Friday, June 4

South Fork Salmon

The beautiful South Fork Salmon canyon with the great sandbar we camped on near the center of the photo. A few hours after this photo was taken it started pouring down rain.

Phil looking at Devil's Creek rapid on the South Salmon. We were incredibly tempted by the meat line on this one at 5.5'. It was huge, but it looked like it would go. That breaking wave at the right of the photo was dwarfed by some of the features just over the horizon line.

Boats pulled up on the beach! This was the best night of my whole Idaho vacation! Great beach, great weather, beautiful canyon, two of my favorite people in the whole world, burgers and bourbon! It simply doesn't get any better!

This baby elk couldn't have been more than a day old! It could still barely walk.

Hummingbird coming into feed at Jerri Kelly's feeder. She puts out a gallon of sugar water a day for these little guys and boy are there a bunch of them!

All of our stuff (except my cat frame and Phil's creek boat) next to Mike Dorris' Cessna 206 back in McCall.

A grand adventure all the way around! Where to start? Ted has been taking the spring off boating after getting some bone spurs removed from inside his vertebra, but he was a great sport and came to Yellowpine a day after us to camp out, take pictures and be our shuttle bunny. I mention Ted's presence because he put in a pretty solid effort trying to talk us out of running the S. Salmon at the healthy flow of 5.5'. The primary basis of his persuasion was a hair raising trip down the S. Salmon a decade previous at a slightly lesser level. It turns out that when a local long-time Class V boater that just happens to also be a hydrologist drives all the way out to the middle of nowhere to talk you out of putting on a river, it may be worth heeding the advice.

We put on the S. Salmon and proceeded to have a great day running some huge whitewater in one of the most beautiful canyons any of us have ever been down. 5.5' was a really big level and some of the rapids had gigantic Grand Canyon sized features, but with fast technical moves and lots of gradient. However, we felt that everything was pretty manageable and didn't regret our decision to launch one bit. We camped on a great beach river left above a couple of the named Class Vs, Surprise and Elk Creek. The afternoon was spent hiking downstream to scout the rapids and enjoy a beautiful sunny afternoon. We had some burgers for dinner and passed the bourbon around the campfire until late. Truly a wonderful evening!

Then it rained. It rained a lot and the already high river came up a bunch. The gauge went to 6.2', but so much of the water was coming in from tributaries downstream of the gauge and upstream of us that it was really quite a bit higher. Our beautiful beach from the night before was under water. We were cold and wet so we did the only logical thing, we put on our dry suits and went boating. The first rapid, Surprise, looked a fair bit different than it had the day before. The line I had picked out the previous afternoon had been to start center then move to the right behind a rock and run a fairly clean line down through a dozen or so big waves and holes right of center. Now, the marker rock was a hole and I was a little lost going into a huge Class V.

I got my bearings just in time to make the pull right into the alley between features that all seemed capable of flipping my cat. Just as I was starting to feel better about my position in the world, a huge lateral just kind of levitated me to the left about 40' and right into the meat of the rapid. I was perfectly lined up on one of the biggest holes I have ever seen. Bus sized, sometimes pile, sometimes 15-20' breaking wave. I pointed it straight and pushed as hard as I could on the oars. To no avail. I got surfed hard. I was highsiding to the front, to the back, to the side. I was airborn. It was definitely the biggest hole ride I have ever taken and I have no idea how I emerged right side up.

I flushed out just in time to straighten up and push into the next one! Same result. That one flushed me straight, but still a third hole was just downstream. Same thing. I took the three biggest thrashings of my life in quick succession and emerged unscathed and exhausted only to look upstream and see Jake's boat heading toward me upside down. He was swimming strong for shore and made it. Signaling that he was ok, I chased his boat and Phil followed. After keeping tabs on it through Elk Cr. I quickly got it to shore about a mile later.

Phil and I found Jake and looked at each other with wide eyes. We decided to evaluate our options and headed to Elk Creek Ranch which we had seen the day before while hiking around. Al answered the door and told us all the passes were snowed in and we couldn't drive out, if we wanted out we would have to fly. He and his wife Shauna graciously took us to the Kelly's place a few miles down the road because they had internet and phone and lived near the airstrip.

