Wednesday, October 16, 2019

SF Tuolumne: Ascension Gorge


Stream: We ran this stream because we were looking for an adventure on our way south to Granite Creek.   The stream starts out flowing slowly past the put in at Carlon Station.  Class II with some wood to dodge makes up the first mile and a half of easy floating.  At the end of this stretch the river turns left and enters a small class III bedrock rapid.  This leads to a gentle 10' slide, and signals the beginning of the adventure.  The gorge downstream gets stout quick, but everything can be scouted and portaged at the levels we ran the river.  

The first big rapid we portaged right, it was a compelling rapid that I have mixed feelings about not running.  The second big rapid looks like it's going to be a great drop, but lands on boulders and may be the only mandatory portage on the run.  We walked on the left.

A large pool separates this drop from the beginning of a stout 1/4th of a mile of hard class V bouldery rapids (with some bedrock mixed in) that we portaged with some effort at river level. 

 We started portaging on the left, before moving back right after running this ledge. 

From there we portaged another boulder rapid down to another bedrock ledge.  Below this bedrock ledge was another tenth of a mile of bouldery rapids.  Some we walked, the easier stuff we paddled.  This section ended in a ten foot falls that would have only been accessible from the right bank (we were on the left at that point).  The left side went into a backed up hole so we portaged again, which would have been tricky with more water.   Just around the corner was a beautiful set of class IV bedrock ramps, the last of which was our favorite rapid of the day.

After a short return to boulders, was a large rapid that we scouted right.  I gave it a go, while Priscilla walked on the right.

Downstream the stoutness faded.  There were a couple scouts for wood, but mostly numerous read and run class IV rapids, some bedrock and mostly boulders.  One bear. 

Eventually the stream eases into class II-III, with views of Ascension Mountain off to the right.  Near the end the stream makes a left bend, sending the Mountain into the rear-view mirror and a final flat stretch with some wood marks the home stretch to the Hwy 120 take out bridge.  We walked past the log-pile visible from the take out bridge along the left bank right up to the road.

Flows:  We had paddled the SF Tuolumne June 25, 2019

Access:  About 14 miles East of Groveland on Hwy 120, you will cross over the SF Tuolumne at Rainbow Falls.  This is the take out for a different section of the SF Tuolumne described here.  To get to the take out for this upper run, continue East on Hwy 120 to a bridge 6.2 miles past Rainbow Falls.  37.820810, -119.918863  The creek is flat and woody here, but is not indicative of what you will find upstream.

From this upper bridge, continue yet further on Hwy 120, for 3.1 more miles before turning left onto Evergreen Rd towards Carlon Falls.  1 mile down this road is a bridge over the SF Tuolumne, we parked at the day use area on the downstream river-left side of the bridge.   37.814590, -119.862915

Monday, September 9, 2019

Notes From an Oregonian: California (May 23 - June 1, 2019)

Tick check along the Trinity headwaters.

***Here are some notes from a recent trip to California.***

Sacramento (Box Canyon)
May 25

This is a great run, and maximally convenient when heading to the Sierra's from Oregon.  I am pretty certain this is the only shuttle I have run along I5.  It had many class IV rapids and some ledges in a beautiful section of stream.  We did the full run down to Dunsmuir at what I gathered from the Box Canyon Facebook Group was a level of around 5.5'.  This flow felt medium.  I would choose doing the full run every time.  Paddling under Mossebrae Falls was pretty cool and there were plenty of enjoyable rapids on the lower part of the run.

Campsite: Steve's house in Los Molinos (530) 519-1040

Food:  Camp food

Mill Creek
May 26

We camped at Steve's house, who is the go-to guy for running shuttles on Mill Creek.  He is a generous guy, with plenty of space to throw down a number of tents.  There were a cacophony of sounds that night likely exacerbated by a storm rolling through, including a cow mourning a lost calf, the thunderstorm itself, wind blowing metal structures repetitiously, and mid-night bass practice at a nearby party made for a long night.  This would all be fixed with ear plugs, which I'll be bringing on any future rural-residential camping trips.  The overnight rain brought the creek up to over 4,000 cfs which was higher than we wanted to run it, so we drove south to Pauley Creek.  Priscilla and I would return one month later to paddle Mill Creek.  Be sure to get your gas in Red Bluff or Chico, Los Molinos does not have gas.

