Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Into Washington

After more than 2 months of gypsy living, we finally took a break in White Salmon, thanks to our Uncle Jim and Aunt Cindy who have called it home for something like 40 years hosting us for about 10 days despite being super busy preparing for their daughter's wedding.  We spent quite a few of those days enjoying the Little White and Green Truss and even got to paddle with our Dad from Husum to the Columbia through the old Condit Dam site.

 TJ boofing into Husum Falls.  Photo: SJ

 JJ cruising into the big hole on the Lower White Salmon.  Photo: TJ

Our dad in action on the Lower White Salmon.  Photo: TJ 

JJ boofing into Stovepipe on the Little White Salmon.  Photo: TJ 

JJ with another Spirit Falls lap.  So Good!  Photo: TJ 

Eventually the water was running low in White Salmon and all out family had left following our cousin's wedding, so it was time to head north to the Ohanepecosh and the Upper Upper Cispus (after one more Green Truss lap).  We had great times with big crews on both runs despite low water on the Ohane and high water on the Cispus which unfortunately drove most of the crew to walk out at Behemoth.

Unknown paddler on the classic Ohanepecosh waterfall.  Photo: TJ 

Unknown paddler crushing the Ohanepecosh waterfall.  Photo: JJ 

Joe Keck getting amongst it in Elbow Room.  Photo: JJ

JJ probing a large hole at the Island Drop on the Upper Upper Cispus.  Photo: TJ 

Despite premium juicy flows on the Upper Upper Cispus, we decided to head on in search of what this trip was all about... camping out of our boats on beautiful remote rivers.  In Washington this means one thing, we were headed to the Olympic Peninsula!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Gettin' Lucky in Idaho

With the flows dropping in Idaho, we decided to head there for a quick tour en route to Hood River.  The main objective was the South Fork of the Salmon, but we also wanted to get on something in the Payette drainage on the way north.  After burning a little too much time getting supplies in Boise we decided to hit the South Payette Canyon run.  It was 7 pm on July 4th when we got to the take out, and fortunately we were able to quickly wrangle a shuttle driver.  The dramatic evening light in the deep canyon was a great way to celebrate 'merica, enough so that we skipped the debauchery down the road in Crouch to enjoy a quite campfire.

The next morning we headed up to McCall with one objective, find a shuttle driver.  We tries every connection we had and every outdoor shop in town, but a few hours later we still hadn't found anyone.  It turns out the day after the forth of July everyone in McCall is either working or too hungover to want to earn some shuttle cash.  Without other options, we headed to the ranger station for out permit, deciding we could hitch back to McCall and then hire someone to drive out towards Yellow Pine on the back end.

We were rolling out of town past Little Payette Lake when three kids in the road flashed a brown claw at us.  After a few chuckles, we made a U-turn to see if any of them were interested in helping us get our rig back to McCall.  By the time we made it back, two of them were in the bushed purging their previous nights' mistakes, but the third was game to ride out to Yellow Pine with us and drive the jeep back to McCall.  On the ride, we found out she was guiding near Riggins for the summer and would have no trouble driving the Jeep down to the take out.  Sometimes things just work out perfectly when you least expect them too.

Chill canyon section on day 1.  Photo JJ. 

Dinner with some freedom brauts.  Photo TJ. 

We ended up putting in on the East Fork of the South Fork near Yellow Pine in the late afternoon, which was a great roadside section of class IV before continuing past the South Fork and Secesh confluences into the overnight section, camping shortly above Devil's Creek Rapid.  Great splashy class IV with a touch of class V spice at the end continued for the remainder of the South Fork.  We found a great campsite under huge pines at the confluence with the Main Salmon.  The next day we made quick work of the twenty miles down to the take out through lots of flatwater with the occasional beautiful glassy wave.  3 days out on the river was just what the doctor ordered and the great but not threatening whitewater on the South Fork was perfect for licking our wounds after some rough days in Durango.

Some mighty fine creek boat surfing out there.  Photo TJ. 

And more glass... Photo TJ. 

Beautiful canyon scenery as well.  Photo TJ.

