Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Everyone...Must Run...Dillon Creek!

Want to paddle a sick northcoast creek run?  If you're willing to commit to a sweet must-run gorged out rapid, Dillon Creek is the goods.  Here is a short video of Russell Kramer styling the Must Run

With an abundance of beautiful scenery, sweet drops and proximity to other excellent paddling its a wonder this creek doesn't get run more often.  The view from take-out.

If you're wondering why it doesn't get run more often, I am happily writing this to dispel of mythology and fear factory.  Because if Stookesberry calls anything a "nightmare", then certainly 99% of the rest of us wouldn't want anything to do with it, right?  I mean, some of the stuff I see him running qualifies for my nightmarish status.  He then continues with verbage like "frightening", "terror" and even "deathtrap" (we would have none of this on our trip, nor in this description).  Here is a link to Ben's scary writeup.
It was confusing because I always thought to myself, there's no way the Knapp Brothers would've run Dillon Creek 3 times (twice down the NF) if the "must run" was really that bad.  Not only that, but they regard it as one of their favorite creeks around here.  Eventually someone mortal would have to check it out...

On the brink of my 30th Birthday, I was ready to test my mortality...since Dillon Creek sounded like the place to do that I partnered up with a rugged posse of roughnecks who were also willing to put it out there: Jared (Southen Oregon ruffian) and the up and coming Arcata Huckster - Russel Kramer.  We were planning on Bridge Creek (again), but decided for something new instead. Me and Jared had always wanted to paddle it, and besides when would Dillon Creek ever flow again in July?  The drive to put-in is pretty straightforward, and due to unlocked gates we were able to drive within 100 yards of Copper Creek.  After parking a shuttle rig at the highway 96 bridge, head south, and take your first right, which proceeds to go uphill. Stay on the main road, continuing uphill until you pass this shack.

The next road takes off to the right where the main road makes a big left-hand bend, go right.  Down this road we reached a confusing fork with two unmarked roads that both have gates, go right again.

We put on to a bumpy flow of maybe 50 cfs?  After the first bouncy mile you arrive at the confluence of Medicine Creek on your left, adding some much needed flow.  The creek remains bouncy until arriving at some fun bedrock drops indicating you are getting close to the confluence with Dillon.

The sun came up, and the true beauty of where we were started to come out.  In places, the fires of 08 burned all the way down to the creek.

One more portage brought us to the "20 footer" on Copper Creek.  This slide into a crack forces you to put your right paddle to the sky.  Dillon Creek is visible on the left side of this shot.

Copper Creek drops right into a beautiful gorge section of Dillon Creek, where you quickly arrive at the second "20 footer" of the day.

A couple of more sweet drops follow, then the creek backs off to class III-IV for several miles until the confluence with the North Fork of Dillon Creek.  This will either double the flow with much needed water, or double the scariness factor if there is already abundant water.

The gradient gradually builds again, eventually reaching the "Kiwi-Garden"-- an extremely steep boulder garden laced with new wood from a fire that burned in 2008.  We made a short portage around wood at the top and ran down a shallow boof on the right side...I know for a fact its shallow cuz I pitoned...luckily no pictures were taken.  Downstream the walls begin to rise as Dillon Creek drops into the 'fabled inner gorge'.

The confluence with Cedar Creek is your signal that you've reached the crux of the run.  I don't think streams get any more beautiful.

This was a sweet drop with a chute leading to a slide that kicked off a small slab at the bottom.

Next is a drop I'm gonna call "The Ladder", as it has a weird bedrock chute on the left that requires you to punch a hole and then climb over a rock ridge to escape the backwash.

One more drop remains before you have arrive at the lip of Must Run.

At our flows there was an excellent eddy on the left to get out and scout the drop.  We had to climb a little to see the bottom, but at even higher water the scout would still be available.  The drop itself is a series of 4 ledges as you round a bedrock bend.  The line actually sets you up to be left for the final drop, which is where you want to be.  A sneaky boof awaits--don't be afraid to stick it!

Here is Russel on the entrance boof

Then he makes the move left

Finally Jared making the corner and approach to the final boof...which he plugged!

Looking back upstream at the final boof.

Downstream, fun rapids continue for a couple miles before the gradient flattens out in the final approach to the Klamath.  We took lunch here, as we had made amazingly fast progress up to this point.  Unable to complain about the weather, we decided it would be just to hang out for awhile.

  Downstream we saw a momma bear with two cubs, sealing the deal that this was no ordinary paddling trip.  In our final approach to the Klamath, we encountered a family of Native Karuks with 10 children enjoying their swimming hole.  When they saw us, they were stunned, and then erupted with cheers and a round of applause!  100% sure they had never seen paddlers coming through their backyard I gladly executed a perfect eskimo roll per request...adding the exclamation mark to Dillon Creek!

 I'll be the first to admit that our low water level made this a mellower trip than we were expecting; it was  pretty scrappy at the top, and I'll definitely return with more flow next time.  Legitimately, it is a long run that should be taken seriously.  I definitely agree with Stookesberry's advice to be careful with this creek.  At our level I would rate Must Run as a solid class V; although I'm sure with more flow it becomes V+.  I also wouldn't expect to drive all the way to put-in during a normal season.  Moral of the story: If you can paddle class V, you need to check this amazing creek out for yourself.