Monday, June 25, 2012

Kayaking in the Alps part Uno


Darcy dropping into to the 3rd drop of the 3 Stufes on the Medelser Rhein in Switzerland

It has been very difficult to keep up with the blog here in the Alps. In these small villages we have been traveling through, the people are much more concerned with their stone architecture, their wine and their pizzas than they are with wifi. Honestly, I can't say that I blame them!

And for us it has just meant that we have had to spend more time kayaking and less time sitting in front of computers. But alas, we are now in Campertagno, Italy at a campground with wifi and it is time to get to work!

By the way, if you ever come to Val Sesia, Italy to go kayaking, stay at il Gatto e la Volpe Campground. This place rocks. It is kayaker friendly, has a bar with the best ambiance I've ever experienced, a pizzaria, hot showers, and a great location (oh, and super friendly owners).

Yes! Now we feel like we are kayaking in the Alps--view from the put in of our 1st river in Switzerland.

But our blogging woes weren't yet solved as we learned that the bleeping iPad can't use the "upload" function on now we are learning how to use Blogsy and Picasa and are trying to navigate the 67 steps it will now take us to upload photos. Ah, technology!

But you probably didn't open this blog to read about computer problems so let's get on with the kayaking in the Alps.

Don paddling past a very old church on the Verzesca River, Switzerland (almost Italy)--something we don't often do in North America.

Our kayaking tour of the Alps has, so far, been an amazing whirlwind tour of various countries, amazing old villages with stunning rock architecture, crazy mountain roads and fun paddling.

On day 3 of being in Europe we met up with Philip and Catherine, 2 SWA alum who currently reside in Switzerland. The took us down the Medelser Rhein which, to date, still has our favorite series of rapids in Europe, the 3 Stufes (3 steps). Then, through some serious effort and phone calls on their part, they hooked us up with a German and Swiss paddler. Philip and Catherine didn't know either of them, it was a friend of a friend of friend situation, but we ended up hooking up with these guys and having a great 8 days of paddling with them. Kayaking just works that way sometimes!

Darcy entering the "Moat" of Chateau Queyras on the River Guil in France

We have, since June 14th, paddled 13 new rivers and seen a ton of awesome scenery! We have 7 days left in the Alps before flying to Norway and we hope to see some more great rivers.

The Guil in France was one of the highlights so far. We put in just above the Chateau Queyras and paddled through the very narrow canyon that used to constitute the "natural moat" to defend the castle on one side. It was a 500 meter long canyon, not too hard of whitewater, but fun and fast! All the while we tried to think of what life must have been like when that river canyon offered up a more or less impenatrable barrier to their castle.

Don halfway through the "California Section" on the Rovano River in Switzerland

Over the next week, Flor and Peter, our German and Swiss paddling guides led us through crazy mountain passes, back and forth between the border of Italy and Switerland (one day we even paddled from one country to the next on the Melezzo Canyon which starts in Italy and finishes in Switzerland) and all and all gave us a sweet tour of Alps paddling. They taught us what "creeking" means in the Alps which is VERY low volume paddling. But I can't fault them, as many rivers we paddled went through gorges no wider than a paddle length (in fact, at one point while taking photos that didn't turn out I had my paddle across my lap and got "pinned" by the canyon walls. Luckily is was just flatwater in there). In many of those places, you don't want much water!

Monte Blanc, the highest peak in Europe (please note the crane on the right side of the photo...I've never seen more cranes in my life than they have in Europe, and in Italy in particular. You can hardly open your eyes here without seeing at least 2 cranes)

They also took us to the Dora Baltea river which flows from the glaciers on Monte Blanc (or Monte Bianco in Italian). It is a cold, fast and furious river, one of few with actual volume that we paddled, and reminded us of a shorter and easier North Fork Payette with a few wiers and dams thrown in the mix. We camped at a rafting base there just feet from the cold river feeling its mist and hearing its roar all night long. After going to sleep in the rain, we woke up to find clear skies and a stunning view of the mountian looming over the river valley. The vistas here continue to impress us; and we've seen a lot of pretty places in our travels so that is definitely saying something!

