Monday, July 20, 2009

Upper Cherry Creek.

I can remember like it was yesterday, November 4th 2006 I found myself standing at a table stacked full of Daniel Delavergne t-shirts and a bucket full of donations for the Katie Hillike cancer fund. I was in awe of the magnitude of the rapid that was on the back of the T shirt. As I showed the shirt to my friends, the king of the green race Tommy Hillike explained the shot to me. It was Daniel running Cherry Bomb Gorge on day 2 of Upper Cherry Creek, and as the sun went down on the green race party that year I was sure of two things, that one day I would make it to Upper Cherry and run the cherry bomb gorge, and that I ate way to much BBQ.
Two years later on August 29th 2008, I separated my shoulder training for the green race for the second time that year. I knew this ment surgery and missing the green race and they entire winter creeking season, which ment one thing, I would do what it takes to be in California for the 2009 summer. 
Eleven months later on July 3rd I was in Groveland, Ca just outside the Cherry Creek wilderness loading up my kayak for 3 days on the Granite. Bryan Kirk, Dave Levitt, Rok Sribar, and I loaded up the the WaveSport van and Roks Car and headed to the trail head in the dark. Running Upper Cherry includes almost a full day of hiking with the kayak, I don't know exactly how far it is because ive heard everything from 8-13 miles. However we decided to start at 11 pm and hike an hour or two in the dark in order to avoid the heat and mosquito's during the switch backs which are in first 2 miles. We slept about 6 hours at about mile 2.5 and then got up and hiked the rest of the way to the creek. Being my first wilderness run with a 10+ mile hike I was really struggling with my back pack only to run into Ben Stooksberry and Darin Mcqoid who inspired me to shoulder it the whole way. I remember Darin explaining to me..... "Put that Ipod in and switch shoulders every song, that backpack is not helping you." 
At around 3 pm I believe after 8 hours of shouldering a loaded boat Bryan and I finally saw the Upper Cherry Creek. It was a dream come true, I was 36 hours drive and a 10 hour walk from home and there was no where id rather be. I tried to block out Cherry Bomb, mostly because I was nervous, in a way we were so close but still so far. There were some major rapids between me and and accomplishing that 3 year goal from that talk with Tommy at at the green race table. Would my shoulder hold up? Was the water low enough? I knew I had to take it one rapid at a time, and at the time the issue was that Dave and Rok had not made it to the put in yet. 
After 2 hours of resting and drinking water at the put in Dave and Rok come paddling down stream in all there gear and there hands raised. They had gone past the put in and put in a half a mile higher then the put in. So at 5 pm and having hiked all day we decided to put in a couple of hours and then call it a day. 
I was amazed at the audacity of the scenery of this place. Granite as far as the eye could see, crystal clear water, and beautiful granite slides made for some of the most enjoyable rapids I've ever paddled. Im not completely sure the name of the place we camped but it wasn't to far above Gorilla West. 
We woke up early the next morning and packed up only to paddle up on a naked couple swimming in the creek. They were pretty impressed by watching us run a 4 foot slot and I remember thinking man if they only knew what was down stream. I had lent that same DD t-shirt from the green race party to Bryan for the Hike and realized I better get it back for good luck, after all I was going to be at Cherry Bomb that before lunch.  After a few hours of excellent whitewater we found ourselves stratling an enormous boulder that over looks cherry bomb. This was it, I was finally here, and I was actually going to do this. At first glimpse the gorge looked incredibly committing but definitely doable although the water didn't look as low as I thought it was going to be. I tried to block out the horror of the consequences of not getting far enough left and taking a long recirculating ride in the pothole, only to most likely swim they entire gorge. I knew that it happened to a few people before but it wasn't going to be me. If there was one line I was going to clean in California this was going to be it. 
I was a bit surprised at Rok when after 2-3 minutes of scouting Rok looks at us shrugs his shoulders and says "ill go" like it was just another rapid. After all to him it probably was, I dont think he spent time watching it on LVM and youtube videos. The best way to do this would be in pairs so Rok and Dave would go first and Bryan and I would film and then Bryan and I would go. 
Rok peeled out first and looked perfect, boofing off the rock with left to right angle, landing on the slide and didn't over do the angle when he flew 15 feet through the air toward the wall on the other side. His bow completely splatted the far wall just before he brought it down and started his 10 hole fist fight with the ledge holes that awaited him. Dave followed just behind him with another perfect line, perhaps getting even farther left. I felt great about there lines, and it was time for me to follow suit.
I walked all the way back to my boat and started emptying out the water when I realized I needed one more look. I remember wanting to go before Bryan because I didn't like the the thought of the rest of the group being down in the gorge and being up there alone. After all Bryan had run it 2-3 times before and seemed extremely confident in the fact that he was going to get through this canyon no problem. 
I knew weather I was on line or off it would be better to paddle hard then to try to drift it. So I peeled out of the eddy like a bad out of hell charging for the right side of the boulder, and took a huge right stroke. The second I landed on the slide I realized I was far enough left, which was an immediate relief. I don't remember much after that but telling myself not to over lean, because I had seen so many pictures of people flying off sideways and upside down. Next thing i knew the water cleared my face, i was right side up pointed down stream. Perfect, the hard part is over I though, now ill I have to do is punch these holes and im good. That's much easier said than done. I got to the lip of the wier hole and wasn't lined up to well for a stroke and got side surfed all the way to the left of the hole. This could of been terminal, a swim here would mean swimming the next 15 holes(see picture) and God knows what would happen to the boat. I remember surfing and looking back up the gorge at Bryan who was taking pictures of me, and it wasn't until I  saw the worry in his face that I really started to worry. Right about that time I realized how much this rapid meant to me and how hard I had worked to get there and I wasn't going to swim for God sake. I started right stroke clawing like my life depended on it(in a way it did) and fought my way out of there. I really underestimated the holes that are below the bomb. I would say its equally as challenging as running the bomb. 
Making it through the canyon and down to the camp was one of the most enjoyable 15 minutes I've ever spent on a river. To alot of guys that day it was just another California canyon but to me it meant so much more.  Dave and Rok even decided to do multiple laps on the teacups being that they are almost picture perfect waterfalls. 
That day we would make it down to below Dead Bear and camp. Bryan ran an incredibly clean line at Kiwi In The Pocket, where the rest of us decided the water was a bit high and the pocket was a bit to gnarly. I would definitely rate that day as one of the best of my life, the group had become pretty close that day, and we had ran countless 4-40 foot waterfalls not to mention the world famous Cherry Bomb Gorge.
I don't think anyone would argue, Upper Cherry Creek is an amazing paddling destination. Its a must for anyone who enjoys clean steep drops, long slides, and world class scenery.

