Sunday, July 23, 2006

Valley Falls

This weekend was the Upper Yough race and although we didn’t intend on racing it was nice to get an extra release day on a Saturday. We weren’t particularly motivated to do a double run so we took our time instead. Sunday we finally made it to Valley Falls. Scott was determined to get 10 laps in... and so we did. For the first few i had butterflies in my stomach. I know they're all really easy drops but there is just something about a horizon line that still freaks me out a little. It is a short hike back up to run it again but ten carries was getting pretty tiring. I was wondering if i would have the energy to finish the run. We alternated running each of the drops of the two ledges. The first ledge has a 12 foot waterfall on the left and a slide on the right. The second drop consists of a main 12 foot drop with a slide next to it and the Spout off to the right. Only Scott ran the second slide as it didn't look very much fun to us. We completed our ten laps successfully and after a while the carry seemed to get easier.

It was good practice working on timing the final stroke and gauging the force needed for a good landing. Since the drops were very tall i took some good hard boof strokes a few times, landing flat. At first it felt a little akward but after a few i learned to relax and it felt much better. The landings were also nicely aerated at this level (4.5 ft). I wonder what the true max for this run should be as this did not seem very high to me at all.

After our third run or so some other people showed up. It was pretty clear from the begining that they had no idea what they were doing. They put in above the 2nd drop. One guy was in a ducky at the bottom taking pictures and ready to rescue swimmers. They were running the Spout. Mark was at the top when they started lining up to run it. The approach to the Spout is pretty obvious. A narrow channel leads you off the lip. No way to confuse that with anything else. Apparently one guy was telling the others what to do. "Go that way", he would say. "Where?", asked the first guy. "There!". This went on for a bit and apparently he just floated off with no clue. Not even paddling, just fell of the lip and immediatedly got shoved into the slightly undercut left side. I watchd as he seemed to attempt to roll but it was clear he had no idea how to and the wall was making it very difficult anyway. He swam almost immediately and his buddy in the ducky went over to rescue him. Scott helped get the boat and bailed it out for him. The next guy ran the drop and also swam. His boat got stuck against the wall for a while.

Mark and i were both rather annoyed by this whole scene. We really didn't want to spend all of our runs bailing these idiots out. The whole thing was leaving me with a bad taste. I know that Valley Falls is a relatively safe run at this level but if you have no clue what you are doing it is still very possible to get hurt. They were choosing the easiest and probably one of the safest drops at least. For the most part you can just paddle of the edge but it is wise to at least take a left stroke off the drop to angle away from that left wall. These guys had no concept of this.

Now i generally think that anyone has the right to huck themselves off of anything they want. But this was a very public place, a state park with lots of spectators. With access as fragile as it is it really pissed me off to have these yahoos there making us all look bad. Luckily i didn't see any park rangers around to witness this. Thankfully only the more skilled of the group ("skill" being a vague term) chose to do multiple runs and seemed to improve (or at least i didn't see any more swims). But their strokes and landings were akward. They flailed pathetically as they paddled away from the drops. I was amazed that they were actually landing withough flipping over each time. We were able to stay away from them for the rest of our runs and enjoyed our time.

On our last run of the falls we all went off the final drop blue angel style (though i wasn't terribly keen on the idea so i went last and left a little extra space between me and Mark).

After our tenth run of the falls we headed down to finish the run with Hamburger Helper and Twist and Shout. We scouted both since none of us had run it before. Looking at H.H. I was thinking: “There is no freaking way I’m running that thing!!” Big rock with a huge elevated pillow that you have to power over. Looks like a giant version of the mushroom at Charlie’s on the Upper Yough (except there actually is a big rock there). When you scout it though it looks like that pillow will just stop you and send you flying off (potentially backwards) off to one of the sides which were surrounded by rocks and holes. I looked at it and for the first time in a while i was genuinely scarred.

Scott went ahead and probed for us and after watching him go it seemed reasonable enough so Mark and I went for it too. It was pretty intimidating looking at it (okay I was scarred shitless!). But the run went just fine and it was actually pretty fun. As i paddled towards it the fear went away and i just focused on the moves. It was surprising how well it worked. I paddled as hard as i could into the pillow, it lifted me up and over the rock and i went off near the right. I turned around and watched as Mark came down, he chose to power more to the left and also had a good line.

We continued down and got out to look at Twist and Shout. It was pretty straight forward but did have two sieved out rooms on either side (one near the middle of the rapid on the left and another at the bottom on the right). Both were easily avoidable. Since none of us had ever run this before we weren't sure what the best way to get out was. We hadn't set shuttle and just planned on hiking back. But the railroad tracks were pretty high up at this spot. We debated what to do. Scott chose to paddle down farther (its all flatwater at that point) to the normal takeout while Mark and I decided to try to carry over the rapids and padlde the flatwater as much as we could till we found a better place to get to the tracks. The carry above T & S was a lot easier than it had looked. I found a cool little channel between the rocks to paddle up a little ways and we were able to just walk along mostly flat rocks. We got back in and paddled up the flatwater and did a little bit of an attain to within sight of H.H. At that point we couldn't attain any more (might have been able to if we weren't so tired) and had to climb back up to the railroad tracks though which was pretty tough.

Walking through the woods was fairly easy and mostly poison ivy free. But once we got up to the railroad grade things got difficult. It was rather steep and the gravel was very loose. Mark was able to get up most of the way and then a passing hiker helped him up. I tied my tether to my boat and handed it to him and we heaved everything to the top. It was tiring and precarious as we almost sent out boats and paddles flying back down to the river. From there it was a fairly short walk back to the cars (we dragged our boats to make things easier) We got to the top to see Scott coming up the tracks off in the distance. He ended up with the longer walk but we had a much more difficult time getting out of the gorge. I think his way was easier!

Those two rapids were fun but not worth the hike. I definitely recommend setting shuttle for it if possible!

Hamburger Helper:


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