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California Trip Report '07

Summer '07 is game-time for researching the River Gypsies' Guide - our first stop is California to check out some Sierra classics. Here's the report:

The Journey
We left Swannanoa with high hopes for an increase in paddling time after a very dry spring in NC. Our plan was to stop in NM and get on the fabled Embudo, but as we got closer to the turnoff to the Embudo the weather didn't warm as promised, and some random late season snows dropped the water level out of our target range. We hammered down for California instead, stopping briefly to visit friends in Flagstaff.

From Flagstaff, we hit the Kern area, where we found things to be very dry. We didn't know that 500 cfs is diverted around most of the popular sections on the Kern, so there was really nothing left in the river. We kept on trucking to the Kaweah area, where we hoped to get Hospital Rock and any other sections that looked good. We rolled into the Kaweah area and headed up into Sequoia National Park to have a look at the run and scout for other boaters. After determining that we weren't likely to find anyone else, I drove to the takeout and hitched back up to the putin for a run. We got the boats down to the river, where we were surprised to find that the water didn't look too low at all - it actually looked pretty padded out. We began to suit up, but when I put on my new Astral vest I realized that my throw rope had not made the move onto my new PFD. Bummer! We were now at the putin for a class V run that neither of us knew really anything about, it was 4 pm, and we only had one throw rope. We decided to bag it, and I hitchhiked back to the takeout vehicle and called it a day. That evening we met a local boater who told us that actually the water was at a higher level than most folks go at all - lucky that I forgot that throw rope!

We also had been hoping to get on the Superdink run on Dinkey Creek - which was almost up to a good level according to the AW page. We decided to head up there and try to catch it, since many people thought it would run out early due to the low snowpack. We arrived that afternoon and tried to make it to the upper putin. It should have been a clue that the road was still snowed over. We found the lower putin, and started down Cow Creek - a fun little 20 cfs bony bedrock feeder stream heading down to the end of the Infinislide section on Superdink. We finished the runable portion of Cow Creek, and hiked up over a granite ridge and down to Dinkey Creek. our first impression was that it looked like a much bigger stream than we were expecting. We ferried over and began hiking the section. The infinislide section is absolutely mind blowing - there are slides running most of a mile, punctuated with 10-15 footers, and ending in a 20 foot falls. All of it looked very intense, very fast, very consequential, and entirely WAY too high. We hiked around on the granite and checked out the creek for a while, then ferried back over to river right. We decided that with cooler and cloudier weather in the forecast we would leave our boats and try again another day, so we commenced the roughly 1 mile uphill hike out.

That evening we camped on the canyon rim overlooking the creek. Even from thousands of feet above and miles away, we could hear the huge roar from the creek below. I managed to get this cool shot of Dinkey Dome on the left and the bottom of the infinislide section in the bottom right:

The next morning the creek was obviously still raging, so we drove to town for a resupply and some phone calling and gauge checking. It was really cold, and the level was a lot lower the next day when we hiked in, but still was too high for us to be comfortable running it without more safety available. Time to hike the boats back out of the valley and call these three days a loss. I really hope we make it back to Superdink at lower levels and get to run those slides - it was definitely one of the most amazing creek beds I've ever seen.

We headed back to the Kaweah, where the levels were coming in to a really good range. We hoped to hook up with some other boaters and get on Hospital Rock and the East Fork of the Kaweah - rumored to be one of the two best one-day trips in California. We didn't find anyone else to paddle with for Thursday, so we ran a lower section of the Kaweah into town. It seemed like it would be a fun run with some more water, but was a little bit on the low side for us.

Andria in one of the better rapids on the Kaweah.