The Box. Sometimes I find it hard to write about a river without feeling that I am regurgitating similar lines about the 'great whitewater', 'epic setting' and various other common phrases in kayaking depiction. For the Box, however, I am struggling to find the words that do the place justice. But here is my attempt.
Contemplation during 'Ankle Breaker'.
We arrived to the take out around 1am after our lethargic rally from Jackson, with young buck Risto jumping in for the ride. In the faint moonlight I thought I could see the canyon walls upstream, but not even knowing if we were in the right place I cast this out of my mind and snuggled up in the passenger seat of the Previa and faded off to sleep. In the morning we were awoken by the Jackson-ites in a very enthusiastic fashion, they were fired up and not before long we were beginning to build our own internal stoke. Once we moved our rig down to the actual take-out I began to realise Nick and I had signed up for a 'charge train' of ten people for this trip. Well it was ten, until we seen a black Remix tearing down the river towards us. Now we were ELEVEN. Eric Parker had mobbed out the section below the Sunlight portage to catch us for another lap, which would turn out to be perfect as he would have the lines fresh in his head. Locked and loaded, we crammed our massive crew into two rigs and make our way towards the put in.
The Box is deep, really deep.
On the way to the put in I found out that we were bursting not only Nick and my Box cherries, but also Risto, Teague and Frazers. Not to mention it was going to be their first overnight kayaking trip! The crew were opting for an alternative put in, where you hike into the river about halfway through the flat water between the 'Big Green Monster' portage and the 'Ankle Breaker' portage, which I think was the right decision for our crew. So after a 'quick' walk down to the river, my opinion wont be shared by some of the others in the crew as I am relating to the hiking/portaging in Bull Lake Creek, we were pushing off the banks of the Clarksfork and about to embark on yet another great adventure.
The team cooling off after the hike.
The meandering braided river bed slowly leads you down into a canyon where the walls begin to close in. After soaking in to scenery and indulging in some 'warm-up' class III you approach a tempting horizon line. That is, until you inspect what is down stream. A series of falls that link together to make an inspiring cascade, this heralds the 'Ankle Breaker' portage. The steep and sweet portage is away from the river for a bit, blocking your view of the cascade but after putting back on you get to see it in all its glory. And more importantly, you are putting back on for some of the best route-able creeking east of the Sierra's.
The boys finishing 'Ankle Breaker' portage.
A cascade to remember.
Boofs, holes, plugs and everything other than big waterfalls really. Nick and I were feeling hot, and just generally excited about all the runable whitewater so were charging most things first. Little did I know that this was fueling our crew and encouraging them to fire as well, with people pretty much paddling everything other than Snollieguster on day one. Nick, in true Truth fashion, couldn't let it go and fired it with Parker. Having the cleanest possible line. From here we made our way through 'Balls to the Wall', which is exactly that and eventually to a sweet camp just below the 'Toilet Bowl' rapid. We lifestyled, ate like kings and feel asleep to a strip to stars the gleamed down between the tall canyon walls.
The boys looking small in the epic canyon.
'Balls to the Wall'.... literally.
Snugg putting on a show for the young fellas.
Nick snapping away.
Day two was all go, with some more classic rapids down to Dillworth. A very New Zealand type rapid with multiple moves, multiple hazards and photos do not do it justice. Nick and I, as per usual, rushed to run the rapid with two different but good lines. Again the lemming effect went into over-drive and the boys came routing, which was so sick to see.
Charge-Train busting out of camp, 11 deep!
Mike feeling small but paddling big at Dillworth.
Cheers for the shuttle Ducomb, we owe you!
The future charging Dillworth at 16 and 18!
From here we charged down to Deliberation, which was on the high side of good for sure. But not to deter us, Nick and I were keen to give it a go. Nick was overly keen and decided to route first, cleaning the entrance move and eventually making his was past the imminent sieve and over the 10 foot drop. Unfortunately in the landing he was flipped to his left and although he rolled up instantly he was eventually pushed down the left channel into an isolated room. Action time, Sam and Teague went to work setting up an anchor for me to swim down to the rocks making Nicks room and Austin and Mike mobbed the next drop to see what the lead out was for Nick. To my surprise Nick had rolled up and had clutched onto the wall and was relatively in control, just unable to go anywhere. Eventually I was able to get from Austin that Nick could paddle out of the room he was in, but he would have to contend with a shitty hole with a sieve in play. Nick managed to make his was through this and to the safety below. Full on, and fortunately we got the best result. This being more than enough excitement for me and the group, I elected to portage and we continued on our way.
'Calendar Gorge', oh really now?
Mike stoked on it all.
Next we had the portage into 'Leap of Faith', during which Parker paddled through the cave! After a seal launch like 10 footer and some mank we were confronted with a Sunlight portage between us and our freedom from the Box. So after banging this out we took a well earned reprieve and enjoyed some sunshine in one of the most spectacular canyons that I have ever been fortunate enough to be in. And better yet, we were able to float through some even more spectacular canyons before the walls fell away revealing some huge limestone and red-rock peaks. Which kept your attention right down to the take out.
Leap of Faith
The end of the 'Sunlight Portage'.
An amazing trip, where I was fortunate to make a ton of new life long friends, we came away unscathed as a crew and I now had first hand experience of how amazing the Box really is. But we weren't done, I neglected to mention we ran into another crew in the box. Comprised to two more Jackson-ites and our boys Cooper Lambla and Ben Luck. Nick and I were toying with the idea of trying to do the Box in a day but were having issues with organising shuttle, that was until Ben and Cooper came along with the exact same idea. After undoing our shuttle Ducomb hooked it up and dropped Coop's car to the bottom... and we were set. The plan was breakfast at the Fork and Spoon at 8am, and be back there for Cheese Burgers before they close at 7pm. We pretty much crushed it, putting on just after 9am and reaching the take out before 4pm. One of the sickest days of kayaking I've done, one lap to learn it then one lap of routing it. We also got to do the gorge below the bridge put-in and experienced the Green Monster portage, which is quite long but not too steep. Putting in at the bridge would be my suggestion for anyone doing the Box, as more time on the river is better than more time off it!
Yeah, living the dream!