Pauley Creek
May 26

This is a fantastic little creek, and probably cracks my top ten repeatable runs list.  It felt like it belonged in Oregon, except that the rapids were more sustained than is typical for where I'm from.  The ratio of fun:stress was extremely favorable.  We split into two groups for the run as we had a lot of boaters.  There was one hickup when two from the "let's route it" group pinned on a log.  They were able to get out ok, but I was happy to have elected to be in the second group who were scouting blind corners.  I really liked the town of Downieville along the NF Yuba near Pauley Creek, and I would be happy as a clam spending a whole week there, boating and mountain biking. 

Picking up the pieces on Pauley Creek.

Campsite: Rocky Rest Campsite, it is a pay site 39.513368, -120.977775

Food:  We ate at the bike shop in Downieville.  They had kayaker friendly pricing, and WIFI.

SBMF Feather 
May 27

This was a cool place, I did not boat the run, but others did.  I think I figured out a gauge more relevant than the Milsap gauge for this one.  After gathering data and consulting with some California experts, we determined Spanish Creek nr Quincy is indeed a reasonable correlation to use in most years as a starting point for guessing flows, though a final a visual check is still required to ascertain levels.  From what we gathered from 15-20 data points the following is a starting point for guessing flows:

Low 150 -250
Med:250 - 350
High: 350 - 450

 The run takes a long time for most groups, and even with someone who knew the run it took over 8 hours for the group who did the run at what they called a high flow a day after heavy rain.  Reportedly, the ferry above 199 problems is the crux at high flows and genuinely frightening.  They paddled the creek the next day as well and it was a more favorable med-high flow and the ferry above 199 was not scary.

Working on reducing the length of the hike out.

Campsite: Pinchard Creek, the last small tributary crossed on the way to the South Branch put in.  Free, plenty of room.  39.713635, -121.174839

Food: Camp food, this is a long way from any food you can pay for.

NF Feather (Tobin + Lobin)
 May 28/29

A staple of the California boating scene.  Priscilla and I had been there a few years ago for the festival and were scare-mongered from putting on the river on that trip.  It was nice to return and see that the run was just as manageable as it had looked from the road. The flow was 1200-1300 which seemed good.  Lobin was filled in compared to what we had seen during the festival.  Some of the boofs were covered, and there were a couple long pushy rapids that I hadn't remembered at low flows that were as good as anything on Tobin.

Campsite: The big spot where everyone camps for FeatherFest, it's free. 

Food: Camp food supplemented with some fish.  Then Sierra Nevada Brewing on the way out.  Fairly priced, but not cheap.

Tangle Blue Creek
May 30

A run I had heard about from Bryanna Lyons, who said it was full of 5-ish foot ledges.  It was.  Zach, Ben and I had a good time working our way down this obscure class IV creek in the headwaters of the Trinity River drainage.  1,000-1,500 cfs in the Trinity above Coffee Ck seems like the sweet spot.

Campsite: Just far enough from the highway that the river drowns out the noise of any passing vehicles, and made for a nice take out for Tangle Blue Creek. 41.222966, -122.646949. 

Food: Camp food.

Trinity (Headwaters)
May 30
After getting off Tangle Blue Creek, we ate lunch and headed up to paddle the Trinity back to camp.  We scouted out the headwaters and were pretty excited by what we saw.  We decided to paddle a short section to get a feel for the run before returning to do the whole thing the next day.  Priscilla hurt her shoulder in the third rapid so she and I hiked off while Zach and Ben continued downstream through bouldery rapids.  The section from Cedar Creek to Picayune Creek has the most bedrock and has class V.  The stretch downstream of the Little Trinity to the confluence with Blu Tangle was open class IV.  The rest was bouldery and tough on boats.  Walking on the banks was easy.  1,000-1,500 cfs in the Trinity above Coffee Ck seems like the sweet spot.

Campsite: Another spot along the Trinity 41.183782, -122.656579

Food: Camp food. 

Kidder Creek
May 31
Ben had raved about Kidder Creek, and this was one of our "must do's" of the trip.  Flows were a fair bit lower than his last trip, so we only did one lap but even at ELF flows it was a good time.   The Scott gauge was around 1200, but that's only a rough indicator of what you will see in Kidder.

Food: We ate at Dotty's in Etna, a nice burgers and shakes place.

