Whitewater Kayaking in Ecuador

Amazon Basin, Ecuador – January 1 – January 7, 2012

Paddlers – Alex Stoeffl, Scott Trummer, and new friends

A smile grew on my face as I saw the altimeter on my watch pass 13,000ft, and we were still climbing up the two-lane highway through the mist. The van’s V8-engine was clearly beginning to gasp in the thinner air as it steadily hauled the eight of us and our gear higher into the Andes. A few minutes later, the van relaxed as we crested the longest mountain chain in the world. It didn’t matter that we couldn’t see anything through the mist, all anyone could think about was that we were now heading down into the Amazon basin about to kick off the new year with some awesome paddling in Ecuador!

A few months after coming back from sea kayaking in Chile, I started to feel the need to plan another trip for the winter of 2011/2012. As whitewater kayaking was becoming more and more my focus, I wanted to find a great whitewater adventure. I had met Darcy Gaechter at the American River Festival in 2010 while she was promoting Small World Adventures with free Kayak Sessions magazines and a SWA DVD. I popped the DVD into the computer and was pretty much sold right away. After a few days of looking at course schedules and the cost of flights into Quito, I approached Scott with my idea. Scott was immediately on-board with the idea, but had to think about the timing and costs involved due to college. After a few weeks of deliberation and numerous emails back and forth with Darcy, Scott and I were signed up for a Class IV- Intro to Creeking trip and had plane tickets to Ecuador.Equator

We arrived in Quito a week early to do some tourist activities like checking out the equator monuments, walking around old town, and hiking up to 16,000ft on Cotopaxi. New Year’s Eve in Quito is pretty exciting with street fairs, zany masks, and three-foot-tall dolls filled with firecrackers literally burning in the streets. The morning of January 1st, we piled into a van and headed east over the Andes. A few hours later we arrived at SWA’s riverside lodge in the Quijos Valley. The lodge was fantastic; super clean rooms with CabanaTresRioscomfortable beds, functioning Wi-Fi, beautiful lawn and landscaping, and a fun rapid on the river. Once we had settled into our rooms, we gathered for lunch and a brief discussion of what people wanted from the trip (everyone wanted to get their boof on) and what to expect for the week. Then we geared up for our first day on the river and outfitted our boats before we loaded them on the van’s trailer.

The first run of the week was the Rio Oyacachi. It started off with an optional Class IV- that three of us decided to run. It was of course great for me to start my trip by running the main drop backwards and getting surfed for 15-seconds. However, today was the day to blunder and work out the kinks. Although the river had some solid rapids, it was mostly easily navigable boulder gardens. There was only one Class IV that we scouted and everyone ran confidently, except for me doing a pointless flip immediately after the rapid. Lower on the run, the Oyacachi joined the Quijos. The confluence of the rivers created a nice big water rapid which we were told to run left of center due to two large holes center. Of course, apparently what I took for left of center was actually center and I crested a wave to see a meaty hole below me about a second before I plowed right into the middle of it. After missing my first roll attempt, my second got me up just in time to get set up for the next hole I was going into. Fortunately, the second hole just pushed me off to the side and was no big deal. We paddled down to the take out where the van picked us up and we headed back to the lodge for showers and dinner.

Day two took us to the Upper Rio Cosanga. It had a much more gradual increase in difficulty and consisted mostly of technical boulder gardens going down a lush canyon with the occasional waterfall cascading down a steep wall as you rounded a bend. We all got out to scout the crux rapid, Chibolo, which had a great opportunity for everyone to practice their boof. It consisted of paddling a sneak on river left, paddling most of the way right in a pool, then taking a blind entrance off a small drop, immediately getting to river right, then charging down the main portion of the rapid while trying to stay off the wall. It was good fun. After some more boulder gardens and one more larger rapid we finally arrived at the take out. The van was waiting there for us, with cervezas in the cooler, and we took off back to the lodge.

Unfortunately, a bug had apparently caught up with me from Quito and I began to feel ill in the afternoon. After dinner, which I was unable to keep down, everyone was offered the option of going down the Lower Cosanga (IV) or staying with a IV- option. Most of the group chose the Lower Cosanga. However, since I wasn’t feeling well, I decided to take an easy day and do the IV- option with one other guest. I really wished to go down the Lower Cosanga as the guidebook described it with, “shortly below the put-in you will be boofing your way through some of the most fun Class IV action in Ecuador.”