I had alot of trouble uploading more photos since there all in RAW you can see them all at.

West Cherry

Wrapping up almost a week down at the Kaweah's lapping up the Hospital Rock section I drove to Groveland to meet Rok Sribar to go put on West Cherry which runs into Upper Cherry Creek about three quaters of the way down. We drove to Cherry Lake in the middle of the night and met up with Don and Darcy from Colorado and got a couple hours of sleep. When we arrived at the put in we saw a good number of other cars including Jakob and some of the team teva boys. I was told the hike should take only about 1.5 hours and that its pretty much downhill anyways, so after packing the boats with only one night worth of gear I opted for no backpack and that I would just carry the boat on my shoulder to the put in, so far so good. The tail went along a ridge for a bit and was pretty unclear, but just in the time that I would think I was lost I would get back to some sign of trail. So after 1.5 hours I thought to myself, ive never seen a river that flows on the top of a mountain so at some point I should start heading down. By 2.5 hours I was 100% bushwacking and was starting to feel the effects of shouldering a kayak for that long of time. At 3.5 hours I started to think that I might be spending the night in the Cherry Creek Wilderness due to the fact that the ground I had been bushwacking would be very hard to find my way back to the car. So I decided I would put the kayak down and walk to the top of the mountain and I would be able to look out and see where I needed to go. Doing so I saw cherry lake in one direction which I knew was the take out, and a tiny orange kayak as far as the eye could see in the other direction, which ment that I had hiked way off course and was about parallell with the camp(halfway point). So finally making it to the river after 4-5 hours of bushwacking I came across some Czech guys who were able to tell be where my group was. As far as the river is concerned it has some of the most beautifull scenery and if long granite slides and waterfalls are your thing then this is the place for you. My favorite part about this run is after the confluence with Upper Cherry the water level picks up and you get to run the last couple miles of Upper Cherry at very high flow which makes for some different lines and enormous holes
Camped Out Below Charlie Beavers

The Take Out Where Americans Are a Minority.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Fantasy Falls

In February 2007 I was riding the Green shuttle listening to some Canadian guy I had never met explain to me the details of finishing his P.H.D. I figured this was another typical green shuttle poach where you get to know someone for 20 minutes and then probably never hear from them again. Little did I know 2 years late I would meet Steve Arns in a parking lot in Sacramento to load boats to put on the Fantasy Falls, a three day run that would take us from the still snowy high sierras to the heat or the central valley. The group consited of 5 Canadians and myself, Phil and Matt Kompass, Steve Arns, Max Kiniwasser, and James Mole. 
After losing all six boats and racks all tied together, we were barely able to make it to the put it due to a snow storm. We decided to put on a day later after hearing there was beer and pizza at ski resort just 30 minutes down the road. We found the water level to be almost perfect, I got a tip from Clay Wright that if it wasn't scrapy at the top that I was in for an action packed third day and sure enough it was scrapy as hell for the first two miles. A few scrapes is a small price to pay for two days of countless granite slides, beautiful scenery, and a number of stories to tell.  Enjoy the pictures.
Fantasy Falls on Fantasy Falls

After losing all six boats and racks all tied together, we were barely able to make it to the put it due to a snow storm. We decided to put on a day later after hearing there was beer and pizza at ski resort just 30 minutes down the road. We found the water level to be almost perfect, I got a tip from Clay Wright that if it wasn't scrapy at the top that I was in for an action packed third day and sure enough it was scrapy as hell for the first two miles. A few scrapes is a small price to pay for two days of countless granite slides, beautiful scenery, and a number of stories to tell.  Enjoy the pictures.

My Favorite Rapid or the Trip

Max Kiniewasser avoiding a hole.

Taking a Break on the Portaged Canyon.

Steve Arns running Fantasy Falls

Moments like this that make California awesome.