Editor’s Note: Daniel DeLaVergne (3/5/1977-3/8/2006) was a whitewater legend and one of the founders of Lunch Video Magazine. He was instrumental in planning and executing the Seven Rivers Expedition and the first one day descent of the Stikine River in British Columbia.
“Okay, here’s how we’re gonna do this.”
That was a good signal to pay attention to Daniel DeLaVergne because the king of logistics was about to lay out a fool proof plan.
I had just returned from a kayaking trip on the North Shore of Lake Superior, and we were headed to California for the Seven Rivers Expedition one week later. We had to ship our boats, roof racks, and as much gear as we could cram in the boats ahead to Sacramento. We only had one day to go to Liquidlogic, pick up boats, pack them with gear, and drop them off at Forward Air in Greenville. I was coming from Knoxville, and Forward Air was closing at 3:30. We were tight on time. But the Green was running 200% until noon. Obviously, we had to make that happen too. As always, Daniel could instantly see the correct order of events to make everything happen on time with maximum efficiency.
We got the gear sorted and boats loaded in the dirt parking lot of the old Liquidlogic farm house, and someone from the office dropped us at the put in. We had borrowed gear (all our stuff was packed away in the trip boats). On the water we made quick time to the bottom of Go Left. We stopped long enough to give each other the “all good” head nod before catching the big eddy on the right below Pencil Sharpener (the entry ledge above Gorilla). Daniel taught me that by catching that eddy you can commit to “riding the lightning” and still have a calm place to collect your thoughts. He also liked the way peeling out of the eddy on the right set you up to boof the left side of the notch.
He called it “the old right to left to left to right.” The rest of us would later call it the Flying DeLaVergne. We stopped again for a moment at a big eddy known as the Happy Place below Gorilla. We yelled out our thanks to the spirit world and made a beeline for the take out. Woody was waiting for us and drove us back to Liquidlogic. We hopped into Daniel’s Subaru and got to Forward Air with plenty of time to spare. I even made it to Knoxville in time for dinner with a very patient woman.
One week later we flew from Atlanta to Sacramento and picked up our boats and van. We installed roof racks, loaded boats, and met up with our friend Eric for a quick lunch at the Placerville In-N-Out Burger. We paddled the Silver Fork. I swam below Car Wash, and my boat (with my wallet in it) pinned on the bottom of the river. We retrieved my boat, drove to Tahoe, and ate a pizza, all before the sun set. That was day one of the Seven Rivers Expedition, one of the biggest assaults on the High Sierras to date.
The Seven Rivers Expedition was one for the ages. Eight of us and a rotating cast of extra characters packed into a 15 passenger van. The goal was to paddle the Middle Fork of the Kings, Dinkey Creek, Devil’s Postpile of the San Joaquin, Fantasy Falls of the North Fork of the Mokelumne, Royal Gorge of the North Fork of the American and Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne all in one season. We laid out a plan that changed every other day. Every time we thought we had the next move dialed, the river would spike with a heat wave or drop out from a cold front. Through it all Daniel quietly assessed the variables and came up with a list of options. Everything was richter high but he spotted a three day window of cool, cloudy days. We rallied to Fantasy Falls and put on at higher than recommended flows. It magically dropped to the perfect level just as he predicted.
Two weeks later Daniel and John hatched a plan to hike into and run Upper Cherry Creek in one day. It is normally done in two to three days. We left the parking lot before dawn with limited gear and food, and thousand yard stares. Daniel and Tommy hammered the hike. They did not stop until they reached the put in. The rest of us stopped at an overlook and got Al on the radio. He had hiked to the river at Flintstone Camp. He told us it was way too high and we should hold off.
“That’s fine, but Tommy and Daniel are on their way to put on with no food,” we replied.
We turned around and went to town for groceries and pancakes. Daniel and Tommy put on and paddled to Flintstone Camp where Al was waiting. He shared his food and supplies with them for the day. The rest of us returned with reinforcements and hiked back to camp where the party was in full effect. We spent the next four days sleeping in the dirt and running laps on the Teacups in one of the most amazing place in the country. Even though he left the car with one day of food and was out for five days, Daniel did not bat an eye at the change of plans.
It’s been ten years without him, but Daniel’s influence is still seen throughout the world of whitewater. His videos and marketing plan helped shape what is currently popular in whitewater media. We named moves, eddies, lines, and gear after him. After his death I spent a year paddling hard every chance I got because I felt like I needed to honor him. Then I spent a year not paddling at all. My emotions were overwhelming and paddling made me sad. Now I go when I can and I go without sorrow. It is rare that a day goes by that I don’t think about my friend, but never more than when someone is complicating the shuttle and wasting valuable time. That’s when I can hear that voice in my head:
“Okay, here’s how we’re gonna do this…..”
Nate Helms is a former full time kayaker and adventure enthusiast. He is a founding member of T-Dub. His friends are his heroes. Despite the trappings of adult life he still enjoys high water days, big mountain bike rides, and long trail runs with his adventure buddies.