Monday, January 11, 2010

What is a Hodag you say?

A Hodag is just the fiercest, strangest, most frightening monster to ever set razor sharp claws on this earth, that's all.
It's wicked looking tusks hung from it't vice like jaws.
The claws on it's short, muscular fore and hind legs were long and needle-sharp.

So, at this point, the internet world is wondering where I thought up this ferocious creature. But I didn't think it up. Rhinelander Wisconsin, nestled in the "Worlds most concentrated lake region" in the northern area of the great cheese head state of Wisconsin thought of it. Actually a brave man in 1896 thought of it.

Now people are wondering why I went Hodag hunting with my dad three days before Christmas. My dad grew up in this bustling city of three stop lights and my grandmother still resides in the same house my dad was brought home to 60 years ago. Now you know what a hodag is, life will never be the same.
While in Rhinelander we also go to see the Green Bay Packers house. They are the most loyalist of loyal people to their team.
I also got to feed chic-a-dees from my hand on my grandmothers back porch.

And in true northern Wisconsin tradition my dad shot red squirrels because they were nocking over the bird feeders.
So after Christmas, I came home to find an ice covered Green River. Some spots are slightly scary now, maybe just because ice is almost an unknown for this region of the beautiful southeast. This is looking back upstream from hiking around Gorilla, yes, I walked around Gorilla, due to the tightening Notch.....

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

2009..... A Good Year pt. 1

So the year of 2009 started off slowly. With the southeast slowly coming out of a three year drought the last thing the clouds needed was a little motivation. Evan Garcia must have been that motivation, he came to the southeast and got to run every bad a$$ run in the southeast. He is stoked little boy about to put in on the first massive slide of the day on the Toxaway river in North Carolina.
These boys; Pat Keller, Drew Duvall, and Evan Garcia have been so good to me in the last few years of my kayaking life, without them I would not be in the place I am right now with whitewater kayaking. Looking back up at one of the oversized rapids of the Toxaway.
This is what happens when you get cocky and opt not to wear your sick Shred Ready Full Face helmet. I learned my lesson and even got to go to work with a black eye.
Every year on the Green River in April we have a race in remembrance of Jerry Beckwith who lost his fight with Leugherics disease a few years back. We race all the way down the Green River from where Big Hungry flows in to the first bridge on the lower run of the river. This is where some people continue the race on and ride their bike up the 17 switchbacks and back around to the campground. I, instead, took the easy way out and had a biking partner.
But the good partner I am, I was waiting for a cold beer at the end of his run. This is why we love North Carolina, sunny and 75 in April!
So after the race I went back to my normal, launching off of the left side of Sunshine on the Green River, working at night, and kayaking during the day. We had an amazing spring if I could say so myself. A few runs on Raven Fork, a few runs on the Toxaway, and the Green ran nearly every day.
I drove out to Glenwood Springs in the middle of May to train for the 2009 Worlds Team Trials. I was there for about two weeks and was honored enough to stay at the Palmers house, who is the most amazing family that I have been in contact with for a long time. So pictured above is the victory lap for the whole 2009 US Freestyle Kayak Team. We all decided to pile up on the wave and have a King of the Wave competition.
Photo by: My mom
Emily and I were first and second, respectably. We chatted a bit after the competition as I was still not positive I wanted to turn my mind to Freestyle over creek boating. After a few good talks and a few whiskey cokes, I decided that I would be going back to Thun Switzerland to compete in the 2009 Worlds Competition.
Photo by: Anna Bruno
The victory lap did not last long, I drove to Vail Colorado just a few short days later where I trained with Tanya Faux (scary, hardcore, amazing woman) on Homestake Creek for the first competition of the Teva Mountain Games. We did so many runs my head was spinning. I had been here the year prior to race also but there was much more water, this year there were a few more rocks. Between myself, Tanya Faux, and Nikki Kelly after the first run we were all less than 1.5 seconds apart. After the second run Nikki had bumped Tanya and I ended up third.
Photo by: My mom
I was so happy with third, losing to the women that I look up to the most in this industry, Im ok with that. I was also happy to share my side of the podium with my good buddy, and fellow Ashevillian, Pat Keller who got third in the Mens race. A kiwi named Mike Dawson came out of nowhere to beat out long time racer Tao Berman who ended up second. That is a strong crew of kayakers standing on that podium.
Photo by: Anna Bruno
After the Homestake Race we went right to the middle of downtown Vail where we began the Freestyle rodeo. I know it doesn't look like it from the pictures, but the water is soooo cold. Face immediately numb, ice cream headache the whole nine yards. I was no too stoked on it and I ended up around 7th place I think. I was happy to be out of the water though. I'm not one to dwell on the past that I cannot change especially when it comes to a rodeo. I was ready to have fun.... we were in downtown Vail!!!!!!
Shortly after the Games ended Pat Keller, Jake Greenbaum, and myself headed over the pass in the hopes that we would find some big rapids to run, or at least some really big slides. It was snowing in the second week in June up here and there was a solid amount of snow still on the ground. I guess at 12000 feet there isn't much of a summer.
We hiked up a mountainside since we had been in the car for.....3 hours. This was the view... well worth the hike up to somewhere around 13500 feet.
Pat trying to find some fresh tracks and dreaming of carving powder on some teli skis. I know what he is thinking.
We found a sweet little nook in the mountain that someone had probably built to sleep in. This is a pretty amazing place to sleep, just don't roll over the mountain, it's a long way down.
The three of us finally made our way to the town called Marble. This town houses the Crystal drainage including Crystal Mill falls and Yule Creek. Both were running pretty good by the time we made it there. So we drove "left" first.
We went "right" here. In Pats Subaru Outback. YAHOO FOR MY SUBARU!!!
We made it to the beautiful Crystal Mill falls in a bit of bouncing and some tactical driving by Pat. We ran this waterfall loads of times. I ran it sideways, almost backwards, and finally (third times a charm) ran the waterfall the correct way.

With water levels a tad low we had to wait until dusk to try to run Yule Creek. But we had driven all the way out there and we weren't walking away without it. We sat and used my trusty Jet Boil to make some macaroni and cheese and some beef stew.... or something of that sort. But it was enough food to tide us over during the hike and the massive slides that we were about to run.
Running Wall check. The second rapid in the four big ones. It all starts at Ball Check a 25 foot just off vert waterfall, goes straight into Wall Check. There is a small eddy to regroup in for the biggest rapid on the run, Oriental Massage, this goes straight into Happy Ending after a ten food arial skip. Then it is all over. The adrenaline rush that we get after doing things like that is something that is inexplainable. An amazing feeling.
Photo by: Robin Betz
To end it all on a good note the team got their lifejackets a few weeks later in Salida Colorado during the Fibark Festival. Thank you Astral for making such amazing lifejackets.

A huge thank you to all of my sponsors Werner Paddles, Immersion Research, Liquid Logic, Shred Ready, and Astral!!! I couldn't do what I do so well without you all there.

Stay tuned for part 2!
Check out where I will be going in two weeks!