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Fish Creek IV-V

   Located in the John Muir Wilderness, Fish Creek is a free flowing creek that contributes an equal flow to the Middle Fork San Joaquin at their confluence. Our plan was to hike ten miles in, boat six miles on Fish Creek, and then finish the Devil’s Postpile run on the Middle Fork San Joaquin. 

The San Joaquin drainage. 

   Coming off Upper Cherry Creek we reunited with Chris Korbilic, and started the drive back to Oakhurst, where we had been a week before on the Upper and Lower North Fork San Joaquin missions. 

   The Fish Creek trailhead is the same used for the Devil’s Postpile run, as is the take-out. This meant that we would have to deal with the dreaded, six-seven hour one-way shuttle. With only one car, and an unregistered motorcycle, we knew we would have to get creative. Scouring our maps, we found that from Mammoth Pool we could drive about thirty miles on dirt roads, then hike six miles and be back at the Devil’s Postpile National Monument, our put-in. Depending on the speed of the shuttle hiker, it looked to be faster than the drive too!

Stashing my ’74 Suzuki, food and liquor at Mammoth Pool, we embarked on another long and tedious shuttle through Yosemite, arriving Mammoth with time to finish our food shopping and then wait until the mandatory shuttle closed.

Rainbow Falls is likely the worst gauge possible. The water spreads out over the lip over the 101 foot falls, and it is high up in the drainage so it constitutes only 25% of the final flow.  As of 2010 there is a gauge at the Devi's Postpile, but no one knows what the ideal range is yet.

We started our hike early in the morning, loaded for six days and the flows at Rainbow Falls looked identical to my previous years San Joaquin trip, perfect.

   With perfect looking flows it was hard to walk past the put-in, knowing we’d miss the best part of the Devil’s Postpile run; boof-o-matic gorge. Inspired by the spirit of exploration, we pushed into the nine miles of hiking on Fish Creek trail. 

The author “enjoying” the Fish Creek hike.

   On the first three miles we would be paralleling the Middle Fork San Joaquin, but one ridge over. Two miles into the trek, Chris’s back started acting up on him. It seemed that six descents of Cherry Bomb Gorge last week were taking their toll. After careful consideration, Chris decided to hike back out and hopefully rest up enough for the Middle Kings. Ben and I weren’t stoked to be down to two for a major first descent, but we didn’t want to give up on the cusp.

   Several miles into the hike the ridge separating us from the San Joaquin dropped away, and we hiked to the edge, enjoying a high above view over boof-a-matic gorge.

The exit to boof-o-matic on the Middle Fork San Joaquin, with Fish Creek coming in downstream on the left.

   I couldn’t help but wish we were down in the gorge as we climbed away from the San Joaquin and toiled over the ridge to Fish Creek. On our way to Fish Creek Ben spotted this incredible tributary. 

“I’m not hiking that far” – me about the steep tributary.

   Perhaps we were spoiled by our recent Upper North Fork San Joaquin exploration, but six miles from the confluence, Fish Creek had nothing to do with bedrock.

Ben Stookesberry, probably reminded of his Colorado roots.

   It was steep, but oh so not really clean, for miles on end. The benefit that we didn’t have to portage, or spend too much time eddying out in the nonstop boulder garden. 

Just like back home.

   Hampered by only one short wood portage, the miles on Fish Creek flew by, until we finally hit bedrock with a nice class IV.

Ben Stookesberry class IV aficionado. 
   Ben grabbed this shot of me on the same rapid from upstream. Note the beautiful meadow to the right. After hiking so far and boating around five miles, we decided it was fitting to call it an early day above what we hoped would be the rewards for all our work. The camp site was one of my favorites of the year.

Whereas the camp site was beautiful, sleep was not on the same page for both of us. Benjamin says: beware of ants and more importantly, habanero hot dogs. To relieve the pain, Fish Creek started off day two with a sweet ten footer.

Ben Stookesberry gratified by the first of Fish Creek’s goods.

The same.

Fish Creek turns into pool drop goodness, scenery quality all the way through.

Flying off waterfalls and landing in rainbows.

Well it was relatively pool-drop, Ben Stookesberry on the other side of the rainbow.

Same from below.

   Warmed up by the slides, Ben and I were stoked to see a big three move rapid that looked pretty good. It started with a four foot boof, then a big fold followed by a final slide into a decent hole. Overall the potential for fun was high and carnage moderate, so I gave her a go and was followed by Ben.

Ben Stookesberry nailing the initial boof.

Boofing into the fold.

It didn’t matter, melt down!

Past the fold and finishing strong.

Fired up by such a good drop, Ben and I pushed downstream, and while the scenery remained top notch the river mellowed out too soon and we were on the Middle Fork San Joaquin.

   To be honest the most memorable thing about our descent of Fish Creek was how scary and epic the paddle out on the Middle Fork San Joaquin was. Flows were absolutely too high, and we were relieved to escape the Crucible by the skin of our teeth. Exhausted when we finally hit Mammoth Pool after four days, we finished against a strong headwind and unfriendly boaters, only too glad to see the boat ramp at the end.

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