Feather River, the Fest, and the Falls

TLC tried to warn to not chase waterfalls. I guess I didn’t get the memo.

So it’s not the most epic shot, nor does it display superb technique, but cut me some slack. It’s my first drop. I took it way too far right, which ended in a completely vertical plunge, which, according to my chum Matt who did the same thing in an earlier descent, is exactly how you’re not supposed to run it. But regardless…

what an experience.

Eddy far left to portage and view the dam: and impressive 36′ of escape route for a caged river. Upon approach, the dam roars much differently than any hydraulic I’ve ever heard. It has a deep, resonating growl. Upon first sight, if the drop doesn’t spook you, the massive fury of water below will. The wave is impressive, but amazingly weak, yet still full of air to hinder your roll if you tip.

After Matt explained the line, Ryan and I watched him run it perfectly. We were silent as we contemplated who should run second, and ultimately we decided it’d be best for me to go first because “it’ll be lonely up here if you go second” (thank you thank you thank you Ryan, ha). I locked my skirt and exhaled slowly, only to have the living shit scared out of me when Ryan screamed a victory chant above me.

Matt took time to watch the waves above. Me, on the other hand… I knew where I needed to be. Studying the line from above would add no comfort, no confidence, no increased likelihood of success. Delaying the move to study it would only add fear and doubt. The rooster tail at center, barely to the right of middle, marked my target, and I charged with potent strokes: no looking back.

The split second at the top of the plunge was one of the coolest moments of time I’ve experienced, and the memory is forever summarized as a savage roar of smothering amber-green. I wasn’t lined up correctly. The tongue pulled me right, and in the short moments of free fall I felt my boat twist and I dreaded impact on the cement launch pad below. When, much to my surprise, the collision was avoided I had no time to think how to paddle the waves below and I was swallowed alive in the huge hole and packed with too much adrenaline to hold my paddle still and successfully roll. The inevitable punishment, a booty beer, for the swim was welcomed. I ran a dam for crying out loud. One panicked swim to shore later and I hooted and hollered and marveled the fact that I had completed my first drop.

Anyways, Feather Fest = AWESOME. Party hard and take the time to drive to Big Bend Dam. Don’t pass on the drop. Feather River is a blast. The rapids are boulder choked and possess and number of hazards, but are a blast to run. Most have pretty intense gradient, offering intense speed and fun drops, even on easier stretches. But if I offer only one tip: don’t boof Carl’s Kitchen with your face.

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