In 2006 we got a chance to get on this run at pretty high water (5 on the Brush Creek Gauge). I remembered some big drops, some big holes and a ton of wood. At the time there was not much beta on this run and having put-in late in the afternoon and waaaay too high up the watershed, we had to do a moonlight hike out and finish off the run the next day. Afterward, we all decided it would be better to get back in a little lower water for a more enjoyable experience. 4 years of drought and a bunch of chomping at the bit later, we got a chance to get back in...
The Crew hiking in Cherry Hill Road
On Monday night I got the call that the New Brush Creek Guage was at 3 (FYI this gauge has had 3 versions in the last three years) and an Upper Brush run was cobbled together. At first it was just Geno and myself - not the ideal group size, but we really needed to get in this thing. Tuesday morning we ran into a crew of boaters out from Steamboat Colorado, and our two became seven. After a short delay as we mashalled the crew, we headed up to Cherry Hill road and began our hike in. Having put on way to high up the previous time, I thought I remembered that the goods started at the confluence of the second major creek as you hike out the road. In retrospect, the best entry is at the first creek - Alder Creek. There are a couple of good drops above this, but the majority of good drops on the run is from Alder Creek down.
Putting in at the wrong confluence... again...
The first half mile or so below where we put in was mainly spent on the shore as we carried around wood. A lot of wood. More than I remembered - I'm guessing the McNally fire is still taking its toll on this drainage as dead trees are still falling in. Finally we hit the 6 footer that I remembered as the signal that things were about to get good (at the confluence of Alder Creek).
Team Steam Running Alder Falls Blind
Imediately after that drop was another wood choked drop that I ran into a pile of saplings that gently lowered me to the safety eddy above yet another strainer - fun line, but not really necessary. Then a nice 10 footer (the Pot) with a wood pile above it; simply put in at the lip on river right, two strokes and boof! Right below that is the Kettle - only about a 5 footer, but a potentially tricky hole.
The Author into the Pot
Team Steam: Cali Pot aint so bad
Soon the action becomes hot and heavy; when not carrying around log jams, you are scouting the next drop. Next is a slide where you are clearly going to take a hit. If possible, get right and absorb the hit with the bow - for 4 out of five of us it wasn't too bad
Team Steam on the Endo Slide
Team Steam: another "clean" line
Team Steam: the one that didn't go well - notice the nose dimpleSomewhere in here is a drop that can be run, but there is a log in the entry and a nasty landing if the line is not nailed - scout right. Soon you have one of the highlites of the run, a twenty foot slide (Mary) into a thirty foot slide with a wall ride (Jane). Very Nice! At this point you might be catching on to some fun I am having with the names on this run. First off, I don't smoke, but we did have a winner of the Colorado Canabis Cup in our midsts. Also, well... let's just say that I don't recommend doing this run with a small group or taking any side hikes. We'll just leave it at that.
The Author on the Jane Slide
Team Steam on Jane...
... and off the wall
Team Steam: fires it upAnother couple of smaller drops leads into the one mandatory drop enduced portage of the day. This comes right after a confluence with another creek on the right - a small four footer then get out and portage on the right. Just after this is a nice granite gorge with a good slide that is hard to get to after the portage, a second slide that a few of us ran (but is not recommended) and a third drop that is sweet and semi mandatory (a long portage up and over the gorge awaits if you don't run this). For the record, running the second slide felt like getting sucker punched.
Team Steam on the Schwag Slide
The third drop in this section is probably the other highlight of this run. A long narow slide to a curling drop. At high water I remember the curl shooting about fifteen feet up the rock on the right. This day it only shot up about 5 feet or so.
Team Steam on the Garden Hose
And the kicker!
Team Steam's down with UBC
After this there is another nice drop that is ruined by a log jam at the top, followed by a long, helter skelter rapid that is pretty dicey even without the log poking out near the bottom. After this there are a few more smaller drops, then it gets to be pretty congested with fallen trees. A chunky portage and a set of three slides signals the end of any drops of significance; hike back down to your car on the right or work you way through the logs on the creek - whatever you feel like at this point.
I'm not going to lie, a ton of work needs to go into this run to get the wood out before it becomes anything other than expedition kayaking. But, I do feel that if the wood is removed, this run approaches "classic" with some really good drops and only one mandatory portage (I would probably still average three or four portages due to heavy rock-contact aversion). As far as levels go, I felt like the solid 3 we had on the new Brush Creek Guage was pretty ideal; I would say most folks would be happy with this level. Higher would be a bit harder but added padding would help in some drops, lower would be a bit easier, but bring your ass-pads. Either way, I look forward to getting on this run again - before four years are up!
No, Upper Brush does not connect to Brush - here is the hike out...