Tuesday, February 26, 2008

California Salmon in February?

UPDATE about a recent W.E.T. River Trips Rafting Adventure
Country Mike wrote:

I hope all went well and everyone came home fine. As long as you did not have Mogely (spelling) splitting his thumb into pieces I am sure life was good! Is Sollie still ambiguously hetero? When we hitting the NoFo!!!!???? WHITEWATER!
Country Mike
Here's Sollie's first webcam from the helmet... I got dizzy watching it!

DAY 1:
Sollie arrives at Sacramento International Airport at 1:00 PM
Meets Heffe at warehouse to load after picking up the W.E.T. rafting truck
Bird goes Frisbee golfing with Wolf (freshly back from Ecuador)
I ride my motorcycle home from Oakland to beat the traffic
I lane-split the entire ride and arrive at Save-Mart at 5:15 PM to meet Sollie for a food buy
Final pack and load
We then meet up with Bird, Wolf, and Heffe at my house
Waited until 7pm for Justin and his Bro stuck in traffic coming from UC Berkeley
Little Alex was stuck in the same traffic so Justin stayed back to wait for Little Alex
(He was carrying Bird and his Bro Brian as well)
We agreed to meet at Petro on I-5
Petro became an opportunity for Heffe to drink a 32 oz Miller High Life
We had ample opportunities to shop the wares at Petro...

Sollie bought a fluorescent orange fleece "Elmer Fudd" hat. Justin showed up at 9 pm and he off-loaded Bird to my truck after Bird power-smoked at least four cigarettes and bought his body weight in candy. We rolled out of Petro with Sollie, Heffe, Wolf, and Bird in the Dodge and Justin, Brian, and Little Alex following in the shiny, Black Toyota (important detail for later). We drove Hwy 299 to Hwy 101 (with an obligatory stop in Willow Creek and the tempting prospect of buying the only piece of Chester-Fried chicken: a cold wing). We arrived at Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park at 3:30 AM... stoked.

Day 2: I roused the camp up with some coffee
(hot water for Heffe & Sollie...Metro-tea boyz)
We head to the Oregon Hole Run

After the boys did the run twice with multiple swimmers and a near flip at the Hole, the consensus dictated a quick run on the South Fork and a chance to run class 4+ "Grandma's Pantry." All went well and smooth except for Big Poppa getting in the grill of a local "Game Warden" who thought it prudent to educate our guides on commercial operations and permits. He left by telling me to "talk to the tire" under his breath. He refused to clarify his comments as he loaded into his navy blue Silverado. (nice, Big Poppa... bite the hand that feeds us...)

That night we had a fat-feast and Little Alex and Wolf played guitars while Justin and Brian drummed along. Heffe was sick; however, he made a run at the Early Times until Bird thought he was at a Rave with Disco Eric and he dropped a glow stick into the bottle. Before shutting down, we all agreed to get up early and make a run to Nordheimer to put down a river run before dark through class 5 Freight Train.

Sun: Out of camp by 8:45 AM without a problem
Headed south to Orick
Took a Wolf-inspired Short cut to the Klamath River via Bald Mountain Road (why oh, why does anyone follow Wolf on these short cuts?)

This is an incredible road. Views of everything and everywhere unfolded of huge redwoods, amazing meadows, and the bonus of an un-tracked snowfield on the summit that Sollie made a first D on in Heffe's kayak with a last ditch bail-out 10 yards from the tree line at 30mph. Well done. We continued on a single track dirt road lined by snow fences getting both trucks filthy...that's why I go with White (remember the shiny new black truck). We hit a detour about five miles from the end of the line (we knew it was a possibility) and we took a detour through Hoopa and back out to the Klamath.

The boys put in at Nordheimer at 2:30 and made a run to "Freight Train." At "Whirling Dervish" the newbie-rookies opted out and Sollie, Justin, Little Alex, and Wolf took on new "Freight Train" and nailed it. Camp was awesome with a great fire and a tepid scuffed bottle of Early Times floating a dark-stick.

Monday: Woke up to find everything covered in ice
About 20 degrees Farenheit
Butler run on Cal Salmon with a put-in at 35 degrees

Everyone nailed it and we were on the road by 11:45 AM. We delivered Sollie to the Sacramento International Airport at 5:15 PM in time for his flight back to Newport Beach.

About 950 miles, 3 days, five different river runs, sunny skies, and a quarter full plastic, half-gallon bottle of Early times for the warehouse refrigerator. A great Winter rafting trip that will be hard to match or beat. We'll try.