Jim and Jerri Kelly are wonderful people and took great care of us! Phil hopped on the Mail plane that afternoon, but Jake and I had to wait until morning to get a flight out on Mike Dorris' Cessna 206. In the mean time we had a great time watching Jerri's hummingbird feeders and swapping stories with the retired couple. Jerri fed us a great elk taco dinner and put us up with warm showers and comfy beds. After a quick flight in the morning it was all over. Jake and Phil headed home and I picked up Amanda for trips on the Middle Fork and Selway.

Wednesday, May 12

Why do they always send me first?

Surveying Dragon Tail Couloir before dropping in (Great shot Dane! Kyle, I know that's your hat).

Dragon Tail skied pretty well on Saturday! I had never skied this obvious line above Emerald Lake in it's entirety. We had a nice big crew consisting of Graham, Edyn, Josh, Dane, Eva and Mark. We had nice weather. We had nice snow. An all around nice day.

Tomorrow I leave for Idaho. I have 18 days off and plan to boat for 17 consecutive days. Back on June 1.

Monday, May 3


I ran my first marathon on Sunday! The Eugene Marathon was awesome and I can't wait to do another. As you can see from the title, I ran a solid race and am pleased with my time. All things considered, I actually think it was a great time. I only trained for two months after coming off the couch with no base, I was sick for ten days leading up to the race with a hacking cough and I puked three times before and during the race.

After having a funky stomach and puking 15 minutes before the race (It wasn't nerves, I promise) I decided to just run my plan anyway and see how well I could do. I ran a bunch of 7:00 miles for the first 14, then had to stop and puke a couple more times. I never quite got my pace back after that point and spent the rest of the race trying to minimize time loss. Graham and Jake came and found me between miles 24 and 25 to pace me into the finish and couldn't believe it when I came around the corner. I think Jake checked his watch three times in disbelief when he saw me.

It was totally magical to finish on the track at Hayward Field (especially after watching the movie PRE! the night before)! I got goosebumps as soon as I saw the wrought iron arch and the entrance to the stadium. What a cool place to run my first marathon. Beautiful course, well organized, perfect weather, perfect size race, and tons of great support! I had an incredible weekend and loved seeing family, old friends and making new friends.

Friday, April 23

Solar Dynamic Observatory Powered Up

Back in February we Launched the Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO) aboard an Atlas V. I spent a bunch of time over the past two years working on this mission, so it is really cool to see some of the science that it is now doing. The first images came back from SDO yesterday. Never before have we had so much data for helio science.

SDO has a suite of three state of the art instruments that will rewrite heliophysics theory. Imagery from Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (above) shows surface eruptions emitting strings of plasma into the solar atmosphere and sending powerful shock waves across the sun. The AIA features four telescopes designed to be sensitive at different temperatures, producing information on solar heat flux. Another instrument, the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager, will probe the Sun's interior to track developing solar storms from their origins deep inside the Sun to the violent eruptions at the surface. Finally, The EVE ultraviolet instrument studies space weather, the link between the Sun and the Earth that can affect communications and navigation signals. While the satellite's other two instruments study the formation of storms on the sun, EVE directly measures how they impact Earth.

Thursday, April 22

World Pond Skimming Championships

This was a pretty spectacular event up at Vail on Sunday! I am featured briefly at around a minute into this video. Look for the cowboy getup. Tyler Hamilton, Olympic gold medal bike racer, is two skiers after me in the Captain America pants.

X-37B to Launch

The X-37B ready to be encapsulated in the Atlas V fairing at KSC. Credit: U.S. Air Force

The X-37B is basically a 1/4 size, fully-autonomous shuttle, including a cargo bay the size of my Tacoma's bed, that will hitch a ride to space later today aboard a ULA Atlas V-501 rocket. Launch is scheduled for 7:52 EDT and can be viewed on the ULA website. A bunch of different agencies have sponsored the X-37B over the years, first it was a NASA project, then DARPA, now it is run out of the USAF's Rapid Capabilities shop. Boeing Phantom Works built it.

