Friday, May 13, 2016

Kalmiopsis 2016

This Spring we ran a number of streams in and around the Kalmiopsis Wilderness area in southwest Oregon.  Priscilla and I put together this short edit, kind of as a teaser for what we were getting into down there.  Streams are NF Silver, Silver, Illinois, Box Canyon Creek, Chetco, and Canyon Creek.

Flows for: NF Silver, Silver and Illinois (March 25-26, 2016)

We had a large storm roll through earlier in the week to supply our flows, we got on the run as the levels were on their way back down.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Detroit's Bedrock City

photo: Nick Hymel

It took three trips, but we finally got the logistics figured out for this run.  My first trip up there I didn't expect the creek to have any water and was just going to scout, but John Harmon sent me a couple photos from the take out bridge after he got off the nearby Bruno Mountain run on the North Santiam the day before.  Looking at those photos I thought that maybe it might just barely be runnable so brought my boat just in case and planned on meeting Steve Tegtmeyer to run the Breitenbush if it the new creek wasn't runnable.  I scouted around a bit and saw a couple fun looking sections so when Steve Tegtmeyer showed up, we talked it over and we decided to give it a go.  He and I had a nice trip, but flows were at exploratory levels and we put in below some of the good stuff.  We had a couple portages near the end, so i decided to take out a little earlier the next time.  

The second time there was a much larger group of Ross George, Brandon Lake, Nick Hymel, Pete Giordano, Ben Mckenzie, Jesse Shapiro and myself.  That time we decided to put in as high as we could float a boat in order to suss out the entire stream.  We did that, with the upper section leap frogging between fun bedrock rapids and wood portages.  It was a trying day, and the fatigue eventually caught up to us in the form of a dislocated shoulder in Hallpass, a rapid located in the final mile.  The information we gleaned from this trip provided the knowledge needed to get logistics dialed for return trips to the place we call Detroit's Bedrock City or The Bedrock City.

Hiking in on the information gleaning mission.

I made a mistake about which spur road to hike in on despite having the correct information relayed to me.  This meant we carried our boats further than necessary, dropping in on a tributary, meaning we began our trip with a couple extra portages.

There was some fun stuff in the upper reaches, but there were about as many portages as good rapids.

If this looks like fun, the upper section might just be your cup of tea.  
Jesse does some paddling between portages
photo: Nick Hymel

Eventually we made our final portage and had over a mile of fun bedrock rapids, some of which are visible on google imagery, which is what got us excited about the creek in the first place.

Halfway down the lower stretch we arrived at The Venue.  Here there is a nice platform on the right where you can watch the show, from which you can then decide if you want to be a part of the show.  

Ben exits stage right
photo: Nick Hymel

The Venue comes around a blind right corner that looks like the rest of the creek.  If you turn the corner, you will be running the drop blind.  Look for a couple small eddies just before the turn.

Nick makes music

A short distance below The Venue lies Hallpass, where fatigue combined with a rocky lead-in to a backed up hole led to a swim and dislocated shoulder on our reconnaissance mission.  Impressively the boater with the dislocated shoulder, who is no stranger to pain, paddled the rest of the run after popping the shoulder back in himself.


Downstream are a few more fun rapids before the take out we have been using.  It is at the end of a long bedrock sliding rapid that splits at an island where the right channel has more water and ends in a ledge (there are a number of spots on the run that fit this description).  Just below here the creek bends right with a couple eddies on the left along a wall.  From one of these eddies ferry over to river right where there is a convenient take out.  Downstream of here is a small log spanning the creek as the stream transitions to boulders for the duration of its course.  From the take out eddy you can walk downstream and away from the creek to a flat area which can be followed a short ways downstream to the take out.  Or you can paddle/portage the final 100 yards of the creek to the bridge.

Nick took some helmet cam footage during the reconnaissance mission that I put together.

For round three, I located the ideal put in that provides the most bang for your buck, with no portages and many bedrock slides and rapids including both of the named rapids.  Logistics are described below. 