Trains hittin' Berkeley... next stop Emeryville... see ya. North Fork American in 2 weeks puppies!

SHINY NEW BLACK TRUCK UPDATE: When we made a quick stop in Orleans for gas on the way to the California Salmon... Sollie, writes into the muddy side of Justin's truck. "I wish my girlfriend was as dirty as this truck!" in 6" letters not knowing (because Sollie rarely is in-touch with the pragmatic, real property aspects of life and the respect for possessions that was ruined by his upbringing in a hippie commune) that his letters would be etched into Justin's formerly shiny new black paint... uhmmm ... Justin was stoked, yet calm.

I'm fairly sure that Justin washed his truck Monday night.

Posted by Big Poppa w/ whitewater photos, rafting video and side notes by crew of W.E.T. River Trips

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tunnel Chute Rapid vs Gear Boats

Last summer, brought copious rafting adventures my way. A late June South Silver run with some of the W.E.T. River Trips crew was definitely a highpoint; the bedrock slides and pour-overs surpassed all expectations and left me itching to get back there for some more teacups. In another instance, I was lucky enough to have a chance to run the bulk of the lower class 4 section of the Middle Fork American at a healthy fish flow. The 350cfs experience— complete with a California sunset— was a high point in my time on the Middle Fork American River.

While moments like these are personally significant, I was also able to take part in some pioneering raft lines last summer as well. On the Middle Fork American the infamous Tunnel Chute is an ever-changing rapid.

Rarely run in the rivers early commercial history, the rapid has become a staple of the Middle Fork over the years. Recently, Middle Fork legends such as Mack have pushed the evolution of Tunnel Chute even further by running the once class VI “left” line in paddle boats. Since the high water in 2006, the left line at the Chute has become more class 4+ ish, eroding into a fun, super-steep, 20-yard slide that kicks off a six-footer at the bottom into the pool. While still consequential, this line has been run successfully by many paddle boats.

So what’s next?

I have always been a little anxious about running Tunnel Chute in a gear boat because it is kind of like driving a bus on skies down a snow hill. You have lots of momentum, no turning, and no breaks. To say the least, the Chute has caused problems for guides in the past.

So this year I thought about stepping it up a notch and going where (to my knowledge) no one had gone before in a gear boat, and headed over to the left line of the Chute. I had done my homework, and knew more or less what to expect, the entry move, and what the locked-in downhill slide felt like. In July I made my 1st D in an oarboat and had great success.

Probably the hardest part of the rapid is the entry where there are a few guard rocks that could cause problems if the bumped you in a wrong direction. Other than these few rocks, once you make the squeeze into the top of the slide, the boat gets right into the rapid and its over before you know it.

As an added bonus, the heft of a loaded gear boat usually sends you fairly deep on the landing as well.

Probably the most hazardous aspect of the rapid in an oar frame is watching your oars in the tight river channel, but this is really no different than the normal “right” line at Tunnel Chute. Needless to say the left chute goes. I had the satisfaction of running the left a few more times last summer with similar success;— a highlight run occurring during another outfitter's scout of the Chute. Since last summer, the only other person I have ever heard of attempting the oar-frame descent, is the world renowned Wolf, who had a successful run in August. I think the more water the better for this line. When the gauge got down to 11.4, it becomes pretty boney.

Tunnel Chute rapidIn the future, it could be possible that the Chute’s left line becomes more commonly run for both paddle boats and gear boats. I look at it somewhat like the “fish ladder” skirt of Rainy Falls on the Rogue River. While I could be the first to run in a gear boat, I don’'t think I will be the last.

Post by: "Little Alex" from University of California at Berkeley:: UCB
Big thanks to Hotshot Imaging in Coloma, California for this series of photographs of W.E.T. River Trips through Tunnel Chute rapid on the Middle Fork American River.
Also, big thanks to Bill Tuttle and his awesome website at CACreeks.com! He's got a blow by blow description of all the runs in California.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Wolf in Ecuador! MIA is found!

Missing in action, we got a message recently from Wolfe. Where did he go? Well, the mystery was recently solved with this email to the office:

"Hi, guys! I got a new email address, and (I) am currently in
Tena, Ecuador. I´ve been here for three days and boated (kayaking, rafting) every single day so far. It's been a very good time. Lots of kayakers and rivers all over the place. Every direction you look, there is a Napo River in Ecuadorriver flowing into the Napo that has whitewater.

