I consider myself lucky to call Lookout Mountain home. This is a little video shot here on the mountain during the very wet spring of 2013. Good time with good friends on good runs and all close to home... it doesn't get much better than that!
Below: Adam Goshorn on Little River Falls, photos by Pat
Sure, spring doesn’t officially begin until March 20th, but
the seasonal rotation in my life doesn’t exactly follow the official
guidelines.This year, my winter was
composed of back to back trips, first another raft-supported trip on the Grand
Canyon and then down to the creeking paradise of Mexico for the holidays.My spring paddling season started almost
immediately when I got back home the second week of January.Although rains and good water levels had
returned to the southeast in December, I had been out of town for most of it,
so January was the kick-off of the local creeking season for me.This year the good water levels that started
in December didn’t let up until throughout the whole spring.So many good times on good runs with good
friends… I’ll let the pictures share the rest of the story.
Below: Adam Goshorn on Little River Canyon, photos by Jay
Below: Matt Taylor on Little River Falls, photos by Adam
Below: Matt Taylor entering Asleep At The Wheel on AllenCreek,
photo by Adam Goshorn
Below: Matt Jones catching a huge boof in Asleep
At The Wheel, photo by Adam Goshorn
Below: Pat Smith exiting Asleep At The Wheel, photo by Adam
Below: Matt Jones on the West Fork of the Little River,
photos by Adam Goshorn
Below: Jesse Carter running Eye Of The Needle on Jones
Creek, Photo by Adam Goshorn
Below: Matt Taylor running Bow Down on Jones Creek, Photo by
One weekend late in the spring my friend John and I drove up
to the Russell Fork after work on a Thursday, planning to spend a 3-day weekend
paddling the gorge.However, after arriving
at 1:00 AM and sleeping in the car in the pouring rain all night, we awoke to
find the Russell Fork Gorge too high and our plans ruined.However, with lots of water in the area we salvaged
the weekend into an awesome time and ended up doing four different runs in
three different states over the course of the weekend!Here are some of the best shots that resulted
from that weekend.
Below: Travis Overstreet single-blading the Kettles, photo
by Adam Goshorn
Below: Adam Goshorn on the Kettles, photo by
Below: Jeff Greenough finishing the mandatory portage, photo
by Adam Goshorn
Below: Forrest Fewster on Crash Test Dummy,
photo by Adam Goshorn
Below: Adam Goshorn on Crash Test Dummy, photo by John Kern
Below: John Kern on North-South, photo by Adam Goshorn
Below: Forrest Fewster entering Two Blind Mice, photos by
Below: Chris Fewster finishing Two Blind Mice, photo by Adam
Another one of my favorite days this spring was a day when a crew of six of us paddled Upper Teddy Bear into Lower Teddy Bear into the Chairlift section of Little River Canyon, taking out at Canyon Mouth Park. This Bear Creek is known as "Teddy Bear" to avoid confusion with the more difficult creek by the same name further north on Lookout Mountain. This Bear Creek may be easier, but offers a much longer runnable section and getting to paddle out on Little River Canyon at about 9,000 CFS was just the icing on the cake of already great day. Most of the time paddlers either run the Upper Teddy Bear or the Lower Teddy Bear, but not both. Typically if the water is high enough for the upper section, the lower section is too high... and if it is low enough for the lower, the upper is typically too low. However, there is a perfect level (around 12" on the gauge at the lower put-in) where the upper isn't too low and the lower is on the high side of runnabality, but still manageable. For those who find themselves there at this perfect level, the result is one of the best runs around as paddlers are able to put in at the top of the mountain and drop around 1000 feet of gradient, over 13 miles through three distinct sections that all have their own character. The upper is a tiny stream with big bedrock slides, the lower is pushy river running (somewhat similar to the Tallulah at 700+, minus Oceana), and the paddle out on the Chairlift section of Little River Canyon is big water fun with grand-canyon sized wavetrains! It was raining all day so I didn't take any pictures of video, but John Kern put together a nice video from the footage he took on his GoPro, which can be seen HERE.
