Sunday, February 25, 2007

Upper North Fork Cottonwood

Darin McQuiod and Shon Bollock. Photo: Paul Gamache

The day after paddling Mears Creek Shon Bollock and I began searching for something in the Shasta area to venture down. Hearing good word about Upper North Fork Cottonwood we checked flows and decided it was certainly the best thing going. After meeting up with Darin McQuiod, we headed south of Redding towards the small town of Ono. Eventually, we made our way to the takeout bridge, checked the actual flow, and moved the vehicles to avoid the apparent psycho who lives at the house near the takeout bridge.

Shon Bollock checking out the flow @ the take-out bridge. Photo: Paul Gamache

After setting shuttle at the Plantina Grange we made our way towards Put-in. Note of Caution: When unloading boats from the roof take note of the vehicle's antenna. I failed to do so and as a result diminished Shon’s radio frequency range.

Darin McQuiod - Photo: Paul Gamache

The first couple miles of the Upper Section of NF Cotton are mellow, there are some fun drops mixed in but for the most part it’s bump and grind rapids.

Eventually, you’ll come up to a 4-6’ drop that was mellow if you avoid the hole. However, Darin and Shon experienced the stickiness of the drop and may say otherwise.

Paul Gamache from the lip. Photo: Darin McQuiod

Darin, a little farther right then you want to be. Photo: Paul Gamache

Just below the 4-6' falls you'll come to a long crack rapid. Most of the water pushes to the left channel and Shon and Darin both ran that side while I walked around on the right.

Right below this drop is a junky boof which wants to slam you into the left wall.

Shon from the top and Darin from the bottom, watch the left wall on this one. Photo: Paul Gamache

Next comes a junky class IV which looked like more taxation on your boat than it was worth but Shon and Darin gave it a shot anyway.

Shon having fun getting stuck in the junk. Photo: Paul Gamache

After the junk you'll come to a rapid we've named "Shon's Crack" or "Shon's on Crack". Shon ran this drop on an earlier trip and remains the only person to have ever done so. Throwing yourself off this one looks like a bad time and a broken paddle waiting to happen. However, Shon defends the quality of the drop and tried to convice Darin and I to test it out. Everyone portaged on the right this time.

Checking out "Shon's Crack". Photo: Paul Gamache

Shon waving to Darin for some reason. Photo: Paul Gamache

After the portage Jerusalem Creek comes in on the right and almost doubles the flow of the creek.

Not long after you'll get to the money drop on the run. A 15', two option falls. Either take the perfectly clean line on the left or take the "super boof" line on the right. Shon and I tried to sync this one up so that we were both dropping it at the same time but I took to long to get to the lip compared to Shon's fast line on the right.

Shon Bollock on the boof line. Photo: Darin McQuiod

Paul Gamache. Photo: Darin McQuiod

Darin McQuiod from below. Photo: Paul Gamache

After the falls the creek mellows out for a bit. A few miles later you get to the mandatory portage.

The making of Darin McQuiod photography. Photo: Paul Gamache

Darin's shot showing the cave behind the falls. Photo: Darin McQuiod

Once done admiring the drop we hiked a little ways down river and found a nice ledge to seal launch in from.

With a little help from my friend - Shon getting ready to push Darin off the seal launch. Photo: Paul Gamache

Darin gaining some speed. Photo: Paul Gamache

After the seal launch we made our way towards take-out. Shortly after the portage there is a rapid with a log in it. I portaged on the left while Darin and Shon paddled through. From the portage to the bridge is a long way of class II-III. There is one class IV gorge in the mix but other than that it's a pretty tiring paddle that provides little excitement.

We opted to take out on river left and blitz the road as fast as we could to avoid the land owner's grievences.

All in all Upper NF Cottonwood is a great little creek which I would imagine only got better at higher water.

North Fork Cottonwood Take-out. Photo: Paul Gamache


For Darin's Writeup: Click Here. CaCreeks Click Here

Take-out: From Redding head South on I-5 exit Gas Point Road once you hit the town of Cottonwood. Drive west along Gas Point Road, make a left on Plantina Road and continue on till you hit the bridge crossing over the NF of Cottonwood Creek. We parked at the Plantina Grange and had no vehicle issues.

