It finally happened. I sacked up and ran Sunshine at a normal flow of 100%. It's not even close to being the most difficult rapid I've run or the most dangerous. Not the most remote, not the tallest, not even the most challenging of that day.
But Sunshine has a mystique. Every hard paddler has seen a photo. A 10 foot falls that crashes down on a rock shelf, which causes a claymore mine explosion of water into the air. There is exactly one boat-width of salvation on the left or the right. Either direction is a classic cross current move to the lip. Losing your angle risks losing your legs.
The stories are legendary and relentless. Millions of tales from the first D to attempts at 'gapping' the shelf and onto the discovery of the left line. Crashes have occurred backwards, hairy side down, and pancake flat onto the anvil. Over the years, nearly imperceptively the pillow shrank, the little wave got bigger, and the right eddy became stronger - or so I've been told as I'm no local. The left line became the new right line. Legends echo up the gorge and through the foliage on a summer day.
I have seen scores of paddlers fire it. Some slick, some grating. Hack jobs and Olympians, kids and old-timers. Three strokes in either direction and you're a hero or a zero. I watched, watched, and watched. Several times I tried to force myself into the boat, only to find myself clipping the rappel rope yet again.
Finally, one day the sun was shinning, which means nothing as the drop is named Sunshine for glaring reasons. But rather, it was finally sunny in my mind; I was smiling on the inside. The day had come.
Sure, it's not the best photo. After years of dirt-bagging photos on the blog, my wife finally surprised me with a SLR camera. I'm slowly discovering that this shot is a little over-exposed with two slow of a shutter speed causing motion blur. Yet it is a really neat personal photo. It places me into the legends of the water along with uncounted others. It's one of those photos that never get old to the people who are in them like boof shots of Double Trouble, Entrance Falls or Oh-Be-Joyful. The photo gives a moment of pride in accomplishment and reflection on a long successful journey with rivers.
My skills have equaled this drop for a long time. My first Gorilla spanking was in 2004. I had boofed my way down the Green at midnight with just slivers of moonlight in the weeks before this photo. I have been paddling class V for 10 years on three continents, 5 countries and 17 states. I guess all of the experience gave me the patience to wait for just the right day and I was able to truly savor the flavor. Or maybe it just makes me a pansy? That is a razor thin line that never gets clearer with age.