Monday, June 26, 2006

The Don & Darcy Show...California Road Trip Report

I have been pretty absent from the blogosphere for almost a year now. Mostly due to law school, a very good ski season, and most recently, a trip to Brasil (more to come on that in a couple days). As finals were ending and my kayak season starting, I bumped into old friend DON BEVERIDGE and his girlfriend Darcy Gaechter at the take-out to Robe Canyon. Turns out they were staying a few blocks from my house in Seattle. I had the pleasure of introducing them to some of the Seattle hooligans and show them down my favorite backyard run in between exams. Then they left for Cali and I headed even further south. When I returned home, Darcy hit me with a bunch of photos and an update from their travels. So without further adieu... (my comments added in italics)...

After a tough winter of far too much sitting indoors and doing the things that graduate students are supposed to do, I threw out the idea that Don and I try not to work for the better part of this summer and concentrate all our energies towards kayaking. It took a bit of convincing (I think he was hung up on the necessity of drinking cheap beer), but Don, in the end, was an easy sell. Don’s brother, Bill, teaches out in California, and so he too had the summer free to play. So, the three amigos were all in line with a full kayaking agenda.

Don and I had both paddled in California in the early spring, but had always left in May to find work. This year, the goal was to stay long enough to do some of the high Sierra runs. I got out of school in late April and we set out on our summer of boating. We began our California road trip with some outstanding paddling in Washington. Thanks to the TRL crew, we had two weeks of top quality boating before making our way down to California.

Even with our delayed arrival in CA, most runs were still too high, but we were able to stay entertained on some more obscure runs that need a huge water year. Then the South Yuba came down enough to run the lower stretches, and we had many days of great flows (1,000-2,000) on this classic run.

This is me (Me being Darcy) in “Typewriter"

Don Beveridge in “Eat the Meat” doing just that (They must be skiers - hence the classic Alta Pole/Paddle shot)

Then, about the time the Yuba was getting lower, the Rubicon came in. Don and I did this 2-day run last year and found it to be brush-infested, a bit manky, and overall not a top of the list kind of run. Bill, however, had never seen it, so we thought we would go back for him. To both of our pleasant surprise, much of the brush had cleaned up, and it somehow seemed that there were more rapids…hmmmm. Kayaking flows for this run are around 700-2000 and after a springtime of running in the 10,000 range, this small river bed was completely scrambled, and it seems for the better.

Despite one broken boat (mine), we had an outstanding trip, complete with a fabulous campsite overlooking a granite mini gorge.

Camp photos

When we got off the Rubicon, levels started coming down all over central CA and things were looking good. After another run on the South Yuba, we packed up and headed south towards the Clavey. The plan was a 2-day run on the upper and lower Clavey, and then to continue south perhaps to Dinkey Creek and a few other southern runs. The plan was to put in on the Clavey on Don’s birthday. Last year for his birthday, we did a very low water Jarbridge/Bruneau run in Idaho. Don decided that nothing will make you feel older on your birthday than paddling 80 miles of mostly flat water in 2 days, so we vowed to give him a more exciting trip this year. And, I pretty much ensured that it was more exciting…

We arrived at the put-in with a good crew of 8 friends. Don, Bill, and I had packed wine, whiskey, and cookies in anticipation of the birthday celebration that night in camp. Shuttle was set, our boats all packed, and we were walking to the river. The walk to the put-in is a bit tricky, as the road is about 80 feet above the river, and negotiating the poison oak, loose dirt, and big boulders on the way down can be difficult. I chose the wrong path down, and just about the time I had decided it was the wrong path and was ready to back track, things got interesting. I slipped on some dirt-covered smooth granite, slid about 5 feet with a loaded kayak, and was unable to stop in time to avoid plunging over a 10-15 foot cliff. Luckily, there was a landing at the base of the cliff big enough for both me and my boat to stop before tumbling the rest of the 40 or so feet to the river. After realizing that I was, in fact, still alive, I noticed two rather large gashes near my left shinbone and knew then that I wasn’t going on the birthday float. After a bit of arguing, Don and Bill decided to accompany me to the hospital and skip the boating. A few banged up ribs and 15 stitches later, I was sent out of the hospital with a bottle of vicodin and instructions to ‘take it easy’ for a few weeks.

My booties after the fall—the leg wasn’t very pretty looking (If the photo is too small to see, they are blood-soaked...and not pretty)

After a singnificant amount of more arguing (revolving around my guilt for making the remaining two amigos miss out on boating and their guilt for not driving me straight home in ‘my condition’) we decided to drive into the mid-way point on the Clavey so the boys could try to catch the rest of the group the next morning. Having driven this 26-mile, 3-hour dirt road about 10 years ago, Don and Bill had faint memories of something about never driving this terrible road again, but hey, that was a long time ago. Two hours into the road, we again debated turning around. At this point, we could see the river, but were still a couple thousand feet above it. But we pressed on. Shortly after our decision to continue, the poison oak became taller than our Subaru and was rubbing against it on both sides. Around 10pm, we finally made it to an abandoned, but very nice concrete bridge over the river. We cooked up some mac and cheese and drank the warm wine that had been sitting in Don’s kayak on the roof in the CA sun all day long. We finished the evening off with three birthday candles in three vegan cookies, and all Don could say was “best birthday ever.”

B-day photo (Good Taste - Uncle Eddies: The best store bought cookies ever!)

Don and Bill got up at 5am the next day to make sure they would catch the rest of the gang. 1 hour later, they floated upon a camp of soundly sleeping kayakersÂ…After everyone got up, they had a wonderful day on the Clavey, and a quick but exciting trip down the Tuolumne at 13,000cfs.

Bill Beveridge on the Clavey

Brad Brewer boofing like nobody’s business

Don heading into the maw

When we got back to Coloma, someone noticed that the North Fork of the American river was around 900 cfs, just about perfect for the Royal Gorge section starting near the I-80 summit. Incapacitated as I was, I decided to drive shuttle for Don and Bill—I figured at least I could see what the put-in looked like. Wanting an early start, we got up a 5am and were greeted with cloudy skies and rain in Coloma. As we drove up I-80 into the mountains that rain turned to hail and sleet. After arriving at the put-in with no improvement in weather there was some talk about being near the source, and no melting snow meaning no water for those waterfalls downstream. So, we drove back out, had a lovely camp back at Bill’s house and did it again the next day under sunny skies and hot, snow-melting kind of temps. This time, the boys all put in on what looked like a boring, unassuming creek. Apparently, just out of sight of the put-in bridge, the creek quickly funnels into a granite gorge and the action starts right up. Meanwhile, I drove back to Coloma, rented some movies, and prepared for a couple days on the couch.

JD Batove, the mastermind of this trip

These two photos are of rapids within the first ½ mile of the put-in

Not half an hour after I got back home, I got a phone call from an unknown number…it’s Bill assuring me everything is ok, but saying he had broken his boat, hiked out of the canyon, and needed me to come pick him up. So, back up the hill, then down the hill to find Bill. At least it’s pretty certain at this point that I will remember where the put-in is for next year.

And then there was one. Don, the only one left of the three amigos, had to represent, and he did an outstanding job. He emerged three days later with some amazing photos on his brand new birthday camera. You can see for yourself.

Eric Strittmatter about to go big

Heath Falls

James Mcleod preparing for impact

I’m still trying to heal the ribs, and Bill is still looking for a new boat, but at least Don is still going strong! Summer boating in California to be continued…?


Thanks Darcy! Good luck healing up and looking forward to more updates. Also .. have y'all subscribed to The Range Life yet? Just doo eet! Over there on the right -->

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