Put-in: From the take-out bridge head east along Plantina road shortly after make a left on Rainbow Lake Road. Drive a little ways and turn left on Sunny Hill Road. Continue along Sunny Hill till you reach the creek. You'll known when you're there because you won't be able to drive any further.

Flow: We had about 400 CFS and dropping. This was an alright flow but more water would have been better.

Google Earth Shot:

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Mears Creek

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Shon Bollock - Self Portrait

Heading for Mt. Shasta to meet up with Shon Bollock we had high hopes of a great weekend of creeking. However, the temps were low and most drainages were completely locked up. I checked out Slate Creek on the way to Shasta and found it to be at 0’ on the gauge…not exactly the ideal flow, so I continued north. Fortunately, Mears Creek was there for us to get our paddling fix.
Arriving at the take-out for Mears shortly after, we geared up under the bridge to avoid the gently falling snow.
Warning: Drive slowly on the way to put-in, Shon has stories of kayakers who rally this road being threatened by locals with weapons.

We put-in at the gate near the end of Fat Bear Road and were ready for a low water trip down Mears.

Picking up a creek boat in Mt. Shasta...Thanks Darin. Photo: Paul Gamache

Shon Bollock fired up for Mears. Photo: Paul Gamache

Shon barreling down one of the first drops. Photo: Paul Gamache

Paul Gamache running the largest drop on Mears. Photo: Shon Bollock

Shon Bolluck sticking the low water line. Photo: Paul Gamache

Shon seal launching in after the main wood portage. Photo: Paul Gamache

Below this portage there are some small rapid which eventually lead into the "Tunnel of Love". Beware: There are logs blocking the entrance to the tunnel. At low water there is a sneak line under the logs on river right. At higher water it is possible to go over the logs however be weary a pin is highly possible.

After dealing with the logs prepare for one hell of a fun ride. You'll catch some noticable speed as you fly through the tunnel which ends in an auto launch at the exit.

Shon getting some after the Tunnel of Love. Photo: Paul Gamache

Shon paddling down the rapid below the tunnel. Photo: Paul Gamache

Paul in the same rapid. Photo: Shon Bollock

Shon Boofing it out on one of the final drops before the confluence. Photo: Photo Paul Gamache

At the flow we had the confluence rapid was a little junky but still fun. The takeout is the Sims Bridge shortly below.

Snow, Paddling, and Burittos. Day Complete.


Take-out: Drive I-5 North from Redding until you reach Sims road exit. Drive towards the river and park just on the otherside of the railroad tracks on river right of the Sacramento River.

Put-in: Turn around and drive back towards the I-5 on ramps. Drive past and continue on till you see Fat Bear Rd / Mears Creek Rd (signage says both). Drive up Fat Bear until you reach a gate or continue on upriver if you are so inclined.

Google Earth Shot:

Check out Darin Mcquoid's write up on Mears at:

Friday, February 23, 2007

Willow Creek

Willow Creek is the after-school creeking special for those of us that call Arcata home. Put-in can be reached within 30-40 minutes once out of Arcata and is definitely worth the $5 in gas. The main run everyone does is known as “Carhood”, named after the most intimidating rapid on this section. Below this 1.5-mile section of class V creeking is the V+ ¾ mile “forbidden section”, followed by the lower Boise Creek section.
This latest sprint down Willow Creek came to be as I was walking out of my thrilling business statistics class. Chris Zawacki was driving by on his way to meet up with Leif Anderson and Dan Menten for a little afternoon creeking. Meeting up at Chris’s we got on our way after Leif used his skills as a professional car-thief to open my car after I locked my keys inside.

Leif Anderson practicing his car-jacking skills. Photo: Paul Gamache

We arrived at Put-in soon after and were instantly basking in the glory of the Willow Creek sun.

Gearing up for a run down the Willow. Photo: Paul Gamache

Dan Menten rocking Leif's helmet-cam. Photo: Paul Gamache

After equipping “New School” Dan with Leif’s helmet-cam we made our way down to the water. Blessed to be in a group of paddlers who know this section like the bottom of a PBR, we were able to fly through the run in about 20-30 minutes.

