Friday, August 14, 2009

Chawanakee Gorge

June 25th The Chawanakee Gorge on the San Joaquin River is an amazing stretch of whitewater, but it's very tricky to catch due to the dam upstream of it. If they had their way, the dam keepers would not let any water spill. Inevitably, however, the dam spills pretty regularly each spring giving the gorge flows of around 5,000-10,000 cfs--way too much for kayaking. An ideal kayaking range is 500-1500 (although 1500 would probably be pretty stout). While we were waiting for Upper Cherry to come in, we saw that the gauge was reading right around 700--perfect! The reading had gone from perfect to N/A many times in the past couple weeks so we were little scared that we would make the 6 hour drive down to the river only to find no water. But, we went and hoped. When we made it to the put in at 2pm, we found water!

The put in is a little tricky. After you paddle about 1/2 mile across a small reservoir, you get to the dam above Chawanakee Gorge. It's quite scary paddling right up to the brink of the dam to get out and portage down the steep right side of it. I'm not sure if it was something I ate, but I was feeling awfully sick at the dam. While I was busy dry-heaving, Don was scouting the best way to the river. At that moment I really wanted to hurl much more than I wanted to go kayaking, but I knew if we didn't go today, we might wake up tomorrow to find a try riverbed. So, in we dropped. We lowered boats and then used a fixed rope to get ourselves down to the river. Judging by the lack of kayak plastic anywhere, and the fact that the fixed rope was buried in a lot of mud, Don and I think we were lucky enough to be the first kayakers into the gorge this season.

Because we didn't end up getting to the actual river until around 3:30pm we were constantly pushing downriver as fast as possible. As a result, we didn't take too many photos. But, here is 1 of Don in the middle of a pretty cool series of rapids right in the middle of the run.

Darcy finishing one of the earlier rapids.
This run constantly has the feeling that you are going to get walled in (and in 2 short places you do, but the rapids are very runnable), but overall you can scout and portage everything at river level. Here I am enjoying some typical Chawanakee scenery.

Typical scenery in the gorge. There are 2-3 bigger drops on this section, but the overall character is what you see right here. It is a really quality section of whitewater if you are ever lucky enough to catch it with the proper amount of water.
Chawanakee Logistics:
This run is the Stanley/Holbeck guidebook. The road shuttle is about 1 hour each way, but there are good roads to the put in and take out.
Check and there is a Chawanakee gauge (if it's working).

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Upper Cherry Creek

Trip 1: June 30th-July 2nd
Trip 2: July 6th-7th

Darcy running Cherry Bomb falls

Upper Cherry Creek was definitely one of the highlights of our summer California trip. We ended up doing 2 trips into UCC, one at somewhat high water and one at somewhat low water, but both were amazing experiences!

After the 10 mile hike in the "warm up slides" are both a welcome and an intimidating sight.

Don Beveridge in the 1st of the 5 "canyons" on Upper Cherry Creek.

This is the "Class IV Canyon," followed by "Cherry Bomb Gorge," then the "Waterfall Canyon," the 4th and 5th canyons I'm not sure of the names... The canyon just a little ways below the confluence with West Cherry we called "Kiwi in a Crack," but I believe some people call it "Red Rock Canyon," and then there is the "Last Canyon" that drops you into the giant log jam at Cherry Lake.

Bill Beveride dropping Cherry Bomb Falls.

Since it was my and Don's 2nd trip down UCC, we decided to just drop into Cherry Bomb Gorge without doing the long hike around to scout. We assured Bill that we remembered everything well enough to give him verbal beta for the canyon. So after a quick scout at the lip of the falls, Bill committed dropping the falls into Cherry Bomb Gorge.

The Gorge

Don running the Perfect 20 Footer.

In my opinion, it's a little higher than 20 feet!

Me (Darcy) on the same drop

Don in dropping into the "Waterfall Canyon"

Me in the Waterfall Canyon

Don on the same drop on our first trip--a little more water!

Bill B. Double Pothole

Don below Dead Bear, but still above the confluence with West Cherry

Darcy dropping into the last canyon

Upper Cherry Creek Logistics:
The Take Out: 2 options:
#1 the boat ramp at the far end of Cherry Lake. The paddle across the lake isn't too bad, it only takes 1 hour.
#2 you can park on the northeast end of the lake. Drive across the dam and take a left. Drive 2 or so miles and look for another left turn before the road you are on heads uphill. Follow this "unimproved" road down to its end. Park here. It's about a 20 minute hike from the lake to where you park. If it's your first time there, it's a good idea to hike down to the lake to scout the take out.
Put In: Cross the Cherry Lake dam, hang a left and drive up that road until it dead ends at your trailhead. Hike 10 miles over Styx pass and down to the river. There is really only 1 place you can take a wrong turn and it's signed so you should be alright if you pay attention. It's less than an hour into the hike you will come to a Y--you go left towards Styx Pass.
You need a wilderness permit for this one too, which you can either get at the Groveland Ranger Station or the Sonora Station. It's important to get one because the rangers have become more diligent in checking since this is becoming a more popular run each year. More people means more impact, so be sure you follow good wilderness principles. This year someone dragged their blue kayak in and left plastic over about 3/4 of the trail--not cool. If you can't carry your kayak 10 miles don't go. We also picked up tons of trash on our 2nd run down the river at the 2 campsites we used on the river. I ended up with 2 extra gatorade bottles and 4 powerbar wrappers. Let's try to keep our rivers clean and not give kayakers a bad name! Thanks.