Sunday, June 6, 2010

An Ode to Bridge Creek!

Well, I might as well share the pics I've got from my most photographed, and favorite creek run!
Especially considering that this summer it will probably be running into July, its latest season in years!

Disclaimer: Its initial classic reputation became tarnished as numerous epic mis-adventuresome stories began to emerge.  However, if you consider the 440 fpm gradient average (300, 475, 525), epic hike-in, beautiful wilderness, amazing bedrock, supreme solitude, and 10 miles of classic Wooley; the initial classic reputation must linger on!  Here's the Solution: take this run seriously, get an early start, bring break-down paddles and food make sure you can navigate off-trail, and don't dilly-dally unless you brought gear for a 2-day (Highly Recommended and pleasurable!).  The hike-in is the most daunting task!

After 13 trips down Bridge, a couple planned overnighters, and a hike out down Wooley in the dark, this is my favorite creek.  It is one of the best waterfall training runs around, with no single drop greater than 20'.  This is where I learned to plug-boof waterfalls.  If your cup of tea is 20' plus, heed the words of my friend Dave Norell, who stated "none of the falls were big enough!"  Time to move to Hood River.

Damon Goodman and Seth Naman in the midst of the "Mank Mile"

Plan on portaging two drops in the Mank Mile, the slippery log portage comes 1/4 mile down from put-in after the creek flows through a meadow and turns left.  It is a mank cascade, runnable without wood.  Leif's Purple Toe is a 30' boxed in drop that dished out Mulleticious consequences in 2007.  This comes after a calm pool and is portaged right though we've been portaging over a log spanning the drop.  Purple Toe Gorge is changing rapidly, any year I expect it will be different.  Once past this drop, my stoke level starts to climb.

Damon Goodman in "First Taste"

Damon Goodman exits "First Taste"

Orion Meredith plops the "Bobsled Run"; a sweet sliding entrance kicks off the First Waterfall

Immediately below Bobsled Run lies Medicine Falls.  This drop is best boofed with right to left momentum.  I've pitoned this at low flows, as an underwater shelf juts out from the right.  At higher flows this hydraulic is powerful and safety is extremely difficult to set!

Mike Lee drops Medicine Falls

This marks the beginning of a high quality stretch of bedrock drops and low angle slides.  After a tight right turn and increase of gradient you approach the Rooster and Fucker Rock.

Plugging The Rooster: Photo Curt Welsh

Mike Lee portaging "Fucker Rock" immediately downstream from the Rooster

Story Time: Fucker Rock
This drop has changed remarkably on a near-annual basis.  We used to run a boof onto a rock that bounced you very near the left wall.  Now we portage this mandatory-hit manker.  One fine day (2004) I was paddling with my friend Gabe Forsythe.  His line through F-Rock was hideous--he flipped as he was coming off it.  When he tried to brace, his paddle stuck into the drop, resulting in him falling straight through and breaking it.  Neither of us had a spare paddle, I had brought my NRS handpaddles instead.  We were approx. halfway down Bridge, with most of the big drops ahead.  
Gabe stood up to the plate--hand paddling the rest of Bridge creek, mostly on verbal directions.  He portaged Toilet-Bowl and the Penalty Box, but ran everything else; often styling moves with the dynamic hand-plant.  When we reached Wooley I asked if he would like to trade-off the paddle.  "Nope", Gabe said and continued to Hand Paddle the 10 miles of Wooley also.  Remarkable Bridge Creek Achievement! 

Miguel hits the "Kicker Slide"

Miguel speeds through "Amnesia"

Curt Welsh takes the "Magic Carpet Ride"

Magic Carpet marks the one-mile mark to Wooley Creek.  It is the most picturesqe drop on the run and forms severe hydraulics as the flows increase.  You have officially descended into Poison Oak territory.  Continuous manky boulder gardens continue downstream from here and it is a very good place to be on your toes.  The next major horizon line is the Teacups, scout left before blundering into them.