On day three, our IV- option ended up being the Rio Quijos (Baeza to Borja). The river was arguably easier than anything else we had paddled, but it was still a lot of fun. We scouted one crux rapid and unfortunately I lost my breakfast on the short walk back to the kayaks. After rinsing my mouth and throat, I ran the rapid which was mostly about finding the right line and letting the water do most of the work. The take out for the short run was the SWA lodge and I decided to take out while the rest of our group continued down the next sections. I spent the rest of the afternoon nursing electrolytes and listening to my iPod while hanging in a hammock by the river. I was ok with the decision I had made as it allowed me recuperate for the remaining days and I later learned from the others that the Lower Cosanga was pretty stout.

After everyone returned from paddling, we all packed up our gear for the next few LoadedVandays and were taken over to Tena. While the SWA lodge in the Quijos Valley is around 5,300 ft in elevation, Tena is about 1,700 ft. The difference in climate was immense to say the least. The humidity went through the roof and the ambient temperature went up as well. SWA arranged lodging at a nice hotel and took us out to a nice restaurant for dinner. I was glad to be able to keep my dinner down again.

Significant rain had limited our choices for rivers on day four, but it was decided to do a big water run on the Rio Jatunyacu. I think most of us wish we could have brought playboats for this run as there were no technical rapids, just endlessly long wave trains that occasionally reached six feet tall. One of the unique experiences on the river was the confluence with the Anzu. You could see and feel the distinct differences in the water . If you paddled right where the two flows ran parallel before they could fully mix, the Jatunyacu’s water would be more greenish (although still brown) and cool while the Anzu’s would be very brown and warm. It was interesting to have one hand in each flow at the same time. At the take out in Puerto Napo, we stopped to get some beverages and watch the local monkeys before returning to Tena. That evening we ordered pizza and had dinner at an open-air bar on the banks of the Rio Tena. I feel obligated to note that the Hawaiian pizza was the best I had ever eaten in my life.

Day five brought us to the Rio Piatua. The Piatua was apparently only recently made easily accessible with new roads and it took a while to get there from Tena, but it was certainly worth it. The river had crystal clear water, numerous fantastic rapids, and an isolated jungle feel the entire way down. The main rapid we scouted involved a four foot drop into a nice pool. There were also rapids involving tight technical maneuvering, other small drops, little slides, and simply continuous fun. If you visit Ecuador for some whitewater paddling, be sure to put this river on your short list of musts.

Day six had us packing up our rooms as we were going back to the Quijos Valley after our run. The van took us to the Upper Rio Misahualli, which was another classic run with more technical boulder gardens. However, it lacked the wilderness feel of the Rio Piatua with civilization being noticeable during many parts of the run. It was still a great run full of good rapids and is highly recommended. After we all got dried off at the take out, we stopped briefly for drinks before continuing back to the Quijos Valley.

On our final day, we did another short run on the Rio Quijos (Baeza to Borja again). However, heavy rain had raised the water level quite a bit and it was a much more entertaining run. Everything got much bigger and pushier than the first time I had paddled it. Back at the lodge we cleaned the boats for the next group, packed up for the trip back to Quito, and said our goodbyes to the staff and guides.

AndesThe ride back to Quito was pretty quiet and a few people slept, but the weather was much clearer and the vistas were fabulous over the pass this time. I only wish I would have been able to see more than just the top of the Volcan Antisana. We arrived back at the hostel and took it easy for the rest of the evening. After breakfast the next day, we took a taxi to the airport and were on our way back home.

A few notes about paddling in Ecuador:

  • Brings pants and socks to paddle in. There are a lot of bugs that like to bite bare skin while you’re carrying your boat through tall grass at put ins and take outs. I used some lightweight stretchy polyester pants from The North Face and NRS Wetsocks and didn’t have any issues.
  • Don’t forget the sunscreen! The UV exposure is intense.
  • If you want to mail home a postcard, do it while you’re in Quito or another major city. Do not assume postcards will be easy to find elsewhere.
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Stanislaus – Goodwin Canyon on October 23, 2011

