Thursday, November 15, 2012

Father's Day 2012

My dad has been interested in checking out Opal Gorge in his IK recently.  Initially it was off his radar for the same reasons many boaters choose not to run this section.  From what I have gathered many people are turned off by the commitment factor of the Unscoutable, Unportageable rapid guarding the entrance as well as the fabled portage at the Undertaker.

I had run the creek a week or so before, so knew the Un-Un was good to go and it was a sunny day so the Undertaker portage would not be an issue.  We decided to see how IK's would fair in the gorge!  The day being Father's Days, I decided to also take an IK for this father-son trip.  It has been a long time since I have run anything significant in this type of boat so I through the crack in Thor's to get back to the top of the last segment of that rapid.  I came through smooth to a cheer from the many swimmers and sun bathers lining the shore.

We headed down through the mile or so of class I and II leading to the gorge and I was quickly reminded of traits the IK possesses that are superior to hardshells, topping that list is comfort!  I relaxed in a reclined position curious as to the effectiveness of the Bomber Hydrogen neoprene pants that I was relying on to keep my now exposed legs warm.  I gave my dad verbal beta for the boulder garden, but the resulting tailstand caused swim #1.  After a more thorough description of the Un-Un we both had smooth lines.  One more class three and we were in the heart of the gorge just above the Undertaker.  Oddly enough, the portage eddy gets much trickier at these low flows and the stress level is increased.  We made quick work of the river left portage (less sketchy than right in my opinion) and were pleased by how the IK's handled the seal launches back into the river.  The low water exposed the true nature of this rapid, where all the water goes under either the finger of rock on the left or the boulder on the right.  The boulder garden (Unicorn) was the only spot the river felt low, but there was still enough to float on down. Next was the Sierra slot, which I think is harder at these lower flows.  I was surprised to come through with only a small squirt, at this point there was a breakdown in communication and I sent my dad right into the rooster tail that always results in a flip.  We checked out the line at fish ladder which was looking only slightly marginal today and we took the usual line along the left bank, putting back in at the beautiful pool below.  From here to Salmon I tried some fishing but was unsuccessful.

It was at this point that I realized I had been totally comfortable the whole trip with only a drytop and neoprene pants from Bomber.

In the pool near Evans creek a group of onlookers jokingly asked if they could watch us run the falls.  When they realized we were serious about running it their eyes lit up and they rushed downstream to watch us meet what was sure to be our demise.  We scouted from the left for awhile and decided to run the falls via seal launch on the left.  My dad went first and was pushed to the right where the power at the base of the falls got the best of his attempt at a dry run.  I followed with a near identical line.  Unsatisfied with this result I solicited the help of the onlookers and went back, hitting the kicker on the left for an upright and refreshing line!  My dad finished the day with a scooter shuttle and we rejoiced in our IK descent of Opal Gorge.

My second lap over the falls this day.


side note:  Someone got shoved under the river left finger in fishladder falls a few weeks ago.  They resurfaced in an underwater cave, pushed themselves down and flushed out.  Take what you will from that information.

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