Wednesday, October 1, 2008

North Fork Lewis River

I got to go back to the Lewis river this year, which is one of my favorite rivers, there is not many rapids but lots of falls and plenty of exploring.  This year I made the trip for my birthday weekend.  My girlfriend and I went up early and got the camp set up while the rest of my family came up later.  On Saturday my stepdad and I ran the upper North fork Lewis section above the big falls.  The water was way too low but it was enough to scrape down so that is what we did.  The gorge was still fun class III-IV at this flow with a fair amount of wood to portage in the beggining before the gorge.  There are two class five drops on the river, the first is approaching class six, even at this level.    It is a twisting ten foot slide, into a fold, into a tube created by rock and wood, and the outflow mostly goes under a log into a seive.  It was definitely runnable, and I considered it for a short while, but since it goes through the tube it is hard to scout properly and I wasn't really feeling like putting my life on the line.   I did however run the smaller ledge type drop above it that required some creative rock grabbing and a fast duck under a log to run clean. The second best news of the day was that since it was low water we could walk the big drop at river level instead of the brutal river right portage described in the bennett guide.  It still required a fun ten foot seal launch over the tree creating the sieve and away from the river right wall.  My stepdad decided he would rather jump from the log so threw his boat then had a semi dicey walk down the log until he jumped into the pool.  It was cool being in this pool since we figured we may very well have been the first people in there since the drop is unrunnable at high water and the portage at the higher water level requires going way around the gorge.  We also figured noone would ever go in there as low as we were going in there.  Downstream from here where a few more suprisingly fun class four drops for the flow we had and some easier stuff before we reached the second drop.  I had assumed that I would not run this falls but possibly run the other one from the description in the guidebook.  The other one was simply described as "unrunnable" which in the older guidebooks is often not the case anymore, especially since the rest of the falls downstream of Quartz creek also fell into this description and I had run all of those except one, which has been run many times.  I figured they were ruling this one out from height, so I figured that it would be like a 25-30 footer that was probably just fine at the low water level, I was definitely wrong.  On the other hand the lower was described as a fifteen footer with seething undercut walls.  I figured they ran plenty of 15 footers back then and if the leading explorers of there time hadn't run it, then me, not a big fan of being stuffed under a rock, was going to pass. When I got there my opinion started to change pretty quickly, the low water had turned what I am sure was a nightmare at higher flows into a drop that could be run by an average class five boater.  I looked for a bit of time.  The concerns were that the right side fell onto a rock outcropping, and the left side was not long enough to land in without crashing into the wall.  There was no middle route.  The good news was the lip had a rolling wave that looked like it would let me get my nose up if thats how I wanted to run the drop.  So plan A was to drive right to right to left away from the rock outcropping with a big boof stroke landing just a foot or two left of the rock at the bottom.  I realized this was very risky so I looked for a way to error to my left.  It was possible but the option for a boof was not there because of a flake a couple feet down that my tail would catch on.  Also, I would have to land with right angle to keep from hitting the wall when I landed.  So I decided to error left in case I was swept right, and just decide which stroke to take at the top of the drop.  I came in through the lead in, took a stroke towards the left side, and found myself on the left side of the wave at the top.  I turned my boat to angle just a bit right and took a right stroke while keeping my angle right.  I subbed out shortly and resurfaced shooting right and into the downstream current.  I was pretty happy with the drop, one very cool thing about this drop was that when I paddled back upstream from the bottom I saw for the first time a rainbow that did an entire circle!  The rainbow ended right at the nose of my boat, it was very very cool.  So I don't know if this drop is named yet but "Rainbow Pie" while very cliche, seems a very fitting name.  The rest of the run was through a very pretty gorge.  The last rapid pinned my stepdad pretty good on a log and we lost his water bottle, but it was the end of the day and we had both had a lot of fun.