Oct 23 | South Fork Salmon SUP

by Will Stauffer-Norris

7196Choosing a SUP for a late-season, low-water trip down the South Fork Salmon proves a challenging, rewarding and educational experience for Duct Tape Diaries contributor Will Stauffer-Norris.

 

Standing hip deep in the South Fork of the Salmon River, I looked at the SUP pinned on a rock, mostly underwater, paddle missing, daylight running out.

Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.

I’d kayaked the South Fork several times at high water, when the river is big and challenging, but I’d heard it was just a relaxed ducky trip at 1.9 feet on the gauge. I convinced my dad—a rafter, not a kayaker—that he could manage the run in his inflatable kayak. I thought about paddling a hardshell, then decided it wouldn’t be much fun at these flows. But what about a SUP?

fall creek rapid-001

On Saturday of Labor Day weekend, my dad and I, along with Boise friends Bill and Tony, drove from McCall over Lick Creek Pass to the put-in, where the Secesh meets the South Fork. Even in a state known for its remote wilderness rivers, the South Fork is special. Due to its challenging rapids, far fewer people float it than the Middle Fork, Main or Lower sections of the Salmon. Some estimates put the numbers at only a few hundred per year. Even on the busy holiday weekend, we were the only paddlers at the put-in.

I strapped three small drybags on the deck of my Baron 4, pawned off my pump and breakdown paddle on my dad, then launched on the river with fingers crossed that my setup would work. We floated through the spectacular South Fork canyon. Standing up on the river provided a unique perspective. Gin-clear water slid past beneath my feet. I watched trout and whitefish slip between scoured granite boulders. The Class II and III rapids we encountered proved challenging on the loaded board, but the river moved slowly enough to remain manageable.

devils creek rapid-001

After a few hours of paddling we arrived at Devil’s Creek, the first big rapid of the run. I confidently identified my line after a long scout, then immediately fell off the board upon entering the rapid. I managed to claw my way into an eddy and got things together just in time to eat it again on the second half of the rapid. This could be a long river trip, I worried.

A maze of relatively steep rapids followed Devil’s Creek, demanding my constant attention. Confession: I hadn’t done too much stand up paddling before this trip, much less with a loaded SUP, but I figured I could fake it using kayaking techniques. I also had another advantage—I had just finished shooting a series of whitewater SUP videos with NRS SUP athlete Nikki Gregg (shameless plug, premiering soon at nrs.com).  I’d listened to Nikki repeating the same instructions about a thousand times while editing the videos, so ethereal snippets of her coaching floated through my head. Get in the crouching tiger stance. Take a knee if necessary. Use a low brace.

mule kick rapid (bill larkin photo)

But Nikki’s advice could only take me so far. By far the most difficult challenge was avoiding rocks—when I hit a rock, the board would stop, but I would keep going. By halfway through the first day I had broken two small fins by dragging them over too many rocks. Finally I gave up on using fins, deciding it was better to sacrifice tracking for the ability to slide over rocks. Anyway, there weren’t many opportunities to go straight since there was always a rock to avoid downstream.

By the time we reached our first camp, I was convinced that, while this wasn’t a super dangerous idea, it wasn’t a super good idea either.

Camping along the South Fork.

On the second morning, I made some changes. I strapped my dry bags together more securely. I shortened the paddle to make it easier to switch sides and make quick strokes. I inflated the board to its maximum recommended pressure, 15 psi. And I decided that strategic kneeling would be key.

Many rapids on the South Fork are so long that falling off can put you in a bad situation; taking a knee on the steeper drops helped increase my stability, allowing me to stay on the board and maneuver to the next spot. I also started proactively high-siding when I hit rocks sideways to help keep the board from pinning.

unnamed rapid (bill larkin photo)

I’m not sure if it was improved technique, increased flows, or just the fact that the canyon had narrowed and the rapids were cleaner, but I starting having fun and even running some rapids with style and grace.  Of course, I still got worked quite often, but I found I could stand up through some of the bigger features. While a few standout rapids proved more difficult, almost all of the in-between rapids were challenging enough to be exciting, but not so steep that I got out of control. The South Fork doesn’t have much flatwater, so I had to maneuver constantly, even in the mellower sections.

After a second night on the river, we floated out to the confluence with the main Salmon to start our 20+ mile flatwater paddle to the takeout. Luckily, I had a secret weapon—a 9” fin hidden in my dry bag. With the fin installed, the board tracked straight instead of turning with every stroke. I took five hours to paddle out, riding on roughly 4,700 cfs. Trying to keep pace with the kayaks was not an easy task, and Chittam Rapid, just above the take-out, was a welcome sight.

In the end, I concluded that 90% of the South Salmon (at low water) is high-quality, manageable fun on a SUP. The other 10%, you’d better just hold on and try not to wreck yourself on the Idaho granite.

Oct 17 | A Summer in the Arctic: Canoeing the Back River

by Erin Clancey

ErinErin Clancey reports on the challenges and rewards of canoeing 518 miles down the Back River through the harsh and spectacular northern Canadian tundra.

