tylerbradt 03/09/2017 | Posted in Antix, Creeking, rivers, Trip Reports, Trips, Video, Whitewater, WW Disciplines
In the United States of America, on August 21st, 2017 the moon went in front of the sun. For so many this indescribable cosmic experience put into perspective our small place in the universe as night time fell, in the middle of the day, and the perfect sphere of the moon became outlined by the sun itself. Being close to the path of totality at my home in Montana I made the pilgrimage along with hundreds of thousands of other people to experience this once in a lifetime celestial event. I could see Mesa Falls would be just inside the path of total totality so I pointed my truck Southeast and headed for the darkness.
My long time friend Reid Morth met me that night and we put together the plan of how to document my first ever, maybe the first ever, celestial waterfall huck. The day of was about as you would expect, we ate bananas and yogurt, popped a Voke Tab in place of coffee, weaved our way through gathering crowds and drove to falls. We paid off the ranger for a parking spot in an empty lot, apparently everyone has to do this, explained to him our idea of hucking the falls in the darkness of the eclipse, and loaded up camera and paddling gear for the mile long hike to Mesa Falls. By the time we got to the lip of the falls darkness was already creeping across the lands.
I never had the opportunity to purchase the cheap paper solar viewers but the two girls with us who did excitedly told me that indeed the moon itself was almost covering the sun. I did what any reasonable person would do and started panicking. We were about to miss a once in a lifetime chance to paddle a waterfall during the most spectacular celestial event humans have the privilege of witnessing from planet earth! I knew the eclipse travels at about 1000 miles per hour and although we were in the path of darkness we would be at just the tip of it. Reid scrambled with his own camera gear while I set a time-lapse, perfectly positioned to not capture the full eclipse, then began putting on my kayaking gear like a tidal wave was about the wash us all down river. The land continued to darken.
With cameras sort of in position and not yet entirely adjusted to exposure I hopped in my Antix. Mesa Falls is a two tiered waterfall and I had a vision of stern stalling in the pools between while studying the atmosphere of the sun behind the moon. This is our one chance to study the atmosphere of the life giving sun and I wasn’t totally ready to leave it all up to NASA. Perfectly timed with the moons shadow stretching across Idaho I yelled, “I am going!” and pealed out into falls immediately dropping the first 15 feet in the pool between the falls.
I did my stern squirt and looked at the sun thinking about how I wished I had spent the ten dollars on the solar viewers so I could actually see what the hell was going on. Pushed downstream through the course of the squirt I then scrambled to regain ground against the current pushing over the second drop, a 35 footer. A paddled hard loosing myself in the moment of the eclipse and realized I had over paddled my line. I quickly doubled back, finding my line between two not so obvious flakes and happily sailed my Antix into the air.
The landing was great but it was just the beginning of the experience. As I pulled into the eddy the sun totally eclipsed, everything falling into darkness. Two thoughts went through my mind, the first was that I totally blew it and prematurely ran the falls. The other was that I was that I had no idea how dark it was actually going to be and was pretty happy I wasn’t trying to find my line through the darkness of the eclipse.
I remember seeing the awe-inspiring halo of the sun, waves of light radiating away from the perfectly dark sphere of the moon. I remember the light of the sun as it cast it’s first blinding ray to my special place on the planet and how quickly the light grew. Before I knew it, it all seemed to be over. I sat in disbelief in the eddy, my small human mind trying to comprehend the magnitude of the celestial event I just witnessed. I then hiked back up and celebrated the sky gods with three more runs down Mesa Falls, planet Earth.