While the payload and mission are tightly kept secrets, a lot is known about the X-37B itself. The super cool things about this mission from an engineering standpoint are the spacecraft's advanced silica thermal protection tiles and autonomous guidance system. At the end of the flight that guidance system has to fire the craft's main engine to drop the ship from orbit. The spaceplane will re-enter the atmosphere and make a high-speed landing at nearly 300 mph on the three mile long runway at Vandenberg Air Force Base. To do this it will be relying entirely on it's own autopilot, which gets input only from on-board gyroscopes, a GPS receiver, and an altimeter. How cool is that?

Feel free to speculate wildly about what the Air Force might do with the capability to release and capture satellites, stay on orbit for up to a year and land anywhere in the world within hours...

Sunday, March 21

Marathon Training

I went for the longest run of my life this morning. Hell, I went for the (then) longest run of my life last Sunday too. Why all of this long running? I signed up for the Eugene Marathon and plan to be ready to go for the May 2nd race day. Just six weeks from today. I haven't had a ton of time to prepare for this puppy since I signed up less than a month ago, but my body seems to be responding well to the training. I got in 16 muddy miles this morning and felt really good until the last two when I started running uphill in ankle deep mud. That sucked a bit, but was ultimately very satisfying when I got back to the truck and couldn't see my running tights below the knee. Wish I had a picture. It was spectacular.

In other news, I love my life! I had my heart broken by a girl over the weekend, and I am already feeling great again because I am constantly surrounded by so many awesome people. I am sitting on the couch rocking out to the Gipsy Kings while Jeff is downstairs getting his gear together for a 40 mile nordic race next weekend. He and his girlfriend Sarah are racing from Crested Butte to Aspen across the Elk Range with over 7,000 ft of elevation gain. Lesley is in the kitchen cooking meatloaf while wearing her roller skates. Mel sat me down this morning and made me tell all over coffee. She had me laughing and smiling within 15 minutes and even managed to get some food in my stomach before the run. I feel so fortunate that she and I are at a place where that is an acceptable conversation topic. Melanie really is one of my best friends and a totally positive force in my life.

I have had some other awesome life events recently as well, incarceration and promotion, but I will save those for another post...

Thursday, March 11

New Tubes

I just ordered another set of cat tubes from Sotar! Didn't I order a cat last year? Yes. If you know of anyone who is in the market for a set of yellow cat tubes, put them in touch. I rather like the new color scheme.

Sunday, February 7

Fairy Meadows

It turns out loading a heli is a lot like packing a Uhaul, but way more fun.

The Fairy Meadows Hut, our home for the week. The snow on the roof gives some indication of how awesome the pillows are in the area.

Heading up the skin-track into the crisp morning air.

Graham Jackson on the king of all pillow lines. I styled this one the day before and Graham just had to go back and ski it.

Looking across to the Rockies. The Colombia River is under all of those clouds.

Yep, we skied that Couloir. Beam Me Up Scotty is a 2000' fifty five degree couloir of awesomeness.

The money shot. Thank you Andreas.

The Adamants at night.

The group in the skin track headed up Colossal.

Icefall on the Granite Glacier.

Filling everyone's thermoses each morning.

Sentinel in the morning light.

Even with the camera strap this is a great shot.

Black Diamond really has excellent logo placement.

Check out our previous day's work on the East face of Sentinel.

Graham Jackson won the "Best Skier" award.

The group with Unicorn Peak in the background.

Sunday, January 17

Ski Season!

Holly demonstrates the Mexican Poinsettia.

I love to ski! This year has been a bit of a bummer, but I already have over a dozen days in with lots more to come!

I discovered Silverton Mountain Resort a few weeks back. I only got one run in before they closed the chairlift due to high winds, but it forever changed my perception of what a ski area should be. One slow double chair with 2000' of vert, no groomers, hell no runs, $50 lift tix (it seems cheap compared to the $97 at Vail), mellowest terrain is a rowdy 34 deg, and best of all they check your beacon when you load.

