Saturday, August 8, 2009

Willow Creek Carhood Section

The Carhood Section is definitely a staple for local creekers.  Very few sections of river can rival the technical and fast-paced action offered by Willow Creek.  Especially as flows get high, the consequences of missing a line are strengthened by the numerous off-channel sieves and wood, not to mention swimming in the bouldery rapids is a painful option.  However, at the optimal flows, this creek is easy class V and fun as it gets.
Put-In at the first bridge up from the Town of Willow Creek on Hwy 299.  There is a small rock (on the right side of this picture) that can be used as a gauge here, when the rock is covered (even just barely wet) you are good to go.  Use your own judgement about what flows are too high.  Right away you will get a feel for the continuous nature of the creek, the first substantial rapid is Pyramid Rock, which consists of a boulder garden entry to a boof with a suprisingly sticky hole (that I have shared with two other people simultaneously).  Sorry about the blur.

Damon sticks his boof in Pyramid Rock

Downstream is one more boulder garden before the mandatory (and small) eddy on the right at the top of Carhood.  Carhood is definitely the most difficult drop of the run, and often portaged down the right bank.  The move is to boof left, then make a hard right turn and steer through a manky rockpile.  

Dan runs carhood at a good flow (photo Mike Lee)

Downstream are more fun class IV rapids for about a quarter mile until you reach the launching pad, a fun boof into a weird slot.

Miguel launching

Below here you enter a continuous boulder garden that eventually pinches into a slot with a tight left turn.  This turn has a nasty undercut on the right that is difficult to avoid at lower flows, at high water you can boof the undercut.  Be careful here as Eraserface is immediately downstream, and should be scouted left.  Did I mention to bring your elbow pads?  

Eraserface is a classic drop where you enter through a narrow slot on the left, and make a quick dog-leg turn, boofing the drop at the bottom.  If you fail to carry momentum through the dogleg, you will probably get pushed right, brushing the rock and going deep at the bottom.  At higher flows you can really air out the boof.  There is a line down the right side as well, though it is more difficult to scout. Take a moment to appreciate the many sieved out boulder slots and undercut rocks laced throughout this jumble. 

Will Parham entering Eraserface

Will Boofing the bottom drop

Downstream the gradient lets up for another 1/4 mile of easier rapids, the next large horizon line you approach is Lambada.  Lambada was named for a log that you used to duck, then boofed in the middle channel (still runnable at high flows).  The line has changed now and it is run down the right-side, cutting back to the center once you are past the large boulder.  This is probably the second most difficult rapid and should definitely be scouted by first-timers.  Once again pay close attention to all the sieves and undercuts when you scout.

John Warner entering Lambada

Immediately below Lambada is a drop we call pillow-biter, run center then boofing toward the right channel.  This spits you into a large pool above the last rapid of the run, White Trash.  White trash is a fast ramp, clogged with boulders, and can be very manky if you get off line.  I enter far left, and generally stay left (close to the bank).  This rapid ends and there is a small eddy on the right before the take-out boof.  If the water is high I don't recommend running the take-out boof, the forbidden section starts just downstream.  If the water is really high, there is a take-out trail on the right side of white trash that I recommend (the take-out eddy washes out at these flows).  Now that you know the lines go and run it again, my personal record is 12 minutes for this section...
The take-out is marked by a large pullout about 1 mile downstream of put-in, with a row of large rocks.  You may wish to scout it out before dropping in.  When you reach the take-out boof it is fun to go down and scout the first forbidden rapid, which contains a man-eating whirlpool type sieve.  If you like what you see, you can continue into the forbidden section, but be careful in there.