Saturday, August 25, 2007

Who’s been Naughty??

We have had a very interesting few days driving through South Dakota, Since leaving Yellowstone, We visited a famous Monument called “Devil’s Tower” anyone recognize it from Close encounter of the 3rd kind?? The mash potato model !!

From there we went to the absolutely awesome Crazy Horse Monument. Commissioned in 1947 by the Lakota Indians, it is still in its infancy. But still Crazy horse’s face is complete. A full comparison of what it will look like when it’s finished can be done from a scaled plaster model.

From Crazy horse we went to Mount Rushmore, after seeing the size of Crazy horse Mt Rushmore and it presidents lacked the grandeur you would expect…but it was worth while seeing it.

Onwards on the I-40 and we went to a very strange place called Wall Drug…Hard to describe but an old world Museum cum Shop cum arcade…Cheryl got to play on the Jackaloop…A fictional animal Cheryl thought was real…

After wall drug we took a scenic drive through the Badlands, which is a beautiful sharp jagged mountain range in volcanic colours a big contrast to a usually flat S. Dakota.

Back on the I-40 and we (Cheryl) encounter a small problem…Blue flashing lights …just after we had been laughing that we would not get pulled over for speeding. (Astro’s top speed on the Interstate is 65 and the limit is 75). We pull over and the officer asks Cheryl to step out of the car and into his…after a few minutes Cheryl returns with a warning for a traffic violation…for the rear number plate being obscured from view because of the Mt Bikes. A first violation for Astro and Cheryl. Tut tut. Since we had no fines we carried on our merry way east...

Friday, August 24, 2007

Yellowstone National Park

To break up our long drive back from BC, we planned a number of stops at National Parks along the way. Our first stop was Yellowstone, (located across Montana, Idaho and Wyoming). We had been told by many people that this was one of the, if not the best national park in the US.

We spent nearly three days in Yellowstone visiting the numerous geothermal features, and watching the abundant wildlife. We saw plenty of Bison and Elk whilst in the park.

The Wolves and Grizzlies eluded us in the Park, but we made up for that by visiting the Grizzly and Wolf centre just outside. We were fortunate to see the wolves fishing for trout in their lake, and two massive 1000 lb grizzly bears. I would not like to meet them in the wild…

Here’s a selection of our favorite photos from Yellowstone…

Wolves on the run and Fishing

HUGE grizzly bears foraging for food

I make this face when I don’t get my way…… “But I want to go to McDonalds!!”

Bison roaming Yellowstone, Elk too.

Old Faithful Geyser (spouted every 90 minutes)

Mud pools and hot springs abounded all over Yellowstone. It also smelt of rotten eggs (or Egg sandwiches) depending on who you asked.

Colorful Calcium deposits and Travertine terraces.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (illegal to paddle….) Looked good to go, but a massive hike into the gorge and likelihood of hefty fines if caught… Need a getaway driver and support team for this one.

Classic 30’s Yellowstone tour bus. Recently refurbished and back in service. Spot the vintage vehicle.

Monday, August 20, 2007

BC Progress Report

Well Alberta too but we will get to that later…
Since our last post, we headed north to the Clearwater River. On our first shuttle to the put in we pulled in to offer a ride to a needy paddler…turns out the paddler had another two in tow which where very old friends of Si, Stefan and Monica. Much to our delight in return of shuttling them back to their car they drove our shuttle for us.

We ran all four sections of the Clearwater. A classic river in northern BC providing large rapids, some good play waves like Tsunami and even a waterfall.
With new friends in tow and use of their extremely good knowledge of BC. We embarked on a week long tour of rivers in BC and Alberta.
The first was the Canoe river (If you ever go the guy at the Canoe river campground will run shuttle for you). Beautiful remote class 3 / 4 creek run.
Onwards to the Fraser in the shadow of the beautiful Mt Robson…staying away from the rafting sections and paddling two upper sections.

The Fraser provided some very exciting big volume class 4 creeking. We were grateful to have Stefan along as he knew all the lines and when to portage out before overlander falls…

Although Cheryl had a fun time running one of the harder rapids Outhouse..shame the camera never caught the action.
We paddled the same sections two days running. I have to note here we did indulge a little after paddling and hit the Fairmont hotel in Jasper for cool beers…Yummy.
Starting our descent in to the Rocky mountains… we hit rocks literally.
The Astoria, a class 3/4 low volume creek…well we had low volume and was more boat bashing than paddling. Probably our worst paddle of the trip although the scenery was beautiful.
To make ourselves feel better we decided to go for a hike in with our Kayaks, the Mistaya Canyon. Probably the most beautiful paddle on our trip.
With a 150 m descent into the canyon we roped our boats in. The paddle starts in a beautiful narrow canyon pool drop rapids opening up to a rock garden river with views of the surrounding rocky mountains.
Following one of the most scenic drives through the Rocky Mountains along highway 93 and a quick stop off at the Columbia glacier (they drive buses on the glacier), we decided to run two sections of the kicking horse…sadly despite the big volume of water, the spring floods have washed out most of the class 4 rapids if not all of them on the lower Canyon section. While we had a great time on the both we all felt a little under whelmed.

