Saturday, August 22, 2009

Swift Creek Gorge

This is a classic run that flows later in the spring and always leaves you stoked.  I have heard it compared to Vallecito Creek in Colorado for its high quality and easy access.  Once the flow on the Trinity Above Coffee Creek drops down to the 500 cfs range, Swift Creek is on the verge of being in.  High water, however, makes for some scary hydraulics within this tight notch, and eliminates the eddy above "The Elbow Cruncher" portage.  Usually, the 300 cfs range on the Trinity gauge is a more managable flow for most people.  At higher water, though the gorge is not reccomended, the rest of the creek becomes a kick in the pants, and is runnable all the way down to Trinity Center.  The hike-in and paddle are short enough that we have done this as an after-work run, leaving Weaverville at 5:30.

The swift Creek trail is heavily used and a very nice trail, keep an eye out for the carnivorous pitcher plants and ladyslipper orchids.  

After 3/4 mile of hiking, the gorge will come into view, and should be scouted in its entirety before dropping in.  The ruggedness of the gorge will be immediately obvious, as exit would be extremely difficult and dangerous.  Be extra careful to check the eddy below the 20 footer, and immediately above the portage.  If you don't feel comfortable with catching the eddy, you shouldn't be dropping in. 

Looking down the lip of the 20 with the eddy (right) and Elbow Cruncher (left)

Keep going up the trail and put-in below the bridge at an obvious campsite.  There are several boulder gardens to warm-up, they are usually pretty chunky, as the flows should be low for the gorge.  The first falls into the gorge has a nasty recirculating hole feeding into a cave behind it.  Be careful with this drop, especially at higher flows.  

The next rapid is mank, with wood in it.  If you run the first falls, eddy out left and portage across this log.  

Damon Goodman keeping his balance
Below the mank portage, is the crux 20 footer with the mandatory eddy.  Right angle is mandatory coming off the drop, but the landing is green if you boof too hard right.  I prefer to roll off the drop without so much as a stroke, just maintaining a right angle.  The portage has been run, it is a slide into a crack, but not quite tempting enough for me.  

Damon Goodman - Speed Blur

Orion dropping the 20 during a thunderstorm

Two more fun drops lead you to the final falls, exiting the gorge.  This is run hard left, against the wall, and with slight left momentum to carry you away from the shelf bottom right.  This one is definitely a plugger, and can also be a chunker as the flows get lower.  If you have all day, this is where you get out and hike back to the top for laps on the gorge.  

Bigfoot guide Chris drops the Final Falls

The paddle out is more steep boulder gardens and a small section of hydraulically mined bedrock with small slides and sticky holes.  Check your take-out on the hike-in, I prefer to exit the creek where there is a large boulder on the left next to a bigger drop. 

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