Thursday, May 02, 2013

Northern California Rafting Trips - Spring 2013

Hello Boys and Girls... Heffe wrote this one!

I once again had the opportunity to go on another W.E.T. River Trips sponsored rafting trip to the lost corner of California. Just about every year I have been employed by WET we have made to pilgrimage up to Northern California. Sometimes we go to the Smith River drainage, sometimes we go to the Trinity drainage, sometimes we go to the California Salmon drainage, and sometimes we go to them all. We always charge hard and get on more rivers then days in the trip. This is no easy feet, but is accomplished by a very knowledgeable captain, Steve.

California Salmon Paddlers

This year was no exception, we met at the warehouse on Monday morning. I wasn't sure who was coming along, but was greeted by Logan, Danger Dave, and John C. We packed the van with all the the equipment necessary for a three day camping, rafting trip with the strong possibility of rain. The van was loaded and ready to go, with only two more real stops before we would be setting up camp at Nordhiemer camp ground. One of those stops is of course the grocery store, for food and a small bit of fire water. The other stop is of course Petro, the ceremony stop made by whatever W.E.T. trip travels north past it. We were pleasantly surprised when Steve received a phone call from one of the new trainees, Daniel. Daniel lived near Petro, and would be more then willing to join us on our trip north. We all were also pretty stoked, because having Dan along meant there would be three paddlers, instead of just two.

The WET van pulled into Cal Salmon Nordhiemer camp at 5:30, after road scouting some of the larger rapids on the Nordhiemer run. The weather being unsettled and wanting to enjoy the evening we decided to not put on the river. We all enjoyed a pleasant evening of a pasta dinner and a very small portion of fire water. (WET office staff says "lol!")

The next morning came early the smells of breakfast cooking, and coffee. We put on the river early with the hopes of heading all the way down through the Ikes section of the Klamath River.

The last time Jon and I had run this section flows were in the 5000-6000cfs range, everything looked much smaller, several rapids above a rapid called airplane turn, Jon gave me the signal (arms out stretched like an airplane). He thought the next one was airplane turn, it was not, nor was the next one, or the next. Airplane is not usually one of the rapids I scout on this run, but after watching several fully loaded oar assist rafts come through and flip (at higher water), we were very concerned about this other wise benign rapid. After a short scout, I stayed to take pictures, while the raft consisting of Jon as the all powerful guide, Logan, Danger Dave, and New guy Dan picked the best line of attack. Jon came in with a left to left movement, dropping the front left corner deep into the pocket, stalling the raft long enough to move everyone from there seated positions, throwing Dan and Danger Dave into the water. The first two swims of the trip out of the way.

We continued down river not stopping to scout again until we reached one of the biggest rapids on the California Salmon on this section, Cascade. There is a hiking trail in on river left, so Steve was there to take pictures and judge the performance. After a very short scout for me it was off to river right to have a better look at my favorite line in the rapid, a simple boof off the center/center right line. I like this line because the angle Steve is able to take pics is one of my favorite pictures. I picked my line peeled out into the eddie and sent myself off the 10 foot ledge, into the soft landing below, a near perfect line. I really enjoy a good scout followed by an exact performance of what you had in your head. I eddied out below and waited for the raft. I decided to stay in my boat in case any carnage came floating down. The raft pulled out into the current, had the perfect right angle for the entrance lateral, quickly charged away from the wall with a few powerful stokes from the boys, the raft was in the clear. I think it was one of the smoothest lines I have ever seen run at cascade.

Below cascade are a few fun but insignificant rapids, before you reach Freight Train. In my opinion Freight Train can be one very intimidating rapid. After a very long scout and a small break, I decided it was time to run it. I pulled out into the current, and was sent hurdling along towards my fate. I had picked a good line but still felt out of control, nearing the bottom the crux of the rapid I was stalled out on my stern and no longer really had control of where I was going to end up. Once the bow of my kayak had settled down I was on top of the coffin rocks I had been trying to avoid from the top, but to my amazement I just slid right over the top of them. Having escaped with my pride, it was the rafts turn. Once again to my amazement Jon has picked another nearly perfect line down the biggest rapid on the section of river. After Freight Train things tames out a little bit and turns into a very enjoyable class 3 section of river called Butler. We all had very clean fun lines in this section.

