Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Upper Cherry 2012 - A trip to remember

I often hear the saying "there is always 2 sides to a story" and I agree that is often the case but in this story there are 6! I however only know 1 side with a bit of  from the rest info from the other sides.  My experience of the situation started back before I went to Australia and Colorado for film shows where the others were all heading into Upper Cherry and I was going to miss out.  A mission I must say I was glad to not be on but little did I know my own adventure would take place in there a week later...

-Packing gear at the trail head - Photo CasperVan Kalmthout

I got off the plane from Colorado and started gathering any beta on the flows and a crew that I could as the run had spiked and come back in.  Lulu was in Vegas and fired to to come and I heard word that a good friend from the Netherlands was on his way with a crew of 4 so we had that sorted.  On Thursday morning Lulu and I left Coloma and by mid afternoon we met Casper, Emiel, Sven and Tim at the trail head ready for a quick trip down a rapidly diminishing watershed.

-Casper makes his way up the first hill - Photo Josh Neilson

After some quick packing we all headed up the first hill with varying degrees of pain and suffering.  I seemed to have it the worst being relatively unfit but quickly the others followed suit and got their puff on! By late afternoon we saw our first glimpse of the river but it is only a reminder of how much further it is to walk!
-Casper, Lulu and I feeling the pain - Photo Sven, Tim or Emiel
-Hiking as the sun goes down - Photo Josh Neilson

-Hiking in the Dark - Photo Josh Neilson
-Lulu charging on the hike in - Photo Josh Neilson
As the team dropped the pace and carry systems failed we decided on dark to call it a night and rest our sore bodies on top of a ridge directly above Cherry Bomb falls(the crew would later discover).  After a quick meal we all went to sleep, some for longer than others.  I woke first and set the fire for breakfast, ate breakfast, packed and then while the others slowly emerged I was ready to start hiking again.

-Morning of day 2 - Josh packing, others sleeping/rising - Photo Casper Van Kalmthout

- Packed ready to go - see Lesson 3! - Photo Josh Neilson

Lesson 1: learn to sleep in too!
Lesson 2: if the person you are following leaves, you should leave too!
Lesson 3: if you are the only one who knows the way, DONT leave without the rest of your group!
Lesson 4: if you have radios make sure the one who knows where to go has one!

Ok so this so far will sound the same from all other 5 sides but from here on out my story differs by a lot.  I started walking early as both my knees were failing and I didn't want to be hiking in the heat of the day so off I went. Following the track up the hill I got to the spring for water feeling better than earlier.  I left the water tablets on a log on the track and carried on a little further.  When my knees really needed a break I stopped and waited for the rest of them.  A while passed and I started to think that they either slept in a lot or they were lost.  So I left my boat and walked back to find them... Nothing...

-I imagine it went something like "Where the F#$% is Josh" - Photo Sven

-Meanwhile I am at the put in thinking "Where the F#$% are they?? - Photo Josh Neilson
-And trying to cook my dinner in the sun with cold water - Photo Josh Neilson

-This is not the way to the river by the way - Photo Casper Van Kalmthout
Then I saw some tracks heading off down the hill where the track was at its least visible.  I followed for a bit but lost them in the bushes and turned back.  My thought was now that they had dropped in too early and I could go to the put in and paddle down and meet them solo.  So I kept walking. At the put in I rested and mentally prepared myself for my first solo kayak trip (apart from the Kaituna.. Slightly different)
Then I started to think about all the things I have been taught over the years about situations like this. How do you make a bad situation worse? How do you make a bad situation better? How was I sure I would meet them down stream? Being that the first day of Upper Cherry is relatively easy, how far would I paddle solo to find them before I would hike out?
And so the decision was made to leave my boat and hike out.  With 2 sore knees and a time of 4pm I knew I had a challenge ahead of me.  Off I went!
By 6pm both my knees were shot and I was moving pretty slowly but was getting there.  I stopped half way back to eat some of the cold freeze dried meal I had prepared earlier due to the fact I had to lighter on me which was not surprisingly disgusting!
By 9pm it was just on dark and I had made it but no sign of the rest of the crew. By now I was sure they had made the river and were probably wondering where I was.
I camped at the take out to wait for them to paddle out and by late afternoon I was about to go check the trail head when I heard Casper yelling "JOSH, JOSH" then I turned to see him hanging out of a cop truck and very excited "This is the first time in a cop car without hand cuffs" and "I am so happy to see you". I too was happy to see him and the rest of the crew.  We shared horror stories and decided to head to Sonora for a steak and a hotel sleep.  They had indeed made the river and had got to cherry bomb thinking they had put in too high and would paddle down to find me but then realised they were down stream of me and hiked out.  We were now back together and the situation could only get better from here.  And it did.  We made a plan for 3 of us to hike to the put in to get my boat and take it to Flinstone Camp and the other 3 would hike in to cherry bomb and get their camping gear and take that to camp.

- Finally by the river enjoying a camp fire and sore bodies! - Photo Josh Neilson

 By 9pm that night we were all there sitting by the camp fire stoked to be there and not be hiking anywhere.  Now this story has spanned over 4 days now and the rapidly diminishing flows had dropped to about half the lowest flow I had seen it so the next day we were in for some interesting paddling.  At dawn we all rose fast and were ready to go at 8.30.  With a quick scout of some unsure drops we made it to the pool above Cherry Bomb just as the light hit it! Now this place is amazing!
- Boofing at the top - Photo Josh Neilson

Sliding in the middle - Photo Josh Neilson

-Flying at the bottom - Photo Josh Neilson

-Casper followed with a ripper line! - Photo Josh Neilson

-Then Lulu showed us whats up - Photo Josh Neilson

- Next up were some Tea Cups - Photo Josh Neilson

- Sven on Perfect 20 - Photo Josh Neilson

- Me on Double Pothole - Photo Josh Neilson

--Scouting and getting ready for Double Pothole - Photo Josh Neilson

-Emiel on Double Pothole - Photo Josh Neilson

- Trees blocking the exit to the lake = one last portage - Photo Casper Van Kalmthout
One by one we headed down stream and I must say this was LOW but all the good stuff you normally paddle was still amazing and all the manking stuff was, well, rocky to say the least.
Everyone had good lines all day and we finally made it to the take out in good time and with huge smiles! Your first time down a classic run like this is usually your most memorable and it was for me until this trip.. One I will never forget!
Cheers to Casper, Lulu, Emiel, Sven and Tim for an great trip down the river! Sorry I left you on day 2 and that you ended up getting lost! Lesson learned!
Hope to paddle with you again some day!

- A very happy team make it to Cherry Lake! -Photo Josh Neilson

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