08 May, 2017

Big Laurel Creek

It’s clearly been a long time since I last posted. Well, at least I’m not as bad as Evan! The past two months I have been active- but I’ll get to that in another post. Right now, I want to talk about my Personal First Descent of Big Laurel Creek.



The story begins a couple of weeks ago, when my roommate, Alec, and I went and paddled the Deep River. It was a nice warm up for the year, but definitely left a hunger in our stomachs. We painfully watched the river levels over the next week-and-a-half. Everything had water, but we were too busy with work and school to go paddle. Finally, the opportunity arose where Jamie and I would be in the mountains near the rivers; we had found our window.

To make things fun, Alec, Jamie, and I invited our friends Patrick and David to join us. Alec and I were hoping to get everyone out on a river that would be a step harder than what they had done in the past, but still be fun for everyone. We had been planning on the French Broad, section 9. A few days of rain before the trip brought that idea crashing down with a flooded river that we weren’t committed to taking three new paddlers on.

We then turned our eyes to the Green River. Jamie and Patrick both have been down the Upper Green a few times now and it seemed like they were going to add a notch to their belt. Luck was on our side because water was spilling over the dam to Lake Summit. If the lake level reached at least 100.6% we would be able to paddle the Dries.

Yesterday morning when I woke up, I called and checked the lake level: 100.63% Perfect! The Dries had enough water to get us down, but not so much water that Jamie, Patrick, and David couldn’t join us. Not wanting to get stuck on the river after the water release shut off I made sure to find out about the scheduled release times. “No Scheduled Release.” What I didn't know then, was that they were running the dam all day long. No shutoff time!

I made the decision that we would go to Big Laurel Creek. It was a river I had been wanting to paddle for quite some time, but hadn’t been eyeing because I thought it might be a little too much for some of the others to handle. They proved me wrong. Jamie, Patrick, and David all did great! David managed to get his first two rolls on a real river- and managed to stay in his boat the whole time. He even got his first Class IV that day. And even though Patrick and Jamie both swam some, I was very proud of how well they did. Their resilience was very inspiring.

Big Laurel is probably one of the most beautiful rivers I’ve paddled, and just what we were looking for. It started out at a great pace. A slew of Class II's to warm up on before picking up the pace. Plus, getting to run a creek style river that dumps into a Big Water river was an interesting experience for everyone. Switching from the steep rapids on Big Laurel to the last couple miles of French Broad, section 9 was a hoot! FB9 was pumping at around 5,500cfs which made Kayakers Ledge (normally a Class III) into a super beefy double drop with sticky holes on both. Frank Bell’s was a solid Class IV and super fun!


09 March, 2017

Keeping Busy - Having Fun!

It has actually been a pretty crazy month! It’s been awhile since I have posted so I figured I would post something short just as an update. I’ve felt like I’ve stayed active just because of the way my schedule has worked out. A few weeks ago UNCG hosted their 19th Annual Spartan Summit. Instead of competing this year, I helped set for the Intermediate division. It was a blast to work with everyone and to set a large group of routes that all differentiated themselves through various styles.

I also got the chance to go outdoors a few times here recently. I got the chance to head out to Pilot Mountain with some of the climbing club. It was a great day. I do wish that I had gotten the chance to climb more, but I did manage to get on a 5.9 that was new to me and to finally send a 5.10 that I tried back in September. It was a great experience where I got to really feel how much I’ve improved over the past five months. It was also a blast getting to teach people how to lead climb and to get them on their first lead routes. It astounds me that less than a year ago I was learning how to lead myself.

Derek flashing Black Rain (5.9)



This past Monday I got the chance to hit up Moore’s Wall for some outdoor bouldering. I would be lying if I said I was overly happy with how I climbed. I flashed a smattering of V1s and V2s before hitting a brick wall in the V3 known as “V3PO”. Most of the problems were more overhung that I am used to and am excited to head back out there and hope that being more comfortable with the style that I will climb better.

Derek flashing R2-V2 (V2)

02 February, 2017

Eleven Months Left!

So… clearly these are being published a little late, but these are my goals for 2017. I really wanted time to reflect upon what I wanted out of this year. Evan probably knows this about me, but I set lofty goals for myself. For the past two years I have failed to meet 100% of the goals I set for myself at the start of the year- but both times I was did meet the percentage of goals I set out for myself. This year I decided to strip down the goals to the ones that were really important to me.

