Saturday, April 19, 2014

Humboldt Kayaking Spring 2014

With a strange weather pattern this winter it took a lot of waiting for Northern California boaters to finally get wet.  Luckily a precipitous spring pattern developed and we got some paddling in however the lack of snowpack has made for a strange season.  My prerogative has been to paddle new and unfamiliar runs, of which there are many!

Right alongside Highway 101 is an excellent little creek run that has a one-of-a-kind unique character.  Rattlesnake Creek flows after good rainstorms and offers some kick in the pants fun whitewater.  Aside from its beauty intermixed with highway bridges and jersey walls, one of the highlights of this run is kayaking through a tunnel that was blasted to reroute the creek while building the highway.  I recommend putting in at the rest stop, but the best part of this run is downstream of the last highway bridge where the action is non stop.

Then my list of "rivers I still haven't paddled" brought us to a familiar classic--the Upper New River.  Hooking up with my buddy Paul Gamache we made the 3 mile hike upstream of the standard run, to the confluence of Virgin Creek and Slide Creek where the New River begins.  We had good spicy flows thanks to a wet storm and the river was boiling its way downstream through tight gorges, the New River's signature style.  In his RPM Max, getting swirled and backendered all day long Paul had a stressful day on the water.  I guess that's what happens when it doesn't rain, all the kayakers are out of practice and more scared than normal.

In the hills of Southern Humboldt, Salmon Creek is a drainage that has only been paddled a few times.  Private Property blocks access to the stream, which makes for an interesting class IV+ run at higher water.  Good levels for the creek makes for too much water to run the falls halfway down the run however, and we learned this year how sensitive the gorge is to subtle changes in water level.  Our mission on Salmon Creek took us three days:  Day one was a good flow for the run, but the falls were scary high upon our arrival, we quickly portaged.  Day Two: The flow was lower as we bounced our way down to the falls, when we got there the scout revealed the gorge to still be at a high flow, with a scary boil in the entrance drop feeding hungrily towards an undercut wall.  Jakub Nemec fired it up at a stout level and after watching him battle his way through the gorge my buddy Jon and I decided to save it for another day.  We returned with Ben York the next day to retrieve our boats and give er.  The flow had dropped overnight again to a level that was barely-runnable but nonetheless hiking around the beautiful idyllic southern Humboldt hills made for a better than enjoyable paddling experience. 

Man of the Hour: Jakub Nemec

Then it was back home and wait for the next rainstorm.  When it came, we slithered on up to Willow Creek for a couple of backyard laps on our local mank-fix.