Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Generation Gap

On our way, sledding to put-in. Photo: Kevin Smith

Please read:
An unknown person accidentally deleted my photos of this run, 49-Bridgeport, and the Bear near Colfax off my camera during the Santa Cruz Kayak Festival. I apologize for the loss and really wish I could have shared them with you. Luckily, Thomas Moore took some photos while on Generation. However, if you read the following trip report you’ll learn that Thomas and I had a slightly different Generation experience. I have made the most of what I have and tried to provide the most accurate Google Earth Mapping of this area and the events which unfolded.

Generation Gap:

My Spring Break started with two days on the SF Yuba paddling 49-Bridge, during the first of which I fell off a cliff and landed 3’ directly on my left knee. This happened while jockeying for a better camera angle of Eric Conklin at Corner Pocket. The next few days my knee swelled substantially and I was determined to not let this injury ruin my Spring Break. After two days on 49-Bridge and a lap down the Bear River. I was focused on finding more difficult trips that were Ultimate Spring Break worthy. I then Headed to Alex Wolfgram’s house to make some gas money and rally some paddling. We spent the next day laying flooring at his house. That night we planned our trip through Generation and assembled a crew. The next morning, Thomas Moore, Eric Christoherson, Mammoth area paddler Kevin Smith, Alex Wolfgram, and myself were putting on our gear at 6am at the China Wall parking lot. Before us was a ~4 hike, 3 of which would be in the snow, and a 22.5 mile paddle through Generation and Giant Gap all in one day.
We had driven as far as we could along Foresthill road and were blocked by a gate and solid snowpack about 2 ½ miles from the Mumford Bar Campground.

Put-in Overview. China Wall where we began hiking is not picutred. Mumford Bar Campground is labled Put-in on the top of the ridge. Google Earth Shot

Getting ready to do some hiking through the snow. Photo: Kevin Smith

Eric enjoying the pre-dawn boat drag. Photo: Thomas Moore

Hiking through the snow, it took us about an hour or so to reach the campground. We turned left, got on the Mumford Bar campground road and began trudging through much deeper / softer snow.
Once off the campground road we turned left once again at an obvious trailhead and continued downhill. We were fortunate to be able to sled our kayaks down the put-in trail and made good time until the trail became steep, forcing us to carry our boats.

Alex rocking the sled. Photo: Kevin Smith

Paul, happy to be carrying again. Photo: Thomas Moore

During this point my knee become increasingly strained and I began having difficulty keeping up with the group. At some point the group switchbacked down the hill and I was unaware we were cutting a switchback and not simply making our way down to the river. While cutting downhill I became enwrapped in tree branches and lost sight of the group. Yelling and blowing my whistle I eventually determined I had become separated from the group. In hindsight, the wiser decision would have been to hike back uphill, relocate the trail and reassess where the group had gone. However, I ended up cutting down to the river. The water was still about 500 vertical below and as I bushwhacked my way downhill found a dry creek that I proceeded to use to avoid further bushwhacking. Unfortunately, this creek became increasing steep and I began having to lower my boat down 5’, then 10', then 20’ foot rock drops. It seemed as though the further I made my way down the creek, the steeper it was becoming.

Overview of Hike-in Situation: Google Earth Shot

The situation I had gotten myself into was becoming increasingly strenuous. About the time both of my thighs became severely cramped forcing me to be unable to walk, let alone rock climb. After a short time I regained the ability to walk and ditched my boat to scout out a way to get down to the water. Finding a more gradual cliff to make my way down, I went back to my boat, abandoned the creek, and continued downhill.
After another half hour or so I was at the water wondering where I was in relation to the rest of the group. I had no way of determining what time of the day it was and was unsure how long it had taken for me to make it to the water in relation to the group. Additionally, I was unsure if I was above or below the rest of the group. I figured I could move faster than the group solo and would be able to catch up with them rather quickly if they were below me.
Eventually, I became increasingly anxious about spending the night on the side of another cliff without a sleeping bag. Consequentially, I decided I had no other option than to put on for Generation Gap solo and pick up some river miles in case I was forced to do the entire stretch solo. At this point I determined I was on my own trip and would just take my time heading down and pace myself accordingly. I would see class IV-V coming and would be able to walk anything I didn’t want to solo. My situation created a personal bonus additive to the classification of the rapids and as a result, paddled class III like it was class IV, IV like V, and then would scout / portage all the real V’s.
The first few miles below my Generation put-in were pretty mellow class II-III with some IV’s mixed in. At one point I came around a left hand bend and saw a tree in the water in the midst of the next rapid. I found an eddy on river right and scouted the rapid and sat around for a while hoping the group would catch up to me.

