While getting to boat with Todd Andrews was always exciting I also learned alot about life and what to live for. During the years since he passed away on the Potomac River my life has changed in many ways. I feel like I have lost so much from what was learned from his time in my life. One thing that I have not forgotten is his passion for exploring in the Big Horns. During the last year of his life we paddled numerous days playing hookey from work and searching for new runs. I remember my now ex-wife being very encouraged to get out with him. For once she was also as psyched as we were and seemed to understand the connection I had with kayaking, and she respected it. Somehow I think she knew as I did that it might be the last summer to spend with him and she was encouraging of our exploration.
Todd Andrews knowing its another good day in the Big Horns.
We ended paddling 4 new runs that year and a serious high water mission on Deer Creek that I think he and I were unsure if we would get out alive on. During these missions we would talk of other runs we wanted to explore but knew we needed much more time in our lives to make it happen.
Heading in to explore the upper reaches of Shell Creek headwaters
I was able to keep most of the info we shared in my head and new it would take sometime to fully explore all of the runs we talked about, but also knew Todd would be there with me yelling LTP as we ran the goods.
The Shell Creek drainage has some of the most intense boating in the Big Horns. Carved out commiting granite gorges and steep creeking at its finest awaits those that venture into the upper run which is now the middle run. Todd had talked about looking into the upper reaches of the Shell Drainage but never got the chance to venture into the depths of this remote run.
Shell reservoir would be our destination and put in…..
I enlisted two young aspiring paddlers that work for me Tom Sunderland and Randy Binder both solid paddlers, but pretty green as far as creeking goes. With so much unknown about the run I was a little nervous about bringing them along but they knew what they were getting into.
We stopped on the way up to look at a section of water above the falls that had not been run and it looked pretty intense.
This is the lead into the drop below
This is one drop that ends with a must make left entrance and even at that im not sure how good it would go.
The drive in was gorgeous……
The falls at the lake looked like they might go at higher water levels but with the only possible line being blocked with a log it was not going to happen for us. Even without the log it was a questionable water depth at the bottom.
Finally after some wood portages that were getting very annoying we got into some good drops.
Aaron Mulkey coming out of “Elysium”
Aaron Mulkey in “A Few Degrees Of Freedom”
Tom Sunderland on ” A Few Degrees Of Freedom”
The river kept splitting in half and everytime it did the things got boney.
This looked like a good slide into a hole and unfortunately had a river wide log jam right below it.
This section was good below the log jam
This is the lead in to the drop below which was looking pretty meaty we looked for a way to just run this section and get out but it was marginal.
This drop was big and sketchy. The river left channel looked like it would go but would take you deep into an unknown pocket backed up by a rock and then you better come out upright because it was another 75yards of class 5 and the worst part, a river wide log below which ended up being my reasoning for not running it. I was willing to probe it but was not willing to deal with the log that waited below.
The log was just below this photo that we tried to move.
This started to be the story of the day, good drops choked with at least one log that made the drop unrunnable.
Randy getting his boof on…….
Down towards the end of the run after the confluence it became read and run class 4 all the way to the car with one class 5 drop.
The most interesting part of this day was the Forest Service taking it upon themselves to call Search and Rescue on us at 4 in the afternoon. The Forest Service told our shuttle driver this section had not been run by kayakers and that it was unrunnable. She proceeded to tell them we knew what we were doing and to not be worried. At 4 in the afternoon they called S and R despite her telling them not too. When we arrived at the takeout at 5 we had FS rangers everywhere. It was an interesting confrontation but they quickly realized they screwed up.