Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Rockwood Descent is in the Books

Seven members of Mountain Waters crew got into Rockwood Gorge this morning for the first raft descent this season. The verdict was consistent: this was the greatest idea ever.

After a “boats-on-the-back” two mile hike to the put-in, we finally got to boat. The Rockwood Gorge is special because of its remoteness. Although it’s actually fairly close to civilization, the task of getting in and out of the Gorge is a tall one, to say the least.

When we run it commercially with clients, we have the capability to use the train. The train drops our gear at Cascade Canyon, we hike in from Purgatory Flats, pump air into the boats, and saddle up. When you do the section privately, as was done today, you’re on your own. The boats come with you on the hike, which isn’t quite as easy as having a Steam Engine carry them for you.

Onward, enough of the logistics. Rockwood Gorge is a team sport. Your guide is there because he knows the river, but without a paddling crew the ship won’t sail. In this Gorge, the paddlers are every bit as important as the guide. The trip comes equipped with constant hi-sides and regular low-sides, “STRAIGHTEN UP” calls, “DIIIIGGGGG” calls, and usually one or two calls that nobody has heard before. Being active in the boat is just as much a part of it as paddling. And it’s crazy fun.

Today was a clean day. It was an immaculate morning in the canyon, the water was loud and green, and the train ran 400 feet above us twice. The water is at an amazing level right now, and the two biggest rapids – Mandatory Thrashing and Red Rock Rapid – are flowing at a great speed. I’ve never had more fun in a boat than I did today.

And after the trip…it’s time to team build and haul the boats and gear up and out of the Gorge. It’s a chore, but it’s over in a half hour, and for a great day of boating I wouldn’t think twice about it.

Give us a call and try it out for yourself. You’d most likely be one of ten people to raft this stretch of water this year. No kidding. And it’ll be the most amazing piece of water you’ve seen.

Matt should be posting a video of today’s trip within the next couple days. Don’t forget to come back and check it out.

1 comment:

Dthompson said...

Just got back home from a commercial trip on Rockwood Aug. 6. What a great time! Weather was perfect, and rain upstream juiced it up a bit. I had been on three Upper Animas trips, and when we floated by the takeout for that trip at Tacoma hydroelectric plant, it seemed a bit surreal, especially after passing the "TAKE OUT HERE FOOLS" sign (okay, I kid, but . . .). Rockwood - very narrow and technical, and really no "plan B's" re: line options. Instead of choosing how we were going to get around the boulders, sometimes it was a matter of which ones to go over. I loved the challenge of HAVING to paddle aggressively in an all-paddle (no oar assist)boat. Once we hit the first major rapid - Mandatory Thrashing - we were basically at the point of no return. But after the thrill of narrowly going over/through that rapid, who'd want to go back anyway? My utmost respect goes to the guides - Dale Womack, John Dunn and Dave Unterreiner, as well as guide Tessa who paddled on Dave's safety boat. Thanks for the great lines - no carnage to be had on this day. After the paddling, us customers had it easy. We only had to carry a bag or two or some paddles out of the canyon. The guides rolled up the rafts and strapped them onto the "racks of pain," I believed they were called, then were carried out on the backs of three of the guides. If I were a guide, it'd only take doing this once to curb my enthusiam for another Rockwood trip. But this, and many other things, make these and the other MWR guides a cut above the rest. The season is short, maybe only two or three weeks more (this writing on Aug. 8), but if you can make it, you'll be among the elite. I was told that less than 100 people have rafted this commercially. If you do go, have fun (you will) and be sure to show your appreciation to the guides in an economically tanglible manner (TIP 'EM GOOD!!!). They work their asses off for you. I've been on a hell of a lot of rivers with different companies. The ONLY thing that makes this trip doable are the extraordinary efforts of the guides. I mean I'd make a chiropractor rich doing what they did. Hope you can go and look forward to reading about your experiences on the blog.

Dennis Thompson