Whitewater Kayaking
25 - Days Paddling
2 - Personal First Descents
5 - Different Rivers Paddled

Climbing
10 - New Advanced Climbs (UNCG) Top Rope or Bouldering
5 - Days Climbing Outside
1 - 5.12 Climbed at Any Gym or Crag

Other Activities
30 - Miles of Backpacking
190 - Target Weight (lbs)

Creeks & Crags
20 - C&C Posts
4 - C&C Videos

Reading & Writing
1 - Participate in NaNoWriMo
2 - Entries Submitted for Publishing
4 - Books Read

School
1- Earn Bachelor’s Degree
3.0 - Spring Semester GPA

Some may notice that there are less goals oriented around outdoor activities. This isn’t because I plan to be less active, but because I plan to be more efficient in how I spend my free time. I would rather spend my time focusing on the things I really love. I also decided to set goals by days spent, rather than raw number of rivers. Last year I paddled 18 days, so I know I will have to remain active to reach the 25 days of paddling this year.

Hopefully Evan will let us know his goals soon.

24 January, 2017

The Beauty of Believing

But I just made the terrible mistake of checking the water levels of the nearby rivers during January when I don’t own a Drysuit. Everything is running and my kayak sits in my living room where it continues to hibernate for the winter. (Save for a failed attempt to go snow-yaking.)

While my kayak slumbers- I have been continuing to climb frequently. I assume you could call “almost every day” frequently. Other than a couple weeks off for the holidays I have been feeling stronger and stronger in my climbs and managed to hit a milestone in my climbing career before my short break.

Actually this Friday (Jan. 27th) will mark the one year anniversary of when I began climbing. Thanks to the beauty of text messaging I know the date. For my first few months I climbed at the old UNCG wall “The Edge”. In mid-August the new UNCG Rock Wall opened up to the public for the first time and as the gates open the community flooded in. Immediately two routes stood out, ‘Moon Stone’ (5.11) and ‘Something to Believe In’ (5.11). All of the advanced climbers at the time began jumping on each route and trying their hand at conquering the beasts that would both would probably be graded higher and most commercial gyms. ‘Something to Believe In’ probably deserves to be 5.11+ at UNCG.


Left start hold and route card for 'Something to Believe In'

In less than a week ‘Something to Believe In’ was recognized for having an incredibly challenging start that was deemed ridiculous by many climbers. After a month only three people had managed to get on the project and make it to the top (clean), including the person who had set the route. For two months the route toiled away in obscurity as the only people who dared to touch it were those wanting to see why it had developed its reputation. Pulling on to the wall and making the first move just seemed out of reach.

That is until Patrick encouraged me to give it a go one evening. Like everyone the starting moves just proved to be too much for me. So I ended up skipping the first one/two moves and began working the rest of the route. It is a route that uses a combination of creative balance moves with slopers, sloped pinches, and crimps. It was incredibly hard to figure out how to use each hold and I felt way in over my head. It stood alone when it came to difficulty of routes I had been on, but when I came off of it for the day it no longer felt quite as impossible.

For the next couple weeks I started to hop on it more and more often making progress as I climbed. It sometimes felt like people thought I was weird for projecting it, but I had become consumed by the climb and I continued to work it. The final piece was putting together the start, which I managed to do with the help of Nick, one of the people who had climbed it. Eventually I sent the route and became the fourth person to get it clean.

It would be easy for me to claim ‘Something to Believe In’ as a milestone route because it is the hardest route I have ever climbed or even because I spent more time projecting it than any other climb. But what really sets the route apart for me is feeling I got and feedback I received from UNCG’s climbing community as I worked it. It was the first time that it felt like I had ever influenced people to climb something. Climbers who I look up to and have been learning from for the better part of a year seemed to watch me climb and listen to my praises the quality of the route. Since I topped ‘Something to Believe In’, Jamie and Alec managed to send it- and other climbers have managed to get incredibly close.

While I doubt it will take anyone else the same number attempts, I am glad that I managed to reignite interest in climbing a route- and that that interest ended up allowing the route to live well past its lifespan. As one of, if not the oldest route on our wall it will be stripped in a couple weeks as we prepare for our annual competition and I am sure more people will send it before it comes down. At least from me, it will be missed!

01 January, 2017

Goodbye 2016 - It's Been a Fun Ride

It seems to be a common trend on the internet to celebrate the ending of 2016. Just because people have replaced their calendars with new ones that have different numbers they think everything that happened last year would magically disappear. Luckily, I had a great 2016.