If you’re wondering if there are still new rivers out there
waiting to be discovered, consider the fact that paddlers only started
exploring sections of the Rio Jalacingo in 2008 and a full top to bottom
descent wasn’t done until 2010.This is
even more telling when you consider that the Jalacingo flows into the popular
Pezma Section of the Rio Alseseca, a short distance upstream of the famous Cascada
Tomata.Despite the Rio Jalacingo hiding
in plain site, like a lot of runs in Mexico, it was the lack of access that
kept it unknown for so long.Unlike the
Rio Alseseca there are no major roads crisscrossing the Rio Jalacingo and
figuring out access points in rural Mexico is no easy task.
Blow: Matt Beauchamp boofing into the heart of the canyon,
photo by Adam Goshorn
By the time we had a chance to run it in late 2012 the
necessary access points were all known… just not by us. Once again Julian was the only one in our
group who had done the run before, but only once and he had ridden there with
others and wasn’t entirely sure of the route.Never the less, he figured out the logistics with a combination of what
he remembered, a few notes from Vicente at Aventurec, and asking a few helpful
locals along the way.As is typical in Mexico
it took us several wrong turns to eventually find the correct turns to find
put-in and take-out.
Blow: Matt Beauchamp on the entrance slide into the last
drop, photos by Adam Goshorn
At the put-in, the Upper Rio Jalacingo is a small creek that
is about 20 feet wide and looks way to low to possibly be a quality kayaking
run.Throughout the day this would prove
to be the nature of some sections of the creek.The width of the creek varies greatly and in wider spots paddlers are
scooting over almost dry rocks, while in other places very narrow basalt
canyons channelize the water so well that there are actually a number of strong
holes to watch out for.We all agreed that
if the water was high enough that the widest spots had a nice boatable flow,
the canyon sections would be out of control.The canyon sections were the main attraction of the run anyway, so
wheelchairing through the wider spots is simply the price of admission to the
magical basalt underworld that is the Upper Rio Jalacingo.
Below: Deep in the Upper Jalacingo,
photo by Matt Beauchamp
In addition to the awesome canyon sections and wider
sections that require a bit of wheelchairing, there are also a number of
mandatory portages, some of which would be disastrous to accidently
attempt.Impressively, Julian remembered
all of the portages and made sure we all caught the right eddies for the appropriate
exit points above each.Other highlights
of the run include a sweet 20-footer into a box canyon.It probably already has a name, but we
jokingly referred to it as Little Silenco, due to its similarities to the much
larger and much more dangerous drop on the nearby Rio Alseseca.
Below: Julian running the 20-footer, photo by Matt Beauchamp
Below: Christine running the 20-footer, photo by Adam
The last drop of the run was a huge, twisting slide sequence
into a 20-footer.Most of the group gave
it a go, but a couple of us decided to bypass it and begin the hike out.It is probably the only drop of the whole
trip I regret not running.At the time I
was tired from a long day and just didn’t feel like taking the possible hit
from going oververt and landing on my head.However, sitting back at home, I find myself thinking a lot about that
final drop.It is certainly one of the
most unique and awesome sequences I’ve seen anywhere.Sitting here, I do feel the twinge of regret
in not giving it a go, but that is the great thing about paddling.There is always next time and that drop will
be there waiting.
Below: Ben entering the final sequence, photo by Matt
Below: Wade on the final sequence, photo by Adam Goshorn
Below: Mikkel finishing the final sequence, photo by Matt
In retrospect, the Upper Rio Jalacingo turned out to be my favorite
day of the entire trip.It was simply
such an exceptional run, with unique drops, and a distinctive character that is
all its own.I can’t think of another
run that is very much like it and I think it is that uniqueness is what made it
feel so fresh and new to me.It is certainly
what some would describe as a “work run” and that can be a turnoff for some
people.Those who prefer bombing down
roadside runs without having to scout or portage should probally just stick to
the Roadside Alseseca.However, those
who are willing to work are rewarded with passage through some of the most
impressive basalt canyons anywhere.
