Stikine River, BC

Posted January 8th, 2013 in Blog

After wrapping up a great 2012 kayak and raft season in Southwest Colorado, it felt very liberating to throw my kayak on top of my Subaru and  head North.  First stop .. tune -up-laps on the North Fork of the Payette . While on the Payette’s I met up with Mike Mckee and Cruise Quenelle who were keen for an adventure. From the North Fork we loaded up into Mckee’s rig and began our journey to the greatest country in the world…Canada!

Jakub Nemec joined us in Vancouver.He had flown in from the Czech republic after putting on a extreme race in his home country.Now with Jakub joining the team I could’nt imagine a more solid crew to be with.We started it off with a good’ol fashion hotchy-bop tour of Squamish. Some nice river there ehh ! Ashlu, Checkamus and Elaho,

Matt Wilson on the Checkamus River (Daisy Lakes)

Fear Canyon Elaho River

Ashlu Box

Matt Wilson dropping 50/50 on the Ashlu Box

After about a week of holding it down there,the crew was chomping at the bit to head north for the Stikine.The gauge on the Stikine looked good though weather looked to be terrible, snowy and cold.Nevertheless we started the long journey North. After driving throughout the night we hit up an RV camp with internet and showers. This was where we got word that Jeff West had passed away while paddling the Stikine.After kayaking for many years,I have lost a few dear friends to the river.Although I had never met Jeff,I understand and empathize how devastating it is for those who were close to him.

Right after we got the news about Jeff,the Stikine doubled in size due to a coastal rain event.  We decided not to make any rash decisions and head over to Terrace where we heard there might be some creeks running.In Terrace we met an incredibly friendly local,Jason Cathers,who showed us some of his local runs.

Hirsch Creek

Williams Creek

After a few days in Terrace we got the details, or I should say “rumors”,of what had happened to Jeff. The only thing we do know and should be remembered is that Jeff West was attempting to push the sport kayaking into a whole new realm.Personally for this to occur on our way to the put-in seemed to be a sign.The Stikine had been given it up all August and September with a number of crews firing it up.Doubt began to set in,,”perhaps this might not the time to be dropping in there”,,”show the river the respect that it deserves and turn around”.Obviously my mind was spinning and I could tell the rest of the group wanted to push on up there.I’d been down twice before and maybe I would just sit this one out,,I rationalized.

Stikine River Put-in: Photo Jules Domine

The sun was lighting up the Autumn foliage when we reached the bridge where the Cassiar HWY crosses the Stikine.The gauge on the pile on was reading 3. This water level was definitely on the high side of good though with a cold and clear weather forecast she would be dropping in the coming days.We went back Tatogga Lakes Resort where the owners are extremely kayaker friendly.Cruise and I were hanging out on the front porch chatting when a small car with kayaks on the roof pulled into the parking lot.When the man and woman got out of the car I instantly recognized Doug Ammons.We had heard that Doug had been with Jeff before the accident and it was obvious he was carrying a very heavy heart.Doug asked us if we planning on running the Stikine and we responded with shrugs of indecision.”I just flew through the canyon in a helicopter yesterday.It is really high in there..and the holes are terminal”. Doug said very earnestly.Cruise and I nodded our heads in acknowledgement as chills rose up our spines.Not wanting to press him of what had append during his run we stood there in awkward silence until he said.”Good luck if you guys drop in there,we need to eat some lunch”.As Doug walked away, I desperately wished we could have met under different circumstances.

Meanwhile Jakub had got in touch Jules Domine, who had just completed the Stikine with Corey Boux three days prior. They were in Dees Lake and heading our way.After doing some free labor for Tina, the owner of Tatogga Lakes, Corey and Jules had arrived.Jules came up to us and asked if we were keen for a Stikine lap.Amazingly he had already completed 3 descents of the Stikine in one month and was looking for number 4.”It’s gonna be the perfect level and with perfect weather “ Jules said grining in his French accent.Right then I knew I was in,how could I turn away after coming so far from what is arguably the best river in the world.

Mike Mckee, Jakub Numec, Matt Wilson, Jules Domine, Cruise Quenelle

Just below Wasson’s: Photo Jules Domine

Garden of the Gods

Stikine Narrows day 2: Photo Jules Domine

Matt Wilson dropping into V-Drive: Photo Jules Domine

Juakub Numec “lovin it” on the Stikine: Photo Jules Domine

We had an amazing run and Jules lead us down through the smaller rapids like it was his backyard run.I always forget(from my previous runs)how much whitewater is stacked in that canyon.I could tell that Jules just wanted to drag his feet and enjoy the canyon’s vistas,,(very French:). It proved to be the perfect pace, and I got see the Stikine in a new light. Rather than just charging through the rapids to get to camp, we caught most every eddy to enjoy the canyon and the moment. The crew did great and I felt extremely lucky to share such a place with new-found friends.In the end that’s what kayaking is all about.Thanks boys,, that was an awesome trip. RIP Jeff West

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