For the past two years I have set out with a list of goals to accomplish and these have worked out pretty well! I have yet to meet 100% of the goals that I put down, but have managed to reach the percentage set out for myself both years. Here is a very brief rundown of my 2016:

Kayaking
I spent 18 days paddling this year, which doesn’t sound like much, but for someone who lives in the Piedmont of North Carolina where paddling opportunities can be limited is actually a huge deal. During that time I paddled five Personal First Descents (PFDs):

  • Toilet Bowl / Hammer Factor [Green River Narrows]
  • Deep River [Cedar Falls Section]
  • Middle Ocoee River
  • Upper Ocoee River
  • Haw River


Gabriel's Bend Rapid (Haw River)



Each trip was an amazing experience and I learned a lot from each one. While I am super stoked to have run the last two rapids on the Green River Narrows, which included my first Class V, the weekend I spent on the Ocoee River with my friend Meryl stands out as one of, if not the funnest river I have ever paddled.


I guided three people on their first kayaking trips. Watching each of them have a blast as they embraced the sport was super exciting for me and I realized I still have a lot to give when it comes to the sport. (I also have a lot to learn too.) My roommate and I also entered our first kayaking race at Tuck Fest, which is where I realized that Kayak races might not be my cup of tea.


Climbing
For years I have wanted to get into climbing and this year I finally did. In less than I year I have managed to meet a great group of friends through my University’s climbing community and have worked hard to improve. I entered my first two Climbing Competitions and even began to Sport Climb outdoors. I got the chance to make my first climbing trips to New River Gorge, Lake Summersville, and Pilot Mountain.

Pole Dancing (Pilot Mountain)



Recently I finished climbing the hardest climb I’ve ever sent at our University’s wall which was an amazing experience. I will likely write a post about this soon.


Backpacking / Hiking
I spent three days of my Spring Break completing the last 30 miles I had left to hike in the Nantahala National Forest. It was great getting back out on the Appalachian Trail with my dad and I was super stoked that we got to share that experience with my little sister.

Cheoah Bald (Nantahala National Forest)


I also got to hike the Perimeter Trail at Camp Grimes for the first time in years, and loved every second of it.


Disc Golf
I played eleven disc golf courses this year, six of those were new courses for me. In that time I got to play my first Doubles Tournament with a friend I met from school where we did decently well for as out of practice as we were!


Fitness and Leisure
I managed to lose enough weight this year to get to 188.6 lbs but have struggled to keep it off. I have been bouncing between 190 and 200 all year, and am currently back at 200. I plan to get back down below 190 and to keep the weight off this year. Evan and I also managed to increase the amount of content that we were posting to the various outlets of Creeks & Crags.


School
This year I managed to have a combined GPA of 3.72 at UNCG which is probably my best accomplishment of 2016. Not because I don’t think I couldn’t have done better, but because I have finally managed to learn how to balance my school work with all the other things I want to do.


17 December, 2016

More Like Sea to Snow

Well to say that I’m a little overdue for an update would be like saying “going down the Green River Narrows is kinda tough” or “pancakes are okay I guess.”  For those of you who thought I was dead in a ditch somewhere between Wyoming and Washington, well first off follow me on Twitter and second: Nope.

In fact right now I’m living large!  Spending the weekend at my friend and coworker’s place in Leavenworth, Washington and enjoying watching piles of snow tumble off the boughs of evergreens alongside a flowing river.


You may be asking, “Ooh a river?!  And you’re in the Cascades right now?  AND I just googled Leavenworth and you’re like 30 minutes from two different ski resorts.  AND it’s the adorable Bavarian-themed town that looks like it’s out of a freaking storybook when it snows!!”  If you didn’t ask that just bear with me, it’s a hypothetical, and yes all of those things are true!  But that comes later.  First off, I live in Seattle now.


It’s been busy, needless to say.  On Saturday, July 30th I arrived in Washington, and then shortly after in Seattle since I was coming up from Portland to the south and not the eastern side.  I have a whole video yet to make with all of my trip footage so for now I’m going to focus on what’s been going in since I arrived until the video’s done.  That’ll be a separate post, so for now let’s go over the past 4 months real quick.

It took me 10 days to find a job.  Lucky doesn’t even begin to describe it but I’m now working in IT for a company that owns a bunch of restaurants in the area, plus they make a bunch of cheeses which is pretty much fantastic since, by proxy, I get to eat a lot of cheese now.  To be honest it’s not where I expected to end up but I’m happy to be there.  No part time scheduling worries, my first big-boy office job, and I get to stay busy with helping people out with their computer woes and worries.  Right up my alley since my Eagle Scout instincts kick in whenever someone has trouble logging in.