The rapid below put-in is a pretty mellow class IV followed by the fun boof known as “Pyramid Rock”. Shortly below is “Carhood”. Eddy out on the right to scout / portage. Dan Menton took a quick look and then bombed the normal portage was we watched from river right. Watching Dan style the drop I figured I might was well give it a shot today and made my way back to my boat. Best advice for this one is paddle to the eddy on river left upriver of the portage eddy on the right. Once in this eddy, wait till you’re far enough past the right wall to begin charging with a left to right angle. I was surprised how quickly the hood of the car came at me and went a little deep off the hole at the bottom. Coming up against the rocks below the drop on the right, I was able to maneuver around and clear the rapid. In all honesty this rapid looks worse than it is and I believe most people portage it simply because it is such a normal and easy portage to do. Give it a look before you determine you’re walking cause it’s actually a pretty fun drop.

Dan Menten in the midst of Carhoood. Photo: Paul Gamache

Once past Carhood is another fun drop known as Eraserface. The normal line is to run the lead in along the left wall then either catch the eddy before the main drop or paddle off with a right to left angle over the top of the boof rock. FYI, it’s called Eraserface because if you botch the right to left you end up getting launched right and the rock that’s coming at you will let you know exactly why this rapid has this name.
Next is Lambada, which I guess used to be a whole lot cooler back in the day and involved, ducking under a log and then instantly boofing a 6’ drop. Due to rock movement the rapid is now run down the right then back to center to right to avoid sieves and logs.
“White Trash” comes next and is the best rapid on the North Coast...well not really it’s kind of hit and miss. You’re either going to slam into rocks or sticks on river right or you’re going to clean it and be fine. For some reason this rapid is always either or and I’m pretty sure the rocks actually come out of nowhere and hit you on this one. I’m sure there’s some method to this madness; try staying (center?)...I really have no idea, which is finely demonstrated in the video I’ve linked below.
Finally, is the take-out boof, which is awesome. However, a rock is somewhere in the landing zone so be sure to get your nose up or comment on here where exactly it is cause I’ve chosen to forget about it.
Below the drop, take-out from the eddy on the right or continue on your way through the much-loved Forbidden Section.

Special Thanks to Leif Anderson of Sweet Bunion Productions for putting together the following video documenting the different sections of Willow Creek.

For Leif’s write-up for Fluid on Willow Creek check out:

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Van Duzen

Even the bobble-head Budda is excited about the Van Duzen.

Most of the year the Grizzly Park section of the Van Duzen is nothing more than a mellow class II float. However, when flows are above 4,000 CFS this section turns into a big water playground.
Only 3 miles long, one can do lap after lap on this section until their face turns blue. The best flows exist between 8,000-16,000 CFS. The following run was between 5,000 CFS and 8,000 CFS.

Rain in Humboldt County had been non-stop for the last week and most of the drainage ditches and sides of the roads were flooded with water. The choice of where to paddle was obvious, so Leif Anderson and I headed to the Van Duzen.

Arriving at Put-in Leif and I paddled down attempting to photograph the run as well as surf waves on the fly.

Leif Anderson takes a photo of Paul Gamache as we head through the Van Duzen Gorge.

We managed to find several good waves / holes, the best of which was located just above take-out on river left. Once at take-out we started hiking back towards put-in to try and get another run in before dark. Not more than 10 minutes had passed when a truck headed the other direction went by. I stuck out my thumb jokingly attempting to hitch a ride. To our amazement the driver (a local school teacher) flipped around, picked us up, and drove us back to put-in.

Leif Anderson fired up about the ride.

Leif Anderson deep in the Van Duzen Gorge - Photo: Paul Gamache

Leif Anderson completing a kickflip - Photo: Paul Gamache

The second time down we knew where most of the good waves were and tried to spend most of our time at these spots.

A "catch on the fly" wave. - Photo: Paul Gamache

Just as we arrived at the final and best surf hole, we spotted Christian driving along the 36. While Leif continued surfing Christian and I went for another lap through the Duzen Gorge.

Leif Anderson digs in for a loop at the best spot on the run. Photo: Paul Gamache


Take-out: The reason I mention take-out first is because it’s easier to explain how to find put-in from the take-out location. From Hwy 101 near Fortuna take Hwy 36 West. Drive through the town of Hydesville and Carlotta continue along Hwy 36 for about 10 miles until you see a boat ramp leading down to the river.

A view of take-out and the swollen river bank.

