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BC Trip Report '06

Our second voyage to research for "The River Gypsies' Guide to North America" took us back to one of our favorite paddling destinations - British Columbia. After spending a week boating with us out there, Brushy Mountain team paddler John Pilson said that it was his best week of paddling ever. We think the same thing every time we spend a week up there - which is why we keep going back. Here's the report:

Coast Range Time!
Having gotten our BC creeking game going on the Jordan, we headed to the coast range to see what kind of trouble we could get into there. Our first few days were spent cruising around looking for first D's, and we scratched quite a few potential streams off the list. Basically, the areas we were checking didn't have the right kind of rock to make the sort of whitewater we were looking for, so we eventually dropped down into the Whistler area, which has about the best kind of whitewater you could ever hope to find!

Just another incredible view in the coast range, with a river gorge below, of course.

We stopped in at the Upper Cheakamus takeout - which is the unofficial meeting place for all paddlers in the area - to see if we could find a crew to hit something with. We ran into a local fellow named Calvin, who was meeting acouple of guys named Jay and Jupiter for an after-work Upper Cheak run. We had met Jay on a past trip, and quickly made plans to hit the Upper Birkenhead with them the next day. We had scouted the Birkenhead valley that morning and picked out a gorge that looked promising for paddling. Turned out it was exactly the section these guys planned to hit.

We met at the casually late meeting time the next day, and then proceeded to waste about another hour goofing off and waiting for a 6th person who had decided to join our party - one Scott from Ontario - who was on a long weekend from his job in Alberta. We finally got it all together and headed to the Birkenhead.

The Birk starts slow and builds slowly through class III and IV to hit a couple of class V highlights before mellowing for about 1/4 mile to the takeout. It provides the perfect warm-up, some fantastic whitewater, and excellent scenery. Unlike most BC runs, scouting and portaging are EASY - making for a super enjoyable day of BC paddling! All in all I would say the whitewater resembled a slightly easier version of Upper Big Creek in the Smokies of NC - but longer, with no carry in, better warm-up, and much more of a wilderness feel.

Jupiter running the top half of one of the earlier good rapids.

Scouting as the rapids got bigger. Note Scott's classic original PINK tri-hull Micro230 - probably the oldest one still creeking at the time of the pic. It did not survive his entire long weekend, unfortunately.

Andria running the bottom half of the biggest rapid.

All in all, the Birkenhead provided us with a great day of paddling. Unfortunately, the rain and cold moved in the next day, and we hunkered down and waited out a couple days of particularly nasty weather which reminded us that even though it's Canada, Whistler is still part of the Pacific Northwest. We were hoping for good weather as more of our crew was supposed to arrive soon - Kentucky Brian and Brushy Mountain team member John "Farmschooler" Pilson.

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