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Monthly Archives: January 2017

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This BLOB brought to you by Funhog Press.

The gauge read 1,200 cfs. The roaring brown torrent before us was easily twice that. We might have hiked back to the car, but here we were, with boats—and portage shoes. Thus began a high water descent of the Agua Fria. For the record, John Govi, Jonathan Olsen, and I walked around all the named rapids, with eleven portages total. Of course there was plenty of action between the portages too. Check out Govi’s helmet behind the pulsing wave in the photo below.
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And still it snowed, and rained. What is a paddler to do but dig out, and go kayaking? Into the whiteness drove West Howland, Ted Decker, Tom Herring, Dave Sherman, and myself; bound for moving water in central Arizona’s Sierra Ancha.
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Spring Creek is a major tributary of Tonto Creek, entering two-thirds of the way through the Hellsgate run. It always looked intriguing from the mouth, but to catch it with an adequate flow meant committing to lower Hellsgate at a MORE than adequate flow. Theories of hydrology would be tested with this first descent.
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Beautiful clean sluices gave way to alder-laced rapids, begetting revolutionary paddling advice from Herring like “Avoid Aldercations,” and “Respect Your Alders.”
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At about 3 pm, bedrock returned. A gorge formed. Class V rapids, scouting, portaging, and darkness ensued. We scratched out a camp by headlamp.
04-camp
Frozen drysuits were donned without the warming sun ever reaching our gorge camp. Spring Creek was now low, but Tonto was still high. We found the extra water quite nice.
05-water
But another harried evening in a gorge was not high on anyone’s list, so we camped early this time, at an all-star beach.
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Exit from the Last Hurrah Gorge is guarded by a stout rapid. At high water, it’s extra stout. I’d always wondered about the portage options here, and now was my chance to learn more about them.
07-ted-cliff
A rope ascent, a traverse, and a rope descent had the boats past the drop. Not too brutal, but time consuming. Good thing we didn’t charge in here at 4 pm. Good thing we DID rally out of town in the snow.

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This BLOB brought to you by Funhog Press

I hope I don’t jinx the weather gods by making the below proclamation too early, but as I sit at home watching snowflakes fall on the first day of a forecasted 5 day storm, my confidence is soaring. So here goes: 2017 will be remembered as a good paddling year in Arizona.
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The active weather pattern that is serving up deluges and dumps across most of the West has not shunned us here in the south. Our winter water year started when several inches of snow fell during Thanksgiving week. That snow was mostly gone two weeks later, but the Mogollon Rim was soggy with the melt, so when an inch of rain arrived on December 16th, Arizona rivers came to life.
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The following four weeks brought a series of drenching rains, with snow levels often hovering near 9,000 feet. Mild, rainy weather, regular paddling forays; are we in West Virginia or Arizona?
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There have been numerous opportunities to paddle Oak Creek near Sedona. Below, Flagstaff paddler Nick Smotek runs a flood channel during high water.
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On New Years Day, my wife Lisa Gelczis and I found ourselves on a flooded tributary of the East Verde River with friends Billie Prosser and Curtis Newell. Massive cypress trees along the banks led us to coin the stream “Big Cypress Creek.” Upon further investigation, we found the official title listed as Sycamore Creek. There are way too many “Sycamore Creeks” already. We’re sticking with Big Cypress. And this year, we’re sticking around Arizona.

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