It was only noon when we arrived at the take out, so we decided to get some more boating in for the day.  After resupplying in Riggins we headed up to the South Fork of the Clearwater, which unfortunately didn't have enough water.  Instead we decided to head up to the Lochsa, arriving at 7:30 pm for a quick evening run.  It had been a long time since Tom and I had run the Lochsa but its rapids were just as good as we remembered with big powerful wave trains with the ocassional big hole.  We finished up just in time to hitch a shuttle and find fantastic riverside camping just before dark.

Idaho had treated us well, even serving up a breakfast of waffles, berries, and ice cream in Lewiston on the way out, but it was time to head to Hood River for our cousin's wedding and a little time on the Little White and Green Truss.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Durango Days

Once the small California snowpack finally ran out, we headed back to Durango so Tom could work a few shifts and I could sample a little bit of his home town boating.  We were able to get on most of the classics: Upper Animas, Pandora's Box, 2nd Gorge of Lime, Vallecito, and even a little time at the Durango playpark.  See below for a little video of Pandora's and some eye candy from Lime Creek.

Skirt implosions in slot canyons generally aren't good.

TJ Spotting his landing and exit to the second gorge of Lime Creek.  Photo: JJ

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Last Drop of California Goodness

Leading up to the Middle Kings, we had been throwing out all kinds of ideas for how to get shuttle done efficiently.  We found out JJ and the Kiwis would be meeting up in Truckee to start their shuttle, then having a driver meet them at the take out for return to Truckee, so we agreed to meet them up there to get it done.  Then we started thinking all sorts of crazy thoughts and trying to figure out how we could sneak in one last Cali run near the Middle Kings take out, the South Kings.  Turns out our buddy Daniel Brasuell was into South Kings as well, so we hatched a somewhat ludicrous plan to make it all work.  Tom and I would meet up with the boys in Truckee, leaving Tom's Jeep at his friend Matt's place.  Then on Friday, the day we were taking off the Middle Kings, Matt would pick Daniel up on the way to the Kings area while we would attempt to meet them in Fresno.  Then, Matt would drive our shuttle and hike in to camp with us at the South and Middle Kings confluence.  Trouble was, JJ and the Kiwis were hell bent on finishing the Middle Fork on Thursday and we had no interest in rushing to get out of there just to spend a night in the hell hole of Fresno.  So, Tom and I would just have to figure out how to get a ride for us and our boats from the middle of nowhere about 2 hours to Fresno.

Like usual, these things just sort of work themselves out if you let them.  As we were winding down on our run through Garlic Falls to finish our Middle Kings trip, Tom and I were discussing how far we should keep paddling past the normal take out to look for a ride.  But then, we ran into a group of 3 paddlers who were finishing up an overnighter on the Garlic Falls section.  We paddled with them for the last of the class IV and they were kind enough to take pity on us and offer us a ride to Fresno.  We cruised the rest of the run out to the Garnet Dike trailhead where we piled into the their truck for the long dusty ride to Fresno.  Huge Thanks Fellas!

Tom and I decided we needed some real food after 6 days of caloric deficiency, so we had the boys drop us off at a pizza place in a strip mall.  We ordered an enormous pizza planning to share with them, but they were in a hurry to get back to the real world and didn't want to wait for it to come out.  Fortunately a post Middle Kings appetite is a crazy thing, and that huge pizza went down like nothing.  The ravenous appetite continued as we went next door to get a half gallon of ice cream to split.  About when we finished our ice cream shopping, Matt and Daniel showed up to take us up towards Boyden Cave and the put in for the South Kings Horseshoe Bend (Fear and Loathing) section.  Between the four of us, the ice cream did not last long.

The start of the Horseshoe Bend Canyon as seen from the road.  Photo: TJ

Moving downstream as the walls rise up.  Photo: TJ

After a night spent sleeping alongside the South Kings upstream of the put in, we lazily made our way down towards the put in.  Putting in at a tourist trap like Boyden Cave is about as far as it gets from launching on the Middle Kings in Leconte Canyon, but soon enough, the whitewater was building along with the walls.  The road was still in sight, but it was a world away.  Fortunately, the name sake rapid of this section, Fear and Loathing, which used to be pretty marginal and unportageable, has changed significantly for the better in recent years.  It's still unportageable, but it's pretty safe and chill.  Plus, there's quite a few other high quality rapids squeezed between the walls which are good fun and portageable if you don't like what you see.  It's not your typical high Sierra granite bedrock run, but it's got plenty of great boulder rapids that are on par with what Garlic Falls offers downstream, just with a little more commitment.  4 hours after we put on we arrived at the confluence and found a nice camp.  It was the first night in California the whole trip that it was truly hot.  Tom and Matt went off to try a little fishing while Daniel and I sat around and swam.  They came back with tales of big fish and an enormous rattler that Matt had stepped on in flip flops.