Directions:  Take highway 22 east out of Salem up to the town of Detroit.  Within 5 minutes of passing Detroit you will cross the bridge over Boulder Creek (signed) near the town of Idanha.  This serves as a place to leave a take out vehicle and check the water level.  For our 2016 trips, water was just barely spilling into the trough on creek left.   The riverbed is comprised of boulders here, so don't be surprised if the streamed changes and this reference becomes obsolete.  If you can float your boat here, you will be able to float it over the bedrock upstream.

Another view from under the take out bridge at a low, but runnable flow.

Photo pulled from google maps street view

To get to the put in return 0.3 miles toward the town of Detroit on highway 22 and turn right onto Boulder Ridge Rd/NF-2231.  Travel 1.3 miles up this paved road to where it makes a sharp 180 degree turn to the left.  Park near a yellow road sign before the turn and locate an overgrown road going off to the right, at the start of the 180 degree turn (50 yards past the sign).
Walk the short distance along the overgrown road and follow the path of least resistance as it drops down from the road grade, then heads upstream quickly reaching an old game or logging trail.  After about 1/6 mile on this trail, it splits at a ridge.  Take the steeper left trail over this ridge.  For the most part the path has up to this point been close to flat, but about 100 yards after the ridge the trail gets steep, then very steep, at this point veer off the trail to the right and follow the path of least resistance upstream (more or less maintaining elevation) over to another small ridge that is followed down to the creek.  In 2016 this was all thoroughly flagged.

Alternate Take Out:  If you are looking for a longer day, you can walk from the take out described above on creek right down to the North Santiam River and get about a mile of splashy class III down to the Blowout Creek Rd bridge.  There is a nice wave just above the bridge on river left that is fun at the levels required to run Boulder Creek.   The turn off to this bridge is about 1 mile back towards Detroit from the highway 22 bridge over Boulder Creek.

Our reconnaissance trips were done with the North Santiam between 1500-2000 cfs @ Boulder, and the Brietenbush around 1,000 cfs.  That was a safe level for exploring Boulder Creek's blind corners and long slides with small eddies, but was hard on boats and double that flow is what I will be shooting for in the future.

Trip two (photos from this report) was on March 6th, 2016

I would recommend a slow first lap to figure things out, then a second, faster lap.  Or combine this run with Sardine Creek, French, Brietenbush, Secret Stash, Cedar, Bruno Mt, Opal stuff, etc.

                                                                 Put In   44.71, -122.0697


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Box Canyon Creek

I had seen better access to the Chetco than the Babyfoot Lake trail while perusing the maps before our trip a few years ago. I got outvoted on that trip and we took the 10 mile hike in. This time Ben was down for the three mile hike plus some new whitewater, here we near the parking area close to Vulcan Peak.

Box Canyon Creek, a tributary of the Chetco, had looked good on the maps and we gave it a go for Ben's  birthday.

 A welcome pit stop on the 15 mile shuttle on the way in, I'd consider camping at this location next time.

The Heesacker family, who I had learned the way of the river with when I was young, had done some access recon so we had a good idea what we were in for.  

Dragging through a couple inches of snow was an easy way to start off the 2 mile road portion of the hike in.

2 miles in we left the road and began the 1 mile cross country portion of the hike.  This was not easy going, but also all downhill and not that bad.

A pronounced mineral vein.

A lake on the way in. This meant we were nearing the end of our 1 mile off-trail portion of the hike.

Paddling across this lake was mostly just an excuse to take boats off the shoulders for a bit.  There was camping potential here if a group were to get a late start on the hike in.

A few streams converged near the put in to create a floatable stream, some mank led to the first bedrock and first boxed canyon

The gorge lasted a short ways, was class IVish, and soon we were back into boulder gardens.  A creek comes in on the left and the stream gets flat and an island with a log jam has the potential for a rocky camp.  Things pick back up a short way below this first island, with a peak in difficulty at a steep boulder alley that appeared would be easiest to circumvent on the left, but we ended up ferrying back to the right to finish our portage which is where we wish we would have started from.  Things went back to manageable below here, though more water was wished for.

Ben running a unique one at an island.

Typical day 1 action.

 Night one at a bouldery island, I believe it was the third island below the short flat part above the log jam island (first island). We brought hammocks knowing it wasn't likely we would be sleeping on sandy beaches.

