CALIFORNIA - BRIEF SUMMARY
The rivers...this reflects my opinions of the rivers, the others may feel differently.
...the other four arrived two days ahead of me and paddled the Chamberlain Falls section of NF of the American river twice. They did it twice as on the second day they went to do something different but snow barred their path to the put-in! They had plenty to say about the weather when I arrived, however the sun then shone for two full weeks, just as I'd arranged!
(My) day 1 - South Fork of the Yuba. We ran three sections, two of which were quite hard. Indeed, day 1 turned out to perhaps be the hardest paddling of the trip. We coped fine with the boating (although I bust a paddle rolling in a gnarly place) but ran out of time and finished in the dark...oops.
Creeking on the Yuba.
Day 2 - We went back and finished the Yuba, then in the afternoon we did the Bear River. This was stonking high and had a mile long steep gorge that was quite pushy grade 4/5. Very good for a short trip. Chris found a line under a siphon...we portaged that one.
Chris disappeared under the rock Si is standing on!
Day 3 - Giant Gap of the American River. We'd been warned that 1200 cfs was too high for a safe first run, but went anyway. A two mile hike to the put-in for this alleged grade 4/5 classic. A few grade 4 rapids in a stunning gorge. Then suddenly it all opens out, and the awful truth slowly dawns...that was IT, and there are 10+ miles of flat water to the takeout. We renamed it 'Giant Flat'. Afterwards I ran the Chamberlain Falls section with Si.
Day 4 - We went to the SF of the American River and found no water in the sections we wanted. Instead we ran a little known classic with a local expert, 'Weber Creek' leading into a play section of the American. Seeing was believing!
Day 5 - We headed north into the real wilds up north, and paddled Burnt Ranch Gorge on the Trinity River. Quite excellent, gorgeous pool drop grade 4 with a few harder rapids that made us all look amateurish.
Mark makes a mess of Burnt Ranch Gorge.
Day 6 - New River. We ran a couple of sections of this Trinity trib. The second section had a very steep final mile with some gnarly paddling and an awful 'cling to a wet cliff' portage. Yuk.
Day 7 - Salmon River. Lovely looking river, big blue rapids. It just failed to inspire me though...a dozen grade 4's stretched over ten miles was a bit disappointing. On the other hand, it finished at Oak Bottom playwave, which Chris declared 'better than Hurley'. I think maybe he was losing his marbles.
Day 8 - Salmon River SF...okay, this had a few steep rapids, but needed more water to reach its best. Back to the playwave afterwards.
Day 9 - Clear Creek. Oh yes it was lovely. We had real adventures on this, not least because the guidebook description was presumably written for a completely different river in an alternative reality. We walked two miles into the wilds (Si and Andy ran into bears doing the shuttle later) and put on a stunning blue creek with loads of long sticky grade 4 and 5 rapids. After a while, it entered an incredible 'Chateau Q' stlye gorge...and stayed in it for at least four miles. No getting out now! The drops just kept coming until the crux...a massive long steep walled in rapid, unportageable and uninspectable...we were in a real 'Foxy' cartoon! Was it paddleable, grade 5 or 6? I resolved the debate by running it first...no I wasn't being a hero, I just missed the eddy. I fluked a good line down to the bottom, which gave me a grandstand view of following descents...Andy going under a cliff, Si getting an extended hole beating, etc. Despite this, I think we were all lucky on this occasion. I was still shaking half an hour later.
Getting out to inspect on Clear Creek.
Day 10 - Sacramento River, 'Box Canyon'. A dam release section which sharply divided opinion. On the one hand it was in an impressive gorge (for a mile anyway), passed a lovely scenic waterfall and was possibly the most continuous river we paddled. On the other it barely reached grade 4, needed more water to get pumping and was bloody cold, being high up. I tended to favour the former view, at least when we reached the scenic fall bit.
Day 11 - Pauley Creek, Lavezolla Creek, Downey Creek, North Fork of the Yuba (Rossasco canyon). The first two were low but fun waterfall trips...sort of somewhere between the Erme and Etive. I pinned on a tree block on one of them, worrying but thankfully harmless. The third creek was simply a grade 2 creek they emptied into for a couple of miles, before joining the last section, Rossasco Canyon. This was good...a mile of medium volume grade 4+ in and around huge boulders.
Day 12 - Tuolumne River, Cherry Creek section. This was truly excellent, loads of big grade 5 rapids. Pretty friendly too...despite the grade, the consequences usually weren't particularly nasty if you stuffed the line up. This comes as small consolation to Si, who slid under an unobserved siphon whilst running a sneak on a tree-blocked rapid. He had a big scare but came off with nothing worse than a bust paddle.
Chris on the Tuolumne.
Lumsdens Falls, a gnarly grade 5+ we portaged on the Tuolumne.
Day 13 - Merced River...we did the tourist thing in Yosemite National Park in the morning, then we ran a few miles of this river from the park entrance. Very good, continuous powerful grade 4+ reminiscent of the Alps. Interestingly, this possibly the only free-flowing (ie. no dams) major river we paddled.
Day 14 - A 60 minute tour of San Francisco and fly home.