Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Horseshoes, Class 5 and Runaway Trailers...

Somehow our spring training is guided by a singular concept: run the Cal Salmon. The concept is then guided by a simplistic goal: don't waste an opportunity to be on the river....

With those over-arching concepts in place it all began Saturday at Camp Lotus two thirds of a way through a 3-day American River Combo trip and at the front end of a Middle Fork one day and a South Fork Full River trip. Our Guide School overlapped all of this and we finalized plans to drive to the Salmon with the expectation that we would arrive at Nordheimer (the Cal Salmon put-in) at no earlier than 1 am. Saul rolled up in style after flying up from Newport Beach and getting a limo ('85 Volvo Wagon) ride to Lotus by our teen correspondent Liz.

Heffe, Wolf, Greg, Country Mike, Andrew, and Mogli joined Saul to watch over our newbies: Cool J, Bootay, Dax, and Marie. (it should be noted that Andrew decided to join the Salmon trip 45 minutes before we left... well done Andrew!). We planned to leave as early as possible after the day's trips came in.

Saturday went well. The South Fork American came through for us with great flows of over 2,000 CFS and we were the only rafting trip on the Middle Fork (that will be another story...). After smiles, hugs, and high fives we finally got the van, trailer, and the Kawasaki KLR 650 (our shuttle vehicle) loaded at 6pm and started off on the seven hour north up I-5, west on Hwy 299, and east on Hwy 96 to the Salmon River Hwy. And finally... up the Salmon River to Nordheimer just down river from the Forks of Salmon. It was 2:22 am when we unloaded and set up our under a full moon in a deserted campground.

Sunday morning, I got up and made breakfast. Soon, the smell of coffee, a campfire and breakfast burritos brought everyone out of the tents and in the case of Cool J, Bootay, and Heffe.... their bags (they had simply rolled out of the van and slept on the ground). We rallied, became coherent, and started what would become a 2-day horseshoe tournament.
It was illuminated... by Andrew... that he had been undefeated throughout a 21-day trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon last fall. Long story: Andrew lost while playing doubles and Saul and I won the tournament. Saul eventually won individual title and Mogli became most-improved...

Then we scouted the river to find that Freight Train had changed with a large slab of rock choking up the normal run to the right side of the main hole... all of us agreed to play it safe on the first day and run the lower section twice by putting in at Butler Ledge (Class IV) and run to Brannan Bar. We would still have two class V drops and several class IV rapids as well... plus we would make the run twice. Both runs went well with the exception of Heffe dropping into Double Hole and putting together a full crew swim and a five minute surf. (Wolf was the last paddler to eject... he got tired of surfing and just bailed out). After the second take-out, we headed to the store at Somes Bar where additional liquid supplies and ice cream bars were purchased. I left the crew and headed back to camp on the KLR.

When I rolled into camp the kitchen area was littered with plastic wrappers and hunks of cardboard. The wild horses that live at Nordheimer had eaten our dry goods: pasta, bread, oatmeal, etc. (after staying at Nordheimer for 26 years, we had never been attacked by the horses, they must have been very hungry). So... back on the KLR and a speed run back to Some's Bar. We were re-supplied and we were inevitably well-fed after contributing a little bit more to the local economy.

More horseshoes and with a full moon: more horseshoes.

At some point, as our wood supply was running low, Mogli attempted to slit wood with a rock and nearly severed his finger... no worries: some neosporin, gauze, and duct tape and Mogli went on to more horseshoes.

The next day we took a quick run down the Nordheimer section with clean runs at Bloomers, Airplane, Cascade, Achilles, and Whirling Dervish. We bailed on Freight Train and loaded up for the return trip... Saul had a 9:30 flight from Sacramento to Orange County. We were in great shape as we rolled out at 2pm after a lunch at Butler Ledge.

The ride from the Salmon to Weaverville is incredible at this time of the year; everything is bright green, the redbud is screaming magenta, and the rivers, creeks, and streams are running clear and strong. As we drove through the Six Rivers National Forest, we saw Salmon, Klamath, Trinity, and the New River.

About 35 miles from Weaverville, things got interesting and Country Mike blurted out one word: "Trailer!" I look in the rear view mirrors and saw our trailer flying down the 2-lane Hwy in the opposite lane at well over 50 mph as we skimmed the edge of a cliff 75 feet above the Trinity River. In slow motion, the trailer kept a straight path throwing a shower of sparks into the air as it began a slow arc toward our lane and the river cliff. With no other choices, I positioned the van in front of the trailer and slowed down enough to take a major impact from the speeding load. The KLR took the hit as it was mounted to a carrier that was in front of the former trailer hitch. It all worked well: the trailer slowed while the tongue dug into the dirt shoulder and the right rear wheel stopped less than twelve inches from the cliff... All told, a bent motorcycle carrier, a cracked taillight lens, and a broken turn signal on the KLR. The trailer loaded with two inflated rafts, river gear, camp equipment, and personal bags was intact. A stop at Napa Auto Parts in Weaverville for a new hitch pin, food in Redding, gas at Petro, and a replay of Micky Avalon... we dropped off Saul at the airport at 8:30 and finished back at Camp Lotus... 780 miles, 70 gallons of gas, three class 5 river runs, an epic story, and a nearly severed finger all in less than 52 hours... and we had a new horseshoe champion.

Andrew won't put up with this for too long....

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