The authoring airing out the first nice drop.  Photo: TJ

Bracing through the splashy pinch.  Photo: TJ

And boofing the bottom on the slide.  Photo: TJ

Or plugging it.  Photo: TJ

Daniel looking down into the unportageable Fear and Loathing.  Photo: TJ

Fortunately there's nothing to fear or loath as it boats quite nicely these days.  Photo: TJ

JJ blasting through the first slot of a nice double drop.  Photo: TJ

And off the sweet second tier.  Photo: TJ

Daniel on the first drop from below.  Photo: TJ

Daniel plugging away.  Photo: TJ

Nice table top boof.  Photo: TJ

And ensuing slightly dirt run out.  Photo: TJ

Nice roll to vertical over a sticky hole at the top of the last major rapid.  Photo: TJ

Right as it was getting towards dark and we were settling down to cook dinner, we got a huge surprise, the Taylor Cavin birthday party (not to be confused with his bachelor party: http://thenexthorizonline.blogspot.com/2014/08/north-kings.html) came rolling into camp.  We had plenty of room, so the party joined us, making for a great last night on the side of the river in California for 2014.

The next morning we bid the birthday party goodbye and headed down into Garlic Falls.  As Tom and I had just run it 2 days earlier, we were able to give Daniel lots of verbal beta and with a few scouts we made it through.  This run is really top notch and has fabulous scenery despite its low elevation, making for an excellent end to either a Middle or South Kings trip.  We got to the take out right around noon and Matt was nowhere to be found.  We waited for a long time, hoping he hadn't gotten lost.  Finally he rolled in, rocking a donut tire on Tom's Jeep.  The California season had finished off Tom's tires so it was back to Fresno to see if we could find someone to sell us tires at 4:30 pm on Sunday afternoon.  Again, it all worked out and soon enough we were on our way back to Sacramento, Truckee, and then Durango.

For Daniel's video of the trip check: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3Iw_FfN9Wo.

The first major rapid of Garlic Falls is a little chunky.  Photo: TJ

Cassidy Falls is one of the sweetest drops in the whole Kings drainage.  Photo: TJ

Daniel boofing over a sticky ledge hole.  Photo: TJ

Soaking up the scenery at Rough Creek Falls. Photo: TJ

More good stuff.  Notice the trickle of Garlic Falls proper downstream river right.  Photo:TJ

The author on the last good boof of California 2014.  Photo: TJ

Finally at least one photo of Tom.  Photo:JJ

It was a hell of a California season, despite predictions from naysayers that nothing in the Sierra would run in 2014.  Instead, we had gotten on pretty much everything we had wanted to with the exception of the Royal Gorge and the North Fork of the San Joaquin and the water held out until June 22nd.  For anyone who loves creek boating and especially hard multi-day trips, California is unrivaled in the world for the combination of long quality runs, great wilderness, reasonable logistics, and great weather.  Although it might not happen in 2015, I can't wait to get back out to the Sierra again.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Middle Kings: As Good as it Gets

There's been so much written about this river (including 2 other posts on this blog alone - http://thenexthorizonline.blogspot.com/2013/07/drinking-from-fire-hose-in-california.html and http://thenexthorizonline.blogspot.com/2010/08/middle-fork-kings.html), that I'm going to keep this one as more or less a photo drop.  We had low flows this year (900 at rogers crossing) as a cold snap dropped the river through the ideal flow range in about 1 day.  This makes the big drops on the river much more accessible as they aren't running together, but the price is that the in between rapids entail quite a bit more boat abuse.  Regardless, this is probably my favorite river trip in the world.  5 days of world class kayaking in the grandest of settings with a beautiful and brutal hike as the price of admission.  It just can't be beat!

