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: 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:

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.