Stanislaus River – Goodwin Canyon – 2100 cfs – October 23, 2011

Paddlers – Alex Stoeffl, Scott Trummer, Trevor Wagner, Kevin Young

All summer long I had been reading about and looking at photos of the Goodwin Canyon section of the Stanislaus River. Sadly, the combination of time off, paddling partners available to go, and a desirable flow (2000 cfs is what I was looking for) never came together. Then I happened to check American Whitewater to see what was flowing and noticed that below Goodwin Dam the Stanislaus had been fluctuating around 2150 cfs for the past few days. I began getting excited at the possibility and on Thursday night I asked Scott if he wanted to go paddling on Sunday. He said he would have to cancel some other plans, but was willing to go if we were committed to going. We texted Kevin on Friday and he suggested interest. On Saturday morning, the trip came together as Kevin, Scott, and I were committed to going. Trevor originally had plans to go climbing, but his partners cancelled their trip and later on Saturday he asked to join us as well. We agreed on a late start (Kevin needed to work late Saturday night) with Scott, Trevor and I meeting Kevin at the recreation area in Knights Ferry at 11:30am.

We all met on time in Knights Ferry and shuttled to the put-in with a quick stop at the overlook to check out Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Once at the put-in, we were surprisingly slow getting our gear together and changing. We finally put on the water around 1:40pm, about an hour later than I think we really accounted for. However, we didn’t put much thought into it as the run was only four miles and at 2100 cfs we would be cruising downriver.

We encountered some small riffles and then a reasonable rapid, I have to imagine it was Surf City, before the take-out pool for the scout/portage of Mr. Toad’s. The scout itself isn’t too bad if you actually stick to walking along the rocks instead of going for a bushwhacking adventure through the blackberry bushes like Trevor and I. Mr. Toad’s definitely looked really big and pushy, nothing like the photos I had seen, but Scott and I were still convinced about running it. After all the scouting, portaging Trevor’s and Kevin’s kayaks, and setting up cameras and safety, it was probably around 2:30pm by the time Scott actually took the Wild Ride. His line was clean and went well, so I hiked back up to my boat and then waited for the go ahead from Scott that safety was set. Once it was, I paddled into my line and let it take me down. Not much steering was needed, just bracing, and it popped me out at the bottom.

Once we gathered all our equipment and set off again. Willow rapid came quickly and was actually quite fun, but almost continued right into Matterhorn. Matterhorn came much quicker than I had anticipated and Scott, who was in the lead, shouted and signaled to eddy out as we scrambled to take refuge behind a large rock in the river. We clearly had missed our opportunity to eddy out on river left, so after some quick discussion I pulled out of the eddy and charged into a small spot I had eyed at the top of a small channel on river right. I quickly jumped out and pulled my boat onto the rocks and then signaled the others to do the same one by one. The channel itself was unrunnable. Once we were all onshore, we scouted Matterhorn. It was pretty stout. Most of the rapid was about a 7-foot rocky waterfall with a chute along the left side that led into a churning hole. However, as mean as it looked it also seemed to flush very efficiently into a large calm pool. Scott saw a line over the falls that he liked and decided to run it.

While Kevin, Trevor and I portaged our kayaks and set up cameras and safety, Scott engineered a way to get himself back upstream enough to get out into the flow (the shoreline above our tiny eddy consisted entirely of brush and willows). Scott ran the drop just fine, but the turbulence at the bottom flipped him. A quick roll later and he eddied out to help us gather up our gear and get going. After some ineffective seal launches back into the river, we were looking forward to Haunted House.

However, between Matterhorn and Haunted House laid about a mile of meandering river and then Upper and Lower Pinball rapids. Upper Pinball wasn’t a particularly difficult rapid, but I believe we were already starting to get a bit tired. Kevin and I both flipped in a silly hole, but when I rolled up I could see that Kevin was struggling and then popped out of his boat. Apparently, the force of the water pulled Kevin’s sport goggles from his face and in a fear of losing them he let go of his paddle temporarily. Watching Kevin come out of his kayak, I lost my awareness of the rapid and flipped again in another wave. After I rolled up again and gently bounced off the left wall, Kevin’s kayak and paddle were right next to me and I saw Scott rescuing Kevin. I grabbed Kevin’s paddle but quickly came up on a rock and decided to shove the paddle to where I thought it might stay in a tiny eddy while I avoided the rock. Once past the rock I had Kevin’s boat right in front of me, so I secured it into a nice eddy below a small eddy that Scott and Kevin were in.

