Dirtbagging is at it’s core an addiction to living LIFE to the full throttle fullest. When Winter closes in normal people retreat from the outdoors to hibernate in their homes, shunning the river to warm themselves by the fire. Dirtbags stoke THEIR Fire… On The River!
Welcome to the DBWorld in Winter, where whitewater and snow and ice come together to present an extreme environment of beauty and peril. We asked our friends to submit photos of their missions for us to select the cover shot for the February edition of DBP MAGAZINE ONLINE, and we were not let down!
Sean Woody submitted the wintery winner, a gorgeous shot by his friend Mike Stolp-Smith, an outdoor photographer from Seattle who has been recently exploring whitewater around the Northwest. The photo that we chose as our cover for February was from a November trip on the Lower Gorge of the White Salmon, a run that has only recently become available to paddlers after the removal of Condit Dam in 2011/12. Mike’s work has taken him from his backyard in the the Cascades to the Big Mountain Backcountry of Chile. While he primarily focuses on skiing and travel, his recent interest in whitewater led him to don a drysuit for some winter rafting and kayaking with local guide Sean Woody on the Wind, White Salmon, and Klickitat Rivers. He has an IG handle, @mikestolpsmith, and you can check out his work at his site: stolpsmith.com Mike also shot a sweet video of the trip, with this description: “An early winter storm blew into the Columbia River Gorge, and I was visiting my friend and local guide Sean to run some rivers. We opted out of a kayak run when the temps dropped low, and hopped in a raft to check out the Lower lower White Salmon. Probably one of the best days I’ve had all year. An amazing experience.”
Sean Woody has been a Raft Guide on the White Salmon River since 2006. Now working full time as a tech at the Google data center in the Dalles, he hopes to step back from commercial guiding, and spend more of his free time rafting and kayaking with friends and exploring the huge variety of challenging rivers that the Pacific Northwest has to offer.
THERE WERE MANY other awesome photos to choose from, and we are stoked to share some of the entries along with a few words from the good people who submitted them for our viewing pleasure!
The runner up to Mike’s shot of Sean was a beautiful photo submitted by European paddler Laurent Guyot. We asked him to tell us about scoring such an intimate shot in the wilds of Germany, and he answered us in both English and his native French (and if you’re familiar with DBP you know well that we love multiculturalism! World Wide WALLACE!!)
“Le Schwarzwald ( = Forêt Noire ) est un massif montagneux peu élevé. Les ruisseaux qui y coulent sont pourvus de nombreux parcours d’eaux vives sympathiques mais qui ne sont que très rarement navigables. Les niveaux d’eau corrects ne sont assurés qu’au début de la fonte des neiges. De plus la Wutach et ses affluents sont dans un parc national où la pratique du kayak est interdite du 1er Mars au 31 Juillet.
En cette belle journée de février les conditions étaient réunies pour descendre le Rötenbach, affluent rive gauche de la Wutach. J’ai décidé d’emmener mon matériel photo pour illustrer la double cascade d’environ 10m de dénivelé qui se trouve au milieu du parcours. Bien sûr, j’en ai profité pour prendre d’autres clichés sur le vif. Finalement les photos prisent au niveau de la cascade se sont toutes avérées surexposées à cause du soleil éclatant qui rendait la neige trop brillante. Par contre le reste du reportage est bien équilibré.”
“The Schwarzwald is a low German mountain range. Creeks offer nice whitewater runs but they are seldom navigable. Correct water levels are assured during the early snowmelt. Moreover the Wutach and its tributaries are in a national park where kayaking is prohibited from 1 March to 31 July.
On a beautiful February day everything was in place to paddle the Rötenbach, a left bank tributary of the Wutach. I decided to take my camera equipment to shoot the 10m waterfall in the middle of the gorge. Of course, I took the opportunity to take more pictures. Finally the waterfall shooting are overexposed due to sunshine which made too bright snow. As against the rest of the coverage it’s well balanced.” Indeed, bro! Stunning shot…
Our friend Marlen Ziyadinov fired up some epic rafting shots from the Russian Federation where he makes his home. These pics really highlight the nuttiness that makes us Dirtbags no matter where we live or what language we speak! He sent these shots, along with him carrying his gear (!) with this short description: “Winter rafting in Adigea in Russia.” Indeed!!
Our bros from The Land of Endless EPICNESS otherwise referred to as Quebexico (Quebec, Canada!) sent a few different pics from their routine ice water escapades. Top rank dirtbag Chris Juvshik sent this photo of himself shot by his homie Garth Ehrhardt: “Canon DSLR, Necky Blunt, one of the Blanches in Ottawa, roadside old dam.” And Richard Webster sent this with the following: “Here’s one for ya from a couple winters ago… A very frozen Chris Juvshik after an Upper No-Name session on the Ottawa in -10c weather.” Chis is also a bomber behind the lens, shooting and submitting this gem: “Nikon d3200, Necky Blunt, first D of a lil’ drop by my house in Ottawa.” Dope as always, boys!