Put-in: From Take-out drive up river about 3 miles and will see a turn-out just before a sharp right hand turn. Park here and hike 25 yards down to the river.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Middle Fork (Black Butte to Dos Rios)

Disclaimer: Somehow in my infinite wisdom I managed to delete all photos of this section from my camera and computer.
Guess you’ll just have to paddle it yourself…

The Middle Fork of the Eel from Black Butte to Dos Rios is 27 miles of absolute flatwater and 5 miles of class III-IV. Unable to convince anyone else to paddle this section with me, I set out solo. Arriving at Dos Rios around 10:30am I began unloading my gear. Within minutes a truck drove by and picked me up with my boat and headed to the edge of the town of Covelo. This first ride was provided by the assistant pastor for the Church in Covelo. In another 5-10 minutes another truck picked me up with my boat and drove me the rest of the way to the Black Butte Guard Station. The driver told me all about how a local had shot up his car with a shotgun and how worthless the police were in the area. Once at Black Butte I hiked down to the river and along the way I found $40 in the middle of the road, so far this run was going pretty well...
The flatwater on this run seems to go forever. I remember one gorge that was barley class III then another near the end of the run that was IV-. Coal Mine Falls marks the entrance to the last gorge and the rapids that follow are pretty entertaining.
In total the run took me 4 hours from put-in to take-out with just 1,200 CFS, this was managed by no breaks, no scouts, and no portages. If I were to do this run again it would be at much higher water or with a raft equiped with a keg.


Put-in: To reach Put-in take the 162 exit just north of Willits along Hwy 101. Drive along this road just short of forever. Once you reach the town of Covelo follow the signs for Hwy 162. Near the end of town you'll make a right to stay on 162 aka Mendocino Pass Road. Drive another 8-10 miles until you cross a bridge. Park at the market there and hike just upriver of the bridge for a trail down to the river.

Take-out: Drive back along 162 through Covelo and back towards Hwy 101. Near the town of Dos Rios you will cross a bridge. Park just upriver (MF Eel side) of the bridge. Best way to go is to meet at take-out. Load up into one vehicle and drive to put-in.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Middle Fork American (Tunnel Chute)

Paul Gamache in the tunnel below Tunnel Chute Rapid - Photo: Ben Wartburg

After a day of paddling the South Fork the crew headed back to Alex Wolfgram’s parents house (currently under construction) in the town of Foresthill. That night, Alex tested the flammability of his parent’s new house.

Bonfire at Alex's House - Photo: Paul Gamache

The next morning we enjoyed views of the Middle Fork American and the choice of where to paddle the next day was obvious.

View of the Middle Fork American - Photo: Paul Gamache

Arriving at Put-in around 9:30am there was a noticeable release of flow from the dam. Once Ben Wartburg arrived we were ready to head down the Middle Fork. The first couple of miles are fun class III’s with not much of note.

Once at Tunnel Chute we got out to take pictures. The Tunnel Chute rapid is a pretty amazing sight. The rapid is more or less a sliding class IV into a drop with a hole. Once through the rapid the river is diverted into a giant tunnel that was blasted through the mountain.
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Ben Wartburg Tunnel Chute Rapid - Photo: Paul Gamache

We all ran the main chute down the middle. Unfortunately, Christian flipped right above the final drop and proceeded to run the remainder of the rapid upside-down. He said he hit his head on a couple rocks and pulled his skirt. His swim was uneventful and got back in his boat just on the other side of the tunnel.
Christian testing the water depth below Tunnel Chute - Photo: Ben Wartburg

After Tunnel Chute, rapids are mostly class III for 3 miles

Christian in the midst of Kanaka Falls - Photo: Paul Gamache

...and then it’s 9 miles of flat-water.

Somewhere near the middle of the flat-water we pulled over at a structure on river right. Just upriver of this structure exists an amazing 100yard side hike along a creek.

We continued on our way since this section is scheduled dam release and didn't want to have the water drop out on us. Unfortunately, we must have paddled too fast since we arrived at the rapid above Ruck-A-Chucky we realized we had beaten the water to this point.

No rebar in sight. Ruck-A-Chucky at low water. Photo: Ben Wartburg

The remainder of the run was low water class III-IV.

Christian paying dues. Photo: Paul Gamache