I was very excited about my first trip to the South Fork Feather. I had just recently come off the North Fork on the Tobin and Lobin sections. The Lobin had been one of the most intense stretches of river I had ever experienced. Lobin was only about a mile... maybe a little longer, but it was continuous whitewater with many boos in the 3-6 foot range, with lots of gnarly consequences. From what I had heard, the North Fork of the Feather was a very burly run. I was pretty nervous, but I was with my close friend Wolf who is the definition of gnarl.
We didn't leave Auburn until 9 pm or so. Wolf said it would be a two hour drive to take-out. The nice thing about the North Fork of the Feather is that take-out is very hard to find. It is not marked in anyway. After driving for about three or so hours, we finally made it to where the pavement ends and the unmarked forest roads starts. We started searching for the takeout.
Driving aimlessly in the woods for about two or so hours, we finally decided to leave our shuttle vehicle (Wolf's less than adequate mountain bike) at the Golden Trout Crossing. The bridge crosses the correct river, just not at the right takeout. Ha ha ha. Then off to the put-in or ingress point which we arrived at about 2:30 AM. We both fell asleep very quickly and slept tight through the night.
In the morning, we took our time getting ready, in hopes that another group of paddlers would come along to help us with our shuttle. (... love this advanced planning mode...) There’s also safety in numbers when paddling, especially difficult rivers like this one.
Wolf had been down the run once, so we had a little information, but a lot of unknowns in the missing sections. The other rafting info we had was that the run was a very long. We did not put on early since there was a strong possibility of us spending the night on the river. (Note from W.E.T. River Trips: exploratory whitewater rafting requires a paddler to be ready to camp in the river corridor due to unknown circumstances and emergencies...) Armed with that info we knew we could and should not wait too long to ingress.
So after slowly getting ready in the morning and making a hot breakfast, we put on the river at ten thirty. Almost immediately after getting on the river, the first big was right before us. The rapid was fairly straight forward but with a big consequence if the kayak was near the right side. I decided to portage down about five feet and get back on in a narrow slot of water, missing any major obstacles. I was full of hesitation before the run, now I was just very nervous.
Immediately following that rapid, is a mandatory portage of a 30-foot waterfall that drops into a very shallow pool. We also walked around the next small boof because of the consequences of missing the boof stroke and swimming (capsizing). That’s really all the details I remember, but the rest of the river turns out to be an amazing.
The river canyon is very deep and remote with very little human impact. There are so many high quality white water rapids on this stretch, that I can not remember them all. So as the day was coming to an end, our minds again turned to the set which we had half-way done. Our plan was to just paddle the remaining miles to the bridge, but the egress is a diversion dam. To our dismay, the dam was robbing the 300cfs that we were on and leaving us with 10cfs below the dam. Paddling was out of the question.
The walk to the car was about five Wolf miles, and if you know Wolf that could be six miles or it could be fifteen miles. So Wolf took off walking, and I just stayed and tried to stay warm. Well, as it turns out, lucky karma Wolf (extreme ray of sunshine) caught a ride, and was back within two hours! I was very glad to be putting on warm clothes.
After looking back on the trip, that river is one of the prettiest river canyons in all of California. The South Fork of the Feather had turned out to be one of the most difficult rivers in my very short river running career. I am looking forward to visiting more of California rivers very soon!
Post by Heffe... mentoring with Wolf is an adventure in itself... we guarantee it!