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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:

Bald Rock and Playboating
Throughout the whole trip in California, we had been looking for a classic California granite day run to include in the book. After much research, we decided that Bald Rock Canyon on the Middle Fork Feather would be the one. We spent a long time trying to put together a trip in there since the logistics are diffucult. There is a long shuttle, and then at the end of the run you either have to paddle out 13 miles, or paddle 4 miles to a trail that will take you on a steep one mile hike out. The best option is to hire a boat to pick you up at the mouth of the river and drive you the 13 miles back to the marina and your car. This costs a lof of money, so having a really big group helps a lot. When we finally put together some people and called about the boat, we learned that they were completely booked up for Memorial Day weekend - even on the Friday before. We decided to go for it anyway and just do the paddle and the hike out.

We got our shuttle run and put on the river around noon, having heard that it would take us about 6 hours on the water. We were pretty relaxed about the adventure at this point, thinking we'd have plenty of time to scout our way through the canyon. After a couple of miles of building boogie, we dropped into the granite zone.

Greg Speicher entering the Bald Rock Canyon.

After a couple of class IV and one class V drop, the first major obstacle of Bald Rock is the portage at Atom Bomb Falls. Atom Bomb is a giant pile of boulders in the bottom of the canyon, with huge falls dropping a total of 40 or so feet over drops and into sieves. It is not runable. The portage requires walking over a boulder pile on the right, then making a hairy ferry just above where the river pours over about a 20 foot drop into a bunch of sieves. The ferry is not super hard, but it is a bit nerve wracking.

Greg on the hairy ferry at Atom Bomb.

Having heard that this was the crux of the run, we were releaved to have gotten it behind us. We spent a while eating lunch and exploring the caves under some of the giant boulders that make up Atom Bomb Falls. At high water these would be enormous sieves with a huge volume of water flowing through them.

The end of the portage with the bottom drop of Atom Bomb in the picture.

Below here are the biggest named rapids that we had heard of on the run. The first is Curtain Falls - a clean bedrock drop of about 25 feet.

Jim Barrett on Curtain Falls.

Greg below Superslide with Curtain in the background.