It took me 2 months to find an apartment.  Seattle’s housing market is downright vicious.  Any place I went to go see was usually rented out the next day, or within 2 or 3 if it was in a “less popular” area.  My renting experience in NC was one of taking your time and making sure you ended up with a place you liked.  This was more of a mad dash to snatch up any little morsels of space that happened to fall off the adults’ (read: Amazon developers’) table at dinner.  That being said I ended up in a place that I really adore.

You say claustrophobic, I say comfy!

It’s a tiny studio right at the southern base of Queen Anne hill, which is to say just a few blocks north of the Space Needle and pretty close to downtown.  I bike into work, I walk around the city when I need to run errands, I get to be active even when I’m just living life day to day.  Overall, I’m really enjoying it out here minus missing my friends back east.


But hey, I spent the weekend in Leavenworth which is an entirely different beast!  Just on the other side of the Cascades, between Stevens Pass to the north and Snoqualmie Pass to the south we have this down that is completely Bavarian themed from its architecture to its culture.  We chowed on bratwurst and enjoyed the Christmas tree lighting that came with the first snow of the season we came in for.

All my life I've wanted to grow up in a small German town.  Close enough.

My friend Ben’s family has a house there right on the bank of the hearty Wenatchee river, which after some research proves to be a nice kayaking destination!  Since it didn’t get above freezing all weekend I didn’t really, you know, get into the ­guts of the river but from what I’ve read it’s up to a 28 mile stretch with a good spread of Class II – III+ rapids with a low-head dam right in the middle to portage around.  Put it on the list!


We also went snowshoeing, which is the first time I had done that ever.  To be fair there probably wasn’t enough snow on the ground to really justify the snowshoes, only about 6 – 8 inches in most places, but there was a snowshoe trail so screw it, we used ‘em.  After a short trek in we veered off the trail and started going straight up the side of the mountain, made it to a secondary ridge and followed it up to the primary where we were greeted with wind, clouds and snow blowing in, and an absolutely breathtaking view of the town and the mountain range stretching out to the south.

The little mountain village sits, unassuming, being observed from the high mountain range.

Since the trail came up to the ridge in the first place we picked it back up and meandered our way back down the mountain.  Town was absolutely insane because of the tree lighting, which happens every Saturday night in December, so we grabbed some handmade bratwurst, a few jars of gourmet mustard, and a bomber of cider and went back to the house to grill and watch the Sounders win the MLS Championship in front of a roaring fire in the wood stove.  If you’re jealous of that setting you should be since it was fantastic.


So I’m digging it here so far, and I’ve managed to start keeping track of all the outdoor adventures I want to go on in the future.  There’s the Wonderland Trail, a 93 mile trek around the base of Mount Rainier, Rainier itself I’d love to summit after some mountaineering lessons, the 3 ski resorts nearby of which I’ve heard one is the best in the world (from a random dude but still), plus the countless rivers around with rapids galore.  I guess it’ll be pretty easy to stay busy once I start planning these trips out.

I know for a fact I’ll be getting my skis back on sometime this season, and of course I’ll be getting my roadtrip video(s) out in my next installment of Catching Up With Evan.  But for now the takeaway is that I’m out west, life is good, and it’s thick with adventure out here.  Derek, get your ass over here.

28 November, 2016

From the Ashes

It's been an awkward time period for me lately. A few weeks ago I heard the news that the Dining Hall at the summer camp Evan and I worked at together had burned down. It took some time for the news to actually hit me. It wasn’t until I saw pictures of the aftermath that I really knew how different things were gonna going into my last year of working Staff at Camp Grimes. For 16 summers I went to the Dining Hall to get my food and to admire all the memorabilia of the Camp since it opened in 1976. Gone. It's all gone and it's going to take some time getting used to that fact.

Remains of the Dining Hall.

I also have recently learned that I will need to one or two classes this spring so that I can graduate college. I had been operating under the impression that I would be graduating in two weeks. I could lie and say that it doesn’t bother me… but it would be apparent and ridiculous. Fortunately while operating this blog with Evan I have gone through some personal growth and know that it's not something I can’t overcome. From out of the ashes the phoenix rises stronger than ever. I know that 2016 has been one of, if not the best year I have had in quite some time. I know 2017 will be even better!

On some more pleasant news I have been route-setting at my University's rock wall and am having a blast doing it. Hopefully I can get some images or videos up soon of some of the things I’ve set.