I had one great morning of skiing at Meadows with Jake before it started to rain. One notable thing about that morning was the fact that I was breaking in a new pair of skis, or maybe they were breaking me in? I got a pair of BD Zealots this year and at 192 and mounted tele they sure are a handful! The learning curve was rough, but I think I have them figured out now. They sure do like to mash me headfirst into the snow at 45 mph.

Yesterday was the best day of backcountry so far this year. I have to admit my expectations contributed to the greatness of this particular day. You see, the base at some local ski areas is a paltry 15" and it hasn't snowed in weeks, so I was mostly expecting a workout and some pretty vistas. Boy was I surprised when we found a sweet 32 deg NE facing gully above Brainard lake filled boot high with recycled sugar pow! We also had an extremely funny group of six that hit it off instantly. We spent most of the day doubled over laughing, so how we made four laps is totally beyond me. Days like this are why I ski, I love hanging out with friends outside.

Back from Vacation

I have been taking a little break from the whole blog thing, which didn't go over too well with many folks and they let me know about it over the holidays. I miss it too, so I am going to do a better job updating this page. The evils of FB and my whirling dervish of a social life make finding time to sit in front of a computer, which quite frankly is the last thing I want to do when not at work, a bit challenging. Anyway, I'm back.

What have I been up to for the past four months? Not boating. Lots of time with friends and family over the holidays which was spectacular! I have gotten back into climbing, particularly ice. My rotator cuff seems to be fairly well healed from one of the swims I took on Gore this summer. I am trying to make the most of a ski season that has been sub-par on all accounts. I hosted a friends Thanksgiving here in Boulder. Dated a wonderful woman by the name of Edyn for a couple of months. Went on a run with my sister, rafted with Jake, skied with Josh, paddled with Phil, and climbed ice in Ouray with Brad, Dane, Rainbow and many new friends. Worked a bunch, and am still loving my job. More or less the same old, same old.

Upcoming, I have a couple of awesome trips in the works. On Thursday I am headed up to British Colombia for a two week ski trip. The first week will be spent at the Fairy Meadows Hut in the Adamant group of the Selkirk range. We get dropped of in a heli for a week of backcountry skiing, then it hopefully comes and gets us the following Saturday, or maybe they will just be able to drop food? I am stoked on the group for this trip. Graham and Edyn are joining from Boulder, Andreas is flying in from Germany, Brad is coming up from Salt Lake, Ted Day is cruising up from Boise, and Jake and Graham Melvin are making the trek from Oregon. November of this year will be spent on the Grand Canyon! I couldn't be happier!

Saturday, September 26

Gore Race 2009

The Gore Race takes dirking to a whole new level. Everyone is a Class V boater so they can take care of themselves, but any time you get that many people together things go slow.

I set safety for the Gore Race this year. I saw a lot of this sort of thing.

I bring you... Behind the 8 Ball... the best R4 in the all black.

Who doesn't want to paddle long boats down Gore in 18 min?

Pretty colors!

Friday, September 25

THE North Fork

Dropping into one of the easier Vs followed by Morgan from WA, Mike Reid Photo.

I have to admit, this section of river has been at the very top of my tick list for a few years. Deep inside I knew my skills were up to the task, but still I have been hesitant to run this classic test piece. I definitely wanted it to go well when I finally did commit. Labor Day weekend I finally took the plunge and experienced first hand the rapids I had been visualizing for a long time. It went great and I couldn't be more excited. On Friday I just ran the lower seven miles, which contains some of the easier Class Vs like Jaws I to III, Hound's Tooth, Juicer and Crunch. It went great and gave me a chance to get used to a borrowed set of tubes and frame. Although, I did end up in a rather large hole on river right in Jaws II. I battled my way out without incident and swore I would never go in there again, because the odds of a repeat performance ending as well are not in my favor.

Saturday and Sunday I ran the whole 15 miles of Class V from top to bottom and it went perfect both times. Nutcracker is the real deal, then the next bunch of read-and-run Vs are great fun with nothing too serious in the way of consequnces. Then there's Jacob's Ladder followed immediately by Golf Course (named for it's 18 boat eating holes). This whole deal constitutes almost two miles of continuous Class V with awful consequences for blowing a line or getting upside down. Undoubtedly, I was a bit intimidated dropping into this one both times and probably will be every time in the future (wonder about me if this stops being the case), but I totally nailed the line both times.

