Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Solar Eclipse on Fantasy Falls, CA

 Darcy dropping into the actual Fantasy Falls
Last weekend Don and I met up with an awesome crew which consisted of Macy, David, Chris and Nathan.  We headed for the Fantasy Falls run on the North Mokelumne River.

Don running a tricky falls on day 1.  It was hard to avoid the right wall at the bottom, but both he and David made it look good!

We spent 2 nights and 3 days on this beautiful run, and as a bonus, we got to watch the solar eclipse from our 2nd camp.

Chris, looking for the tongue through a good sized hole just above camp #1 (he found it)

Fortunately for us ill-prepared types, Macy's wife--Amanda--was smart enough to send him out into the wilderness with a sweet pair of Made In China sun-watching glasses.  That way, we didn't have to totally ruin our eyes to see the eclipse.

View upstream from camp number 1.  Gotta love the California weather.  Definitely a BIG change from the 48 degrees and raining that we experienced on our last day of paddling in Washington!

However, due to some improper care of said glasses by a kayaker who will remain nameless, the glasses did not make it to camp 2 in mint condition.  They were full of scratches; and even though the warning label advises against using scratched glasses, we all had to take a few peaks at the unique astronomical event.  Even though we were too far south to actually see the "Ring of Fire" we did get to see about a 5/8 eclipse and it was pretty darn cool.

 Darcy dropping into the slide in "Big Boy Pants Canyon"  There is a pretty nasty hole in the middle/river right on this thing that you definitely want to avoid

Much to our delight, we all woke up the next morning still having our vision!  Bear Trap, Fantasy Falls, Island Drop and The Thing sure would have sucked had we not been able to see them!  But the lake paddle out might have been better if we couldn't see how far we still had to go...

 Don looking good and staying left on the slide

I'm not going to do a blow by blow description of this run because there is already a great one on Darin's site.  But the photos are in order of the drops so you can a good idea of things from that.  Our photos aren't quite as pretty as Darin's...we are still working on our photography skills

 Nathan avoiding the giant rooster tail at the entrance to the slide, which will also help him avoid the very sticky hole in the middle of this slide

But I will tell you that Don was super stoked to be carrying the camera!  Especially on the long portages.

Nathan on Big Boy Pants.  Sadly, I forgot to pack my Big Boy Pants so I portaged and volunteered to take photos

Macy boofing the Mushroom boof while Nathan finishes the run out

Don, Mushroom boof with sweet granite hill sides and blue sky in the background

Darcy entering the "crux" rapid of Rifleman's Gorge

David finishing the crux.  The final move around/over the rooster was pretty hard to "nail" but we all had descent lines and came through with no problems as David is doing here

The gang in the middle of Rifleman's.  Nice scenery, eh?

While you are enjoying our fine photos, I'll take a minute to remind you to sign up for SWA's summer gear giveaway.  We've only just begun to give out sweet kayaking gear so you still have the rest of the summer ahead of you to win great stuff!

Macy launching yet another sweet boof a little ways below the "I Want My Mommy Gorge"

Coming up on June 1st, you can win:  1.) A pair of Smith Sunglasses.  You'll get the Smith Tactics; with these glasses you can look cool and still get your business done!   2.)  a $50 gift certificate to Colorado Kayak Supply.  Need do to some spring shopping, this will help you out!  3.)  a 1-year subscription to Kayak Session Magazine.  Stay up to date on what's happening in the whitewater kayaking world.  4.)  a copy of Forge Motion Pictures' Wildwater--the best damn kayaking movie out there!

Macy was super pissed that we were making him take a group photo while he was watching the eclipse.  In the end, he agreed to sit with us but refused to take his eyes off the sun.

Star Gazer--oops, I mean Sun Gazer Extraordinaire, David Taylor Maurier

Day 3, after a quick portage around the "Untouchables Gorge" Macy, David and Don fired up Bear Trap.  Here's Macy boofing the crux hole just before charging to the right side of the Bear Trap feature itself.

Don about to launch over the Bear Trap.  It's a really sweet rapid!  It was especially sweet watching the boyz style it!