A2 and I, have been playing it very safe and getting accustomed to the rivers before we step it up and start running harder stuff, but it has been fruitful and impossible to not go boating every day.
The locals are all very nice, but the beer is "muy malo."

We managed to get our play boats on the plane. We have been doing all these creek runs in the
play boats making things very interesting. Weather is warm, and when it rains, the rivers shoot way up (in flow) and then drop off quickly.

Today, we were waiting for our shuttle driver after doing a class 4 river and the river came up like three feet while we were hanging out. So, we got a taxi, and we did the run again at flood stages, and then, never had to pay for our initial shuttle!

For four kayakers to go 30-miles into the mountains and do two runs, and it only cost us 7 dollars total. I could do this for a while.
Anyway, Volvo is almost all put back together. It's minus a valve cover because when I got the head machined, the machine shop lost a tiny plastic grommet that I had to order. She´ll be up and running though as soon as I get back in mid February in time for some more white water trips. Hope all's well with you guys, Peace. "

Come back soon Wolfie! Time for the the North Fork American...

Monday, February 04, 2008

Arctic Monkeys? No Arctic Circle!

How about that January of WET -ness? Living in Sacramento, felt like being in Seattle, and being in the Sierras, was a taste of being above the Arctic Circle; except with a lot more snow!!!

January 1st, I went on on a group trip, motorcycle ride with the Gold Country Dual Sport Riders on the venerable and exalted W.E.T. River Trips shuttle conveyance: the 2006 Kawasaki KLR 650 ...yes, the most popular dual-purpose (or, as we "fans" call the designation: "Multi-surface") motorcycle in the world since 1983... yes, there is passion for the pig of a bike that is heavy, under-powered, ugly, purposeful, durable, and the chosen motorcycle of the USMC (except the US Marines go a step further and convert to diesel... yes, Bio-Diesel compatible!).

Anyway, I took an awesome 230-mile ride with a great group of like-minded dual-purpose riders with a collection of bikes that ranged from a lone Harley to the lone Moto Guzzi with the in-fill populated by a batch of KTM's, BMW's, and the reliable KLR 650.
We met in Sacramento after I chipped ice off of my seat and rode to Lake Berryessa (sic) with about 30 other riders where we met another 15 riders and continued on around the lake to Napa, Sonoma, and Lower Lake where we had lunch and the temperature soared to a balmy 50 degrees.

The ride back was a different route and we road at a much more brisk pace. The whole time, my
white water rafting and snowboarding brain was twitching... everything was super dry: no puddles, mud, dry grasses, and a minimalist Lake Berryessa combined with a trickle called Putah Creek.

I haven't ridden anything beyond a quick couple of 50 milers since ... why?: IT'S BEEN FREAKIN' RAINING AND SNOWING!!!!!!! The lakes and rivers have been transformed and there is as much as 30-feet on snow in the Sierra waiting to come down... and it will!

February has started out with a vengeance of cold, wet storms and has added to the DWR snow survey done last week at the end of January that showed the watershed of the popular class 4+
North Fork American, Middle Fork and South Fork American River at 125% of normal...last year was 33% (and the whitewater was still awesome). The North end of the State is ridiculous with crazy watershed totals serving the Klamath, Scott, and Salmon River. We're looking at some drying weather and some excellent times for enjoying the bounty of a wet January.

So, I'm calling it, and it is ON! The whitewater rafting season will be amazing.

The W.E.T. River Trips crew plans to rally after Valentine's Day (so that Heffe and Bird can protect their domestic Bliss...shhhhhh) and we can take advantage of President's Day. We're shooting for our annual Smith River, Oregon Hole, Jedidiah Redwood State Park, Hiouchi Rendezvous.
The call went out... we'll see who steps up.

Might as well, we tee-off the season in mid-March... so hit the slopes, get off the couch and let me get in some last rides on the KLR before it becomes part of the job... yeah right.

For more resources on the KLR 650 ultimate shuttle vehicle for rafting and river trips:
  • http://www.klr-650.com/mod.html
  • http://www.bigcee.com/klr650faq.html
  • http://www.patmanracing.com/klrdyno.htm
  • http://www.klrworld.com/
  • http://www.klrdualsport.com/
  • http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/group/GCDSR/
  • http://www.angelfire.com/co/klr650/index.html
  • http://www.klr-650.com/mod.html

  • Post by: Big Poppa, Road Warrior and King of the River!