Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Beaverated Again (sort of)

By now, you're probably all familiar with this video, since the blog you're reading is named after it.
But it's good fun to watch again (and again, and again, and...)

Last weekend was Labor Day Weekend, better known as Beaverfest, and as usual hundreds of paddlers flocked to the western Adirondacks to get some Beaver. It also happened to be the 6 year anniversary of my rebirth as the Beaverator Kid, and while I didn't paddle the Taylorville section this weekend, I'll be making my way back there in the coming weeks.

More importantly, I stepped it up in a big way elsewhere.
If you're lazy and/or don't care to hear me describe the incredible awesomeness of the weekend, feel free to skip to the bottom paragraphs which contain the morals!
Staph is no fun, notice the size difference and the red streaks
 Last year, I had a staph infection on my knee that made walking difficult, and the idea of shoving it into a thighbrace unfathomable. It was the first Beaverfest I hadn't paddled in 7 years. I spent the weekend surrounded by friends and strangers alike running the river...over and over and over again. I was miserable, but I took a bunch of great photos and determined that no matter what I'd be healthy the following year.

And so I found myself here a year later:
Scouting out the first third of the enormous spillway at the Moshier section.
In years past this was something I had paddled quickly by, barely glancing at it, certain I'd never run it. Every year, more and more people run it, but in the relative crowd that shows up for the rest of the river, only a handful of people step up.

Mostly because of this...
Ben Schott sliding by.
 Yeah, that's a massive roostertail. It stems from a ledge/rock that juts up about 2 feet out of the bedrock right at the bottom-middle of the slide. There's a pretty solid amount of flow that crashes straight into it, making a normally large and ominous slide downright intimidating. 
This provides reasonable perspective
 Surprisingly, I bucked up and ran it. It took a little while, but after watching a number of people miss their boof and sloppily bounce down and still making it to the right too early, I remembered the wise words of Kate Daniel: "What could possibly go wrong?" And so I dropped in, nailing a boof and waiting to make the move to the right, finding it surprisingly smooth.

Stoked on finally firing up one of the biggest drops in NY, we headed down for an eventful run down the normal stretch. An unnamed paddler that looked vaguely familiar to me and may or may not have taught me everything I know took a stout beating at the second drop, followed by a swim. Then another anonymous individual took a brutal hit to the face in one of the no-name rapids.
The beaverator tradition continues!
Unfazed, we continued downriver with a couple more (justifiable) swims and 2 hot laps down Moshier Falls for me. It was the first year I really felt in control coming through the pushy series and into the boof.

The boof!
The Eagle followed, where Catherine got to practice her boof, and others sneaked in and out of eddies between KONY Racers charging down the course.

Catherine was one of the few paddlers to remain focused at the last drop
The following day, Taylor decided that buying a Beaverfest sticker and putting it on the back of his car wasn't enough, so he passed up an awesome time on the Raquette to paddle the Taylorville section (again).

And by awesome time on the Raquette, I mean it must have been interesting to watch, since I botched a line at Colton, requiring me to reset in the eddy above the boof and then battle a submerged rock at the bottom before ultimately rolling and scrambling into an eddy. Dylan seemed to be thinking twice after I said "it's not that hard, watch me..."

Dylan also managed to not be too distracted... coincidence? 
We continued quickly down to the Tubs. Dylan had a clean line, and I headed up to run it myself, confident in my past experience.

It should go without saying that I was overly confident.

Dylan with a sweet line
Plugging into the not so sweet line
I don't know how long I was in there, but I thought about swimming a couple times. Then I rolled up and saw where I was. With a pillow of water pushing me back towards the curtain and an swirling current securing me deep in the pocket, I realized no matter how bad things seemed in the boat, I didn't want to go swimming here.

After getting violently tossed, having my paddle snatched from one hand, and getting bowstalled underwater, I finally rolled up and managed to draw my way out before styling the second drop.

Dylan followed me down Particle Accelerator to continue the carnage. His right hand was totally shredded, but I think he got away without stitches. Catherine saved him the carry out by joining me for the remainder of the run, and all in all, the day was a success.

So here's the moral:
Even though I styled my lines on the Moshier, I feel that the beatdown and my ability to surf out of it speaks more to my skills as a paddler. Doug Ammons states that "The real measure of skill is not what you can paddle in optimum circumstances" but "what you can do when the worst happens and you're at rock bottom." While I was far from rock bottom (only figuratively speaking) I can at least say my ability to adapt quickly to a plan b or c has evolved greatly since the Beaverator Incident. No matter what class of paddler I become, paddling rivers I started out on will always hold a special place in my heart for the sense of renewed perspective and growth I can find on them.

Bonus moral:
Getting worked sucks, but it makes you a better paddler. Try it sometime.

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I am a freelance writer and photographer, collector of experiences, adventure lover, and outdoor goer.