Tuesday, August 31, 2010

You Just Don't See This Every Day (or "The Breathing Dragon")

I think my words to Jim were"you never would have had that 'coon dog adventure if you were sitting home on the couch." How prophetic. Except this time it wasn't being hunted by 'coon dogs. It was...

...spelunking up the 430' outlet pipe of the Marsh Creek dam. Why (you may ask) would someone spelunk up the outlet pipe? Well for safety reasons of course - to be sure it is safe to ride downstream as a water slide!

The story starts with a typical night ride, out the lakeside trail to the New Bonus Loop. It was about 8:15pm when we reached the dam and saw a couple of guys fussing around on the spillway riser. We figured they were bikers so we slowed down to make sure they weren't having some sort of mechanical. It then became apparent they were not bikers (remember it was dark with this point) as there were no bikes, there was a large duffle, and there was a LOT of rope on the ground. Oh, and a couple of empty Hop Devils.

They explicitly asked we not use their real names so we will call them Ben and Jerry (Mike knows that's my traditional after-ride snack). Ben explained they were planning to ride through the outlet pipe, like a water slide, but first needed to recon the pipe to be sure there were no abrupt turns, protruding metal fittings, or underwater traps along the way. They had already run a lightweight fishing line through the pipe and measured the distance at 430'. And they were now busy feeding about 500' of climbing rope down that same pipe, with the intent of climbing up from the other end using the rope to assist.

We marveled at their safety consciousness and good taste in beer, and then told them we would be back after finishing our Bonus Loop ride. And so we rode the Bonus Loop - which was seemingly endless and most excellent at night I must say. Within 45 minutes we found ourselves crossing the dam on our return leg, hoping for the best.

When we arrived there was nothing to be found at the riser. No duffle bag. No piles of rope. No Hop Devils. But a rope was tied to the railing of the riser, and it ran down through the spillway and disappeared with the rushing water deep into the bowels of the dam. I tugged on the rope and it was taught. Very taught. We briefly considered the implications of untying the rope, but that's not how we roll (but it was funny to think about).

Ok, so clearly we had to hoof it down the bottom of the dam to see what was at the other end of the rope. When we got there, we could hear Ben and Jerry yukking it up inside the pipe. They were probably 20' in, just getting their bearings, taking some photos, putting on wet suits, and strapping into their climbing gear. Ben came out for a final photo, said good bye, and in he went. The yukking it up continued for a good while, but soon started to sound more distant. So we climbed back to the top of the dam and over to the riser. And to our surprise we soon saw a faint light shining inside the riser. Ben had made it!

Within a few short minutes Ben emerged into the bottom of the riser, whooping it up pretty good. Jerry had taken the easy route (our route) and took some pictures of Ben in the riser, Ben on the riser, Ben posing with us, and Ben and Jerry together.

High fives all around.

But this was apparently just the beginning. Remember, this was just the recon mission to setup for THE BIG SHOW - a high speed water slide attempt! Alas the attempt would not be tonight because apparently it will require a considerable amount of additional gear:
  • Body armor
  • Full face helmet
  • Welding gloves
  • Hiking boots
  • Athletic cup
  • Butt protector of some sort TBD
We chatted a little about water slides, mountain biking, wished them luck, and were on our way. I'm not quite sure how to sum this up. I mean I think we've done some crazy things - mountain bike fire jumping, kayaking the brandywine at flood stage, more fire jumping, and sending Mike across the tram - but this was off the charts by our standards. Just glad it worked out (I gave it 15% chance of having a really bad outcome). And thrilled we were out riding and had the good fortune to stumble into this most unique spectacle.

Now I can't guarantee one of these on every night ride, but I can guarantee your not going to see anything like this sitting on the couch at home!


"Go big or go home"
-- unknown

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