All told, my third Idaho trip of the year was just as good if not better than the previous two outings. It was so nice to fly and not have to do the drive. This would not have been possible without the generosity of the incredible Idaho catbaoters that drove me around and let me borrow gear. Thanks Al for the tubes and Craig for the frame. You guys are the best.

Friday, August 7

Gore Canyon

Gore Falls. You can see that the swim sucks if you screw up the 8 footer.

I rowed Gore Canyon on the Colorado for the first time on Sunday. It was a beautiful sunny day on one of the most classic Class V runs in the country, but things turned a little epic so all you get in the public domain is a pretty picture and a promise for a good river story the next time we have a beer together.

Sunday, July 12

An Idaho 4th of July

Beautiful scenery on the South Salmon

For the 4th of July weekend I was able to escape for a whopping six days and take another trip out to the great state of Idaho. Phil was once again able to join me for a long weekend and I picked him and his kayak up at the Boise airport on Thursday morning and headed for destination Yellow Pine, ID. On the way up there we had the pleasure of seeing the ultra-classic North Fork Payette for the first time in either of our lives. The North Fork is one impressive piece of whitewater and it quickly becomes clear that the numero uno rule of road scouting does not necessarily apply. For those interested, the numero uno rule of road scouting is, gIf you can't see it from the road, it's easy.h Eventually we stopped road scouting the most awesome river I have ever seen, killed my iPhone by submerging it in water, made it to Yellow Pine, ID and were on the water by two pm.

We had the pleasure of boating the East Fork of the South Fork of the Salmon River with a crew of three WA catboaters and the very solid R2 of David and Laura. David was Val Shaull's R2 partner the day they showed Dana and I down the Truss and had the infamous flat wrap. Anyhow, I promptly proceeded to make a complete fool of myself by popping an oar in the long complicated Class V that is Flight Simulator and my troubles didn't exactly end there. I managed to row a pretty good section of whitewater with one oar while trying to get my other oar back in until this large double fin rock blocked my downstream progress. My left tube popped up over the first fin and dropped into the slot between the two and pinned before unceremoniously dumping me head first into the river in a downstream flip. Fortunately the only injury was to my ego and that was the only section of Flight Sim that was not being watched from the road.

The next couple of days we repeated with same run with different boating partners and better results, except for the Phil's Rock incident. We were actually in Yellow Pine to meet up with our new Idaho catboater friends Jerry Kiser, Craig King, Steve Rich and Ted Day. The latter two were to be our partners in a three day wilderness trip down the South Salmon.

Phil came to have a rock named after him on our second day of boating the EFSF. He paddled over this wave/hole thing to find a surprise pyramid rock hiding right behind the pillow. His bow dropped between the pillow and the rock he pinned horizontally with his head downstream. I was ahead of him at this point and quickly alerted our boating partners to the developing situation. From my vantage, I could see that Phil was able to get breaths intermittently, but had no idea how long he could sustain the effort to do so. It turns out he had pinned in such a way that the pyramid rock was directly against his cockpit (lap) and precluded any chance of pulling his spray deck and swimming. After a minute and forty seconds of this heinous situation, Phil was able to extricate himself by climbing out the tunnel on his spray skirt. I have never been so happy to see a kayaker swim in my life.

It turns out that Independence Day in Yellow Pine is a pretty fun albeit redneck experience. We had some great fireworks, potato gun duels in Main Street, and a pretty good band on the porch of the Corner Bar singing the classic rock anthems. Later in the evening I had consumed enough whiskey to dance with the local ladies and sing karaoke in the Corner Bar. We didn't get a particularly early start the next morning for our South Salmon trip.

I am not really at liberty to discuss the South Salmon trip in the public domain. All I can say is that the South Fork of the Salmon really sucks. The whitewater is sub-par, the canyon is all burnt, the bugs are awful, no fishing, no good campsites, well you get the picture (above). Skip this trip and boat your local roadside commercial run instead.