(photo-Nate Merrill)Don't run the North Fork Cispus. There is so much wood its unreal. There were more log jams than clean rapids. No Joke. I only remember one rapid with no wood in it.
Gary and I had a scary experience at the end of the run. We were passing by our campsite and decided that we would just continue down to the take out bridge for the sake of completeness. We were floating around a class two bend and I saw a log on the outside corner. It didn't look like a big deal and we had seen much worse all day. I saw Ryan float through just fine and was following Gary down too closely so my downstream view was obstructed. All of a sudden he was typewritered violently across to river right. I was wondering what the heck had done that to him and in the split second I was thinking this, I saw the log that had done it that was funneling strongly into the log I had seen from the top. I decided I was too close to try and boof over it at this point (no momentum), so drove right, hoping I would be able to drive onto shore or the logjam itself. A split second later I realized this wouldn't work, so I found the place where there was the most space under the log (about 1 foot) and aimed for that, grabbed it with both hands and tried to shove myself under it. I got most of the way under, but it was stuck on my chest and I was in a bit of a hole that pulled me farther right and flipped me. At this point Steve and Nate were out of their boats and all they could see were two boats pinned upside down under a log! Steve said he feared the worst. At this point Gary pulled, which flushed both of us somehow (lucky, lucky), and as I washed downstream I was preparing to have to pull and swim under the jam. I decided to stay in my boat as long as possible in order to get pinned close to the surface. Luckily I was able to grab a log and was trying to handroll when I saw Gary's boat. I grabbed the nose and righted myself, pushed off the logs and started handpaddling after my paddle as Gary swam to shore. I collected my paddle and my thoughts as I eddied out, made sure everyone was ok, then looked for Gary's paddle (which we never found).
A typical view on the North Fork Cispus. (photo-Nate Merrill)
This was the second time I made a bad decision boating that led to this kind of life threatening situation. The first I listened to someone else's beta that I didn't know very well even though I had a strong desire to scout. This time, I just sort of turned my awareness off because I felt we were past all the nasty stuff. We had been dealing with wood all day and this looked fine to me, it just goes to show you should always be aware of the situation. Even in the runout. Just because a person runs class five rapids doesn't mean class three can't kill you. I knew this, but this experience helped drive that home. We hiked back upstream and took another look at the jam. It was not as bad as it could have been, but it was still sobering. Gary's paddle is still under there as far as we know. While both Gary and I escaped without more than some cuts on my hand. I hope I never blow it like that again.
Seriously though, don't ever run this river, it is just awful given the current wood situation. This situation is not going to change anytime soon either. I want to also express how impressed I was with how quickly Nate and Steve were out of their boats and ready to help, however limited that option was. Its good to know the people I boat with are that heads up and ready to help.