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TOUGH FUN PRESENTED BY THE 2019 FORD RANGER

The Whitewater Kayaker’s Bucket List

Story by Max Ritter

When presented with the opportunity of a lifetime, take it. Trent McCrerey and Knox Hammack took that advice to heart as they loaded their kayaks onto the Ford Ranger and embarked on the most ambitious trip of their lives through the American West.

As young professional kayakers, Trent and Knox grew up dreaming big. Fully embracing the dirtbag lifestyle was a means to make those dreams come true, and allowed them to hone their skills in some of the country’s gnarliest whitewater. However, the kayaking community is a small and tight-knit group, and looking beyond that often proved difficult. As longtime TGR fans and active members of the online community, both knew that when they were selected as Team 3 for TGR and Ford’s Tough Fun project, that would all change.

Trent McCrerey and Knox Hammack, ladies and gentlemen. Eric Parker photo.

The boys arrived in Jackson sometime in early June, met up with kayaker and filmmaker Eric Parker, and packed up the brand-new truck with all the boats it could fit, and immediately headed north into Montana. Massive amounts of snowmelt promised some all-time whitewater possibilities, but that meant going for long hikes into the woods. Their first objective was Natural Bridge Falls, a huge waterfall that had only been run once before. Unfortunately, water levels did not cooperate, and the crew had to move on their next mission: Big Timber Falls, deep in the Crazy Mountains. This time they were successful, and enjoyed an epic day on the water.

Sending it big in the Crazy Mountains. Eric Parker photo.

From Montana, their next stop was Banks, Idaho – the home of the most notorious race in whitewater. The North Fork Championship is an annual gathering of whitewater minds, and a celebration of the sport at its finest. There, the crew attended the annual Whitewater Awards where the best lines, tricks, and expeditions were given awards based on the community’s votes. Trent won second place in the short film of the year category, and Knox took the coveted award for best line off a waterfall. Not a bad haul.

Roadside attractions. Eric Parker photo.

In need of some rest, the crew packed up and drove to Parker’s home of Eagle, Idaho to ride some horses and experience a different pace of life. Of course, with classic whitewater nearby, they also went for a 50-mile overnight mission on the Salmon River with a group of friends.

A change of pace from the usual. Eric Parker photo.

Their next mission took them West into California, where heavy winter snows provided perfect conditions in the High Sierra. Along the way, they rallied the Ranger around some rock formations in the Alabama Hills before dropping into famed sections of river named Thunder Run and Brush Creek, home of some of the best slides and drops in the area. While fun, the boys were nervously waiting for news that their final objective was ready: the Royal Gorge of the American.

Trent's favorite type of water slide. Eric Parker photo.

The trip culminated right outside Truckee, California, where one of the hardest and most respected runs in whitewater lay in perfect conditions. The Royal Gorge is one of the crown jewels of American kayaking, and the team was in perfect position to make it happen. A successful run of the four biggest drops on the river is called the Royal Flush, and is something only a tiny handful of boaters have completed. Trent managed to run three of them, leaving a huge smile on everyone’s face. With their final mission complete, the crew packed up and hit the road for the long drive back to Wyoming, leaving them plenty of time to reminisce about their weeks on the road. 

Knox sends it deep in the Royal Gorge. Eric Parker photo.