Chris enjoying a little air time on Fantasy Falls

Nathan, David, Macy found a natural couch for a nice lunch break below the falls

David, probing The Thing.  This photo isn't too awesome but I think you can get a sense of the complete chaos that he is dropping into

Don following on this crazy, big rapid

 Don in the middle of The Thing about to go flying down the ramp into a very sticky hole

This is all we saw of Don for the next 60 seconds or so as he battled it out with the hole at the bottom of the rapid...I'm proud to report that Don prevailed in the end and made his way out of this hole still in his boat.  It was a damn impressive ride!

Macy, thinking that he didn't really feel like revisiting his old rodeo days decided not to try to top Don's ride

Thanks to our awesome crew for such a great trip.  I couldn't have asked for a better group of dudes to paddle with.

Who knows, if you win the Smith Glasses, you just might end up looking as cool as Darcy.  It's hard to do though, so don't get your hopes up too much!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Canyon Creek, Washington

 Andy dropping into Terminator on Canyon Creek.  The thing looks super mean from this angle!

Waaaaay back around the end of April, Don and I finally gave up on Colorado's skiing.  We gave it our best though, suffering through 3.5 weeks of skiing slush in 70 degree weather, jumping over dirt patches, all the while thinking "it's really time to go boating."

 There is a little added entertainment at the Terminator rapid.  Between watching your friends drop the rapid, you can watch strangers fling themselves off the bridge...crazy people!

So we finally packed up the truck and headed to the Pacific Northwest.  We were just in time for the Northwest Creeking Competition.  We got out to the festival, had a nice, quick run down the East Fork Lewis and then headed over to Canyon Creek to check out that gem of a run.

Don coming through the first big curler and getting ready to punch the hole at the bottom

We had run it the previous year at a somewhat ridiculous flow.  It think it was over 3,000 CFS, and while it really was an awesome day, the run didn't have the characteristic boofs and creeky feel that we'd heard about.  It just felt like a big water flush all the way through the canyon.

Jenn digging deep to ensure she doesn't get a hole ride

This year we got on a "good high" flow of about 1400 CFS.  We got our sweet boofs and defined moves and it was great.   Canyon Creek, while short, truly is an exceptional run for the Portlanders to have in their back yards.

 Andy dropping the falls.  There was a nice shoulder at this level that acted as the perfect launching pad for a sweet boof into the pool below

We were lucky enough to paddle with Jenn, Willie and Andy who had come down to Ecuador last winter.  Plus we met 3 new paddlers and all and all had a good crew.

 Willie dropping the falls.  Despite his quickly sinking Scud, he styled the run!

After Canyon Creek, we enjoyed the festivities at the NWCC and then woke up early the next morning to go paddle Opal Creek with more Ecuador alumni from the Portland area (blog on Opal coming soon)

Don and Jenn almost got the double boof timing right at Champagne and Hammering Spot
The party at NWCC was a rockin' one and so as we were packing to leave at 7:30am the next day, there weren't too many people stirring.  But the sun was shining through the thick Northwest forest and it was shaping up to be a beautiful day!

Nice morning light at the creeking comp

Now onto a little business...As hopefully most of you know by now, the Small World Adventures' summer gear giveaway is already underway for this summer.  Our next drawing is June 1st and here's what you can win: 1.) A pair of Smith Sunglasses.  You'll get the Smith Tactics; with these glasses you can look cool and still get your business done!   2.)  a $50 gift certificate to Colorado Kayak Supply.  Need do to some spring shopping, this will help you out!  3.)  a 1-year subscription to Kayak Session Magazine.  Stay up to date on what's happening in the whitewater kayaking world.  4.)  a copy of Forge Motion Pictures' Wildwater--the best damn kayaking movie out there!

 Beer wasters!  These people couldn't even finish their fine Ninkasi beer, such a shame...

So, get your entries in ASAP!  Go to our website, click the win link, fill in a few answers to easy questions and you are good to go. 

Good Luck to everyone!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Late February Ecuador Paddling

Jeff putting his big water skills into practice on a high water run of El Chaco Canyon

The last week of our season did NOT disappoint!  We finished with a bang on some nice, high levels like we had been having all season long.  And, we finished up the season just in time.  2 days after our last guests left it started raining and literally didn't stop for days--a fairly uncommon phenomenon for the "dry season" in Ecuador's Oriente (we run our trips during the "dry season" believe it or not). 