In the slight panic of trying to figure out where Trevor was as he was not in sight, none of us saw Kevin’s paddle float past us (as was later discovered upon review of the headcam footage). Fortunately, Trevor had found a small eddy on the right side of the river about fifty yards down. After about an hour of regrouping and trying to scramble our way up the shoreline through the willows and blackberry bushes to retrieve the paddle we mistakenly thought was stuck there, we regrouped and needed to come to a decision. The sun was getting very low in the sky, Kevin no longer had a paddle, and Scott’s breakdown was being used by Trevor for the day. We still had two miles of river and another IV+ to run before we would reach the take-out.

Kevin immediately said Scott, Trevor and I should continue down and he would hike out to the highway with his kayak where we would pick him up. I personally didn’t consider this an option as it was a two mile hike to the highway and he would first have to climb out of the canyon. If he had an accident, there would be no way for us to find him without the Sheriff’s department. Scott suggested that he and I give our paddles to Kevin and Trevor and each take a half of the breakdown and C1 the rest of the way. If we had nothing more than maybe one easy class III rapid left, I would have quickly accepted Scott’s option. However, with two III+s and a IV+ still remaining with the sun going down fast, it sounded too risky for me. So I suggested that all of us hike out together. Without much rebuttal, I feel everyone reluctantly agreed.

Since Trevor had ended up running Lower Pinball to get back to the left shore, Scott paddled down to join him on the climb out of the canyon. Kevin and I climbed out from the eddy we were already at, which turned out to be relatively easy. Once we reached the empty diversion canal, Kevin and I walked down the canal to where we thought Trevor and Scott might come up. After some waiting and blowing my whistle, I left Scott a voicemail letting him know that we were going to continue a little farther down the canal and to give me a call so we could regroup again.  Kevin and I eventually found a place where we could cross to the other side of the canal and hike the rest of the way out of the canyon.

I got a call from Scott when we got across the canal. He and Trevor were not as fortunate with their climb from the river but had finally made it to the canal and were heading towards us. We finally regrouped and made our way out of the canyon. The sun set just as we crested the rim of the canyon and we could see the highway in the distance, still about one and a half miles away. Unfortunately, for a variety of stupid reasons, all of us had forgotten our headlamps and there was no moon to help us either. Scott unloaded his gear and took the keys to our shuttle vehicle at Knights Ferry and ran off across the field towards the highway. He intended to leave his gear and boat and would come back for it after he got the truck, but I decided to rig my throw rope to his boat and mine and proceeded to drag both of them as I savored the last drops of water left in my 1.5L bottle.

After a long hike in the dark, we met Scott near the highway and he guided us the rest of the way to the truck. He wasn’t particularly pleased with the additional “wear” on his boat, but was at least happy he didn’t have to go all the way back to get it. We quickly piled everything in and drove to the put-in to get the other vehicle and our regular clothes. Once we had changed and loaded the boats on top of the car, we decided to drive down to the 50’s Roadhouse in Knights Ferry for some much needed nourishment. They happily fed us while listening to our epic.

I later realized after reviewing Google Earth at home that we would have been better off just following the diversion canal to get out. I don’t remember exactly why we chose not to follow the canal, but I believe we were uncertain about where it went underground. I also made sure to pack some water purification tablets in my first aid kit for next time as running out of water was simply miserable.

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Why It’s Important to Clean Your Gear!

Written by Alex Stoeffl

I’m usually pretty OCD when it comes to pulling out my gear after a trip and letting things dry and cleaning things that need to be cleaned. However, while going through my paddling gear to get ready for a quick Thanksgiving morning paddle, I opened the end pocket of my duffel to discover I had forgotten to take out my Water Tennies from my most recent whitewater trip (a month ago). They were fairly dirty from a lot of hiking and bushwhacking and apparently didn’t fully dry as they were still damp. I was really surprised when I pulled them out. If you look at the picture below, you can see why.

Growing a bootie garden!

All the long white lines are actually sprouted seeds searching for light. I had enough soil, moisture, and seeds to start growing my own little bootie garden. Luckily for me, the horrid stench I was expecting was non-existent. It actually smelled like a vegetable garden. I don’t plan to start growing another garden in my gear any time soon though.