The beautiful hike in.  Photo: TJ
 JJ somewhere in the switchbacks down to Leconte Canyon.  Photo: TJ

 The Kings Canyon fish hatchery.  Photo; TJ

 Jordy on one of the first good rapids.  Photo: JJ

 Jordy finishing off the waterfall gorge.  Photo: TJ

 Ari blasting out of the Willie Kern Meltdown drop.  Photo: TJ

 And blasting through the bottom half of a burly boulder drop shortly downstream.  Photo: TJ

Small waterfall below Raw Dog Falls.  Photo: TJ

Final move of the sweet gorge above Simpson Meadow.  Photo: TJ

 The splendid Tehipite Dome.  Photo: TJ

That's all folks.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Upper Cherry the Hard Way

Sometimes victories earned over extra obstacles are the sweetest; however, in the case of Upper Cherry Creek, the standard version involves an 11 mile hike to the put in, providing plenty of suffering for even the most hardened masochist. Unfortunately, the Rim Fire of 2013 burned large sections of the Stanislaus National Forest, resulting in subsequent closures for the summer of 2014. Despite that the Upper Cherry Canyon remained unburned (it's hard to burn granite), the roads used to access the put in trail and take out at Cherry Lake were closed, so we hatched an alternative plan.

Bourland Meadows, a trailhead on the west rim of West Cherry Creek, was still accessible and was only about 4 miles from Upper Cherry Creek as the crow flies. After a quick look at the satellite images for the area we discerned that most of the hike could be done on open granite and there was a small pass between West Cherry and Cherry Creeks we could use to prevent significant additional elevation gain at the expense of extending the hike to 4.5 miles. So we had a way in, but the way out was not pretty.

The closure extended to just above the confluence of West Cherry and Cherry Creeks, and all potential access points further down towards the lake were also closed. Sometimes lack of options brings clarity. We would be taking out just above the confluence and hiking back up the West Cherry Canyon to Bourland Meadows, a hike of 7 miles and about 2500 ft. gain with no trail but significant open granite. And that was the plan. We knew it would be brutal but there weren't any other options for kayaking in California, so we we're in. We tried briefly to wrangle a few others in, but no one was convinced about all the off trail hiking, so we set off as a team of two.

We were planning to hike one day, kayak a day and a half, and then hike out that afternoon. Instead we got an extremely late start out of Sacramento, resulting in having to call ahead for our wilderness permit since we weren't going to make it by the 5 o'clock close. The open roads to Bourland Meadows were pretty burly and we didn't arrive until 7:30 pm, so we decided to camp there and start early for a two day mission.

We didn't wake up quite as early as planned, but we were still walking by 8 am. We started out on the trail, figuring we had almost a mile until we'd be breaking off based on topo maps. Instead, the trail kept going the direction we wanted to head, so we kept following it for about an hour until we gained an expansive view of the West Cherry canyon. We did a quick map check, confirming the notch we saw upstream and on the far side of the valley was what we wanted, and took off down the slab aiming for just below a forested section of creek. We quickly reached the creek and hopped in our boats to cross to keep our feet dry before continuing upstream across the slabs towards the pass. About an hour's push saw us to the pass and our first view of Upper Cherry Creek.

 JJ taking a rest on the pass between West Cherry and Cherry Creeks.  Photo: TJ

 TJ excited that we can finally see our destination.  Photo: JJ
We took a good long break at the top before heading down into the first Manzenita of the hike. There were little game trails occasionally, but there was also some serious bushwhacking. Hindsight suggests that maybe traversing left at the pass would be easier, but the 15 minutes of Manzenita wasn't too bad either. Eventually, we regained the open granite and made good time to the river while avoiding a few swampy areas. It was only 12:30 and the hike was about as easy as an off trail hike in the California wilderness could be, so we took a quick dip and ate lunch thrilled to have made the river so quickly.

TJ coming down the slabs.  Photo: JJ

TJ figuring out where to navigate this swampy area.  Photo: JJ

Our put in.  Photo: TJ

After lunch we geared up and hopped in our boats, not knowing exactly where in the run we were other than we were below the put in slide and above Cherry Bomb Gorge. We started off with wide open granite before things quickly tightened up into classic California slides. Soon, we reached (and portaged) our first major rapid: West Coast Gorilla. We now knew where we were and that our hike had dropped us in about half a mile above the Gorilla. We continued on with lots of great slides and little scouting since we had both done the creek 2 times previously. Despite the slightly low flow, the kayaking on Upper Cherry is phenomenal in the fun department with very little stress, so much so that we were pretty much giggling at times.