Below: Adam Goshorn in one of the many canyon sections, photo by Matt Beauchamp
Our third full day in Mexico was spent running a nine-mile section of the Upper Rio Bobos, putting in near Zapotitlan (If you missed the first two parts of this trip report, you can find Part I HERE and part II HERE). We had almost the exact same crew as the previous day on Big Banana, but had the pleasure of being joined by Lianne Germaine as well. The long drive to the put-in for the Zapotitlan section was so rainy and foggy I’m pretty sure we would not have found our way there on our own. However, knowing the shuttle was quite long we had hired drivers from Aventurec (www.aventurec.com) who knew the route and after hopping out to push Christine’s car a few times, we found ourselves at the top of a rocky, switch-backed, trail leading off the side of the mountain, supposedly to the river, hidden somewhere below in the fog.
Much of the trail had been stabilized by the placement of large rounded rocks, somewhat like cobblestones paving the surface, but larger, rounder, and on this day, covered in a thin veneer of mud and algae. The next hour was a test for our knees and ankles as we negotiated the slick, rocky trail down into the valley. As we gingerly proceeded, step by careful step, a few local men jogged past us heading to the river as well, but instead of kayaks they carried fishing nets draped around their necks. Another local passed us heading uphill leading his sure-footed mule up the tough trail. Eventually, the steep path emerged on the floor of the valley and with knees screaming, we left the trail and cut across a grassy field covered in boulders to reach the river.
Below: Christine, Wade, and Julian at the rainy put-in, photo by Matt Beauchamp
Where we accessed the river, it was wide, shallow, and the water level seemed too low. Sliding into the water we started moving downstream quickly, mentally preparing ourselves for what might be a nine-mile scrapefest. Luckily, the river soon constricted between boulders and morphed into fun sections of continuous class IV boulder gardens. Again and again throughout the day I was surprised by great scenery and fun rapids, despite the low water level. Although a couple sections were tougher than rest, using aggressive boat scouting we managed to make quick progress and avoid timely bank scouts.
Below: Ben Bernhard in one of the canyons, by Matt Beauchamp
In some places, grey and white cliffs towered overhead and during one of the more cliffed-in sections, a 150-foot waterfall soared off the left cliff line as a tributary rushed to join the river. In other spots, small valleys opened up and the edges of fields of crops were visible on the river bank. At one of these remote fields we passed a man standing on the riverbank. He wore a poncho and stood motionless in the rain. As we approached we could see he was holding rifle at his right side and slightly behind him, as if to not draw attention to it. Plenty of locals hunt for food in rural Mexico, but it was unclear if he was hunting or keeping an eye on whatever was being grown in that remote valley. Either way, we approached the situation like we always do, with a friendly wave and a smile. He didn’t return either, but in response only gave us a slight nod while maintaining his stern facial expression. We continued downstream around the bend, happy to leave the mystery of his presence unsolved.
Below: A tributary waterfall, photo by Matt Beauchamp
Before long the canyon walls receded and we began to see signs of civilization again. First we started to see some fenced-in fields along the river, and then houses came into view. Rounding another bend, we saw the take-out bridge and our two vehicles parked next to a small house that doubled as a café with a covered area providing outside seating. We loaded boats and changed in the pouring rain, happy again to have our shuttle drivers take the wheel as we dozed on the drive back to Tlapacoyan, dinner, and our nice dry hostel rooms at Aventurec.
Below: Matt Beauchamp on the Roadside Alseseca, photo by Mikkel St. Jean-Duncan
After starting out our trip by padding three new runs on three consecutive days, we decided to spend the next day back on the Roadside section of the Rio Alseseca. It would be somewhat of a rest-day (or at least more relaxed than our last couple of days) and it would give Mikkel and Lianne a chance to run the most classic of the creek-runs in the area. The rain had stopped the previous night and the sun emerged as we left Aventurec for the short drive to the river and we enjoyed blue skies for the rest of the day. As expected, the Roadside Section was as fun as ever and we enjoyed a great day with big smiles, high fives, and even a little harmless carnage to keep things interesting.
Below: Lianne Germaine on the Roadside Alseseca, photo by Adam Goshorn
The real buzz within the group during the day on the Roadside Section day was about the river we hoped to do next. The Upper Jalacingo has only been known to paddlers for a few years and the mystery of its tight basalt canyons intrigued us all. Once again Julian would be prove indispensable as he figured out the shuttle, led the charge on the river, and assured we stopped in time for several mandatory portages… stay tuned for Part IV: the Upper Jalacingo.