Flowdaddy boofs the first teacup with right angle.

Damon Goodman backlit in "The Teacups"

The Teacups is a legitimate 3 part rapid, containing a very tricky and congested entrance boulder garden.  This drop is so legitimate in fact, that at a flow of 5.5' a crew of 6 paddlers had 4 simultaneous swimmers here, one in each drop at the same time.  

Silent Ed lines up "The Toiletbowl"

The Toilet Bowl is definitely the stoutest drop on the run.  The horizon line is hidden behind a large boulder, and comes during your typical busy-water boulder garden.  Be on your toes to scout right and/or portage this one.  Maintaining slight left momentum and launching a boof can help you to avoid this amazingly unique and sticky hydraulic.  On a previous run I was surfed in this hole, scrambling to stay out of the way of my buddy Andrew Bell, who came off the drop and gave me a funny look as he cleaned the line.  I was swirling in the bowl while he eddied out and came to feed me a rope.  I then flipped and decided I would rather try to paddle out myself.  After surfing the hole across the boil I made it out.  Moral: if you're paddling in a 2-pack, consider setting safety for your friend so you don't both wind up in the bowl.

Another time I was in the toilet bowl, my friend Seth Ricker fed me a rope properly...he pulled it while hunched down to maintain a low-center-of-gravity-pull.  This kept me from flipping, though he needed a pull from our buddy Matt Fayhee to prevent him from sliding across smoothly polished slippery bedrock.  This drop can be portaged rather easily on the right, but be careful as I've seen several paddlers walk right through the enormous poison oak bush here.

Your next scout is the Pearl Necklace, which comes shortly downstream.  This is an amazing crack to slide drop, I used to walk it, but now its my favorite.  People who walk it can seal-launch into the slide, but I've seen at least 4 different folks slide into this drop while portaging the mossy slab.

Seth Naman squirts through the "Pearl Necklace"


Pearl Necklace is a slippery portage. Clint learns the hard way.
Great shot of typical Bridge water

Downstream of the Pearl Necklace, rapids continue to the Penalty Box, recognizable by a cliffed out right wall and a left-hand bend.  This is the worst hydraulic on the run, scout, set safety and/or portage on the left.  The portage requires teamwork and delicate climbing to avoid falling into the drop.  Poison oak is abundant here.  

Penalty Box--Set safety and Boof the Hell out of it!
Photo: Mike Lee

On our first trip down bridge in 2000 (before we found the put-in trail), Guillo Torres was giving our crew of 8 verbals as we paddled in dusk.  We were racing to reach Wooley before dark.  In the eddy above I was told to go left and watched Ligare paddle into the darkness.  Upon entering the slide though, I could see the creek fell into the left wall and quickly stuck my boof to the right.  One after one, our friends came off the drop, with large smacks to the wall echoing in the canyon.  We couldn't see 'em but we could hear 'em.  It is amazingly fortunate that we didn't have any swims that day.  The Penalty Box actually becomes more sticky at lower flows due to the bowled out hydraulic and bedrock-pinch exit. 

Two more rapids remain, a mini-gorge on a corner and Bridge Creek Falls--The Grand Finale.  

Mike Lee drops into Bridge Creek Falls

Matt "Flowdaddy" Flofo drops Bridge Creek Falls

I can't think of a prettier creek anywhere.  You've now descended from fir and cedar to oak and pine.

Camping at The Wooley Cabin

My new favorite logistics are to plan a 2-day and camp upon arrival at Wooley Creek.  This is especially a good method if you haven't heard wood reports yet, or haven't done the run before.  The cabin is a 1/4 mile hike up (left bank) Wooley from Bridge Creek Falls.  This will allow you plenty of time to scout, set safety and rest before you test your mettle against Wooley.  

Flows: between 4 and 4.75' on Salmon @ Somes Bar for first timers.  This is a class V run.  Above 5.5' it can produce other-worldly hydraulics to Boof or Die! (Even though the Knapps paddled it over 7' once)

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