Darren enjoying the clear waters of the Rio Piatua

"Megatron" was in for 3 days straight which means the water is BIG!  Megatron  is the nickname we have for an old bridge abutment just upstream of our lodge.  Under "normal" conditions (which none of us are really sure what that is anymore) Megatron stands tall; towering above kayakers who eddy out behind it by 15 feet or more.  When the water gets really big, Megatron becomes a big stomping hole--which is saying a lot because it lays in a very wide spot in the river.  If you really want to see big water, come paddle the Quijos at Megatron levels--it's a hoot!

Ben looking small amongst the big waves and holes in "Remo Perdido" on the Rio Quijos

But anyhow, the rain and water level Gods certainly did shine upon us this winter.   I would say, and I think most kayakers who visited Ecuador this winter would agree, that it was the perfect season in terms of flows.
Heinz and Darren celebrate a pushy run down the Oyacachi with Pilsiners and cake in the town of El Chaco

After two somewhat dry years, the big, billowing clouds came in full force this year and made up for lost time.  But they dumped their rain in perfect-for-kayakers increments.  The rivers were rarely blown out and for the better part of our 4.5 month season water levels maintained at perfect medium to highish flows.  

A classic scene on the Piatua.  Clear water, gigantic boulders and lush jungle are certainly the defining characteristics of this run

Just a disclaimer, when I say "highish" that is highish from a kayaker's perspective, not from the river bed's perspective.  Even on our "high" boating days, there was still usually plenty of shoreline showing because, as it's good to remember and be humbled from time to time, what is high water for us ain't nothing for the rivers of the Amazon Basin! 

Heinz enjoying a technical day on the Rio Cosanga

So thanks to the River Gods for one my best Ecuador seasons yet!  And thanks to all the paddlers who were bad ass enough to come down and paddle well on the powerful waters of Ecuador!  And for all you sun-lovers out there, don't worry, it's plenty sunny in Ecuador.  Shorties were popular river ware all winter, and we had plenty of sun burns to boot!

Jeff getting a face full on the Bridge to Bridge section of the Quijos

Outside of my selfish kayaker's perspective on the water, it was great to see the rain forest looking happy again--afterall, rain is what is supposed to happen in the jungle.  The birds were stoked on the rain as well and were more active around our lodge than ever this season.  The high water also knocked a couple of the Coca-Coda Sinclair's new bridges off their footings which made me secretly chuckle inside--but that is a story for another blog...
 Happy Rainforest looming above El Torro rapid on the Quijos.  The sun came out just after this photo was taken and the beauty was overwhelming!  Every little water drop on every leaf in the jungle glimmered in the afternoon sunlight.   It was one of those days where I was just really thankful for my life and my job

Our last group of the season was a small group made up of Ben from Basalt, Jeff from Pennsylvania, Heinz from Austria and Darren who just wouldn't go home after his 1st week of kayaking with us and stuck around for round two.

Don, Heinz and Jeff stoked after a great run down Bridge to Bridge.  Just a few more miles of fun Class III/IV to our lodge and the beers now boys!

We all got lots of hole-dodging practice this week with higher flows on the Oyacachi River and the Bridge to Bridge section of  the Quijos.   Boofs were also plentiful on the Cosanga, Quijos and Jondachi as were a couple of awesome play spots.

Ben throwing down some Cartwheels on the Quijos

Thanks boys for a making our last trip of the season a great one!

Now we are all back in the US (well almost, Guy is currently in transit from Australia to the US).  Larry is rowing his first Grand Canyon trip of the season and Don and Darcy have just kicked off the SWA Summer Tour 2012.  We are currently in California getting back into boating mode, but stay tuned later in the summer to hear tales from Small World Adventures' European Vacation...