Don enjoying incredible geology--what the Alps does best--on the Verzesca River

They also taught us to drink warm German beer at the take out when you have no cooler. Now, this really was a hard one for Don to swallow--literally--but in the end we had a nice "Prost" with the warm beers.

Darcy on the Guil Gorge below the dam and normal take out

After paddling the Guil River in France from the Chateau Queyras down to the lake, we were driving to our next camp on the Ubaye River when the boyz noticed that there was more water than normal in the gorge below the dam on the Guil. So we hiked on in to check it out. There were a few fun rapids down there and 1 portage and some great scenery. A great bonus round to the already fun day.

Don in "the moat"

So far we've had a great trip! It's the first time to Europe for both of us and we are seeing a lot of new territory.

Part due coming soon! Hopefully we will find internet again soon before too long...

In the meantime, don't forget to sign up for our summer contest if you haven't yet. We continue to give away awesome prizes every 2 weeks! What's left?

--1 week of kayaking in Ecuador with SWA

--Jackson Zen

--Werner Paddle

--Sweet helmet, Shambala pants and Prodigy boating fleece

--2 dry tops from Immersion Research

--Spray skirt from Snap Dragon

--Smith sunglasses

--Dry bags from Sea to Summit

--1 year subscriptions to Kayak Session Magazine

--Copeis of Wildwater from Forge Motion Pictures

So, get off your butt and sign up now! Small World Adventures

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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Opal Creek, Oregon. Small World Alumni Reunion

Michael staying focused on a tricky lead in above a juicy hole

Ah yes, just over 1 month behind in the ol' blogging world.  But, better late than never!  Back in April of 2012, Don and I joined up with a crew from Portland to have an Ecuador reunion paddle on one of their favorite backyard runs--Opal Creek.

Megi (representing Newport) running a sweet slot just below "Big Ugly"

Opal Creek is actually the Little North Santiam River, and is an incredibly beautiful run.  Reportedly, this is one of very few drainages in Oregon that has not been logged.  Consequently, the soil and nearby forests are still in tact and when this run is flowing its waters are crystal clear.

David styling the line at Thor while Joey looks on capturing it all on GoPro
Since the river was flowing at ideal flows (ok, maybe a schmigen higher than ideal), Michael and Shannan rallied a crew from Portland and Newport; all but two of whom had been kayaking with us in Ecuador this past winter.
Darcy, just a blur, since she is going so damn fast in her Zen

We had sunshine, 80 degree weather, beautiful water, fun rapids, and a great crew.  You really can't ask for a better day of paddling than that, now can you?

The gang enjoying sunshine and clear water!  From left to right it's: Darcy, Craig, Joey, Shannon, Michael

I've tried to do my best to get the names of the rapids right, but those of you who know better, please feel free to correct me if I've messed them up!  You can also check out Joey's Video of the day to see some more action.

Craig boofs his way towards a cold take out beer as Darcy and Joey look on

In other news, Small World's Summer Gear Giveaway is still on.  We are giving away kayaking gear and goodies every 2 weeks through October, and the prizes are just going to keep on getting bigger!

Joey--da boof!  I can't remember the name of this rapid...

On June 15th, 4 lucky people will each win one of the following prizes: 1.) a spray skirt (Whitewater EXP)  from Snap Dragon Designs, 2.)  a Thin Skin from Immersion Research, 3.)  a one year subscription to Kayak Session Magazine, 4.) a copy of Wildwater from Forge Motion Pictures.

Shannon dropping into Thor.  You can see Thor's hammer in the background

So, enter now!  To enter, go to Small World's website.  Go ahead and read through our homepage because you are going to need that information to answer a few easy questions.  Then click the "win" link.  Answer the questions, hit submit, and then kick back, relax and wait to see if you've won.  You can keep tabs on us and the contest via our Facebook Page as well.

The gang at the take out celebrating a successful day: Shannon, Michael, Darcy, David, Joey, Don, Megi, Craig

Thanks to the Portland/Newport crew for an awesome day on the river.  I think many of you are coming back to Ecuador this winter so that we can have many more incredible days of boating together.  In the meantime, happy paddling and safe travels to all!