Friday, February 14, 2014
Mexican Packrafting Fiesta!
Last year I bruised/broke a rib and missed out on the Mexico: Show up and Blow up and famous Orizaba-Rio Antigua traverse. But this year for a couple of weeks I joined Cody Roman who was midway through a winter trip in Mexico, Brad Meiklejohn who came for a weeklong stint, Mike Curiak who's plopping class IV in his second season, Todd Tumolo who styled all the beautiful drops we came to, Gerard Ganey who sort of made the trip happen, Jeremiah Phelps and Doug Demerest for a couple weeks paddling in the state of Veracruz.
It was freaking cold and rainy, with the cold weather that brought snow to Alabama blowing across the Gulf of Mexico. But the paddling was so good, so was the food and lodging at Aventurec in Tlapacoyon.
I almost learned to boof, especially on the "Big Banana" and roadside section of the Alseseca as well as its Ship Creek-like tributary, the lower Jalacingo ("Little Jalapeno").
"Big Banana" is a famous Class V run that seemed ideal for Class IV packrafting. Todd and Luc did it last year with some kayakers, and by the time C. Roman, Brad, MC and I joined up with the others, they had already run it and were eager to run it again.
We headed down the day after we did Roadside where I had one of the top swims of my life in Sophie's Hole -- the kind where you think, Oh I see, so this is how it can end. MC's boat sprung a leak at the put in and so he walked back out. Three drops in and Ganey had a bad swim in a pocket hole under a manky drop and I was ready to walk out. But Todd talked me off that ledge and I was happy to keep going.
The must-do rapids were all either easy class IV or, in two instances what Todd and Ganey called "mandatory swims", both sort of back to back. Below is Todd's photo of the entrance-drop to the first mandatory swim: a twenty footer into a walled-in, cliffed-out amphitheater just above another 20 foot drop into a slot canyon called Mordor.
All the other rapids we'd not likely run in packrafts -- a.k.a. Class V -- were easily portaged and so beautiful to look at from above as we walked by them. After most mandatory class V portages we had to "drop and plop" or "toss and go" or something like that. Fun and exhilerating cliff jumps with packrafts that might be sort of a long drop as a seal launch.
Anyway, I was again reminded of what wonderful tools packrafts are for amphibious exploration and what a great crew we had that day on the Big Banana, one of the greatest high caliber packrafting day trips on the planet.
If walled-in Class IV and mandatory plunge/swims off 20 foot waterfalls/cliffs doesn't cook your bun, there's still a great week or two boating among the Barranca Grande and Pescados section of Rio Antigua as an overnight (just don't leave a car at the put in!), the beautiful waters of the Actopon and the fun Class III/IV- boulder gardens of the Filo-Bobos, not to mention the travertine father north we never got to.
I would go back next winter -- it's so cheap to get there and the Aventurec set up is ideal. We have even discussed an APU whitewater packrafting course down there, since in just the week we paddled the Alseseca and its tributaries we all improved markedly