 Water level day 1.
 Water level day 2 from the same spot, clearly it had dropped overnight.

Astrals have great grip, but those stitches are just too exposed. The cost of the hike in.

We knew the drop in flows would make for a rough day two, but were hoping the box canyons in this lower section would channelize the water. 

Ben cruising through a pinch point in one of the first stand out rapids of day 2.

The going gets good on day 2, but we were feeling the drop in flow.  The previous days flow would have been the perfect exploratory level for the part we ran this second day.

Scouting a rapid with a big undercut just under where Ben is standing.

There were plenty of fun rapids with a large dose of walled in sections.  At healthy flows shore scouting options would be limited, but all the gorged in rapids above Nut Dust went when we were there.  Mostly class IV, with a couple IV-V rapids.

 Some straight forward fun.

 Classic Kalmiopsis scene.

 Into the nitty gritty.

We were reading and running with the occasional scout through one of the box canyons and paddled through a backed up hole with a pillow on the right.  Not long below here the gorge veered right and we got out on the left to scout the biggest drop of the run.

Ben scouting "Nut Dust" part 1, I guess it makes sense that we found some boxed in rapids on a creek called Box Canyon Creek.

After lots of talk about options including various throw and go options, seal launching into the rapid, or just running the thing we opted for what turned out to be a not so bad portage high on the left.  At higher flows the entrance may clean up and turn this into a fun rapid.  Or make it more hazardous, only further exploration will tell.

A calm pool below the first part of Nut Dust.  If I return with higher water I would see if it was possible to start the next part of the portage above this ledge on the right.  At this level we were able to scramble into a couple small eddies on the left in the lead in to Nut Dust part 2 which begins just around the corner from the pool pictured below.

A nasty cave on river right had us walking the second part of Nut Dust, which otherwise would have been a nice boof.

 Ben had a bag of trail mix on the trip, the best treat in the bag were large chocolate pieces. He was excited to find the last one left in the bag, but felt the taste was thrown off by the dust caking it from the crushed nuts in the bag. We felt this section of river was similar, its a good run, but the two part rapid we named "Nut Dust" gave it an odd flavor.

Having spent hours running gorged in class fun and negotiating a couple hazardous areas, we were satisfied when the creek started to open up below Nut Dust and we began to shift our attention to the landscape.

We hadn't reached the Chetco yet though, more whitewater and a log in the runout of a walled in class III brought our attention back to the water.

Box Canyon Creek still had a few surprises left.

We kept thinking the Chetco was the next ridge, but it actually kind of came out of nowhere after a mile or less of relaxing floating. 

Eating lunch at the confluence with the Chetco River. 

The flows were noticeably higher than the last time I had run the Chetco, moving us along quicker through the flat sections and the rapids were splashier.

15 miles of read and run class III-IV below the confluence and one bear encounter later we made camp at a calm spot on river left.

These shrubs had grown like this presumably due to the flooding of over 25,000 cfs (vs our 5,000 dropping to 2,500 cfs flows) the Chetco deals with each year.

Kalmiopsis blue.

More read and run whitewater the next day included some flat water, but it passed by at good clip.  There is one rapid below the Tollman Ranch with a large hole in the center left part of the river that is easily missed on the left if you are paying attention.  If not it has been punched through on the right side of the hole.

Rudimentary sketch of this rapid.

Eventually we came to the flattest stretch yet and turned a corner to see this bridge, which marks the standard wilderness Chetco trip take out.  To make our shuttle easier we had chosen to continue another few miles through the section in Soggy Sneakers with Candycane and Conehead.

Some locals camping along the river warned us of the big rapids down there,  We were impressed to find out later that one of them had inner-tubed Candycane before hiking to the road above Conehead. 

Ben in the crux of Conehead on the section described in Soggy Sneakers

Some lazy floating below Conehead brought us to the take out at the confluence with the SF Chetco.  We walked up the road to retrieve our scooter, hidden safely behind a poison oak bush.  After Ben had retrieved that we fired it up and Ben set off on the 15 mile ride back to the car.

