Summer Recap & NF of the Payette

This summer has been a blast! I spent the first month and half of the summer living out of my new truck while I traveled out west. For the first month or so, I was paddling with a crew representin' the Carolinas, consisting of Josh Werts, Ben Blake, and Daniel Windham. I barely knew these guys when we embarked on the trip (I had only paddled a couple times with them), but over the next month I discovered that these guys are not only solid boaters, they are just all-around quality guys. Departing in mid-May, the four of us headed straight to New Mexico and then worked our way up towards Ft. Collins, hitting quality Colorado mank along the way.

Coming through "1-in-5" on the South St. Vrain, near Lyons, CO
Paddler: Clayton Gaar
Photo: Josh Werts

The White Stripe park 'n' huck, Upper Middle Fork of the South Platte, CO
Paddler: Clayton Gaar
Photo: Daniel Windham

More on this trip later...once I get the photos and footage from the other guys.

After splitting up with these guys, I met up with my family in Denver as we packed into my Tacoma and headed out to Riggins, Idaho for a five-day float down the Lower Salmon. This trip was pretty special because it was the 30 year reunion of the first trip my parents and their college/kayaking/hippy friends did back in 1977. Every ten years, the group regathers in Riggins to do this trip, which is super cool because by now they all have families and kids to bring along. I first did this trip in '97 when I was ten, spending most of my time in an inflatable kayak. This time I brought my parent's old Dancer, figuring it would be fun to zip around in a long boat since I had been paddling my Magnum all summer (not to mention it made the last two days of flatwater on the Snake a lot easier).

Me and my brother, Taylor, kickin' it the first day on the river. Props to our Exodus raft guides for bringing a seemingly endless supply of beer.

View from the tent last day on the river. Photo: Bob Gaar

This trip was unbelievably beautiful and was a nice relaxing way to end my travels out west...or so I thought.

As we were beginning our 48 hour blitz back to Atlanta, I convinced my family to let me stop and check out the North Fork of the Payette since we were driving right by it. My plan was to spend an hour or two scouting a couple of the rapids and have my parents set safety from the shore while I paddled. With some amazing luck, I ran into Kyle McCutchen and Dan Bumgarner at the put-in to the upper section. They were kind enough to let me tag along, so I ended up being able to paddle all the way down to Hound's Tooth with them. The water was big, fun, and as warm as bath water. The level was a little on the high side at 2000 cfs, and the rapids were so long and continuous that we would find ourselves exhausted and huffing in the eddies. Big ups to Kyle for showing me the lines and to my family for patiently following us down the river and shooting video. Like storm chasers, they were literally running to jump in the car and beat us down to the next rapid to shoot footage. Thanks guys!

Kyle stylin' the hole at Jacob's Ladder. Photo: Lynn Gaar

Left to Right: Dan Bumgarner, Clayton Gaar, Kyle McCutchen

Check out the NF of the Payette video (I don't know if you can see at this resolution, but if you look closely at Kyle, who's in the lead, about 40 sec into the video, you can see him punch a hole and come out without a helmet. We waited in the eddy below and his helmet eventually came floating down five minutes later!):

Check back later for pics and video of some classic Colorado and New Mexico runs like the Embudo, Vallecito, Oh Be Joyful, Gore Canyon, and much more. I still need to get used to this whole blog thing...