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.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

2016 Creeking Competition

Photo: James Philips

This years Creeking Competition was another fun one.  
The pool toy mass start was my favorite event.
Follow Nick down the race in the video below.

I thoroughly enjoy this event every year, and know that the companies and sponsors who put this on invest resources each time into making it happen.  Even with low water I felt it was worth the trip to not only have a good time, but to support the groups who support us.

Photo: Next Adventure

We were happy to see that a lot of other people brought a community mentality, and big numbers of people showed up for big fun.   As a bonus it turned out that even though the gauge read lower, it was all snowmelt this year so we even had a touch more water this year than last in the race section.

NW Creeking Competition 2016 from Mike on Vimeo.

All in all, a great party in the woods with some boating thrown in.  Personally I got in double digit Sunset laps, 6 race stretch laps (4 hardshell, 1 IK and 1 tube), 3 Final Five laps, and a raft run down to the regular take out.  

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Mosier Falls

After a lot of hemming and hawing, only Nick was still interested in giving Mosier Falls (10 minutes east of Hood River) a go.  The rest of us set up for safety or pictures as Nick geared up and paddled down from the bridge.  The concern was the abrupt transition in the middle of the drop.  Nick deflated his seat so he could lean all the way back (the IK tuck) to protect his back and subsequently paddled over the lip, safely reaching the pool at the bottom before being pulled out of the boat as he resurfaced (which we chalked up to no back support due to the deflated seat).  Ben roped him to shore, then the safety team and Nick paddled out of the gorge down to the next bridge.  We were all excited, and on our drive towards an afternoon lap on the Wind, were already making plans to return to this drop Nick opened up for all ducky-kind.

Nick Hymel runs Mosier Falls on March 20, 2016 at 107 cfs
Photo: Priscilla Macy


Flow for the day

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Sweet Ride, Sweet Toss

This video of Sweet Creek may show what is one of the key differences between being a kayaker who can run class V, and being a class V kayaker.  Ben's ride gave me some cause for reflection, would I stay in my boat in that scenario?  I'd like to say yes, but in reality I think not.

The other side of the story, that's an easy toss with a throw rope if viewed as an observer.  Though how many times have we seen in video or person someone miss a similar toss because they were distracted by the moment or hadn't practiced much?  Clinton came through nearly as big here as Ben did.

Both Clinton and Ben showed they have that little extra something that is required to get the job done when things go wrong and the pressure is on, something that is hard to practice.  Good on you guys.

Rambling aside, this video offers some insight into what can go awry in paddling, and how those wrinkles were handled this time around.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Blue River Bounty

The Blue River drainage is a staple for the Eugene boating community, and its a drainage that I have been wanting to check out for awhile now.  After a long weekend of driving, we were happy to stay in the valley for MLK day.  We woke up to the Blue running over 1,000 cfs so decided to give it a go.

January 18

Being turf of the Eugene boating community, I garnered all my beta during the week from Nate Pfiefer's Wheels and Water blog aside from a helpful hint from Bobby Brown on another creek in the area.

Bobby's contribution.

Priscilla and I collected Emile Elliott on our way south, then met Ben Mckenzie in Eugene.  He is recovering from a shoulder injury, so was taking pictures today and making it possible to maximize our boating options by running shuttle.

Ground Support for the day.

All photos in this report by Ben Mckenzie unless otherwise marked.

First on the hit list was the Upper Upper Blue River
(Beta Here).

We wanted to skip the portaging in the upper stretch, so followed the overgrown 535 road which branches off the main Blue River shuttle road 1 mile past the Quentin Creek bridge.  We followed this overgrown road to a point where we could easily access the creek.  This occurred where the road started to disappear and an obvious route down to the creek was visible.

Our path is highlighted in black.  Route modifications are available.

We put in just below a bit of an island and just around the corner was the odd box noted on Nate Pfiefer's report.  A direct hit in terms of where we wanted to enter the creek.

Our Put in on the Upper Upper Blue.

This run was full of non-stop class III+ or IV- slides with a couple more channelized rapids near the end.

We had only one wood portage and made it to the take out at the confluence with Quentin Creek in short order.

Next was Quentin Creek
(Beta Here).

I think we were all the most excited about this one because of the fun looking slide/falls.  Unfortunately for us, less than a half a mile up the shuttle road we came across a logging unit whose work site blocked access further up the road.  We decided that the mile+ hike in and bushwhack would eat up the rest of the day.  We had more fish to fry, so saved this one for another time.

Nate Dogg has gotten in there, here is his POV of the run.

We detoured to Cook Creek, where another road block (this one in the form of numerous logs across the road) turned us back yet again.  That was probably ok, as it didn't look all that good on the maps.

We had beta from Bobby Brown that Tidbits Creek was pretty fun, so drove upstream to where Ore Creek flows under the shuttle road via a large culvert.  Emile and I paddled through this culvert and into the non-stop action of Tidbits Creek.

The run was fast paced class IV fun with a couple of ledges and two short log portages.

Status Quo on Tidbits Creek.

There was one ledge that was pretty ugly which Emile ran right on verbal beta from me.  The result was of the sort that I then chose to portage, sorry Emile.

 For anyone debating whether it is worth touching up on those play boating skills, Emile makes a strong case for doing so in the clip below.

Just downstream of this dubious ledge was a short portage, it was fortuitously placed as Emile found a whole bunch of Ganoderma Oregonense, a mushroom which can be made into a tea and are reported to boost ones immune system.  Also called the "mushrooms of immortality".

We passed these mushrooms off to the ground team at the second portage.

Below the second and final log portage was more fast paced, fun whitewater that was all boat scoutable.  Near the end of the run was a ledge we had seen driving up.  We scouted what turned out to be the signature drop of the run.

Boofing through Tiddlywinks.

While waiting in the eddy downstream for the ground crew to shuffle around for photos, Bobby Brown (the boater who had told us about this run) showed up with his dogs.  There was one more sticky hole that was easily punchable on the left, then some more fun cruising down to the confluence with the Blue River.

The sticky hole, fortunately its an easy move on the left.

Bobby had his boat with him so we decided that a quick lap on the classic section of the Blue sounded like a fun thing to do, we all drove up to the put-in where Brian Ward happened to show up as well.

Priscilla, Emile, Bobby, Brian and I then joined forces for a fun lap on the Blue River.  There was one quick wood portage on the right (gone as of Feb 2016), and the rest was fun and splashy III-IV with some neat moves and friendly hydraulics.  Bobby and Brian knew the run well so we were able to move along at a nice clip.

After finishing that one up, we walked up the road for a quick trip down the Lookout Creek slide.  It was enjoyable and next time I'll aim to paddle more of what is upstream on that creek.  Next we ran shuttle and headed over to scout out the headwaters of Quartz Creek.  While we were not overly impressed by what we saw on Quartz Creek, we were pretty impressed with Bobby's snow driving ability.  Nate (Merrill this time) has run some of the stretch above the normal put in and reports at least one unique IV-V rapid that is not visible from the road. The sun was setting at 5PM at that time of year so that about wrapped up our day.

Lookout Creek Slide.

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the whitewater in the Blue River drainage and hope to return again some day.

The wood situation is pretty good right now, so get it while its hot.

Here is a map if you want to orient yourself with the streams mentioned in this report.