I learned a lot from this article and got excited to head back down. The province of Napo must have more miles of kayaking than almost any other similar size state or province in the world. If you don't believe it check out the statistics in the article and you will be convinced. Better yet, if you want to sample the best of this whitewater book a trip this November with SWA.

There are some great photos taken by Chris Emerick in the article as well. Although Chris is better know as a action video film maker he shoots lots of still photos as well and he spent a week last February in Ecuador with SWA shooting. You can see more of his photography at

Darcy ready for Ecuador

Friday, August 12, 2011

Brown Bagging it with Skookum Sails

 August 15th Giveaway, the goods just keep on coming!

(Darcy and Bill enjoying some beautiful scenery on Slab Creek in CA)
The Small World Adventures summer contest continues and we have more awesome prizes to give to you.
On the 15th, we'll give away a Snap Dragon Spray Skirt, a Sweet Hoodie, a few copies of the film Wildwater and, debuting on the market this summer, a "Brown Bag" by Skookum Sails in Bellingham, WA.

 (Skookum Sail's new "Brown Bag.")

Yes, this bag is literally brown!  The bottom and sides are made of tough, brown vinyl material and the top is made of mesh to let your stinky gear air out.  The durable material will hold up to even the toughest gear-stuffers!  The bag is nice and big to accommodate all your kit.  A handy side pocket for small items like watches and wallets will help you keep your S$%T together while on the river.

 (Don stoked to have on his Snap Dragon skirt with implosion bar on Hood River's back yard runs)

Whether you are running big waterfalls, or just getting into the sport, Snap Dragon makes a perfect skirt for you--especially perfect if you happen to be our winner next week:)   They offer a wide variety of skirts to fit the needs of all kayakers, from beginner to advanced.  And, nothing like slipping into a Sweet cotton Hoodie after a day on the river.  If that doesn't make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, I don't know what will!  Then, grab yourself a beer and plop your butt on the couch to enjoy Forge Motion Picture's film Wildwater.  This beautifully shot piece delves into the meaning of kayaking for some of the sport's most passionate kayakers.

 (Don can even fit all his stuff into the Brown Bag, so you know it's the real deal)
Our friends and Small World guides, Chris and Hilary started Skookum Sails in Bellingham a few years ago.  In addition to repairing sails, they've started making accessories for kayakers as well.  If you want something custom made, hit them up.  Those 2 are super handy with the sewing machine and can do just about anything you ask.

(Remember our motto, "what's wrong with just fun."  And gear!  Don't forget to enter to win)

Monday, August 08, 2011

Looking back to some old boating adventures to find inspiration for new fun!

 After a 3-week hiatus from kayaking, Don and I are back!  
As a farewell to Idaho, we got in a few more runs on the North Fork Payette and now we are headed towards the Pacific Northwest.  1st stop, Hood River to see some friends, then Seattle, and eventually up to British Columbia to take advantage of the still-huge snowpack in the Whistler area.
(Darcy below Rattlesnake on the Royal Gorge, CA 2009)

But, since we don't have any new kayaking photos from the past few weeks, I thought I throw up a few from years past.  It seemed like a good time to reflect a little on some of our past adventures in order to create new energy for our future journeys.  So enjoy!

(Don and and Tim in Commitment Canyon on the Ashlu River--pre dam, 2008)

For the past few years, Don and I have been able to dedicate a good portion of our US time to our passion--kayaking.  Without a mortgage, car payments, or lavish eating habits, we've been able to save our money to travel and kayak during our off season from Ecuador.  (Larry doesn't have it too bad either guiding in the Grand Canyon during the summers, but hey, work is work)!    Looking through our old photos, I feel fortunate that we've been able to see so many beautiful places from our kayaks.
(Jason, Lana, and Don setting up the rappel down "Final Falls" on the Salmon River Gorge 2007)

People often ask, "when are you going to get serious, get real jobs and settle down?"  I guess I've always known this, but have recently reconstituted my belief that life is too short to worry about what society wants us to do.  So, damn it, we are going to live how we want to live while we can!  When we don't feel like kayaking and traveling anymore, then we'll get serious, get real jobs and settle down.  But for now, those things just don't suit us.  

Oh, and by the way, kayaking guiding in Ecuador is a real job!

(Don and Darcy scouting one of the many ominous gorges on Fantasy Falls, CA 2009)

(Descending down into the Cofanes River Valley, Sucumbios Province Ecuador.  Cayembe rises above the clouds in the background, and there is amazing rainforest as far as we could see.  Yet another incredible place we were lucky enough to visit, 2010).

(Don soaking in the scenery on the Cofanes River below it's confluence with the El Dorado. 2010). 
So, for now, we've contented ourselves to be kayakers in search of extraordinary places.  We aren't the best or most bad ass kayakers in the world; you won't see us hucking 100-foot waterfalls or developing new big wave moves.  We are just regular ol' boaters who happen to have structured our lives around the sport.  Hopefully our adventures will inspire all the other "normal" kayakers out there to get out every chance you get because, eventually, those chances won't be there for you.

(Darcy learning to back stab on Diagonal Ledges Wave Lower Gauley West Virginia.  2006)

So, whatever it is that makes you "tick" whether that be kayaking, skiing, your kids, good music, etc...make sure you soak it in as much as you can!  Always remember to work hard for what you want and have some fun while you're at it.

(The Small World Adventures gang "chillin" at our riverside lodge.  Darcy, Tarquino, Don and Larry are all getting excited about returning to Ecuador.  Life is pretty darn good down there, and we hope you can come experience it with us, if only for 1 week)