Darin Mcquoid

May 31
After Kidder Creek, we ate lunch and Zach investigated what else we could do in the area.  Patterson was very low and the road was gated so he directed us to Shackleford Falls, which ended up being a fun park and huck at the low flow.  There was still a pocket on the left to be avoided, so we were studious about safety, but it proved easy to stay safe at this flow.

Campsite: A roadside spot along the Scott River that doubled as a nice put-in.  41.634000, -123.093322

June 1

I had done this run once a number of years ago.  An overnight rainstorm led to many of us waking up in puddles, and high water.  A few of us decided to paddle while many decided to head home (it was our last day of that trip).  We put in below the landslide rapid, Joni Randall and I and followed Lucas Glick as he read-and-ran the river, I think the hole in White House is still the largest hydraulic iv'e ever seen in a rapid I was running.

This time around things were at medium-low flows of 1,000 cfs on the Scott Gauge, which was enjoyable.  We got the shuttle situation all boggled up but after 2 hours returned from what ended up being a 6 mile shuttle (we had driven over 40 miles) to a worried Ben and Priscilla.  The take out for the short section we had been looking for is at Townsend Gulch (41.688529, -123.083061).

The landslide rapid ended up being not too hard, but blind.  I scouted from a brushy island to the right twice and gave verbal beta.  Ben and Zach ran down the main flow, Priscilla and I took a line with a couple boofs on the right at the crux.

The next 6 miles were classic, mostly IV with a couple IV+ or V- rapids.  We scouted White House as a group, and one other time Priscilla hopped out to give us the line.  We all really enjoyed the run. 

Campsite: We made the drive home to Salem, after a pit stop at OTT's 50 year anniversary party in Grants Pass.

Food: Five Mary's Burgerhouse in Fort Jones.  I'd go back, meals were in the $15 range.  This seems like the hot spot as far as date night goes in Fort Jones. 


Friday, August 16, 2019

Granite Creek: San Juaquin tributary

Priscilla and I had planned to spend a week in the High Sierra's just the two of us the last week in June of 2019.  For this trip I was hoping to find something that was the High Sierra kayaking experience, but without the stress that can come along with paddling class V.   Scouring maps, I decided Granite Creek was just what we were looking for.  It looked like manageable gradient, with polished granite bedrock, domes, slides, and pools all in what looked to be a class IV package.  I sorted out the logistics, found some hiking photos of flickr for a flow check, and felt pretty good about the situation.  Then I found it had a page on AmericanWhitewater and while there wasn't much detail on there, enough was present to relieve any anxiety about misjudging how the maps would translate to reality.

We started off the week doing Mill Creek with Joseph Hatcher, Darin Mcquoid and Shannamar Dewey.  Darin had attempted to run Granite before, but had got stopped by snow.  We got some road information from him and our faith in this being a good idea was galvanized. 

Palaver on Mill Creek.

We made our way south from Mill Creek through Yosemite, paddling, camping, and looking around on our way south towards Wawona, then into the San Joaquin drainage.

We paddled down the NF Stanislaus into Big Trees State park.

Then walked around looking at some big trees.

Below a portage on the SF Tuolumne 

After a night at Squaw Dome, overlooking Granite Creeks descent into the San Joaquin (below the part we would be running) we headed up for the culmination of our trip on Granite Creek and what we hoped would be the High Sierra experience, without the class V.

Launch point (37.474277, -119.266936) for the short off-trail walk up to Squaw Dome.

After a spending a night at what I consider my favorite camping location Iv'e ever used, we drove down off Squaw Dome the next morning and found the take out road for Granite Creek, immediately a tree was in the way but we followed a track around it, then another 200 yards down a tree blocked the road entirely.  We looked for a way around, I thought I saw a way through off to the left, but following that route on foot back to the road further down 5-10 more logs were immediately visible across the next segment of road.  It seemed obvious even if we made it around these logs there were likely to be more.  We dropped the bike off anyway, planning to hike out the two miles at the end.

We made our way up to Granite Creek Campground and found a good spot to pitch our tent, it was now about noon and Priscilla wanted to take a rest day and do the run tomorrow with an earlier start.  I didn't think we had anything to worry about, but since we would be sorting out the river without any hard beta I didn't want to force her hand and give ourselves a stressful day on the water either, so we set about relaxing and spent the rest of the day avoiding mosquitoes and doing a little bouldering as we watched the notable diurnal cycle of the creek.

