Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Mexico 2012 Part II: The Big Banana

Below: Namesake, photo by Adam Goshorn

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

kayak session

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Mexico 2012 Part I: The Roadside Alseseca

Below: Matt Beauchamp walking to the put-in, photo by Adam Goshorn

Below: Matt Beauchamp on one of the more vertical drops, photo by Adam Goshorn

Below: Wade Harrison on the same, photo by Adam Goshorn

For seven out of the last eight winters I have been lucky enough to make the annual drive south of the border to spend a few weeks enjoying Mexican rivers, creeks, and tacos! In December of 2012 we started the drive down with the biggest crew yet, nine people and three cars. However, the crew would get trimmed by a third before we even got to the border. While driving through Texas, one vehicle developed transmission problems and was deemed not worthy to continue the drive. To further complicate things the three friends in that vehicle were only planning to be in Mexico for one week while the rest of us were planning for two-weeks. If we were all on the same timeframe it would have been possible to cram all nine people into the remaining two vehicles, but due to work obligations they could not extend their trip and the rest of us were unwilling to cut our trip in half. The unfortunately reality was that they would have to try to get their car fixed and hopefully join us in a few days and salvage what they could of their trip.

Below: Matt Beauchamp running S-Turn, photos by Adam Goshorn

Below: Ben Bernhard running S-Turn, photo by Matt Beauchamp

The remaining two cars and six people continued, crossing the border in Brownsville Texas and spending an entire day driving to the city of Tlapacoyan, in the state of Varacruz, Mexico. Luckily for kayakers, located just outside of Tlapacoyan is Aventurec, a campground, hostel, shuttle service, restaurant, and rafting company that makes life pretty sweet for kayakers in the area. Despite arriving at 11:00 at night we were able to score cheap lodging in a couple of their hostel rooms and make arrangements for breakfast the following morning. Wiped out from the drive and looking forward to getting on the water the next day, we all crashed out as soon as we got to our rooms.
Below: Adam Goshorn on the Roadside Section, photos by Matt Beauchamp

Our first day on the water, we headed to the classic roadside section of the Rio Alseseca, which is always a staple for paddlers in the region. This section of the Alseseca easily ranks in anyone’s book as one of the best class IV creeks anywhere. I’d put it right up there quality with Brush Creek in CA, Johnnies Creek in AL, the Watauga in NC, or the Tallulah in GA. Like any of those other runs, I’m sure high water significantly increases the difficulty, but at the moderate flows we encountered, there was really only one class V rapid. The rest of the run is a seemingly endless series of class IV drops that are carved out of the basalt bedrock. The result is a playground that seems like it was designed specifically for kayakers.

Below: Matt Beauchamp on the Roadside Section, photos by Adam Goshorn

Below: Ben Bernhard one one of the final drops, photo by Adam Goshorn

Below: Wade Harrison on the same, photo by Adam Goshorn

What I didn’t know at the time, was that our first day paddling in Mexico would also be the only day of the trip that I was able to do any filming. After filming the first day, my video camera became badly damaged with condensation. Luckily I was able to let it dry out for a few days and then it started working again. However, by the time it was dry and working again, it rained every day for the remainder of our trip, so I never got to do any more filming. However, since we were scouting our way down on the first day anyway, I was out of my boat and able to film a fair amount on the first day and below it the resulting edit of that footage.

Until Next Time…

-Adam Goshorn

Below: Trees along the Roadside Section, photo by Matt Beauchamp

Below: Adam Goshorn finishing another fun sequence, photo by Matt Beauchamp

Below: The view from the outside dining area at Aventurec, photo by Adam Goshorn


Below: Adam Goshorn filming on the Roadside Section, photo by Matt Beauchamp

kayak session