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3rd Annual Lumpy Waters Symposium 2011

3rd Annual Lumpy Waters Symposium – Pacific City, OR – October 14 – 16, 2011

Written by Alex Stoeffl

After a 12-hour drive from the Bay Area, Kim Grandfield and I arrived in Pacific City, Oregon late on Thursday the 13th. We had been invited to attend the Lumpy Waters Symposium as volunteer support/safety boaters and were excited to see what was in store for the weekend.

The Lumpy Waters Symposium, organized by Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe, is a skills development event for intermediate to advanced paddlers held at a perfect venue with bountiful surf and rock gardening. This year, they offered a number of classes varying from improving boat control, getting comfortable with the surf zone, to advanced rock garden rescues. A number of great coaches came to the event, including a few from California: Sean Morley, Bryant Burkhardt, and Matt Palmariello of California Canoe & Kayak, Jeff Laxier of Liquid Fusion Kayaking, and Gregg Berman.

Over the next three days we participated with a variety of classes ranging from rough water rescues to flat water stroke refinement. I really enjoyed working with some top notch coaches and learning a few new tricks and how they teach their classes. Another great benefit of the event was the evening dinners. Who better to serve as short order cooks at a campground than a rafting company. They did a great job of preparing good food for the masses. Along with the dinners was plenty of time to talk to other participants, gain new paddling partners, learn of some great paddling destinations, and simply enjoy discussing a common interest with others.

The event itself was great and many kudos to Paul Kuthe and Alder Creek for making it happen. I highly recommend to anyone wanting to advance their surf or rough water skills to make the drive up to Oregon and attend next year. I certainly plan to. In the meantime, check out the short video below of our Saturday “Nestucca Bay Tour.”

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Angel Island Moonlight Paddle on August 13, 2011

Angel Island Moonlight Paddle – August 13, 2011

Paddlers – Kim Grandfield, Ted Skedzielewski, Alex Stoeffl, and Friends

Earlier in the week, Kim had been asking around for people interested in doing a moonlight paddle on the bay as it was going to be a full moon on Saturday night. He ended up getting plenty of “we’ll see” responses. However, Saturday afternoon I got a call at work from Kim asking if I wanted to go out and paddle that night. I thought about it briefly and decided “what the heck, it’ll be interesting” because I’ve never night paddled before; dusk and dawn yes, but not true night paddling.

We didn’t arrive in Sausalito at Dunphy Park until around 8:30pm. It was already dark by the time we launched and the fog was cooperatively staying off the bay. Unfortunately, our late start also meant we missed the slack tide and were now well into the start of the flood. Yet, the water was quite calm as we paddled across Richardson Bay to Cone Rock and then Belvedere Island. We passed another group of kayakers as we paddled along the shoreline of Belvedere Island. They seemed to be a guided outing. We continued on towards the G “3” buoy off Peninsula Point.

From G “3” we paddled across the opening of Raccoon Strait to the R “4” buoy off Point Stuart on Angel Island. There was a little bit of rip just off Peninsula Point and then again off Point Stuart, but otherwise it was a smooth crossing. From Point Stuart we followed the Angel Island shoreline to Point Blunt on the southeast side of the island. At Camp Reynolds we encountered two other kayakers who said something about Sea Trek; I’m not sure if they were from Sea Trek or asking if we were from Sea Trek.

Once we reached the beach on the south side of Point Blunt, we pulled the kayaks up the beach and began to unload our late night snack. We sat down and enjoyed the nighttime views of Sausalito, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, San Francisco, and the Bay Bridge while eating bread and cheese and drinking champagne (or beer in my case as I’m not much of a wine/champagne person).

Around 11:25pm we headed back towards Sausalito. However, we took a little bit of a short cut on the way back and cut over to Peninsula Point from Point Knox instead of Point Stuart. The crossing was overall much smoother than before. From Peninsula Point we paddled back to Cone Rock, then to the R “4” buoy on the Sausalito side of Richardson Bay, and then we found our way back to Dunphy Park. It was about 12:45am when we arrived back at Dunphy Park and the sprinklers were watering the lawn. On the bright side, they helped us pre-rinse the salt off the kayaks and gear.

