Thursday, July 11, 2013

Thoughts on the North Fork Payette articulated by Lucas Glick
Jacob's Ladder and Golf Course Rapids form almost a mile of pure whitewater.

The road is steep. I strain my fully loaded car just to keep at the recommended speed. I’m having trouble focusing on the road as I hear out my window the constant roar from the river. It hasn’t stopped. Jesus! Im on mile 6 and Ive already gotten out of my car 5 times to scout some of the longest and largest rapids I’ve ever seen. They all have lines, straight forward and manageable…But the holes and the waves are massive and each rapid last longer than some entire runs in Oregon. Simply memorizing the lines in each rapid is impossible.
The road  straightens for what looks like about a ½ mile and immediately I know Im looking at the base of golf course. Completely white. There are too many holes to count. Piercing rocks stick out forming massive hydraulics. There are no eddies on the side. Only rapids and river banks. My eyes widen as I move up the rapid towards the top of the bend where the river crashes out of sight. The top of the rapids is pure chaos. Jacob’s Ladder. The angry beast looks like its breathing as it sends surges of water through the tight drops and boulders obstructing its path down. There are four main drops in jakes and each move alone look like a commenting move. Stacked together jakes creates a beautiful manifestation of a long single cascade. Each drop is separated by the waves that look big from 20 feet above on the road.
As I scramble down from the bank to get close to edge of the first drop in jake’s, rodeo hole, and cut my hand on the sharp granite. Fear floods through my body as I imagine all the sharp rocks that were thrown into the river bed as the road and railroad carved there way up the canyon. The unnaturally sharp rocks lay hidden underneath the waters surface. Abnormal rocks poke out of the water’s surface throughout the rapid like razors forming roster tails of magnificent size. At eye level jakes is even more impressive. Three words: fast, steep, and big. The transition to golf course from jakes is immediate providing no breaks to paddlers. All together it forms close to a mile of whitewater that is enough to raise the hair on the back of your neck the whole way down.
The NF lower 5 miles is considered the easiest, due to the time in-between rapids. The Upper 5 mile has rapids that are no harder moves than the lower 5 moves but are longer and have less time between rapids. The middle 5 miles is a step up from both the lower and the upper. Rapids are longer and the time between each seems non-existent. Jakes is a step up from the middle 5. I ran the lower first, then middle and finally the upper.
Being- no surviving on the water is crazy. Everything feels bigger than what I could imagine. I found myself in a state of constantly reacting to my surroundings. Rarely there is a dull moment. The feeling of cresting out on waves that are around 5-10 feet tall is something I never really experienced and is very fun! Sometimes you don’t even have to try to get air off the waves. Although its hard to explain the difficultly of the entire river, every move felt no harder than anything on the LW. But it’s a completely different style of rapids. Its hard to fight the current, so you really have to focus on letting the water do the work for you.
Looking below Rodeo Hole in Jake's and the lead into the golf course.
Jakes is a different beast. The top I feel is the crux though I never made it down the entire rapids. The move comes fast, and even after getting the feel of the river I was still surprise with the little time there is to make the needed right stroke boof. I took my stroke a tad late and ended going deep into the penalty box. The hit from the hole was horrendous, harder than koosah in my mind. It knocked my breath out in an instant. The hydraulics were worse than the hit. I understand the reason why it’s called rodeo hole. I was instantly in a session of cartwheels. When it rolled me I snap a roll very quickly and surf my way into an eddy on river right full of sharp granite rocks. Not the ideal spot to be in but at least out of the hole. I was extremely fortunate not to hit any rocks hidden below the surface. In the eddy contemplating continuing on with jakes, beginning the second move on the wrong side of the river sounded less than ideal. I ended bailing out of the river in the eddy and seeking safety on the road above. This was my only attempt at jakes.


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