Tony Morrell submitted both a photo and the video link of a day at play, saying: “The video I submitted was taken this past Monday (1/26/15) on the Pequea Creek in southern Lancaster County, PA. The rapid is called Suzie’s Hole, and has some really weird history with Native Americans and the death of a young girl named Suzie. We respect the creek 100% and don’t make light of it’s past. Most locals (non-paddlers) think it is illegal to kayak this particular stretch of the creek due to some legal issues with the local power company that owns the land. Those of us that know our rights (navigable water-way) paddle it anyway, we just don’t put-on or take-out on the power companies property. They recently sold the land to a local conservancy group, so this is a non-issue now. I’m on this creek about 2 times per week, year round, as I live 1 mile away from it. This is where I teach my 10 year old daughter to kayak, and on this day I brought a local paddler, Mark Campbell, to run it for his first time. It’s nothing crazy at this level, but it’s a hidden gem that even most paddlers in my local club don’t run. Not because it’s difficult, but likely because it’s a short run and doesn’t get much attention. On this day it was around 300 cfs. I’ve ran it up to 3800 cfs, and at that level it’s nothing to mess with, trust me. Our 3800 cfs day involved multiple swims, a lost paddle, a bad pin, a snapping turtle, and some great memories. This video was also submitted to our local new station when they asked for photos and videos of our recent snow storm. It went viral and triggered multiple comments about people wanting to start kayaking, and others thinking we are crazy! Spreading the word like a true dirt bag paddler!” Right on, bro!!
Judson Swart sent some great icy photos! He says: “One of the things I love most about cold water paddling besides the snow and sweet ice formations is that it’s a great time to get out and enjoy different rivers without all the hustle and bustle that summertime brings. Since most of us are guides during the summer (shout out to White Water Adventurers and the Ohiopyle peeps!), we spend a lot of the busier months sharing our passion for paddling with guests and the rest of the summertime crowds. Once winter rolls around it’s a great time to get out and enjoy the river for ourselves without all the traffic. For the most part we stay pretty local and run the different sections of the Yough, Tygart, Cheat, and the Sandy.”
Stewart Caldwell offered some icy shots as well from the heart of West By God. “Both pictures are from the take out of the Lower Meadow in West Virginia. I like the super cold days because it adds another element to the challenge of the river. I also like the fact that you typically do not see anyone else out there. The key is to do a river where you don’t have to get out of your boat when it is super cold. When the temperature is in the mid teens or below, the spray skirt freezes into a solid block of ice if you’re out of the kayak for two minutes.” DBP picked up the first shot from a post by WSRI Helmets, who were also impressed by the thick layer of ice encasing their model on Stewart’s head!
Mark Hammock sent in a couple ice encrusted takeout pics too.
“Here’s me and Dominick Clark after two warm laps on Tellico.
And here is a shot of just me Tellico. That morning was 4 degrees. High temp for Tellico Plains was 26!” WALLACE had ice cold blood runnin t’ru de veins that day!!
Tricia Tittle submitted a snowy put in picture with this story, “This is from a Spring break Cataract Canyon river trip. We ran the shuttle the previous day with the shuttle company dropping us off at the Potash put-in after running the shuttle. All the vehicles were parked at Hite Marina take out on Lake Powell so we were pretty much set up to run the 5 day trip. We went across the river and down a bit so we didn’t have to camp at the put in. We woke up to this beautiful blanket of a good 4 inches of snow on the boats and tents. We looked over at the put in, all of us wishing that there was just one car sitting over there to save us from this mess we had gotten ourselves into. For those who have never run Cat from Potash, it is at the end of the road to nowhere and no cell service for at least 15 miles so there isn’t really hope of someone “passing” by on the way to their destination. We were committed so we sucked it up and used the saying (to convince ourselves), ‘never bad weather, only bad gear.'” CHEERS TO THAT!!
Our homie Gord Bunston sent a few wintery raft photos from his commercial missions… with this hilarious explanation: “Here’s a few photos from July, but fuck it. Ya man! This is the Sunwapta River south of Jasper, Alberta, Canada in the ice fields in July.”
Greg Babikoff is a good friend and paddling partner of the PNW Dirtbags and a contributor to the MAGAZINE. He sent these wintery Wallace photos, two from the Wind River below Ram’s Horn, which looks to be a pretty unfriendly winter WALLACE! Then there’s one of downhill rafting dirtbags at Timberline Lodge in deep pow. Send it!
Another PNW paddler Jon Theophilus sent us some crazy shots showing why true dirtbags never put the paddle all the way away. “It was a 3 night trip down the lower Deschutes in December 2012. We call it the annual holiday relief float. It was cold, snowy, yet very beautiful. Mark, Greg, Jessie, Saucy, and myself did the trip. We saw lots of wildlife including several herds of big horn sheep.” Epic mission!