The next morning we let the sun heat things up, then got to it. It is possible to start another mile up at a bridge (37.542899, -119.282266) over the WF of Granite creek that adds a couple more quality rapids.  However, we liked the sound of starting straight from our campsite so launched there.
The first part of the run is open and bouldery, it's easy going but moves along.  Before long the walls meet the creek at a low angle and some small ledges appear near the site of an old gauge on river right.  Below this point the creek took on a class IV character (at our flow) for the remainder of the run.

Everything was easy to scout along the granite sidewalks making up the bank, long slides started to appear, we were glad we chose to scout them because while most were easy, one had a class V type hydraulic at the bottom that we elected to portage.

Back to back class IV rapids continued below the drop we portaged, some on the easy end of IV, some the high end, most smack dab in the middle, all high quality with plenty of variety.  We were finding the river very runnable, loads of fun, and exactly what we had been hoping for.

Eventually the bedrock eased off and we entered a bouldery section, still class IV and good fun at this flow.  It was important to be on the lookout for the occasional piece of wood or small sieve, but most of it was read and run, with a couple blind spots seeing us hop out to take a look and the only portage of the day was around that hydraulic mentioned earlier on. 

Reading, running, eddy hopping.

 In the midst of the bouldery section we stopped on river left to walk up to an outlook and eat lunch under the only overcast day of our trip.

Priscilla limbers up on our lunch break.

More bouldery rapids continued downstream, the rapids were all runnable and we were having a good time.  One island caused us pause, but we found a way to squeak by to the right of the island and downstream the quality whitewater continued.

Eventually we turned a corner and eddied on the left as bedrock returned at a small horizon line.  We scouted down a trail on the left and found we were at the end of the run, the trail led to a walking bridge and continued scouting downstream from river-right showed us the way through the final class IV sequence.   Below this bridge (which is in the middle of the final class IV sequence) the creek continues straight-ish for a couple hundred yards before turning sharply to the right.  We stopped at a small boulder bar where the sharp right occurred, and walked up the jeep road that exists there to a trailhead.  We knew it was important not to continue downstream, as the creek goes Richter from this point down to the San Joaquin.

Taken from Squaw Dome.

We had been planning to hike two miles out on the 5S84 road because of the numerous downed trees on it near it's junction with 5S30 where we had left our shuttle bike.  However we noticed there were two vehicles down here at a trailhead.  They looked stock, so figured they must have cut the trees out of the way so we dropped our boats and started walking back up to the bike, planning to come back with our vehicle to pick them up.  The 1/2 mile of road starting from the creek to a bit past the trailhead is rowdy, but soon becomes manageable for a vehicle with clearance.  We saw a few chopped trees, but it seems like the guys had been using an axe so we were not surprised to see many of the trees had been left in the road and they had just driven around them.  The closer we got to our vehicles the rowdier these off-road adventures seemed to get, however we felt that if an FJ Cruiser and a Tacoma could make do, so too would our Xterra.  We arrived at the bike and the mosquitoes were horrendous.  Taking pity on Priscilla waiting with the bugs, I pinned the throttle on our bike on my way back up to retrieve our vehicle at the put in when I could and road some downhills I had planned on walking (our motorized bike is best described as "fragile" and the brakes are no exception), the lack of suspension made the rough road as exciting as any of the downhill trails I had been doing on my mountain bike that Spring.   Returning half an hour later Priscilla had managed to find a spot away from the worst of the bugs and expended a large portion of our remaining bug repellent.

Nearly done with our trip, the fun wasn't over.  The Xterra performed admirably as we scouted lines and Priscilla spotted me as we made the engaging drive back to the boats, then repeated it in reverse with the boats on the roof.  We felt fortunate Priscilla had voiced that we not do the run the day before, as we would have been lined up to do the two mile hike out instead of being inspired into this fun driving adventure.  While it would have been worth the hike, we much preferred traveling that distance via vehicle.

What a day, it took about 50 more minutes to get back to Bass lake where we stocked up on supplies before heading back into the hills for our last night in California.  The next day we made the long drive back to Salem, Oregon satisfied on the High Sierra kayaking experience, without the class V.


Flows:  We paddled Granite creek June 28, 2019.  I have listed some nearby gauges in order of what I believe to be their relevance.  We felt we had medium flows, and I would go back at higher or lower or the same flows.

Here is a photo from the footbridge just upstream from the take out the day we ran the creek.  There was a large diurnal the day before, but was mostly overcast this day and flows were more stable.