Next was Bobby Burns…we would have paddled it if we found the put in… after 3 hours of driving, 7 trees cut down off the road and 1 flat we give up hope and turned around. 2nd choice was Bugaboo but it turned out to be too low… our first day of non paddling in a while…so we spoilt ourselves with a beautiful campsite next to a lake.
Our final BC paddle and with our friends Stefan, Monica and Christophe was the Horse thief creek.. a remote paddle as per BC style up miles of logging roads. A nice long creeky river to end our days in BC.
We have to say a special thanks to Stefan, Monica and Christophe who on their turns to cook fed us both like Kings, who showed us down rivers we wouldn’t have thought about, provided a second shuttle vehicle saving us and Christophe from mountain bike hell and most of all were just great company.

We have finally posted up some BC shots both kayaking and Scenery (in separate folders) on webshots… see our pictures link on the right hand side.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Stein River

One of the main objectives for the BC trip was to paddle the Stein. The North drops steeply into the Stein River just below the lake, and allows for a hike in, followed by some STEEP waterfall run.

Local information indicated that the levels were still high for the North Stein, so much to old man Wheelers releif, we opted to fly into the Main Stein instead.

We knew little about the Stein, strange really since it was the main event. We did get some word of mouth from people who had paddled it before about massive logjams and bushwacking portages. A trail follows the river all the way, so we thought any portaging would be easy.

We quickly arranged a plane with Whilster Air, and the next day we were crammed onboard, and flying very close to some very tall mountains....

Stein lake soon came into view and a quick fly by later, we were landing.... From the air, we saw the North Stein, looking good, and steep, and also many logjammed rapids on the main stein.

We paddled to the exit from the lake, and started portaging the logjams via the trail. After an hour we decided we'd had enough of the trail, and bushwacked our way back to the river, which was a painful and tim econsuming process. The group eventually regrouped above the first rapid.... Which was logjammed.... We camped here for the first night..

The next morning we portaged the first half of the rapid, and put in halfway down a glorious slide! Mark showed how not to drop a loaded creek boat into sticky holes on the first two rapids in sucession!!

The river started with some pool drop slides, then quickly calmed down to very flat, before pickup up to suprisingly pushy class 4/5. Many of the rapids were log jammed. We probably portaged a dozen times in the first day. Many on flat, but quite a few good rapids were blocked.

The second paddling day was mostly flat.... With two massive logjams...... But finished with some more great class 4/5 boulder rapids. We camped in the middle of this section, near the end of the river, but too tired to complete it in two days.

The Third day, we completed the whitewater in about 2 hours, and tookout at the first roadbridge.

The Stein suprised us as being a great bouldery class 4/5, despite the flat and the logjams, we'll all remember the many large holes, and all too many boat chases!!
When the Guys were away...
So this time I had a couple of Friends to keep me company, Fran and Robin. We planned three days of plesant boating ending up at the Stein take out to meet the guys.
The first river a mellow class 2/3 turned into a epic... we never learn not to boat with the guy who turns up by himself at the putin. Especially when he asks to borrow a airbag. But seriously how bad could it be it was a class 2/3 river. Well it turns out he swam!! Fran rescued and pinned his boat and paddle. While I did the good smaritan and rescued him...easy. Except the guy was at least 250 lbs (I am 123 lbs) and he grabbed the side of my boat threatening to topple me at every ripple. Fran advised me to smack his hands with my paddle to make him grab the back (after refusing several times). It took the biscuit when he grabbed his pinned boat and then I had him and his boat to rescue!! Finally safe in the eddy (Fran and Robin down stream) he was too shook up to empty his boat... I helped again glad that at least we had given him one airbag.
Fran than as true coach lead and babied him down the river and much to her credit was compared to be as good as coach as Corran Addison..
Our next Paddle the Cayoosh Creek (I must mention we camped at a beautiful spot by the river) Began above the normal guidebook put in to get a little more action. Unfortunately we had a small situation, which meant we had to rope up out of the section. Not to miss a paddle Fran and I had a girl power paddle down the main section... excited that we finally found a river 99% tree free.
More girl power followed when poor Astro had a flat. Both Fran and I did a great job of swapping the flat for a spare!! who said girls can't change tires!!
Then while a tired Robin retired for the night. Fran and I made friends with a few First Nationals (Indians). We partied in to the early hours drinking Cider to Champagne. I learnt lots about the tribes and some words. At bed time we where about to to ahead out when a cheeky cayote came into the camp!! Then the Indians saw a cougar which had retreated by the time we got there.
Thankfully we had a late start the next day and where still around to meet the guys off the river.