I began moving our gear from near the river to a shady pot on the SF Chetco and on my final trip heard my name being called, not good.  The scooter had died about 1.5 miles into the shuttle and Ben had to push it back to the take out.  He then set about offering locals the $40 I was pretty sure I had in my wallet at the top for a ride up there.  Eventually he got a ride with one of the guys who had warned us about the big  rapids on the lower section.  He hunts in the area and was fine with the 2 hour round trip, but I imagine his patience was wearing a little thin when Ben's car wouldn't start once they had reached Vulcan Peak!  After a few minutes of trying to jump start Ben's vehicle, they were about to turn back when the Pathfinder finally roared back to life.

Meanwhile I had taken a bath in the SF Chetco and settled down with the New York Times and every kayakers most commonly consumed beverage.

Ben really got the short end of the stick on this one, and on his birthday too.

We then drove the 5+ hours back to the Willamette Valley, careful not to turn the vehicle off when we stopped for provisions or fuel in fear of Ben's car not turning back on.  


First you gotta know if its running.  The Chetco itself seems to be misunderstood as of now.  Most hardshell kayakers have been putting on with under 2,000 cfs on the gauge, while small inflatable craft generally shoot for under 1,000 cfs.  My first trip we hiked in with about 3,000 cfs and felt flows were on the lower end of enjoyable for hardshell kayaks, and this time around we felt flows were at a friendly medium, maybe even low side of medium by the time we hit the Chetco.  I'd certainly do the trip lower, especially in an inflatable, but would shoot for a minimum of 2,000 cfs if I returned in a hardshell. 

Like I mentioned in the report, our day 1 flow was the minimum I would want for day 2 on Box Canyon Creek.  So I would look for the Chetco to peak near 10,000 cfs with no further precipitation in the forecast and head down as soon as possible after that, or higher and wait a couple days but of course this is one of the puzzle pieces still to be sussed out.   The Chetco drops from these high levels quick so without rain it should be at a medium flow by the time a paddler got to the main stem coming off Box Canyon Creek.  And to further help ease high water concerns, both Ben and I noted the Chetco itself could handle plenty more water than we had without getting scary.  We didn't share that sentiment about Box Canyon Creek though, that would be a bad one to be on with rising flows.

Below are the flows we had on our trip and which stream we were on at the time.

Directions:  Travel to Brookings and drive up North Bank Chetco River road for almost 16 miles to a bridge over the South Fork Chetco.  Just before this bridge a dirt road heads down to the confluence with the Chetco and SF Chetco, the take out.  Those in the know are leery of leaving vehicles here, so consider hiring Bearfoot Brad (1-707-457-3365) or hiding a dirt bike in the woods.

To get to the put in cross the bridge over the South Fork Chetco and turn right, follow this road a little over 15 miles to where it ends.  There are only two junctions (staying on the main road each time), both of these right turns are marked by signs to Vulcan Peak.  The last mile or so is narrow, exposed and a bit rough, but easily passible for a Subaru driven by a prudent driver.  You will know you are close to the end when you pass a patch of roadside Pitcher Plants.

From the end of the road hike 1.7 miles along the old road bed where you will reach a nose of land, at which point you leave the road and follow that ridge of land down to Box Canyon Creek.

Here are a couple maps of the hike in, note that on the hike there are a couple spurs that lead in the wrong direction.

* These maps may be a supplement to your own mapping research, but I would not recommend relying solely on these.*

Forest Service link with Directions to Vulcan Peak, including an alternate route than the one described on this blog, the Forest Service page sometimes has current conditions as well.

Some thoughts:

- You will top out over 3,700' on the shuttle so research the conditions before heading down there and be ready for snow zone conditions.

 - I'd probably bring a chainsaw if I had one in case there was a downed tree the locals hadn't taken care of yet on the drive in.

- We drove down Thursday after work and camped in Gold Beach, hiked in and paddled to the third island camp Friday, paddled the rest of Box Canyon Creek and 15 Chetco miles Saturday.  Finished the Chetco, ran shuttle and drove home Sunday.

- Low water is rough on the boat, but be cautious with healthy flows until the portage around Nut Dust part II is dialed in.

- It's tough to catch this one with the ideal combination of a good flow, on a weekend in the Spring with long days, and nice weather.