Today is our six month anniversary of this amazing journey. In June we sold our home in Lafayette and either sold or put into storage most of our non essential belongings. We bought a 24 foot Winnebago View RV with an enclosed trailer to haul boats and gear and hit the road full time in search of flowing water and great adventures. We headed west to Huntington Beach, CA for a photo-shoot and spent a few days kayak surfing in the Pacific. Next, we spent a week climbing and paddling in California in one of their worst drought years in history. Thanks to the SF of the American River there was a steady release and great whitewater.
From there we went on to one of our favorite paddling states, Idaho. We spent two weeks paddling around Cascade on the Payette River. This area has classic runs from great class III kids sections on the Main Payette to one of my favorites on the Lower 5 of the North Fork of the Payette. We based out of Kelly’s Whitewater park right in the center of town. This is the best whitewater park we have ever seen, with something for everyone. If you like to play boat Kelly’s has it all and then some. Free Wifi over the whole grounds, golf course grass and some of the most friendly locals. After two+ weeks we headed to Jackson Hole Wy for our annual paddle down Alpine Canyon on the Snake River with Abby and I in the Dynamic Duo and Kathy leading in her own boat. This is a great run that we try to always do when in the area. We begrudgingly left WY as we had to be back in Colorado for a series of photo-shoots.
It felt odd to return to home to Colorado without a home to return to. We spent a great weekend on the Poudre River with some CW friends. Then moved into the Golden RV park while we worked and paddled at the Golden WW park everyday. Water was getting low but it was amazing having a place I considered my home play park truly right outside my front door for the first time.
Colorado was drying up, which is normally a sad time of year for me as paddling options decline. We finished our work and drove straight to the Ottawa River in Ontario, Canada with one stop at Niagara falls on the way. The Ottawa was amazing, aye. Bathtub warm water with huge waves and powerful surf features. I’d heard stories about this amazing river and it lived up to them all. We spent three weeks paddling with the Jackson family and many other friends from all over the world. The Ottawa is one of the places people with serious kayaking habits spend their Augusts when many other rivers are running low. I got the tour of The middle Channel from James McBeath a long time Ottawa Valley paddler. Eric Jackson gave me a tour of the main channel the next day. EJ gave me a new perspective on what is surfable and proved to me that I can paddle into huge holes in a play boat and have a very fun time. We surfed every feature on the river including Phil’s Hole and Big Kahuna in the Coliseum. These are two very big and rowdy holes, ones I would have paddled around in the past. I learned that the way to become a better boater it to paddle every feature many times until they are familiar and comfortable then you will have a newly calibrated base to tackle the next hard feature. We paddled into huge whirlpools and competed with mystery moves in play boats in giant pour over holes trying to get our whole boats sucked underwater for the most time. The Jacksons know how to have a great time on the river while pushing all sorts of boundaries in the process.
From the Ottawa we went to New York City. Abby wanted to see the Big Apple so we spent a few days being tourists. One afternoon while looking at the Statue of Liberty we decided that we needed to paddle out for a better look. Launching in Jersey City, we toured the Hudson River on what quickly became our favorite part of our visit to NYC. It’s a truly unique perspective bobbing around on the waves with huge container ships creeping by, all the while taking in the New York skyline.
Leaving NYC we went down to DC to be tourists again for a few days before Gauley Fest. Out of all the eastern rivers I’d heard of, Gauley was the most famous known for huge rapids, deadly undercuts and some of the best down-river play-boating anywhere. Meeting up with Clay Wright and Stephen Wright for my first run down the Upper Gauley I was in for an epic tour. These two knew every wave, hole and slot line on the river. It was exciting paddling up to horizon lines with a “slot” or crack in the bedrock forming a micro river just wide enough for a single boat to go through. Some of these had sharp bends in the slot requiring a tight turn, while others ended in 4-6 foot waterfalls. In the coming days, we ran all of the Gauley river multiple times. On Saturday night the Festival grounds turned into blend of rowdy music festival flanked with multiple kayak shops set up under huge tents. From the top of the Jackson Kayak RV it rained teeshirts, hats and sponges with a number that would win you one of three free boats being given away. This party went on well past midnight when I turned in as paddling was more my priority than partying.
After a quick trip to Colorado to do some photography work we raced east again to Rock Island, TN where we gave a presentation to many of the Jackson Kayak dealers at the Jackson Dealer Summit. Our presentation featured family paddling adventures and shared ideas on building a community of family and children kayakers. Much of what we spoke about was the Colorado Whitewater kids team and the Lyons Kids Kayak Club that we have been very active with for the past four years. We inspired many kayak shops across the country to increase their offerings to cater to kids paddling through classes and trips focused on this cause.
After the Dealer Summit we stayed at Rock Island to paddle with the Jackson family on their home rivers and photograph many of the new 2015 boats at the Jackson Factory. This part of Tennessee offers great paddling. After a rain event I had the opportunity to paddle “The Spout” a 20 foot waterfall that comes in when the dam is releasing at Rock Island. With EJ, Nick Troutman and Alec Voorhees we lapped this again and again.
Then we were off to the Nantahala River and the NOC for a few weeks of paddling the Nantahala Gorge and play boating in the NOC hole. The NOC might be one of the best places to learn to kayak. Not just because of their world class instructors but the river is perfect for learning with miles of easy rapids full of many hard but safe lines you can find if you look carefully.
In nearly November, we headed to Asheville, NC for the famous Green River Narrows Race. Its called the Greatest Show in all of Sports and it lived up to this description. It’s amazing no one got hurt as I saw dozens of botched lines off Gorilla: a 20+ fool waterfall into a slot. It was great to get to paddle in with Clay Wright as he knows the Green better than most. I can see why this is a SE classic.
We then went Thanksgiving in Gulf Shores, Alabama and luckily hit a few days of good swell. The Gulf doesn’t give up good waves that regularly, but we had three days of waist to shoulder high sets. Sharing a surf with a dolphin was a new experience for me and was fun once I realized the dorsal fin charging at me was attached to a dolphin instead of a shark.
Today we are in Columbus, GA on the Chattahoochee River at the southernmost whitewater park in the east. I’ve been paddling the last 5 days here on huge waves in a distinctly urban area. There are many features but “Good Wave” is a 6 foot super fast wave that is 40 feet wide. Any wave trick can be done on it. Columbus is very boater friendly and clean and in the winter 75 degree days are common with 8000 CFS releases from the dam above. In fact we are parked in the RV on a city street right next to the river and the Mayor came down to welcome us telling us to stay as long as we wanted. Columbus also has a free kayak shuttle bus system taking kayakers to float the ten miles of class III above the city back down to the whitewater park.
It’s been an amazing year for us and we are only half way through this journey. Lots more adventures are planned for 2015 and we are looking forward to being back in Colorado for the runoff in May and June. I’d encourage anyone to get out and live your dreams. There are so many amazing things to experience just in the eastern US. If you want to extend your paddling season there is year round opportunities. Life is shorter than any of us realize. Get out there and do that thing that you have always wanted to do.