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:

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