Overall, it was a very interesting experience to be paddling out on the bay in the middle of the night. There is most definitely a feeling of being very alone even though there is another kayak 15 feet off to the side. At some points it was extremely surreal, but I felt surprising comfortable given that I could just barely see some of the things that go bump in the night (like multiple fish jumping out of the water just off my bow or low flying birds). I’m glad I took Kim up on his offer because it was a great trip.

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North Fork American – Chamberlain Falls on July 11, 2011

North Fork of the American River – Chamberlain Falls – 1.85ft (~900 cfs ?) – July 11, 2011

Paddlers – Alex Stoeffl, Scott Trummer, Kevin Young

Scott and I were so excited to run Chamberlain Falls that we arrived at the take-out forty minutes before our arranged meeting time with Kevin. So we took some photos, walked around about, sorted some gear, and watched a deer almost swim Shirttail rapid but it made shore just above. When Kevin finally arrived, on time, we all piled into Scott’s truck and headed for the Iowa Hill put-in.

The road to the put-in was so much better and faster than the road to the take-out; it was actually paved. We started unloading gear at the put-in and were soon greeted by a ranger who simply asked us to participate in a survey so they could get statistics on the river users.

Before we set off down the river, we checked the gauge at the bottom of the bridge pillar, 1.9ft. We then floated down through a number of riffles until we were only a few hundred yards from the bridge and came to the first bend. We couldn’t decide whether the rapid we were coming upon was the beginning of Slaughter’s Sluice or not so we eddied out on the left to scout. The rapid was certainly not Slaughter’s Sluice, but the actual Slaughter’s Sluice wasn’t too much farther. We decided to continue down the trail to scout Slaughter’s Sluice since we were already out of our boats.

After hiking to within sight of Chamberlain Falls’ horizon line, we returned to our kayaks forty minutes after we left them (this is why I reduced the gauge reading a bit as the water level was continuously dropping). We paddled down the small rapid and then floated into the entrance of Slaughter’s Sluice.

Kevin and Scott entered first and got caught in the eddy on the right. Scott punched out of the eddy as I was entering the rapid and he just barely escaped while I was getting caught in it. I circled around and tried to punch through the current as well but didn’t paddled hard enough and ended up right back in it. Fortunately, I found the lazy option and was able to sneak behind the rock that was making it difficult to leave.

Once I was back into the main flow and found a nicer eddy to wait in, Kevin was able to follow my route and join us again. Slaughter’s Sluice then continued as a series of pool drop rapids that were picturesque to look at from the scout, but no particularly difficult to run. From the last drop in Slaughter’s Sluice, you could easily see the horizon line of Chamberlain Falls only a few hundred feet away.

Chamberlain Falls was exciting to approach and drop, but ended rather quickly. We just dropped in on the right and there was really wasn’t much else to do other than try to stay upright when we got to the bottom. Neither Kevin nor I were able to stay up at the bottom.

We quickly approached another rapid which we thought might be Tongue and Groove so we got out to scout. It wasn’t, so we got back into the boats and paddled on. However, only a little farther downstream was the real Tongue and Groove which we made sure to scout. Tongue and Groove seemed to have three runnable options: the tongue on the right, a chute in the center, and a three foot drop on the left. The tongue had a lot of flow through it, but also many visible rocks to bounce on, over and around. None of us like that option. The center chute looked promising but went directly into a car sized rock in the middle of the rapid. There seemed to be enough cross flow pushing left from the tongue that this probably would not have been that big of an issue. However, both Scott and I had our eyes on the three foot drop. It looked very smooth and very fun to try as long as we stayed to the right side of it to avoid potentially landing on a barely submerged rock at the bottom. Kevin decided to portage as he didn’t like any of the options with his short boat. So Scott and I helped him portage his kayak and then went for the drop. Scott went first and had no problems. I followed and was amazed at how unexciting the drop actually was, granted my boof attempt was a horrible failure.

We soon came to another rapid which we scouted on the right and determined it to be Zig Zag. There wasn’t much to do other than avoiding some rocks. We paddled through it and continued on through a number of Class IIs and one or two Class IIIs until we approached a left turn followed by Achilles’ Heel.

Achilles’ Heel was immediately after the almost ninety degree turn and was easily boat scouted so we just did a little read and run. It was quite a bit of fun as the water was fast and almost pure white for most of the rapid. It was quickly followed by a little Class II slalom and then Bogus Thunder.

