You know it's serious when the duct tape is pre-applied. Seth Dow finalizing preparations.
8:30am and we're at the gate putting drysuits on.
Connor Herdt, Tim Dow, Seth Dow, Pat Keller, Darin McQuoid
The shuttle proves to be quite cold and entertaining.
After a long stretch of pavement we stop to survey our equipment. Good thing for that Prijon plastic.
Nice views into the headwaters of the Middle Fork Feather River.
Seth Dow leads the charge as we cross into Onion Valley Creek drainage.
Our first glimpse of the watershed, and about half a mile from our
destination. Here the snow has drifted over the road and is too
dangerous to cross, so we'll walk the final leg.
Onion Valley proper, and the tiny creek flowing from right to left under the snow. With the shuttle it's now 10:00am.
Cold, but all smiles from Connor and Pat. We try and stay warm while Tim shuttles Seth up to us.
The chance of sliding off the road with a snow machine is too high,
thankfully the snow has compacted and makes for easy walking.
A smiles as we don't really know what we're getting into, but we'll do it with good attitudes.
Seth Dow soaks in the watershed. We'll follow the ridge down to the creek and hope it's large enough to run.
an hour total of hiking, we're at the creek. It's tiny, and very steep.
To continue walking looks terrible as it's traversing through deep snow
on a steep hillside. We confer and decide it will be safer to kayak,
and of course, more fun.
Connor Herdt enjoys a nice boof for lunch.
can be misleading. In the above it looks kind of classic, which it kind
of is. It's also full of brush and really small. As it happens, Seth,
Connor and I don't do a whole lot of low volume paddling. Pat is in his
element, but I think that would be true for any volume.
What's around the corner? It's a scramble for small eddies.
A quick log portage and we're into a nice sequence. We're all kind of
laughing that it's such low volume yet shockingly good. Thankfully
we're dropping a lot of elevation and will be below the snow soon.
Conner Herdt enters the first nice sequence.
What's the line? Just go where the boat will float.
Connor Herdt illustrating that it's not all glory.
Pat Keller with the true Oregon Tuck. This is all in our first ten minutes on the water.
Then she gets really steep, and drops into the first gorge. A nice
twenty foot slide at the entrance. Is it wide enough? Seth Dow and
Conner Herdt scout.
It's just not wide enough for a kayak to squeeze through the ten foot crack.
The gorge also ends in a twenty foot falls onto rock. Thankfully the
portage is quick, and we wrap it up with a lunch break at 1:00pm.
Downstream is a nice little set of slides into an eight foot ledge. Conner Herdt.
The joy of low volume kayaking is that I can just walk across the creek
to get a different angle. Seth Dow in the non-stop descent.
river canyon opens up a little as the creek falls through a mini-gorge
that drops about a hundred feet. The slide is tricky, with a prominent
high speed piton taking up a huge portion of a thirty foot slide. The
portage looks easy. Seth, Connor and shoulder and setup for Pat to give
it a go.
Fast and this image does it no justice, Pat Keller in the run out of a steep section of chunky bedrock.
the corner is another mini-gorge. Rather manky too, and again an easy
walk. We make quick work of the fifty yard portage and put back in,
only to run a couple rapids before the longest gorge yet. This one does
not look easy to portage, and the entry slide does not look good. We
scout around a ninety degree corner and it looks...ok. Not good
necessarily, and we can't quite see all the rapids, but it looks
survivable. It's hard to get a scale of size on a creek this small. I
keep seeing things as bigger than they are, and wider too. We decide to
walk the entrance slide and run the rest of it.
Looking at the corner in the gorge, a twenty foot slide followed by some drops of unknown height, and some tight spots.
Go left, go left and uh, go left?
Down in the gorge it's tighter than we imagined. Pat Keller gazes back upstream.
Thankfully it's possible to get out and scout this one; it's the first
of the go left series and has a rock hidden on the left side. Tight and
technical. Connor Herdt.
gorge doesn't let up. A few manky boulder gardens and we're at another
tight crack drop. Connor, Seth and I hate crack drops and start looking
for a portage. Then we look at the rapid again, watch Pat run it and
look at the portage again. Well, you will come out the bottom for sure
and the portage looks that bad.
Conner Herdt gets some crack love on Onion Valley Creek. It's now 3:05pm.
only April so the days are short and light is fading fast. The river
turns to boulder gardens and we focus on downstream progress, stowing
cameras in the boat for the day. Will there be flat ground for us to
camp on? We hope so but don't see much of it. Two hours of grinding
later and we see where an old jeep road crosses the river, and find a
large flat campsite. There is also downed wood everywhere, perfect for
what's going to be a chilly evening. It looks like we're in the
vicinity of an old mine. If you have an ATV and a keys to the right
gates, it's amazing what people still access out here, although the
last time someone was down at this site looks to be five or ten years
We've only made it three or four miles, but we have enough food for
three nights out in a pinch, but our shuttle is scheduled for the day
after tomorrow and we have at least twenty five miles of whitewater
before take-out. As darkness closes in we reminisce on how surprisingly
good the day was, all things considered.
Getting some good coals going before any rain sets in.
We use a large fire to dry out the gear as much as possible before scurrying into our shelters for the night.
On to Day Two