Monday, June 27, 2011

On a tear

Over the past month, I have been on enough of a tear that I want to jot down my new runs before they are too many to recount. To say that I have been kayaking my ass off is not inaccurate given how my backband has been rubbing me raw. I want to use guttersoftheearth now as a journal of my own river-running, whether documented with photos or not. When I get photos from these trips, I will add them in.

Secret Canyon into the North Fork of the Middle Fork of the American. Hiking into this run, we ended up camping in the most marginal camp site I have ever known. Crawling out of the gully, we began a very wild canyoneering kayak trip that saw us portaging a few unrunnable falls with giant roostertail reconnects and running one sweet sliding thirty foot falls as we descended our way to the North Fork of the Middle Fork American.

North Fork Middle Fork American. I was very impressed by the challenging rapids on this section, several of which we portaged on sight in order to escape the canyon by nightfall (which we did just barely). The one-of-a-kind Devil's Slide is a spectacularly locked in river-wide slide kicking with such force as to make a blasted-out, super-soft landing where the water can not be bothered to recirculate upstream. The mist of the rapid feeds lush ferns and over-hanging vines, giving the gorge a tropical sense of place.

North Fork Kaweah- Hiked up to Burnt Point Creek confluence with Rok Sribar and the Slow-venians and paddled down through Cherry Falls. I used my paddle as a machete to slash through old-growth poison oak that had tree limbs dangling down to face level. Aggro graffiti tagged at the lip of Cherry Falls was the unheeded writing-on-the-wall of the cockpit-rim-to-ribcage rough treatment it would give me.

South Kaweah extreme architecture tour. After Rok had clarified that the flow report of another group retreating from put-in was too high for you, we had to put on. Even though it was screaming around corners and grabbing onto branches high. Some people have decks hanging out on i-beams above bedrock rapids. Tragically, in order to afford them, they are rarely home to enjoy them.

South Fork Middle Fork Tule. While I stashed beer in the river at take-out, the Austrians assumed I had gotten in the Slovenians car and vice-versa, leaving me to hitch-hike to put-in. Hopping into my samaritan's car, I met a flea-bitten Inca Hairless bitch who had just had pups and sidled into my lap, saggy teats and all. When we got to the twenty-footer I had seen from the road, Rok tried to dissuade me from running it, claiming that the exit rapid was committed and not good. Too late Rok, I already scouted from the road! I was blown away by the over-hanging punch-bowls and many waterfalls of this run.

Lower Tuolomne at 11,000 cfs. My first run of the lower T was enhanced by several factors: Getting paid to safety kayak it, clear, big water, sponging raft company food which would later provision the first descent of Reed Creek into the Clavey.

Reed Creek into the Clavey first descent. I attempted this run in 2008 with a group of four. We put on at the bridge and hiked out after portage-festing the second mile which drops over 600 feet. It was the campsite that we found after this fail which would make the lower put-in for the successful run by Jake Greenbaum and myself. We made one portage, ran 3 large bedrock rapids and found that the best section was the final mile into the Clavey- the "Reed-and-run" section as we called it. Kind of like a miniature Clavey or an alternate put-on to the Clavey.

Lower Clavey. This paddle out of Reed Creek was a sinus-injecting, hole-punching hee-haw. Awaking at the bridge that marks the start to find the flow had risen a full foot overnight made it extra attention-getting. Paddling out on the Tuolomne made for a trip where we went from 200 cfs on Reed to 1000 cfs on Clavey to 10,000 cfs on Tuolomne.

Middle Mokelumne first descent. This run was known to drop lots of gradient in its plunge to meet the South Mokelumne. The South Mokelumne was known to be a portage-fest. Good thing then that only Cody Howard and I put on because most other souls would have acquiesced to common-sense and hiked out when the run turned out to be an extreme-low-flow portage-fest only occasionaly interspersed with sweet read-and-run slide sections. The final portage down to the South Mokelumne was a spectacular set of waterfalls.

South Mokelumne. Just when we though the portaging was over, we were encountered by a double over-hung gnar-gorge that mandated a heinous portage. The next portage required a thrilling chimney down-climb through a crevice. Enough good rapids to make me want to put on up top at the bridge one day...

North Mokelumne, confluence with South Mokelumne to Electra run. Thrilling big water fun at 3,000 cfs. This was the first time I have hitched a shuttle from the river itself when I chatted-up a motorist who was driving alongside the river watching us kayak. Turns out he was a sit-on-top kayaker with the love and understanding to help us out.

North Fork Stanislaus, Big Trees run. I was Shanghai-ed into this run by raft-company van-pool and experienced the highest flows in years on this great section. Afterwards, we found our way into a Willie Nelson concert in Murphys. I still have many more sections yet to run on this beautiful river.

Lower Rubicon River. This classic has only flowed every fifth year on average over the past 15 years due to its impairment by Hell Hole Reservoir. I had to get it while the getting was good. I logged 3 trips totaling 7 days on the Rubicon, taking a longer kayak on each successive trip to match the classic factor of the river. Flow-ey continuous sections, good rapids spaced throughout the entire 20-mile length, and several step-up drops thrown in makes for a true classic with a put-in just one hour from the white-water siphon of Coloma, California.

After this tear, its time to take care of biz-ness, life-style, and get some wave time at the China Bar rapid today in anticipation of the Auburn River Festival which kicks off tonight! This year the event benefits Access-for-All and the Jason Craig Recovery Fund.