Thursday, March 04, 2010

Spring Rafting w/ WET River Trips in Northern California

Ahhh, the kids from WET River Trips are at it again. The first commercial trips follow the celebratory Smith trip with the launch of early season rafting trips in Northern California. This weekend on March 6th, the crew will be on commercial river trips on the North Fork American River just three hours from San Francisco and one hour from Sacramento. 2010 Season is here!

The story below just came in from the support crew for the whitewater trip they just did up north. Big Poppah holds the reins on the kids while the infamous guides take their first bite of 2010 whitewater rafting.

What I can't figure out is why they still listen to Wolfe's driving directions. Haven't they learned that the Wolf path is always the most extreme? LOL!

The whitewater team from WET River Trips has pulled off a stellar, early-season Spring Rafting trip in Northern California. We just celebrated the launch of the 2010 Rafting Season on three Forks of the Smith and Cal Salmon River on Class 4 to 5 whitewater in world class wilderness scenery with internationally known river guides on a private, non-commercial rafting trip a couple of weeks ago during Valentine's weekend.

Day 1:

We met and loaded up at the Lotus warehouse at 5 pm. Wolf, Justin, Jon, and Alex H. were ready and had everything laid out for the river trip as I arrived with the Dodge.

As usual, we packed heavy (you never know) with 2 rafts, 1 kayak, and a mountain of camp and personal gear. 5:30 and we were on the road to Jedidiah Smith Redwoods. After years of driving up I-5 to 299 and then to 101, we took the advice of Google Maps, and we went straight up I-5 to Grants Pass to 199 (Redwood Hwy) and back down into California (about 400 miles but less curvy and potentially safer). We pulled into Jedidiah at 2 am with a light rain and found our soon-to-be notorious site #41 as we rigged tarps and tents for a quick bivouac.

On the drive up, we conferred with Heffe currently living in the Pacific Northwest and arranged to meet up in our camp in the morning. I got up fairly early around 7 am and made coffee and breakfast. The crew woke to hot coffee and breakfast burritos to start off the day. As we geared up for the North Smith, Heffe arrived shortly after, and we packed the Dodge as we prepped for the North Fork.

Heading out, the rain stopped, and we were pleased to see partially sunny skies and drying roads for the shuttle in to the remote drainage of the North Fork Smith River. The drive in consisted of traversing a landscape that changed from Redwood groves to meadows to blank hills, and back again. Apparently the geology of the North Fork Drainage allows for deposits of copper and other minerals and the varying soils have provided an amazing variety of vegetation.

The previous rains had saturated the ground to such an extent that every hillside was cascading fresh runoff from the Coastal Range into the Smith River Drainage. A good day coming up! The remote put-in was “improved” with a toilet, changing areas, and a flat rock beach to drop off gear (thank you California Boating and Waterways!) Quite a crazy luxury for a river with a small season and in a remote location on a dirt road …very nice!

It was decided to take one raft (Justin, Alex H., & Jon) and two kayaks (Heffe & Wolf). We estimated the flow to be about 2,000 CFS. The trip was ready to put-in at 11:30 am, and I asked Wolf (the only one of us that had run the North Fork) how to get to the takeout in Gasquet on Hwy 199. He gave me the directions to head east over the bridge at put-in and then continue to a fork in the road where I would turn right and drop out of the canyon and then to 199. (sounded reasonable and plausible).

The boats pulled away from shore and I headed out on “Wolf’s Way” and at first the road seemed good with evidence of recent tracks in the wet surface and the ruts were “passable." That soon changed as the road turned into a trail littered with fallen trees and rock slides, but I had faith.

That faith took me into terrain worthy of the Rubicon Trail, and I made use of my low-range 4WD and my abilty to wedge large rocks off of the trail and to drag small trees to the edge of the canyon. After having to back-up a single track trail “trail” for over ¾’s of a mile, I tried my Verizon GPS …it worked! After spending over an hour in the middle of nowhere and feeling like a member of the Donner Party (albeit equipped with a 4wd Dodge truck), I had hope in technology as I headed back to a new trail spur that was only (by GPS) 8 miles to Gasquet!

The new road started out with promise (it was passable) and I got to within 6.8 mi of Gasquet when the road disappeared into 3 foot ruts, large rocks, large fallen trees, extreme mud and loose rock, I called it quits, turned around, back-tracked and found myself back in Gasquet at the pre-determined meeting spot (confluence of the North and Middle Forks) at 2:45.

Wolf was waiting on the road with a giant grin from running the North Fork Smith at what became over 3,600 cfs in flow (epic good flow) without any incidents and a crew that was ready to paddle the Middle Fork of the Smith through Oregon Hole. After listening to my “opinion” related to Wolf’s directions, a substantial lunch began with fantastic stories about waterfalls, caverns, primeval forests, and carnivorous Pitcher plants or its botanical name, Darlingtonia Californicus, and some awesome, continuous class 3 and 4 rapids, the crew headed out to finish the run through Oregon Hole and the Middle Gorge of the Middle Fork of the Smith River.

The Oregon Hole section is visible from the road (Hwy 199) and the crew attracted a crowd of touristas trying see what was going on at the river side as the crew scouted what they could. Every boat came through without a problem except for Wolf who submarined against a huge undercut and yet remained bolt upright in his kayak with only the top of his helmet still visable. Big fun… and I smiled broadly knowing that Wolf had experienced a “moment” that I could relate to clearly.

Take-out was at Myrtle Beach and only about 2 miles from camp. Camp was great; big meal, good stories, Alex H. on guitar, and no rain... or so we thought. Around 3 am, a light rain started and then the skies opened up at 4 am flooding our camp with over 3 inches of standing water. We were completely soaked. No worries, we headed off to the Hiouchi Café where we had a nice hot, dry, and substantial breakfast.

While waiting for our food, Paul Gamache rolled up with a friend and we exchanged info about the North Fork (he was leading a trip from CSU Humboldt’s outdoor program down the North Fork after our trip put-in). It was great to see him and catch up; but, as he left something was not quite right. As he got into his car right outside our window, he was laughing harder than he had a right to... damn... we soon found out why. He had reached up to our inflated raft and pushed in a valve and fully deflated a tube. Yuk, yuk. Little does he know what we did …it’s on!
Written by : Big Poppah
Resources: Smith River Alliance, California Whitewater Rafting

Part 2 continues next week! Bookmark this blog

First W.E.T. River Trips starts March 6, 2010 this Saturday! We will be on the North Fork American and/or South Fork American. Days have been intermittent rain, big fat fluffy white clouds and blue skies. Looks like spring is here!


Jeffrey said...

Sweet beats with the video!

W.E.T. River Trips - said...

the guides are awesome and multi-talented! sweeeeet!