 

It’s day seventeen of our trip down the Back River in the Canadian Arctic. We’ve just crossed from Garry Lake into Buliard Lake. It’s “hot”—64 degrees Fahrenheit—and calm. The bugs have really stepped it up. Even the animals can’t stand them. Wolves blink, pace and shake. Caribou run in frenzied circles.  We paddle in bug jackets and face nets. It’s always harsh up here. It’s either cold or windy or buggy.

We’ve been canoeing the big lakes for six days. They just seem to go on forever with no sign of our destination or the opposite shore. And we are hungry! I can see Scott’s ribs.

How did I end up devoting my summer to canoeing down this deranged river—a river that hasn’t even cut its own channel, but that wanders instead from lake to lake through endless miles of Arctic wilderness?

Taking a break on Lower MacDougall Lake

Taking a break on Lower MacDougall Lake.

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Oct 15 | Nobody’s River Film Bonus Footage: The Aussie Super Power

by NRS Staff

“I love, love adventure.”

Krystle Wright spends the majority of her days traveling the world as an expedition photographer. An itinerant adventure seeker, Krystle found her way to Mongolia and the Russian Far East with the Nobody’s River team last year. But no matter where she is, make no mistake: She’s an Aussie through and through, and behind that beautiful smile and sassy hair flip, lies a plethora of four-letter words just waiting to be dropped. The team calls her their Australian Super Power.

The Nobody’s River team recently returned from the European premiere at the European Outdoor Film Tour. Next up: Banff Mountain Film Festival in November.

Keep an eye out for more outtakes in the coming weeks!

Oct 10 | Change in the Weather: A Historic Season on the Stikine

by Darin McQuoid

Darin_McQuoid_4British Columbia’s Grand Canyon of the Stikine has long been a proving ground for elite kayakers.  In 2014, more paddlers ran more rapids on the Stikine than ever before, marking a new progression in the sport and reshaping the BC whitewater scene. Duct Tape Diaries contributor Darin McQuoid reports.

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Rok Sribar runs V-Drive on the Stikine.

Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative. ―Oscar Wilde

British Columbia, kayaking and the weather. You and me and the devil makes three.

One can’t discuss BC paddling without talking about the weather. I’d swear that river grades can go up or down a level due to weather. An exhilarating, easy V in the warm sun becomes a menacing horizon of survival in frigid temperatures. At least that’s what it feels like.

There’s no such thing as bad weather, just soft people. —Bill Bowerman

This might be the best motivational statement for paddling in BC. The farther north you go, the more unreliable the weather gets. Liquid sunshine will be experienced. The Stikine is notoriously cold. The air temperature. The glacial water. The deep canyon. This is literally the river that caused drysuits to be invented. Continue reading

Oct 3 | Finding Water Everywhere in Kauai

by Adam Mills Elliott

Water is a constant theme in the lives of NRS ambassadors Adam Elliott and Susan Hollingsworth Elliott. When the self-described river rats went to Hawaii last spring, they left their boats behind but found plenty of watery recreation waiting for them on Kauai.

Last March, three generations of desert river-rats spent a good chunk of March in Kauai. Susan and I joined my sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces, family friends, and Dad’s girlfriend, to celebrate my Dad’s 70th birthday. Happy birthday, Dad! (Rob Elliott, “Pop-pop”, patriarch and star in Of Souls and Water, “The Elder”.)

For a small island, Kauai has a significant variety of climate and landscape. We spent our time hiking inland, along the coast, swimming with turtles, boogie-boarding and sun-bathing. To be able to do this with family and friends was a treat. However, we also made sure to budget in some extra time for just the two of us. It is no surprise that we found water everywhere; we began our three week vacation with a two day hike to possibly the wettest place on earth.

Taking a break from the relentless rain on the center of the island to check our progress toward camp. Not even five miles in and our rain jackets were fully tested and proven dry.

Taking a break from the relentless rain on the center of the island to check our progress toward camp. Not even five miles in and our Sea Tour jackets were fully tested and proven dry.

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Sep 24 | Nobody’s River Film Bonus Footage: The Elusive Amur Leopard

by NRS Staff

When most people think of leopards, they think of the big cats that roam the savannas and jungles of Africa, but a rare subspecies lives in the forests and wildlands of Mongolia and the Russian Far East. These Amur leopards can run up to 9 miles per hour, leap nearly 12 inches in the air, wear sunglasses to ward off the scorching Russian sun—and have a strong affinity for skin-tight onesies and disco.

While paddling the Amur River last year, the Nobody’s River team came across two Australian biologists, Jimbo and Basur, tracking these elusive creatures…

“Oh crikey! Do you see the claws on that shiela?”

NRS is proud to announce that Nobody’s River will have its European premiere in October on the European Outdoor Film Tour.

Keep an eye out for more Nobody’s River outtakes in the coming weeks! G’day!

Sep 19 | The Tatshenshini-Alsek Rivers: SOS and Eyegasms Galore

by Clyde Nicely

Walker Lake Panorama

A dozen or more glaciers in view. Doing 9 mph against a 20 mph upstream wind. Being rocked to sleep alongside a creek by boulders rolling down its bed. Rowing among icebergs. Waking to an earthquake tremor. Starting every side hike with “Who’s got the bear spray?” Making cocktails with centuries-old ice.

I give you the Tatshenshini-Alsek. Continue reading