Monday, August 19, 2013

Whitewater Creek: The low hanging fruit

With a name like Whitewater Creek, easy access off a major HWY, reliable flows and no beta we should have known it would be a suffer fest.

I guess in reality I did know that, in fact I was going to go on my own so that the suffering was applied to the fewest people possible.  In the end I decided to invite Willy Dinsdale as he had mentioned wanting to check out this creek before.

Willy and his brother Ben met me after work and we drove on up towards Detroit.

I won't tell the whole story as its probably pretty predictable.

It started out fine on a very steep creek with about 20 cfs, dropping around 500 fpm that we paddled and pushed our way down for a awhile before just hiking through the woods to a confluence. From this point on there was so much wood and the Dinsdales are such fearless and capable boaters that I found myself about as uncomfortable as I had ever been on a stream. We knew light was going to be a big issue and these guys were willing to charge.  I was following them under and over logs, ducking only to turn a blind corner and do it all again.  There were probably 20 corners I would have scouted if these guys hadn't just kept cruising around them.  After watching how well they worked together, I became quit confident if things went wrong they would be able to take care of whatever situation.

This proved true when they both boofed a sketchy looking log and I followed.  One of them got stuck and I had passed by the last eddy so was backpaddling not to run into him.  I didn't quit get back up to speed after the boater in front of my cleared out so did not clear the double log obstacle.   I boofed the first log, landing on the second log as a third log became dislodged and I slid back into the gap between the two original logs.  I leaned into the downstream log and within a few seconds the front half of my boat was shoved under the log,  there wasn't much to do besides hold on while I assessed how to get out of my boat.  Before any plan had come to mind Ben had ahold of the tail of my boat and yanked me out of there.  By the end of the day we had all gone through something similar to that.

I was continually impressed by these guys as they would paddle straight at log jams, yanking their skirt just before contact and leaping onto the jam before turning and pulling the other guy out, I generally took out a few yards upstream of these situations.

At one point Ben got pinned and swam, his boat lodged itself under a log and it took about 15 minutes of jumping on the log and boat before we got it out (mostly they got it out).   Now it was dark and the sketch factor went up a notch.  We tried hiking, but it was slow going and Willy had a busted foot.  Willy got back in the stream and headed off.  Ben and I tried to hike further but it got near impossible (one 30 yard section literally took us 5 minutes).  I couldn't see my hand in front of my face when the tree cover was abundant.

We put back on and in two separate occasions I crashed into an unseen log at chest level.  Eventually I was absolutely no longer willing to risk the river and Ben graciously hiked with me (though I could tell he was much more interested in staying in the creek).  Within ten minutes we reached the bridge!

Ben took off to get the shuttle vehicle and I waited with the gear.  Making a fort with two boats and Ben's drysuit, I was able to fall asleep a couple times but was getting pretty uncomfortable by the time the brothers returned.  The put in road had been so small Willy had walked right by it on the way up!

By the time we got back to the main HWY it was 11:30

This is a very condensed version of our trip that could really have been condensed down to "don't do the run", but I wanted to write it down as a reminder to myself that not every run is worth doing once.


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