Upper Cherry gets slightly more serious as you approach and pass through Cherry Bomb Gorge, where the creek has carved it's way between two 500 ft. domes resulting in a ultra-committing canyon with no opportunity for egress. Fortunately, the boating in Cherry Bomb Gorge is of the highest quality and at low flows not too difficult other than Cherry Bomb Falls. After a quick portage to the top of the falls, we dropped in, avoiding the pothole on the wall and the subsequent weir hole. The rest of the gorge was smooth and we continued rallying down through the big slide and the teacup waterfalls above Flintstone Lake. We were all smiles as we pulled into camp with the place to ourselves and the rest of the afternoon to walk back up and lap the big slide and teacups. We cooked up a little dinner over the fire and the full moon emerged, lighting up the canyon. It didn't take much brotherly jeering before we were walking back up for some moonlight laps on the teacups.

TJ starting in on the big slide.  Photo: JJ

About to catch some air.  Photo: JJ

The bottom of the big slide.  Photo: JJ

Suns out, guns out.  Photo: JJ

This one has a nice twisting entrance.  Photo: JJ

Ready for landing.  Photo: JJ

JJ just below the big slide.  Photo: TJ

JJ on another perfect teacup.  Photo: TJ

From another angle.  Photo: JJ

Hydration is important!  Photo: TJ

The moonlit teacups under the stars.  Photo: TJ

TJ walking up for a moonlit lap.  Photo:JJ

JJ sliding under the stars.  Photo: TJ

We were up early the next morning knowing we had some good paddling and brutal hiking ahead of us. We quickly made it through the classic section below Flintstone Lake including West Coast Groove, Double Pothole, and the Waterfall Alley. With a crew of two we didn't mess with Kiwi in a Pocket or Dead Bear Falls. Below Dead Bear the classic read and run continues along with some beautiful meadow paddling under towering pines. Unfortunately for us, the trip had to end above the lower gorges, so we took out in the meadow above the confluence and ate a quick bite while our gear dried. As we ate we were both wondering the same thing: how bad was the hike out going to be?

We knew the first part was going to be rough as West Cherry goes off a huge cascade on it's final plunge into Cherry Creek, but after a little bit of route finding through some cliff bands we were cruising on granite slabs. The top part of the cascade looked a little difficult to bypass, but we were able to keep the boat backpacks on the through a slightly technical section. We took a quick rest and the views of Cherry Lake reminded us of the easy way out.

Then the meadows started. We did pretty well for a while, finding a well defined game trail and eventually paddling upstream through sections of lake. Then we started to get bogged down as the terrain went to domes amongst thick manzanita. The route finding was more difficult and we were starting to wear down, but we pressed on. Eventually we made it to the ridge that leads up towards Bourland Meadows and we slowly slogged up the steepest section of the hike with the sun setting. It felt like forever but finally we found the trail we had hiked in on. Fatigue was setting in hard and we lost the trail in a large meadow, wondering about for 20 minutes until we regained it while the mosquitoes massacred us. Once back on the path, we picked up the pace, knowing a big push would see us to the trailhead just at dark. 30 minutes later we stumbled into the parking lot, finally relieving ourselves of our masochistic loads. It wasn't pretty, but we had gotten it done.

TJ starting up the final ridge to Bourland Meadow.  Photo: JJ

A few notes for the future:

Hopefully the Rim Fire Closure will be lifted before the 2015 season so that no one will ever have to do that hike out again.

The Bourland Meadows hike in is substantially easier than the standard Kibbie Ridge hike in while only missing the put in slide and a few others. It makes the shuttle quite a bit longer but if I had shuttle I would hike in Bourland Meadows and paddle out to the boat ramp on Cherry Lake.

There's now a CDEC gauge on Upper Cherry Creek - http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/queryF?UCC. It's stage only with no CFS at this point and we didn't get to see it so I don't know what the stream bed is like near it, so this is somewhat speculative. We had decent low flows and the gauge read 0.72 ft. our first day and 0.70 ft. our second day (June 10 and 11). This is an ideal level if you're looking for a mellow run through Cherry Bomb while not being too scratchy the rest of the way. I think an ideal flow for the whole creek would be a few inches higher, say maybe 0.9-1.0 ft. Any higher than that and I'd guess Cherry Bomb would become extremely dangerous but the rest would probably be good a little higher too.