Until Next Time,
Below: Entering another canyon section, photo by Matt Beauchamp
After spending out first full day in Mexico paddling the Roadside section of the Rio Alseseca (see pictures and video HERE) we returned to Aventurec and ended up spending the evening drinking a few beers with German paddler Julian Schafer and Canadian paddlers Mikkel St. Jean-Ducan and Lianne Germaine, who were also staying at Aventurec. As often happens among paddlers, we all quickly became friends and ended up paddling together almost every day for the rest of our time around Tlapacoyan. While hanging out that evening, Julian offered to show us the Big Banana section of the Alseseca the next day. The Big Banana section was on our hit list for our trip, but, having only paddled one day so far, it didn’t seem like much of a warm up before heading to one of the harder runs in the area. However, we all certainly understood the advantages of having him there to show us the put-in and feed us some beta along the way. Eventually we decided that we would paddle the second half of the Big Banana section the next day, hiking into the river at the notorious Silenco waterfall and paddling out through the Pezma section to Puente Tomata.
Below: Matt Beauchamp on Meatlocker, photo by Mikkel St. Jean-Duncan
The hike into Silenco begins at a locked gate in a barbed wire fence at a small pull-off on the side of the road on the drive between Puente Tomata and the Roadside section. It’s such a non-descript spot on the side of the road that we were all immediately thankful to have Julian there to show it to us. The hike was relatively easy, almost all downhill and for most of the way it follows an old roadbed that led down to and through fields of grazing cows. After sliding our boats under another fence, we hopped over and found ourselves at the top of Silenco, a thunderous drop in the 35-40-foot range with a tricky entrance and boxed in landing at the bottom. We spent a little while scouting, but ultimately no one in our group was willing to commit to such a stout drop in their first few paddle strokes of the day. We traversed another barbed wire fence and portaged around a bend to a spot where it was possible to enter the canyon by either jumping or doing a big seal launch into green water at the bottom. After watching the first few folks seal launch with mixed results, the rest of us tossed our boats and jumped in, floating a short distance to a shallow rock where we could get into our boats.
Below: Adam Goshorn on the 20-footer that signals the beginning of the Pezma Section, photo by Mikkel St. Jean-Duncan
Just downstream of where we entered the river the action began immediately and continued very consistently all the way to the take-out. Soon, I found myself portaging more than anyone else in our group and I was starting to feel like coming to such a hard run on only our second day might not have been the best idea. I had done very little creeking during the fall (due to dry weather and low water) and just prior to our Mexico trip I had spent two lazy weeks floating down the Grand Canyon… one day on the Roadside Section just hadn’t been enough to get my creeking mindset and confidence up to par. Never-the-less I truly enjoyed seeing just being in such an awesome canyon and the rapids I did run were great! It was also awesome to see the rest of the group fire up some of the bigger drops, including the new classic, Meatlocker, a 30-footer where paddlers skip off the second tier of the drop about half way down, a truly awesome waterfall!
Below: Wade Harrison on Meatlocker, photo by Mikkel St. Jean-Duncan
Below: Ben Bernhard on Meatlocker, photo by Mikkel St. Jean-Duncan
As we made our way downstream, the gradient began to ease a bit and we entered the Pezma Section. This lower section starts with a cool 20-footer and is full of fun rapids and drops that are a little less difficult and committing than those upstream. I got pushed into the right wall at the base of the 20-footer and ended up swimming, but soon thereafter I got into a better rhythm and really enjoyed the remaining rapids that led us to the take-out. My favorite was a rapid known simply as Double Drop. It begins with a six-foot boof over a sticky hole and then a low angle ramp accelerates paddlers to another water-boof that is around ten-feet tall.
Christine Boush on the 20-footer that signals the beginning of the Pezma Section, photo by Mikkel St. Jean-Duncan
We finished out the Pezma Section and took out at Puente Tomata, just a short distance upstream of Tomata Falls (a classic park-and-huck in the 65-foot range that sees a number of descents each year). From there we headed back into Tlapacoyan to find dinner and then make our way back to Aventurec to formulate our plans for the next day. Check back for Part III soon!
Until next time...
Below: Ben Bernhard and Adam Goshorn in one of the boulder rapids, photo by Matt Beauchamp
Ferns covering the walls of the Big Banana Canyon, photo by Matt Beauchamp