The choice was made at lunch a little earlier in the day to continue down the Cal Salmon all the way to the Klamath river. Once on the Klamath the flow goes to almost 5 times the level you have on the Salmon. You go from a fairly low flow rafting to big water. There is two very large rapids on this section of the Klamath. Big Ike, and little Ike. After a short scout at big Ike the boys decided they were going to run the meat of the rapid. We discussed how big the hole was, and decide from this vantage point it was a little bit over six feet trough to top. I ran through first skirting the biggest part of the rapid and was still very surprised how big the waves were, I would say they were in the 8-10 foot range. My thoughts quickly turned to the boys in the raft, did they really want to try and plug a 10-foot hole? At this point there is no way to communicate with them as they are already just about to enter the meat of the rapid. As they neared the top of the hole it looked as if they were on the verge of surfing back down the face, just as it looked like it was all over their fearless leader, yelled “paddle bitches” thus saving the raft from flipping and sending everyone swimming in the cold brown water. The rapids after big Ike down and just fun large waved rapids. After about 15 minutes of flat water we were all very relived to catch site of the W.E.T. van parked on shore. After more then 25 river miles, three different sections of river, and countless memories, we were all very stoked to get into some dry clothes and maybe a firewater or two.

W.E.T. River Trips, California whitewater, CAL Salmon River, Klamath River, class 5, rapids

After a short drive we all arrived back at camp. Once again Steve made us a quick satisfying meal of chili stirred together (with) mac'n cheese also called chili mac. The weather had once again held off for us and we were able to collect a small but acceptable amount of fire wood. At the Nordheimer Camp there is a herd of wild horses. Right before it got dark we were able to spend sometime petting the older horses. Once the horses were well-watered it was time to enjoy another river evening around the fire sharing the days embellishments.
The next morning at was a quick breakfast, and an even quicker team effort of breaking down camp. We all knew we had a big day in front of us(well at least the half of the group that had been up this way before). We were on the road and make a quick stop off in Happy Camp for some ice cream and morning snacks. With a little more then an hour and half of driving in front of us we would be at the put-in for the Scott river at about high noon.

The section we did on the Scott is a very enjoyable class 4 section. There are several large boulder gardens, with quite a bit of read and run class 4. There are 3 bigger class 4 rapids on this section. This day on the Scott was my day to guide the raft, and let my good friend Jon safety kayak. After running several fun read and run rapids we came upon the first large rapid, called White house. After the scout it was quite clear, the easiest and safest line was down far river right, with slight left angle. W Punching through the second smaller hole at the bottom with a good amount of speed. The line was fairly straight forward but if we did find ourselves off line there would be a good amount of thrashings for everybody. Jon was the first to push off, as we were still getting settled in the raft. I worked the raft around a fairly shallow entrance and down the left side of the river, finding the tongue through the first hole, getting a couple good paddle stokes in from the boys, and raft boofing the second hole into the pool at the bottom, where I expected to see our friend Jon C waiting in his kayak. Instead I couldn't see my friend, then a few seconds later I see him, at first I think he is getting his monthly bath in, turns out I was wrong. My good friend Jon had taken quite a beating in the second hole, and was trying to swim after the missing paddle. He gave a the signal that the paddle was floating down stream somewhere and we were off to chase after the missing gear. We were lucky enough to find the paddle in the next rapid called Thompson creek, where Logan made a super good grab of the paddle at the last second as the raft and paddle were just about to float apart. We waited for a short while, as we walked the paddle back up to the winded Jon C.

We were quickly back on the water enjoying several other class 3 and 4 boulder gardens. Not to far down river the sky darkened, it looked like the sun was going down. Then it started small hail at first, then slowly the hail got bigger and bigger until it was slightly bigger then a marble. We paddled quickly hoping to see the take out soon. Before we know it we were at takeout, where just as fast as the hail had started it stopped and once again the sun came out. We quickly loaded up the gear and changed into warm dry clothes. We also watched the swimmer of the trip drink his ceremonial booty beer. We were on the road home with several hundred miles separating us from the warehouse parking lot. We made a quick stop in Yreka for 2 large pizzas. Back on the road we made great time home with Steve behind the wheel. We arrived in the warehouse parking lot about 9:30pm. Having driven several hundred miles and rafting three different rivers in two days, I am pretty sure everyone had a great time.

W.E.T. River Trips, California whitewater, CAL Salmon River, Klamath River, class 5, rapids
I always look forward to these trips up north with the WET boys. A big thanks to Steve and W.E.T. River Trips for leading us on another journey to the lost corner of California!

Jeff Heffe
Director Of Good Times at W.E.T. River Trips

Thanks Heffe for a story well-told! We liked the part about the wild horses...
WET River Trips office staff
Photos by W.E.T. River Trips


Sarah Hijjeh said...

Haha! Jon's monthly bath... Glad you rescued his paddle! Sounds like a fun trip. I'm jealous.

Vivian Waters said...

Great article. River rafting is one of the sporty adventures that loved by many. This is a challenging recreational outdoor activity but for the past ten years, this has been a family-friendly adventure already. Rafting is absolutely great.

Ben Roach said...

This looks/sounds amazing! how do you even get a job that involves rafting?? want.