Bogus Thunder was a great rapid to look at while we scouted from the left and tried to pick our lines. Scott decided we was going to opt for the line almost down the middle but staying to the right of a potentially nasty hole. I opted to try to cut hard left after the entrance drop and go for the easier drop on that side of the rapid. I believed Kevin was going to try for the same line as I was, but I wasn’t certain. I went first and cut diagonally from right to left across the entrance drop and barely made my objective, but once I was there, it was a pretty easy finish. Kevin followed but didn’t quite make it as far left and went down a narrow drop that forced his up on edge and capsized him at the bottom; but he did roll back up. Scott made his line and from looking back and watching him it seemed to probably have been the best line, but it could be that he just made it look easy.

After Bogus Thunder came a few more rapids, none of which seemed to be any harder than III-. This made it difficult to determine where the supposed Class IV Grand Slalom was. I could only determine from descriptions and mileages that it was a section we paddled involving a few house rocks in the middle of the river and a small maybe Class III rapid. I could imagine that section to be much more difficult at higher and faster flows, but for us it was pretty mellow. The only other option for Grand Slalom would have been farther down, but it didn’t seem as appropriate to descriptions and mileages as it was literally right above Staircase.

Either way, we eventually came upon Staircase and got out to scout on the right. There was an obvious landslide that seemed to have happened recently, probably sometime this past Winter or Spring. It didn’t seem to have affected the rapid very much just judging by the location of the debris. Staircase itself looked very straight forwards so we didn’t scout for very long and got back in our boats to paddle the last major rapid. We paddled through a series of drops and swung around and boulder. It was a lot of fun and I wished it would have kept going. I believe it was my favorite rapid of the day.

We paddled on and almost missed playing in Nosestand except for Scott who realized what it was. He gave it a few attempts but wasn’t having much luck in getting a good nosestand so we continued on as we still had almost two miles to go. There were a quite a few more Class II rapids and we just enjoyed floating down in the beautiful weather. Finally, the Yankee Jim bridge came into view and we paddled our last rapid, Shirttail. On the take-out beach there were some gold panners and a few others enjoying the sunny day. As we collected our gear and hiked up the stairs back to Kevin’s truck, we agreed that another 500 cfs would have done wonders for cleaning up the run. Even so, it was still a fantastic run that I look forward to doing again.

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North Fork American – Big Bend Run on June 27, 2011

North Fork of the American River – Big Bend Run – 2000 cfs – June 27, 2011

Paddlers – Alex Stoeffl, Scott Trummer, Trevor Wagner

Since we had a pretty good time the day before running Big Bend, we decided to run it again. However, this time we set up the take-out shuttle at Ponderosa Way. Arriving at the Ponderosa Way Bridge we were surprised to find another unmentioned $10 day-use fee; except this one was self-serve. At the end of the day, Trevor overheard a Ranger mention that the fee was only started in April 2011 as a means of reducing abuse to the area (i.e. excessive litter, graffiti, fights, etc…). I can’t complain too much because they were keeping clean Porta-Johns at the take-outs and put-ins, but $10 is a bit steep.

At Yankee Jim, Scott and I both hiked upstream of Shirttail Creek to run its rapid. It was a good rapid, but pretty short. As we paddled downstream, all the rapids were the same as the day before, but we spent more time with Trevor trying to work on his eddying-out and peeling-out skills.

Once we got to Ponderosa Way, Trevor was ready to take-out and I was feeling like agreeing with him. However, Scott convinced me to paddle down to the play spot about a half-mile down by offering to carry my kayak (creeker) while I would carry his (playboat) on the hike back. So off we went while Trevor chilled out at the bridge. This time we decided to take the right channel after the bridge and try to catch the wave train we saw the day before. The right channel was a bit more technical, only in the sense of having to make maneuvers, than the left, but it did offer us a nice ride down the wave train.

Once at the play spot, Scott and I gave it a few goes each with myself not doing a very good job catching the wave in my creeker. Unfortunately, I got tired pretty quick and eddied out to do camera duty. Scott had fun practicing his surfing skills for about another half hour before we called it quits as we still had to hike the half-mile back to the bridge. We ferried across to the right shore where after a quick scramble up the hillside for about fifteen vertical feet we found the Codfish Creek Trail which made for an easy hike back.

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