View of riverwide strainer from downstream. Photo: Kevin Smith

After waiting about an hour. During which I made a rock cairn, an arrow, and wrote my name with sticks. I portaged on the right (the river is blocked by a river wide large tree) and continued down not sure what else to do. If I waited anymore time I would have risked spending the night on the side of the river. I still had at least 6 increasingly difficult miles of Generation to paddle and the entire 14-mile Giant Gap section before I would be at the take-out vehicle.
I put back on and headed down knowing “Dream Gap” must be getting closer. After a while the river become much more dramatic and I knew instantly I was entering Dream Gap. After running the first class IV I eddied out and scouted the next immediate rapid. The river was a congested area on the left, ugly mess in middle, super sweet boof line, then a sieve. Not really wanting to portage the reason we had all dragged ourselves through the snow for so I sat down and began eating a bag of trail mix. My plan was to eat the bag and hope that by the time I was finished with the entire bag the problem would have taken care of its self. About ¾’s of the bag later Thomas and Eric rounded the turn and made their way to the eddy I was in. It’s hard to explain the weight that left my shoulders as soon as they arrived. I was extremely relieved to no longer be trapped in a solo descent. I knew as soon as they made their way into the eddy that my disappearance caused some serious alarm amongst those who made it to put-in.
Thomas and Eric explained to me that they had all made it to put-in and waited for me to show up. The group had hiked about a mile and a half without one person having a clue of where I was. Based on that logic they developed a plan that had Alex and Kevin waiting an hour while Thomas and Eric looked for me while paddling down. After an hour when there was no sight of me Kevin and Alex hiked back up to where the snow started looking for me. This was about the point where I had lost them.
The group dynamic became strained since they were upset I had gotten myself lost, while I was more thinking they had lost me. Regardless of responsibility for the current situation we were once again a team in the midst of the Dream Gap section of the NF American. I ended up running the middle-right mess from a miscommunication in hand signals from Thomas. I was trying to receive clarity on where the right boof line was and he thought I was asking how to run the slot just to the left. As a result I took a completely different line than I had been planning but it went well. The entire rapid is a good length V- that ended in a not too destructive hole at the run out.

Paul in the 2nd Rapid in Dream Gap. Photo: Thomas Moore

Eric same rapid. Photo: Thomas Moore

Eric and Thomas both went through the left channel and had clean lines.

After that rapid is the most difficult rapid on the run. For us it started with a crack on the left followed by an immediate ferry to the other side of the river to avoid being slammed into the rocks in the center line.

Paul scouting the 3rd drop. Photo: Thomas Moore

Eric running crack on the left at the top of the 3rd drop. Photo: Thomas Moore

Below here the river split into two channels one with a good-sized boof on the right and a sweeping left to right bank drop on the left. We all ran left and then bombed the rest of the remaining IV+.

Middle of the 3rd and 4th rapid in Dream Gap. Photo: Kevin Smith

Bottom of the 4th rapid. Photo: Kevin Smith

We kept making our way down and got out at F-14 to take a look. We all portaged and put-in halfway through the drop due to a log which none of us really wanted to deal with.

The log in F-14. Photo: Thomas Moore

Once through we passed the North Fork of the North fork of the American.

NF of the NF of the American is on the left.

Eric and Paul at the NF of the NF Confluence. Photo: Thomas Moore

Not long after we were at the Giant Gap put-in. We took a small break at Green Valley and then continued on.
By 7pm we were at take out about fifteen minutes later our shuttle. Alex’s mom, showed up and we had to explain why her son and another paddler were not there. She took the news well and we waited till the scheduled 8pm departure time and headed back to get our cars from the Put-in road.
After parting ways with Thomas and Eric at China Wall, I made my way back to take-out to wait for Alex and Kevin to appear the next day. They eventually showed up around 1pm and after listening to Alex mouth off about how I made him camp out, we were on our way back to China Wall to pick up Kevin’s Truck.

While I’m not sure this trip was a complete success it certainly wasn’t a failure. Dream Gap is an amazing gorge and completely worth the effort we put in, intentional and accidental.

Eric in a drop before he and Thomas caught up to me. Photo: Thomas Moore


Overview of the NF American.

Put-in: Drive east along Foresthill road off I-80 and take Foresthill east until you reach the Mumford Bar Campground. Follow the road and expect to be blocked about 2 miles from the water. That’s if the gate at China Wall is open. If it’s not then you’re stuck hiking from there, add another 2 miles or so.

Take-out: Same Take out as the Giant Gap run. From put-in drive back west along Forresthill Road and take a right on Iowa Hill Rd. Follow this until you reach the water.

Flows: We had about 1,600 and rising on the NF gauge. Giant at this flow was definitely a great time. However, Locomotive is a solid hole and potentially dangerous portage.

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