Monday, September 19, 2011

Sierra Wrap-Up 1: Fantasy Falls

It is no secret that one of the greatest aspects of padding is that it brings people together in a mutual team experience unlike many other sports and or recreational hobbies.  So the focus of this writeup is to bring light to the many talented and motivated paddlers who I had the pleasure of enjoying the water with this summertime.  
So the story lets off at the Royal Gorge, which leads directly into a 30 mile paddle out through Generation and Giant Gaps.  Next time I paddle Royal it might be a 4 day just so I can enjoy this stretch instead of having to power through.  Here is the rapid marking Euchre Bar Trail as seen in the movie Wild Americans.  Here are Taylor Cavin and Chris Zawacki getting ready to make another 30 miles

Then it was back to Coloma for a day at the end of which Alex Wolfgram rallied me up for a sunset paddle of South Silver Creek.  Here he is charging into the steepest part of the Autobahn slide as we put-on.  Alex is an awesome guy who brings major stoke, emphatically charged up and always busting with laughter.

Walking back up to the car for shuttle, the moon was hitting Skyscraper and the Off Ramp on South Silver Creek

Then it was off to Fantasy Falls where Niko Peha introduced himself in a solid fashion.  Here he is charging the first falls drop which I like to portage.

Orion Meredith has been known to wake up and bake himself a huge boof for breakfast!  It appears as if he lightened his load today.  Fantasy Falls Day Two.

Willy Pell prefers charging through classic sections of California whitewater at higher flows in the sunshine.

Louis Geltman, on the other hand has a distaste for the mank, but when it's a little fluffy.."it's not that bad" he says.

Benjamin "Airtime" York decided to take a summer break from schoolteaching and immerse himself in the study of boofology, here he conducts some research on the theory of potential boof distance off Mushroom Rock, FF Day 2

Ben takes a minute to inform Orion that his last boof wasn't A-grade material. "But there is potential for extra credit downstream"

Downstream the Jedi Mind Meld is the only way I could capture the monstrous rapid which I will always portage.

The finest moments of Fantasy Falls come where the river lets you take a break and enjoy the finer moments of life, like staring at amazing waterfalls and floating through old-growth forests.

Good crews come together.  LtoR Louis Geltman, Willy Pell, Niko Peha, Ben York, Orion Meredith.

The Dark Gorge, or Rifleman's Gorge, FF Day 2

Putting in below the "I want my mommy gorge" after a morning portage session, Fantasy Falls Day 3.

A succulent in full bloom on the portage route.

The Untouchables Portage awaits downstream, don't even think about it.

Here Willy Pell can't decide, "is this Fantasy Falls or is it really happening?"

Yeah, its Fantasy Falls alright especially if you grew up with it in your backyard like B-Y.

 Downstream of Fantasy Falls the equally, or even more fantastic Island Slide awaits.

Sadly, so many beautiful California whitewater river trips end in a Reservoir.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Paddling Siskiyou Gorge With Walt Garms

Did you notice the days are getting shorter?

This is an almost-seasonal, and long overdue post from a trip I took last November up to the Smith River.  I had been hoping to meet up with Walt Garms and ask him some questions about the misfortunate 1st descent trip on the upper Middle Fork of the Eel River which suffered the fatality of Czech paddling legend Jaroslav Mach way back in 1994.  My curiosity in the topic came as result of our trip down the said stretch of river, nonetheless I was stoked to paddle with somebody who I consider an old school paddling legend that was still boating.  I had never met Walt however, and figured he was an old guy who wanted to paddle something mellow anyways.

I met up with Walt and set shuttle at the Panther Flat Campground River Access.  The weather was beautiful Smith sunshine the day after the storm and the river looked inviting.  We arrived at the Patricks Creek Lodge since the water was flowing great (20,000 cfs at Jed Smith), and I mentioned the narrow gorge that laid upstream as a trivia factoid.  Suddenly Walt says we should scout it and blam there we were walking along the narrowest stretch of Highway 199 which I swore never to do again for fear of my safety and well-being.  Its literally a cliff on both sides with the river down below, but fortunately there wasn't much traffic and we quickly had our lines dialed.

This is looking up Little Jones Creek and down at the Siskiyou Gorge
Per Walt's request, we put-in directly above the gorge, where an easy river access bother with a warmup right?  This guy was starting to impress me (he had flown a plane into the Gasquet airport) with his nonchalant calmness as we paddled downstream towards a great stretch of whitewater.  The first drop gets down to business with a sneaky river-wide hole where the river pinches through a narrow flume.  Just downstream, another big drop awaits at the glorious Little Jones Creek confluence that we were able to run center.

This is an epic day in the Siskiyou Gorge--looking back at the Little Jones Drop

Beware of a big hole bottom left here alongside the wall.  Next comes a steep drop we scouted that due to our healthy flow had an excellent boof line down the center, to avoid the Maelstrom down the right.  Walt then tells me he's going down the right, and proceeds to have a styling line.  In proper form I chose to go right as well.

Walt Garms going right

The Runout of #2
Downstream you arrive at the remarkable exit drop.  This is a two part rapid and upon scouting, it looks like the rapid drops into a gorged out hole, but "don't worry" I  told Walt, "the hole is only a pillow off the left wall and just an eddy on the right."  With some hesitation (his first of the day) he requested to see my line first, and I proceeded to sell it for him.  There is no really good portage route for this drop, so giver!
Walt sticks the entrance boof

And styles the Exit Ramp

Just downstream we met our friend Julie and paddled the Patricks Creek Section, which generally has awesome play when the Smith has healthy flow.  It was a great day of paddling and Walt informed me the details of their trip down the North Fork of the Middle Fork of the Eel which ended shortly downstream of the confluence with the Middle Fork.

Julie enjoying the Middle Fork Smith
The Siskiyou Gorge section has more of a steep creek feel than the other Smith gorges downstream and doesn't get paddled enough because of it, however it is an incredibly beautiful section of river that will be flowing soon.  I like it above 10,000 cfs at Jed, and have run it up to 30,000 with good results at a trip that ended with oyster shots at the Patrick's Creek Lodge.  Just a reminder, happy paddling!