Ted Kinder sent this pic, shot on his iPhone, showing that we start our love affair with The River at an early age and pass the passion on to the next generation. “Caroline and Sarah Kinder ready to shovel snow or paddle down Little Fudge Creek in Ona WV. Just above Culvert Rapid in an old school Corsica. Little Fudge Creek can change from a dry creek bed to raging brown water in one quick downpour. On this frozen day last year Caroline (back) and Sarah Kinder found that a quick temperature drop and snow storm also made creekin’ fun. After a few slides down the nearby snow covered hill, the girls decided to try the Perception Corsica on the ice. Some snow shovel paddles helped to make the trip more interesting. Rumors from old days report that washtubs and concrete troughs were used to float portions of the creek in the past. I have never seen a kayak on the creek before so we are claiming first Kayak descent.These future white water queens (hopefully not too much dirt bagging) love to get on the water. Summer trips on the New consist of lots of swimming and jumping off of Jump Rock. The only Wallace on this day was me stepping through the ice while trying to get pictures.” WALLACE indeed!!
Feral Wolf, from Tamaqua, PA sent us this picture of a New Years Day paddle on the Little Schuylkill River, boating in his Perception Swiftwater. Def Dirtbag! We asked him to elaborate on why we all are driven to paddle when all of the sane world has retreated indoors to wait out Old Man Winter. “When asked my philosophy on winter paddling, I have to admit, I was stumped. After some time I realized I truly do not have a seasonal specific philosophy.”
“The sight of the untouched snow on the banks, amazing sculptures of ice displayed for me alone to appreciate, the serenade of silence played solely for your ears, to the mists rising off the water creating a frozen crust on your boat and gear…., all are winter’s contribution to my “philosophy” in paddling. Each aspect of the adventure, from wildlife you may be fortunate enough to observe, the strategy session required to navigate the next rapid, to the people and places you find along your journey, these are all incredible moments. Moments that when together, form what my philosophy, if labelled, is based upon.”
“The name of my boat says it all, she is known as “Therapy Session”, while her bigger sister,(my tandem), is recognized as ‘Group Therapy.'”
“The word therapy is defined as a treatment intended to cure or alleviate an illness or injury, whether physical or mental.”
“To me, regardless of season, the time spent in my boat is purely that, therapy. Therapy can be calming, exciting, emotional, frustrating, and exhausting. Therapy will make you face your fears and challenges you to overcome them. I feel I owe it to myself to become the best possible person I can be, and to do that is to continue with my therapy. Luckily, there are places all over the planet where I can seek enlightenment and growth, and I never need schedule an appointment. Not sure if therapy is right for you? If in Pennsylvania, I organize and attend sessions on the Delaware River, the Little Schuylkill River, the Lehigh River, as well as many creeks,lakes and puddles through-out the Poconos. Feel free to attend.”
**(personal side note, winter therapy is my preferred choice. The isolation, silence and beauty are soul cleansing)
Feral Wolf aka J.Bumberger
I’VE GOT scores of icy runs in my career as well, running every Opening Day as a safety boater in an IK at Kosir’s Rapid Rafts on the Peshtigo River in northern Wisconsin since 2004 (and as River Manager since 2008). In that time I’ve run in some crazy Winter conditions. 2013 was the year that we busted out the most ice to even push rafts down, and most of the channel down the river was only wide enough for mini me rafts (thankfully we have a bunch!) The overhanging ice shelves were 4 to 5 feet thick in our rapids, which made playing safety almost impossible. Even the Class II boulder gardens were treacherous because any flip meant going under the ice! But the coldest day for me was in 2007, the overcast ice encrusted day pictured last in my series (where I’m wearing a big red beard… That thing grows in white these days!) The Peshtigo was fairly open, and running at strong Spring flows, and the WALLACE was in effect. The skies were overcast, and the swims were wicked cold! The air temp was 29 degrees and the water only 33 when we set out that morning. My throw rope was a block of ice clipped to my boat! But thankfully I do most of my rescues simply pulling swimmers into my boat, so I didn’t need it that day. I will never forget it.
WE ARE BLESSED with a huge Family all over the globe who think and act and LIVE like we do. The World is becoming a smaller place and the boating season is expanding to year-round status! We’ve got some great articles coming your way this month, top notch interviews that you’d never find anywhere else, stories of real life DBs like Dale Ote, coverage from the National Paddling Film Festival in Kentucky and Ganga Kayak Festival, the wrap up report from Jondachi Fest, The “Spotlight” feature starring Dojie the River Rescue Dog, how-to paddling technique articles from Alex DePue and his friends, and much more! We hope you all continue to share in the spirit of Dirtbagging, being true to oneself and kind to one’s neighbors. That … is FACT.