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 or the Lake Creek slides.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Tangle Blue Creek (Trinity River headwaters)

2 miles

Stream: This is a class IV-IV+ stream with straight forward access off Hwy 3 that flows into the Trinity River halfway between Etna and Trinity Reservoir.  Above the put in described here the stream is steeper, more bouldery, and has more wood.

The section described below has a wide array of rapids, there are plenty of bedrock ledges, ramps and chutes that tend to be around 5' tall, with boulder gardens in between.  

At the flow we were there, the boulder gardens were clean and fun, low water and they would likely be manky.  There were no log portages in 2019.

There are no gorges, or anything committing.  There are eddies where needed, the scouting is easy and the run is not long, so it's a fine one to sort out for oneself.  It was a pretty consistent run at the flow we were there, with opportunities for breaks in eddies but not pools. 

I'd certainly go back if I was in the area, and it combines well with runs on the Trinity above it's reservoir.
Flows:  We had what felt like a perfect flow for the creek the morning of May 30, 2019

Access:  Tangle Blue Creek flows into the Trinity River near it's headwaters, half way between Trinity Reservoir and Etna on Hwy 3.

The most straight forward take out is where Hwy 3 crosses of Tangle Blue Creek (41.232704, -122.645586).  You can take out a bit above or lower down if you like though.

To get to the put in go north on Hwy 3 for 1.3 miles and turn left onto a dirt road passable by a Subaru.  Continue on this dirt road exactly 0.9 miles and walk your boat down the nose of land to the creek (park here: 41.233058, -122.675238).  Upstream of this nose of land the gradient jumps up along with what looked like mank and wood is more of an issue.  

Trip Report

I heard about this creek from Bryanna Lyons, who mentioned it had a bunch of ledges around 5 feet tall said I should check it out if I was ever in the area.  She said the run was obscure, but shouldn't be given how easy access is.

At the tail end of a week long trip to California during the last week of May 2019, we found ourselves in the area.  We camped nearby at a place on the main Trinity we could use for a take out and headed up the next morning.  I had determined that while the access road to the put in does reach the creek at a point that could be used as a put in, there was a lot of bouldery gradient up that high, so we walked down a nose of land about half a mile downstream and put in where the gradient dropped from over 400 fpm down to under 300 fpm.  At first glance it seems like there was more water than I was thinking I'd want for exploring the creek, but it turned out to be a perfect flow.

Priscilla ran shuttle for Zach, Ben and I.  We found the creek to be good quality, with lots of 5-ish foot ledges as advertised broken up by fun bouldery rapids.  We had a good time working our way down this creek, doing a mix of shore and boat scouting.

We completed the run into the Trinity and back down to camp.  We were able to paddle everything and there was no class V, or anything that needed to be walked around, just consistently fun IV-IV+ rapids of all sorts.  That afternoon we scouted the headwaters of the Trinity and ran a short section of it, Priscilla and I hiking off after she bruised her shoulder during a swim while Ben and Zach continued another few miles.

Ben on the Trinity headwaters section.


Monday, July 15, 2019

Marion Creek


Stream: A short section of bedrock not far off Hwy 22 that flows into the North Santiam near the town of Marion Forks.

It's a novelty run at best, but was worth doing for us under the right occasion.  We thought if we were driving from Salem to Bend at the right time of year it could be a nice way to break up the drive.  Or if someone was looking for a class IV- version of Sweet Creek.

There is a short walk in through the woods, and everything can be scouted either by the standard method of catching eddies and walking down the bank, or before putting on by walking down a rudimentary use trail that parallels the creek on river right.

There was one log that was in the way when we did the run in 2019 that required us to bang down a shallow channel on the left.  The rest of the run was clean.

The last horizon is the tallest, and is run down the middle.  Below this ledge/ramp the creek returns to boulders and the take out is on the right just below the island in the following photo.

Flows:  We were checking this creek out on July 5, 2019.  It had some water left due to snow-melt, but it wasn't really "in".  Enough for a fun adventure for us, not enough to recommend to others.

These photos were taken from the bridge just downstream of the take out.

The rock circled in the photo was wet, with water washing over it.  If it was covered, I think that would be a runnable flow.

 July 5, 2019

Access:  No need for a shuttle vehicle.  Drive to the town of Marion Forks, about 16 miles SE on Hwy 22 from Detroit (between Salem and Bend).   Head up Marion Creek Rd 3 miles, there will be a bridge off to the right.  100 feet past this an easy-to-miss road goes to the right into a campground, which is the take out.  Scope out/mark the exit from the creek at this point.

To get to the put in drive upstream 1/4 mile, on a short straight away after a right turn and before a left turn park in a tiny pull out to the left.  Walk up the road another 100 feet and enter the woods and b-line for the creek.  

The walking is easy, there is a final bench to drop down to the creek.  If you are in the right spot there will be a log jam above and the first horizon below.

If you want, you can set the boats down before the bench and walk upstream a short distance to take in Gooch Falls.  It's not runnable, but is pretty.  There is a rudimentary trail that goes down to the campsight from Gooch Falls along the creek, so you can scout everything before putting on if you like.

Trip Report

It was the first weekend in July and we had done two week long trips to California in June.  I didn't really want to spend much time in a car this weekend, but still wanted to see something new.   It had been a good snow year so I thought there might be some water flowing off the Cascades still, so I set about finding a creek that would be capturing that snow melt I had not paddled yet.

I had seen plenty of photos of Marion Creek in the summer-time and it seemed like it held it's water better than rain fed stream of similar size.  I had read the Oregonkayaking trip report and while I didn't want to repeat that experience Jason had mentioned in there a section of ledges and slides below Gooch Falls.  The maps did show some waterfalls, and there was a bridge downstream that would make for a take out to a half mile section.

Priscilla and I headed up on a Friday with our rock boats, and found the logistics pretty straight forward.  We hiked in to Gooch Falls via a short bushwhack.  Gouch Falls was worth staring at for a bit before we headed downstream.  50 yards of boulders led to a log jam portage, and just downstream was a horizon line.  I recognized this first drop from the OK trip report.  We ended up taking a center line instead of the left line.

We found the section below to be just as advertised, 1/4 mile of small ledges and slides.  We scouted a number of them, one had a log in the main line that we skirted to the left of.  Other than that it was a clean creek bed.

Just below the largest ramp/ledge the creek returned to boulders and I saw a log jam downstream of the next island.  I headed over to the right bank to portage and noticed it was at a campsite.  I set my boat down and looked around the corner to see the take out bridge, so instead of portaging just left the boats at the campsite and I jogged back up to the car while Priscilla explored a trail heading  upstream from the campground.

We decided that we should do another lap, so drove up to a point Priscilla had determined from her trip up the trail from the campsite would drop us in just below the log jam we had portaged at the top on our first lap.  This time we didn't have to get out of our boats and were smiling as we hopped out again at the take out.

We both thought we might be back some day to break up a drive between Bend and Salem, feeling it was like a tamer Sweet Creek experience.  With more water, maybe we would even leave the rock boats at home.