Access:  Granite Creek flows into the MF San Juaquin on river right just below the Crucible on the Devil's Postpile run.  Upstream a couple miles from that confluence is the end of this run, just below a foot bridge (37.502456, -119.237707).  You will need a high clearance vehicle, preferably with 4WD.  The last 1/2 mile is rough, and even with a high clearance vehicle you may choose to carry your boats up that part at the end.  A saw for potential trees across the road is a good idea too.

From Bass Lake take either Beasore Rd out of The Pines, or Minarets Rd out of North Fork.  The Minarets Rd/Mammoth Pool Rd stays paved longer, but is a further distance.  Beasore Rd becomes pothole filled a few minutes past Beasore Meadows, but takes less time.  There were remnants of snow near Beasore meadows when we drove up, but that was the only spot.

The put in is a couple miles past the Clover Meadow Ranger Station, going right at the fork will deliver you to the lower Granite Creek Campground put in (37.540796, -119.267806), left at the fork will take you to the bridge over the WF of Granite Creek (37.540796, -119.267806).

I'd recommend caching a map or two of the area on your phone and familiarizing yourself with it before heading up there.

Click on the map to enlarge.


Thursday, August 15, 2019

Into the Outside

Into the Outside

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Paradise River: Washington Cascades

1/3 mi

Stream: The Washington Cascades on the Paradise River are short, but sweet.  Located within Mt Rainier national park, they can be tacked on after an Ohanapecosh trip or if driving through to see the park.  Park at the Ruby Falls Bridge over the Paradise River, and walk 50 yards downstream on river left to scout along a convenient trail.    Safety is easy to set, and the trail on the left allows for laps to be had. 

After the initial set of slides is a double drop before the river turns right, then left again down some small slides that were run center-ish with the main current.  There are a few take out options, so poke around a bit to determine what your plan of action will be.  It is possible to hop out on either side after the double drop or on the left where the bedrock ends and boulders begin to hike back up for another lap, or continue through some class III to a predetermined take out on the right where the road gets close to the creek.  DO make sure you have a pre-determined take out, as going too far would result in an un-survivable trip over Narada Falls.

Transition from bedrock to boulders.

Flows:  We thought flows were perfect the day we were there for the first two drops, the rest of the section would have been better with a little more water.  I'd do it again at the same flow or with more water.  The run is at 4700' and is fed from snowmelt, and snow is often present along the banks when there is enough water to float the creek.  When we were there patches of snow needed to be negotiated along the trail, but were not prohibitive to paddling this section.

We paddled this section June 16, 2019

Just downstream from Ruby Falls were a couple little pinches.  We used the one shown below as a reference.  It would be nice if the rock with the circle had some water spilling over it.

Access:  This section is located within Mt Rainier National Park, there is an entrance fee of $30 as of 2019.  We did it after a day on the Ohanapecosh River.  From secret camp just head upstream about 3 miles and turn left into the park entrance.  19 miles later you cross a small bridge (46.778404, -121.739020) just before a "T" in the road, park next to this bridge.  The drop under the bridge (Ruby Falls) did not look runnable to me, the slides start about 50 yards below the bridge, there is a trail to scout on river left.  

Ruby Falls the day we ran the Washington Cascades

 You can either hike back out from the bottom along the trail, or find a spot downstream to take out on river right next to the road.  A lack of diligence runs the risk of going too far and not being able to stop above the un-survivable Narada Falls.  

Refer to the map below for orientation.


The Ohanapecosh River is a favorite of mine, I try to make a trip up there each year.  It's fun doing laps on the classic section, but I try to mix it up each year and do something new on top of the classic section.  That has typically meant just heading upstream on the Ohanapecosh itself, but this year Priscilla and I spent a day checking out Mt. Rainier National Park.  I had seen photos of a group running the Washington Cascades years ago (I believe it was Luke Spencer, Chuck Taylor and friends) so we decided to see if it had water while we were up there.

It looked like it had just enough water, so we continued wondering around the park and decided to come back Sunday after spending Saturday on the Ohane.  My dad was with us that weekend and had his IK, we thought the foam floor might be nice to pad out the low-volume slides.  When Sunday rolled around we headed back up to the Paradise River and had a nice afternoon sliding down the cascades in the IK.   The run is similar in style and every bit as fun as Sweet Creek, Henline Creek, or the Lake Creek slides.