Tuesday, May 12, 2009

High Water - Low Water

It's that time of the year when the river levels are constantly changing; as the snowmelt starts increasing, you find yourself scrambling to hit the right runs at the right times. Sometimes it doesn't exactly work out...

After the Festival, we had a few folks in town looking to do some runs. Hot weather (I mean really hot) meant that flows were going to start going up fast. We (meaning I) gambled and thought that Hospital Rock would be on the high side of good for the first day out, then maybe the SF Tule would come up. It didn't exactly work out like I had planned

Part 1: High Water

We got to Hospital Rock on Monday afternoon. Knowing the run (at normal levels) only takes about an hour and a half, we decided to head straight for the put-in and get our run in before it got dark. Baby Niagra looked pretty juicy, but I gave it a go. This is one of the harder warm-up drops anywhere since you get about 10 strokes in before you have to nail a boof over a place that is known to be a nasty swim. I felt good, nailed the boof (I mean nailed it) and barely made it across the boil line at the bottom. Hmmm, I think the river is high. Corby followed with a simliar perfect line and skied the Remix before he made it out the downstream side of the boil line

Corby Somewhere in Baby Niagra

After our displays, the rest of the folks wisely decided to put in below the falls and we happily headed downstream. The next drop is fairly innocuous, that is unless you end up in the hole at the bottom at really high water. One of our paddling buddies (the other Eric) must have cracked his boat on the seal launch at Baby Niagra or somewhere else along the way - he headed into the entry move and executed a sweet downstream ender (being full of water already) and then plopped into the hole. After a good 20 seconds of creek-boat rodeo, he swam out. At this point the crack was discovered and Eric headed back to the car (where he came across some boaters with bitchathane, fixed his boat and met us for the last half mile or so of the run).

We proceeded to make our way down the run - lots of drops were still really fun, but the river was definitely pushy. The 420 Rapid was sweet; it was then we realized that we were running 420 rapid on April 20th at 4:20 in the afternoon. A kind of 420 cubed... It wasn't until we got the 420 gorge that I really realized how high the water was. The hydrolic at the bottom of split falls was enormous. I have never walked this rapid, but I was not about to probe (and probably get stuck in) this hole, so for the first time, I experienced the 420 gorge portage - not that much fun.

After that, we began picking our way down the river again. I have to say, Table Rock was the highlight of the trip. The rock boof was still sweet - and if you are curious, I really don't think portaging is a good option here, so if you head in at high water, be ready to run this or seal launch off the big rock in the middle. Having a catcher in the eddy above the big rock is also a good idea...

Richter Setting the Table

From here on out, the run was pretty fun - one rapid that is normally really easy had a rather large hole at the bottom though. We all got our boof on at the superstar boof...

Rebecca on the boof

The lowlight of the trip was getting to zero-to-sixty and realizing that we were not going to run it. We'll maybe it is tied for the lowlight with the 420 portage. Anyway, it was an impressive sight, with no real option but to head down the middle into the maw and hope to not end up in the cave. Not my style. So we shouldered and finished off the run. The run-out was mellow except for the weir at the footbridge - no real way to boof and a fairly good recirc at the bottom.

By the way, the level at the zero to sixty gauge was 5.6 - I would not say that it was too high to run, we still had a good time; but at that level, I think I would run something else in the vicinity. I think the flow at Three Rivers was up over 1400 cfs with the NF not contributing very much.

After getting pushed around a bit we decided reduce the volume. The SF Tule was pushing 35 cfs, so we camped out at Buckeye, loaded up the next morning and headed for the Rez.

Part 2: Low-Water

After getting to the Tule Indian Reservation, we had to wait around a little bit for one of the Tribal Members to get back from lunch to sign our Tresspass Permit. We had a couple of Sammy's on the sidewalk outside and chatted with the locals who were a bit surprised that we were going to run the river.

I have done this run once before at pretty much the same water level. I swore I would not go back unless the guage was closer to 50-60 cfs, but here we were again a 35 cfs. I remembered a bunch of really cool drops and a few portages. What I forgot was all the mank that we ran (and would run again today) that really should be portaged if there weren't so damn much of it.

We met up with a couple of guys (Dan and Scott) who were parked about half way up the run and getting ready to hike down into the gorge. I knew a little secret road that gets you into the river about 1 mile farther up without the hike, so we invited them along with us. We got off the river about 6 hours later...

Rebecca on the First Drop

Richter on some fun slides
Another Silly Slide

Richter running a nice tea-cup drop blind

After a fun half-hour, we started to get into the good-drop/bad-drop section. So many of the bad drops were so close to being good and others that really needed more water to fill in the junk; I guess that's why I swore I would not come back until the water was higher.

Corbs nosing it down by request in one of the nice granite gorges

The fire-hose drop

The Sweet Double Drop
Another Granite Drop


Don't let the good drops fool you though; this run is not a classic. For every sweet drop, there is one you have to portage and one you have to bump down trying not to pin. Throw the infamously slippery Tule Granite on top, and this is basically expedition style boating - great if you're into that sort of thing, crappy if you're not. My take? We'll pretty much the same as the last time I did it. I would go back, but not till it was running around 50 cfs or so. All in all, a great adventure, but not what folks expect when they come out to Cali.

The artistic finish as the sun set sparkles off the spray from the drop
Corbs taking the right line and seeing stars

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