And if you haven't already signed up for our summer gear giveaway, do it now!  You can win awesome prizes from Jackson, Werner, Sweet Protection, Snap Dragon, Smith, Immersion Research, Forge Motion Pictures, Kayak Session Magazine, Sea to Summit and Colorado Kayak Supply.  Plus, the grand prize is a free week of kayaking in Ecuador with Small World Adventures.  Click onto our website below to sign up.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Meet Guy! He's Small World Adventures' New Owner and Guide

Guy Erb--new SWA owner extraordinaire

We are excited to introduce Guy Erb as the new owner of Small World Adventures. Guy has been messing about in boats for over thirty years and comes to us with a wealth of whitewater experience. Guy grew up on the plains of Montana playing Huck Finn on the mighty Missouri river. Switching to hard shell kayaks in the early eighties he honed his whitewater skills on the many rapids to be found below the Great Falls of the Missouri and in the many creeks coming down from the surrounding plains. During college Guy was a raft guide on the Gallatin and Madison rivers and pursued kayaking through the area scoring early runs through the Grand and Black canyons of the Yellowstone as well as the Box Canyon of the Clarks Fork Yellowstone. Despite all this fun (and what is wrong with just fun?), Guy eventually got a degree in Computer Science from Montana State in Bozeman, got a real job, but still managed to pursue his passion for boating throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Guy getting back into boating after a bit of a hiatus with a nice "warm up" on the South Yuba River in California.  There is no easing in with this boy--Purdon's all the way down to Bridgeport!

Guy has always found his greatest joy in sharing these river experiences with others. Over the years he has introduced many people to the joy of kayaking and helped them develop their skills and advance their game on the river. He is looking forward to continuing that tradition of sharing here in Ecuador where we have so many incredible rivers to experience.

Ah, the good ol' days on Kootenai Falls

Fast forward to today and Guy has come full circle. After last working as a software engineer for Apple Inc. and enjoying the rivers of California, he is now happy to be leaving the computer screen behind and joining us here in Ecuador as the new owner/intern. Small World will continue to offer the same great trips and the same insanely great guides and staff with Guy as the newest member of the team.

 Box Canyon Clark's Fork.  I can't believe that boat fit in between those tight canyon walls!

Guy has triplet sons, all twelve years old, far from identical and all aspiring kayakers. Don’t be surprised if you see them on the rivers of Ecuador in the coming years. Guy also wanted to let you know that his middle initial is 'C' and is short for Conan (as in Barbarian) and that in his spare time he enjoys writing about himself in the third person.

Cross Training in Bali
As for Small World's old owners--Larry, Don, and Darcy--we are stoked!  We are excited to see new blood and a fresh perspective come into the company.  Guy's passion for kayaking and his contagious enthusiasm about his new life in Ecuador are awesome and we know you'll love boating with him!  For now, it will be "business as usual" with the 3 of us continuing to manage daily operations while Guy gets all trained up!

Getting to know his new back yard.  Here's Guy boofing his way down the Piatua in Ecuador

Here are a few more thoughts from Larry, Darcy and Don on the sale:

Part of my personal mission statement for SWA was to someday pass it on to someone looking for the lifestyle that I have found so rewarding for my past twenty eight years of guiding.  Last season and this January, I had the opportunity to kayak and travel in Ecuador with Guy and found his enthusiasm and priorities refreshing and his commitment to quality to be in line with what we have always striven for.  I think he not only will find what he is searching for but will also be a great asset to SWA and our guests.  One other part of my mission statement is to stay guiding and paddling these rivers that I love more than any others for a long time and I am thrilled that Guy wants me here into the future.  - Larry
Larry and Small World Adventures have given me an incredible opportunity over the last 10 years and I’m very excited to continue on with Guy.  Through SWA, I’ve found a lifestyle that fits me perfectly.  The lodge is an amazing place to live, the community in Borja is warm and friendly, and the kayaking is unparalleled!  As many of my friends like to say, I’m “living the dream” and I hope to continue for a long time to come.  -Darcy  

I’ve shared Larry’s goal of making Small World Adventures a quality company, a great way of life, and something we can be proud to pass on to someone else…but I don’t want to leave yet!  Guiding trips in Ecuador is still my passion and I’m thrilled to welcome Guy to the family and to keep on working with him and SWA into the future.  Come join us and see what a great thing we’ve got going in Ecuador.  -Don
So, come see us next season in Ecuador.  You can still paddle with the "old-timers" Larry, Don and Darcy, but you can also meet Guy!

We love Ecuador and we love the lifestyle - "What’s wrong with just fun?"