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The Stikine~A Full First Person Account

This summer was full of traveling to amazing places but with one end goal in mind. The Stikine. Whitewater of the southeast where I grew up paddling is of a different kind than the Stikine. All summer I pushed myself to focus on paddling big volume rivers unlike the kind found in NC to hopefully prepare myself. After spending two weeks at the North Fork of the Payyette I began to feel at ease about paddling challenging big water.

After that we went to Squamish for some awesome mountain biking (great cardio) and so I could paddle as much as possible  leading up to Stikine season. Tad Dennis from NC also, former US slalom team member, former US freestyle team member and former 2nd place finisher at The North Fork Championship was also in town planning to head north for the Stikine. We paddled the Callaghan several times together and decided to race as a team. The week leading up to the race I tried my best to learn from Tad and pay attention to how he was preparing for the race. Knowing I would need every ounce of energy to keep up with him. We ended up 2nd out of 30 teams so I guess we did something right. All with the Stikine sitting heavily on my mind, knowing any day it could start dropping to the prime levels. During our time in Squamish we paddled Fear Canyon. It was a good step to prepare for the Stikine. Tad and I developed a plan to leave Squamish in his giant red truck and leave my girlfriend Heather and his wife Lisa at a quiet campground outside Whistler. Tad got in touch with Evan Moore and Alec Voorhees who were headed to the Stikine also. We had a crew! The level was still high (around 500 cms) so we waited until a few days after Evan and Alec to head North. After a scinic 20 hour drive we arrived at the putin for the Stikine.

Crossing the metal bridge was monumental. “We made it” “ I never thought I’d actually be doing this” “what the hell are we doing” were just a few thoughts that crossed my mind. Evan and Alec were on a one day lap with Aniol and Benny so we kept driving another 3 hours to meet them at the takeout. I bathed in the river and we cooked food. As soon as we finished eating the boys rolled up. There faces tired and sunburned. “I’ll probably look similar in a few days” I thought. We loaded up and went to the putin where we spent the night with plans to put on the following day for a two day mission. The next morning we arose to a perfect water level (420 cms). We packed our gear and pushed off onto the river.

My large 9r sat slightly lower in the water due to being loaded with probably too much stuff. It paddled differently, better almost. Our crew now included Benny Marr who knows the Stikine like the back of his hand. After paddling in for a little more than an hour we adjusted our gear and dropped into “entrance”. That whole day felt like a dream. I paid close attention to the person I was following, never letting my guard down or becoming complacent. The Stikine demands your attention at all times. Even the flatwater wasn’t flatwater. It was all boils! We battled the whitewater and the boils for most of the afternoon. The canyon walls grew to 1000 feet tall with mountain goats spread along the rugged canyon. The boys fired up site zed. I was the only one that portaged. Tad got the first C1 descent of site zed which was amazing to watch. As I portaged I regretted not running it because it looked better after watching 4 people run it and I could see the rapid better from the portage. It wasn’t long after that and we were at Wolf tracks camp (30 miles in). The best campsite I’ve ever seen. It included a sandy beach, a surf wave, an overhang to sleep beneath and a creek to drink from! I slept horribly due to the mosquitos straight from hell. The weather was warm but my sleeping bag was also warm. This created a battle between getting probed by mosquitos or sweating my ass off in the Dutch oven that was my sleeping bag. I woke up early and made coffee. We all gathered our things and put on our gear at the beach. We moved downstream at a considerably fast pace. Evan and Benny would say “right to left fight the boils” or “left to right fight the boils”. We entered the last canyon that includes Scissors, the Hole that ate Chicago, V drive and Tanzilla slot. After that the river mellows to class 3 for 18 miles until the takeout at Telegraph creek.

Clean lines for everyone throughout the whole canyon made for a successful and fast lap. When we reached the takeout the locals offered us two massive salmon. We bagged the salmon and headed to the putin for another lap. We devised a plan for Evan and Tad to take the vehicles back to the takeout and hitch a ride up for another 2 day mission. Alec and I waited with the gear at the putin all day. Benny and Aniol showed up and put on the river. They were on their own program. The boys never showed up and a little before dark Alec and I found the keys to Benny’s truck and Alec went to locate them. After nearly running out of gas and having to siifen gas from Aniols car in Dease lake, Alec returned without Tad and Evan. He was unable to locate them but found internet and realized they had been in a car accident but were all good. They got a hotel room and thumbed more the next morning. The guys showed up the next morning nearly 24hrs after they left to set shuttle. We didn’t have enough food for a two day so we put on for a one day trip down the canyon. After 7 hours, including running site zed, we arrived at the takeout, had a beer and went back to the top to put on for one final two day lap.

All four of us ran Site Zed. Blue Angeling the largest rapid on the river was the pinnical of my trip. We camped at wolf tracks again. The next day we routed the last gorge and had a relaxing last day on the run out. We went to Dease lake for food and beer to celebrate three successful laps on one of the most difficult sections of whitewater in the world. Then, the next morning we made the 20 hour trek back to Squamish. What an adventure!