First time on the
and the tragic stumbles of
Thursday morning I started calling around looking for a
mid-week adventure, which basically means going anywhere anyone else
with a pulse is paddling that day.
Michele "Come run the Farmlands!"
Me "Are you sure I'm not gonna die."
Michele "Nah, you got it."
Waiting at the Flying J gas station I came across this hillarious bit
in the bathroom.
Not even on the river yet, I contemplated this vicious double
hydraulic, complete with backcut and cave. True to it's
nature, it was nearly impossible to break a sheet free of it's
I considered that there was going to be a girl riding in my truck so I
thought it appropriate to be a gentleman and clean out the front
seat. This photo was taken after the cleaning, and is
probably the cleanest my truck has ever been. On the
way to the put in Michele and I
discussed the dangers of dating other paddlers (imagine seeing
someone EVERY DAY who won't shut up about boating...), and
her recent intoxicant-saturated paddling adventures in the wilds of
Idaho. She ran the Middle Fork Salmon, the Selway, and the
Lower Five on the NF Payette!
John, Jenna, Rob, and a couple other Class 5 guys I don't know rallied
at the put-in.
We put in below the first major rapid, Sidewinder, which
looked incredibly fun to me, a wild flume blasting around the
corner in a super narrow gorge. The problem was the
confused toilet bowl at the top that flushed into a wicked looking
undercut rock and cave on river left, (visible). It looked
like sort of a 50/50 gamble to miss getting stuffed under the
rock. No thanks.
A short seal launch locks you into narrow vertical walls.
After which the river starts tearing around blind corners in a series
of tightly spaced read-and-run class 4 drops. I realized
pretty quickly that I needed to keep my hands on the paddle and I
wasn't going to get many good photos this time down.
We were running at 3.5 on the Husum gauge, the drops were pushy,
turbulent, and often contained at least one stopper
hole. With Rob running in front of me I developed a
useful strategy: watch Rob drop, whichever side Rob gets surfed out
on, run that line.
There are a lot of logs hanging into the river, most avoidable.
About a mile from sidewinder we portaged these two which
required a very careful eddy in the pool above, a dicey climb up
and over, then a seal launch back into the river. Two
guys ran the drop, not worth it for the rest of us.
This is an important photo because it marks the location of the
beginning of Micheles' total spacticity that day. I
was waiting below when John came ripping around the corner yelling
"boat coming down". Then I saw Michele appear
sheepishly on the opposite bank. She had done the classic
'premature seal launch without a skirt' manuever and promptly
sunk, and now was contemplating her fate in the walled-in
Farmlands gorge. With little choice she threw her hand up
and jumped into a long class 3 rapid and dissapeared around the
corner. In the pool below we reconnected Michele with
her boat and ran the next couple drops.
A couple guys ran the class 5 Lava Falls, but most of us chose to walk
it. The backcut double hydraulic at the bottom has a wicked
reputation and even good boaters end up back there from time to
time. The boof isn't particularly hard to hit, but
there is no forgiveness for missing it.
It was right about this time that Michele spazzed out a second time and
let her paddle slip into the river, John gave chase and I pounded
together my shitty plastic breakdown paddle.
Rob drops back in below Lava.
Michele, now rocking the finest in paddle technology.
Fortunately, John corralled her paddle in the next eddy and once
again Michele bombed downriver with a full kit.
There were plenty of logs in the river in the class 2 section that
seperates the two hard sections of this run.
The next big rapid is off-ramp. The move here is to punch two
riverwide holes and drive hard right into an eddy, then boof an 8
foot ledge. Then penalty here is messing up the lead
in and getting funneled into a nasty slot on the
Jenna nails the line.
Rob cleans it as well.
I still can't figure out what happened here. John looked
perfectly solid on the line, then he was upside down, then
rolled up just in time to give me an 'oh shit' look before
dropping through the slot backwards!
Just one of those weird things I guess. John's a super
solid boater but sometimes stuff just happens, which is why I
don't run class 5. I'd rather not be above a death hole when
'stuff just happens.' Michele went next and cleaned the
line, and I jumped in my boat thinking 'no big deal'.
I snuck it on the right and was feeling pretty chill when suddenly I
failed to punch the lateral and before I could say 'what the...'
I was surfed all the way to river left. Facing forward
there was little to do but drive hard straight down into the maw,
which worked out fine, I went deep but didn't flip.
The cool thing about Farmlands is that it picks up again near the end
with a series of good drops including one longer class 4 with big holes
that was a lot of fun to charge down.
Finally we reached the bridge. A couple guys kept going onto the
Truss, a couple guys wanted to keep going on the Truss, and
Michele, Jenna, and me were fine to be done.
On second thought, maybe the Truss isn't so bad....
Nobody told me about the rock climbing portion of this
takeout. Like a complete moron I actually tried to
climb it while carrying my boat, which is not recomended.
My own idiocy was quickly forgotten though when Michele showed up at
the top of the slope covered in dirt. While walking,
not carrying anything, she wiped out and slid down the muddy
slope like a cat with claws out. At this point it was
pretty much obvious to everyone that while Michele is a solid class 4
paddler, she is, sadly, only a marginal class 2 land
mammal. Lack of employment, mental
degeneration, inability to walk, these are the consequences
of extended exposure to the whitewater lifestyle.
Since running this a couple of aspiring class 4 paddlers I know have
emailed me to ask how the run was, what I would compare it
to, how hard it was. I'm not sure I have a good
sense of it. The gorges are committing, and the water
is pushy at this flow, not violent, but it definately
shoves you around a bit. I didn't get caught in any of the
holes or worked up against any of the walls, so I don't really
have a feel for what might happen. You want to be in shape
for the Farmlands, the action in the upper part is pretty
fast. I'm a runner and I found myself breathing hard
a couple times and really pulling on the paddle. For
this or anything harder than an easy class 4 you also want a solid
roll, not one of these try it four times before nailing it
rolls. Playboating and surfing are good for your
ability to pop right back up. I had a lot of fun on
the Farmlands, I felt solid, and it was all good
times. Your experience may vary. Next
time I'll try to get some better photos, and we'll put Michele in
a wheelchair anytime she gets out of her boat.
(note: most of the humiliating statements in this article were
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