Saturday, May 11, 2013


Yesterday was the last day of finals for a lot of my friends. Not just for the year, but for their entire undergrad career. It was potentially the last "Final Exam" many of them will ever have to take.
Congratulations to all of you!

Recognizing this got me thinking about where I am in life versus where I would be if I were with them right now. Having a minimum of a year and a half left of school while my friends are moving on to careers and the questions that come after graduating is daunting and a little discouraging, but looking back I don't see any room for regret. I may have stopped going to school (temporarily), but that doesn't mean I stopped learning.

While most of my exploits since I left the traditional undergraduate pursuit behind can be found in the archives of this blog, this post serves as a photodump/chronicle of just some of the highlights.

Dec. 31, 2011: Inspired by Scott Martin and with the help of several other talented paddlers/photographers/designers I released Issue 1 of The Dirtbag's Guide to Whitewater

May 18, 2012: After returning to the PNW to set eNRG Kayaking up for a successful summer season, I took my first lap down the Little White Salmon River. The level was 3.7 feet. I was more gripped than I had ever been on a river and ended the day with a skirt implosion and far more flips than I felt comfortable with.
Boulder Sluice
Days later I spent an extended weekend in beautiful British Columbia with Kate Daniel. The highlight of which was easily Captain Holiday's incredible hospitality.

May 28, 2012: A return to the Little White Salmon where I snapped a paddle, followed by a scout of Metlako with Steve Fisher and crew for the now infamous Contour duo drop. 2 days later, I paddled over the lip, tucked up tight, and fell 80-something feet.
Ethan Smith Photo
June 14, 2012: I returned home and embarked on my first source to sea kayaking expedition. It would also be my first overnight self-support kayak trip. I had far more food than I needed, and there was much less water in the river than we expected. Despite this (or perhaps because of it) the 2012 Source to Sea Expedition of the Cheticamp River in Nova Scotia is a mission I will never forget. Thanks to Ben Schott for the invite, Mike Mainer for joining us, and Catharine Hull for driving shuttle and convincing her mother we were worthy of sleeping in the gorgeous camp!
Mainer finding the line (I was dragging WAY behind at this point)
Ben Schott Photo
August 2, 2012: Amidst a low water summer filled with raft guiding at Whitewater Challengers Black River (A place I will always consider my second home) and Bottom Moose laps, I found my way to the  Ottawa River and learned that, given a big enough wave, even I can get some air.
Garb+Jed+Me= Still mediocre at playboating
Chris Morelli Photo
Somewhere in the transition of late summer to early fall, I got my first laps on some long coveted ADK classics. Great Falls on the Black, Twin Falls of the Grass, the Raquette, and the Moshier Spillway.
TAV doesn't paddle down the river, the river carries him wherever he wants to go.
Grass River, NY
Dylan Cobb entering the Tubs on the Raquette, NY 
The water pretty much pushed you where you want to go, but that's hard to trust at this point...
Moshier Spillway, NY
Ben Schott Photo

September 19, 2012: Alan Panebaker drowned in a sieve on the Upper Pemi in NH. While this day will always be filled with a great sadness, it also will always remind me of the incredible and inspirational life Alan led. From the start, he was one of my favorite people to paddle with, and every time I reach a milestone in my life, I remember his advice to "remember the little people."
Alan finishing up the Moshier spillway in style. Thanks for all the memories.
September 20, 2012: I packed my car and headed south, then further south, then even further south, and finally west and gradually north. To sum it up nicely: 3 days on the Upper Gauley, a week in the Nantahala Gorge, 1 lap on the Nantahala Cascades, a busted paddle, 1 lap on the Ocoee, first legal beer El Rancho in Durango, CO, sunset in Arches National Park, sunrise over the Bonneville Salt Flats, Sunset and rise over Crater Lake, a scout of Toketee Falls, and too many hours in the car.

Mid-October: Joined Steve Fisher for the PNW Congo Premiere Tour, rallying from a HIGH water trip down the Hood River to Boise, to Jackson, and back to Boise. Let's just say that Jackson was cool, but Boise knows how to party.

Thanksgiving 2012: An incredible feast with Kate Daniel and family. I really can't say enough good things about these folks.

December 21, 2012: My first run over Celestial Falls, followed shortly after by my second. It was at a great flow and Adam Elliot and John Edwards were probably the best people I could have done it with. Plus a sweet crew of photographers was on scene.

Christmas 2012: My first christmas away from home couldn't have felt more at home. Katie Rogers and family is another group of people that are truly indescribably kind and generous. Plus an East Fork of the Lewis paddle!!

New Years Day, 2013: Despite an extraordinary hangover, I joined John, Cat, and Mike for a celebration of the new year on a very snowy and cold Middle White Salmon.

March 27th, 2013: The sun popped out, and we all got bold. I joined forces with Harrison Rea to take Gus Kilgore and Kyle Gnarsper down Celestial Falls. Things didn't go as smoothly as we had hoped, but no one was injured. As far as I know, Gnarsper is the first to go for a half hail mary in a creek boat...
Harrison lining it up on his second lap.
Easter 2013: Escaping from work early, I met Harrison Rea and Dan Phillips for Punchbowl Falls on Eagle Creek. Harrison 45ed and bloodied his nose, I got twisted midway down and wrenched my shoulder pretty badly. Metlako looked too good to pass up though, so I headed down to the quiet pool above, this time alone.
Harrison Rea Photo

April 13, 2013: The Dirtbag's Guide Issue 5 is released. It receives over 5,000 hits in under a week.

I was out of paddling commission for about 3 weeks waiting for my shoulder to heal, and decided to test it at the Northwest Creeking Competition. April 20th and 21st brought with them an incredible sense of relief as I got my shoulder back into the swing of things. Plus Canoe & Kayak published my coverage of the event!
By Canyon Creek the second day, I was feeling pretty good...
Adam Elliot Photo
May 2, 2013: Return to the Little White Salmon. Despite significant apprehension, I ventured up to the Little White for the first time in almost a year. It was running about 3 feet. John Edwards, Johnny Ott, and Tony Skriv took their time showing me down, and I ended the day with 3 portages (two around wood, one at spirit) and no flips. It was an incredible day, and I view it as a breakthrough in my paddling ability. I've been back once since, and can't wait to get back again.
John and Johnny headed for the put in boof.
Kim Becker Photo
May 4, 2013: With a shiny new (to me) DSLR in hand, I headed to the Sandy River Showdown to cover the event. Mountain biking, kayaking, beer, and an invitation to an awesome mission in California made for a great weekend.

These highlights say nothing of the great people I've met along the way, the satisfaction of overcoming the challenges of the "real world" college no longer shelters me from, and all the awesome things I don't have exact dates on. Thank you to everyone who has supported me, bought me beer, let me sleep on your couch/guest bed/floor, and listened to my ridiculous rants.
This view will never get old. Mt. Hood from WA. 
Eli Nicholson surrounded by the kind of canyon the PNW is famous for. 
Steve Fisher gets rowdy off the water as well as on. 
An hour and a half from Portland, might as well be another planet.
Mike Braun Photo 
Here kitty-kitty
Kay, Megan, and Willa underneath North Silver Creek 
Mike Braun going for the fun line at Alder Creek on the Sandy River 
The sea is a good place to reflect 
Adam Elliot perched above the East Fork of the Lewis, patiently awaiting the shot.
Raging Metlako
Follensby Pond, NY
A tough hike on its own, the loop to Kings and back up the Wilson River trail was the hardest hike I've ever done.
Mike enjoying the pain train.
Sunrise on Saddle Mountain. Do it.
Stay tuned for a Lochsa trip report this time next week!

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