Karl Moser is a good man, but, sorry ladies, he's out of the game. I'm pretty sure he and his wife Tara are chasing waves in Costa Rica right now. If anyone at the University of Oregon had asked me seven years ago if Karl might be the first of our group of river rat friends to be married, I probably would have said something like, "Karl likes girls?" While most of us dudes were looking for ladies and waterfalls, Karl was completely focused on kayaking at the time we met. Well, I'd say he crossed paths with the right girl, one who makes him as happy as all of those Skook sessions he always talked about.
Karl and Tara were married under the towering Tetons in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I had never been to this part of the United States before, so I was stoked to have the opportunity to experience a new place. I road tripped over with good friends from college. Kelly, Chelsea and Kelsey picked me up in Hood River on their way from the Willamette Valley. We dropped into La Grande to squeeze in Conor Ross for the all-nighter rider through eastern Oregon and Idaho. In between sleep sessions we talked about how America is full of "America." Franchises and strip malls. I'm pretty sure we had those conversations four years ago, too.
The parties were radical, the people fantastic, the views stunning and the champagne at the reception delicious and freeflowing!
The Sleeping Indian.
Karl's bachelor party was a highlight of the trip. While Tara and all of her lady friends cruised around Jackson in a swanky party bus, Dave Zinn, Philip Gordon, Conor Ross, Mr. Moser and I stopped by the liquor store and rallied Philly's Subaru to Idaho Falls. We just wanted to take Karl out for a good night of debauchery before the wedding.
Idaho Falls is the kind of place you drive through and you probably don't stop. I think it was the setting for Napolean Dynamite? Anyway, it's a weird townon Idaho's eastern edge of dust. I don't want to reveal too much, but we found a good time at Blondie's Place on the highway through town - cowboys and cowgirls, cheap drinks and some really crazy karaoke.
Karl Moser nursing his hangover on Lower Mesa Falls.
The only planned event was a huckfest at Mesa Falls the next morning on our way back to Jackson. After way too much fun at Blondie's, Philly stayed sober and hauled us up the highway to Lower Mesa. We woke up to two young hooligans with creekboats hovering over us, waiting for the crew to motivate for some kayaking. These two kids, Ben Dan and Fraser, were the only fellas out of the group who had actually run the falls before.
Conor Ross looks for the stroke.
Conor and I waited up at the roadside lookout and snapped some photos while the other boys rallied some laps on the left side. We eventually made our way down the scree field and over to the falls for our turn to get vertical. Conor laid some treats on the left side, but I was pretty fired up to go right. I had seen the hero line done before, but it looked like I could fire up the ultimate "boof-stomp" a bit further right than I had seen in the videos. So, I grabbed a bunch of borrowed gear and made the ferry to the other side of the river to get a closer look at the take-off and landing. I could see the lip was indeed perfect for a huge boof in the Everest. There were rocks below the lip on the right, so I thought I could just launch into the center curtain, below another scary rock-ledge, and stomp the bow down for the last 20 feet or so, finally plugging into a soft pocket of aerated water.
"Looks good!" photo by Dave Zinn
Let's just say that not everything is at seems. I boofed that shit. I flew through the air and smiled with stoke as I shot through the center curtain, just where I wanted to be. Then I hit a rock. Hard. Explosion of gear and body. About 40 feet down, I crushed a hidden rock shelf directly under my ass, and I felt impact harder than I have ever imagined feeling. I then fell the last 10-15 feet limp and upside down before ejecting into the aerated mess at the base of the falls. I went deep. I eventually resurfaced in shock and pain, helplessly watching my borrowed boat and paddle float away. I washed up on the rocks on the right. Conor ran the left side again, picked me up and ferried me to the more pedestrian accessible left side eddy where Zinn and Philly, both trained in WFR, helped me get stable and checked out my spine. Karl followed behind Conor and stayed to help while Conor sprinted downstream after the gear. It was scary as hell. I thought I broke my back. I was writhing in pain and regret, worried my boy Karl was going to miss his rehersal dinner, worried I wasn't going to be able to do anything fun again. It was a gnarly scene.
"Feels good!" photo by Dave Zinn
Ready to stomp on demrocks. photo by Dave Zinn
I thank the river gods that I was able to walk out of there, and I was even capable of laying some treats on the dance floor at the wedding party the next day. After the festivities were over, we made the most of a rushed drive back to Oregon. Kyle Dickman and our boy Mike rallied back to make our band of gypsies even more fun. We camped in the middle of a dry reservoir in southern Idaho, and it was great.
Kelly and Kyle and "the light."
About 10 days later, I am still in pain but mobile and feeling better. I'm not sure when I'll be able to baot again, but I don't think I'll be dropping any fat boofs for a while.
I just want to say to the community of shit-runners out there, that although we now have developed safer waterfall techniques like the tuck-n-toss and the boof-stomp blind faith, we still need to be mindfull of the unpredictable nature of nature itself. I have been fortunate to stay relatively healthy over the last 7 years of running big waterfalls, but I have taken some beatings along with slaying some beasts. Be carefull out there. I'm pretty stoked about some big water playboating for a while. Congratulations Karl and Tara - I'm sorry I almost broke my back at your wedding!
BTW, if you haven't seen it already, check out http://egcreekin.blogspot.com for an epic update from the Stikine River in BC. The Beaver Lodge is proud of you boys!