Aug 26, 2010

Lower Muddy Fork

The Cowlitz drainage has been held in high regard by kayakers for decades. Cowlitz headwaters roll off of Mt Rainier, which has so many excellent places our forefathers made it a National Park!! It is the fifth National Park in our nation's history. Wolf Bauer, a great man who was a catalyst and pioneer behind whitewater paddling in Washington state, fought for over a decade to keep the Cowlitz free flowing. 
Ultimately, the dam builders won, but kayakers still enjoy many miles of whitewater on many different rivers flowing off of Mt Rainier.

The Muddy Fork of the Cowlitz is not a river that was overlooked when early whitewater 
pioneers like Bill Bowey, Ron Blanchette, Jeff Bennett and others started exploring these tiny streams. As years passed and more runs were discovered, the Muddy Fork remained 
somewhat obscure. For the adventurous boater the Muddy Fork does not disappoint!! 
The rapids aren't overly difficult, the scenery is absolutely A+, and the "unknown" lurks 
around every corner. We scouted a lot, took a bunch of great photos, and overall had a lovely 

Totten and I met Jon in Packwood Sat morning. We hadn't done this run, but were meeting 
Scott Matthews, who has paddled it plenty. Cool. I love getting into places that have been 
explored before. Tyler Bradt nailed it when he said, "Going first is scary!!" Sometimes going 
second or third is scary, too, but I agree with Tyler.

We got gear and boats loaded and headed up to the put in. To get to the put in is a little "out 
and around" business, but not bad. After driving as far as we could (a mile?) the boats were 
loaded and the hiking began.
Worth the hike?

Heading to the Muddy Fork.

Hiking in the woods.

Hiking in the woods with your boat is a little slow at first.We all found our rhythm and made pretty good time through pretty trees and some fun woodsy critters. We stopped about halfway for a little break. By the time we got to the put in I was a sweating heaving mess. Finding a rhythm on the hike in is key to a pleasant time while you're strapped to your boat. I wound up running in long spurts while dragging my boat and turned my "hike" into some interval training. Fun stuff. 

Finally, after reaching this "one" gully, Scott said, "this might be it." We took another break before wandering further. Chris's nephew, Billy walked in with us. He doesn't kayak, but lives in the area and just loves the tight spots we get in to. Billy was out in front pretty much the whole way. (He didn't have a boat, either ;) Billy was pretty psyched once we all got down to the river. So were we!!!

               If you don't see this, you ain't at the put in.               Large woody debris on the Muddy Fork

The put in!!

We took a little while to finish getting dressed and get on the water. It was overcast, not too hot. We lingered at the put in, I think, just because it was so beautiful, none of us wanted to leave. But we knew there would be more to come and so off we went.

First rapid of the day.

        I liked the oily smudge in this one.

Chris Totten gettin' his kit ready.

First portage. 

Finishing up the first portage.

Soon enough we were making our way down. The rapids were more of a class  IV ish nature, not overly difficult with plenty of blind turns to keep it interesting. The canyon just kept giving more as we got in deeper. It's a surreal experience to know the ONLY way out is downstream. 

       More cool canyon. The Muddy Fork doesn't stop!!

Getting close to the take out.

The Great Right Bend.

Totten scouts for the Muddy Fork Gorge Beast.

More Gorge-ousness!!

A+ for scenery.

Some artistic photography at the take out.

Muddy Fork Update: Oct 2010

There was a high water event which moved some logs from the jam at the put in for this run, down through the canyon. There have been several high water events since then as well. Scout some, when you can. This is what a group found in Oct.

Aug 8, 2010

Sesech to South Fork Salmon Canyon

Idaho is an amazing wilderness playground. Many many miles of wilderness self support can be found here. Fellow stout killer and Creeksides enthusiast, Chris Totten, sends in this TR on a pretty sick stretch at a level known as "bloated". Bloated is a  river level few paddle and even less know of. 'Bloated' is a condition or state a river achieves when there is so much water the riverbed can't maintain its shape and actually swells outward, causing a 'bloated' state known as "River Bloating".

And Creeksiders, while always up for stoking the fire, never like like to inflate the ego. This is why I speak of such fabled happenings. So you may know the true fortune of these paddlers. Gorge beasts love the flavor of human ego. They can smell it in the air and taste the sweet salty flavor in the water. Creeksiders marvel at the Gorge Beast, but know it's ancient power and strength. How, do you wonder, did you get pulled back into that pourover when you were SURE you STOMPED the SHNIZZ out of it?? mmm, Gorge Beast. Make sure and paddle where you should. Chris was, and here's the story...

        Sesech to South Fork Salmon Canyon 70+ miles in three days

Jeff called and the trip was on ! It was Thursday and we had till Monday to go to Idaho and paddle 70 something miles from the headwaters of the Secesh turning the corner and paddling the 30 mile South Fork Salmon Canyon to the confluence of the main and out 20+ miles to Vinager Creek. The water in Idaho had been high and the Idaho boys were running things huge over there this year. As we watched gages, Jeff was confident we would have good water. "Too low" was not my concern... So with our time crunch and my dedication to my habit, I called in sick to work and we bailed for Idaho. We made the drive to McCall and crashed at Jared Alexander's house who was going to be our guide down the Secesh. Jared is a big water local legend and had just run the Payette at 8,000cfs. The next morning we woke up and loaded our gear. A friend calls Jared and the group is now 4 thanks to Boyce the owner of Liquid Logic Kayaks. Jared and Boyce would paddle with us down the Secech to 5 miles above the SF Salmon to the only road out, before Jeff and I would paddle down the remote SF canyon on our own. On the way to the put in we drove through the hills on a dirt road and stopped at a bridge where the Secech was flat meadering through the meadows. This was the last piece of flatwater I would see for three days. Jared looked at the gage and said with disgust " ah man, 4.6 this is the lowest I have ever paddled the Secesh" I think, "good, low."

Once we got up into the mountains we came to the put in on the other side of the meadow where the Secesh flowed off the other side of the pass. Packing quickly because the shuttle driver was taking our rig, I forget my spare paddle and some food. Minor loss for three days. I jumped in my boat with gear in back and my sleeping bag between my legs and had a good couple of miles to get used to my loaded creek boat. The flat water soon tilted down hill and we seemed to be paddling on about 1,000 cfs. With all the tribs coming in the flow would double by the time we dumped into the South Fork Canyon at what we thought was around 7,000 cfs. Felt like 12,000 in some spots. The Secesh picked up more water AND gradient. The next 15 or so miles was non stop continuous read and run class IV-V My little cursor through it all was following Jared's yellow helmet bashing through holes and twisting around blind corners. Once we got into the canyon the water was healthy and I thought it looked like Icicle Creek at high water. In fact, it was juicy, not too high, but it had plenty of water. If this is low I wonder what high looks like. I asked Jared.  


With Jared routing us through most everything on the river the only scout we had was a crux move in the miracle mile. The miracle mile was a mile or so of stacked class V whitewater. At this point my loaded creek boat became my friend not my enemy with its weight carrying me down stream punching holes I didn't want to stay in.   


Jeff coming through the end of the miracle mile.  


 After the Miracle Mile the river let up in grade but not in gradient. Here is a calm section of the Secesh as we flow down stream catching one eddy in 5 miles. In all we had one portage, one scout, and only five eddies were caught on our 15 + miles of class IV-V blur of whitewater. Thanks to Jared and Boyce for leading. I feel we would have been on the river a lot longer if we were on our own. Stunning scenery and hands down, some of the best paddling I've done. The Secesh felt like rugged remote Idaho and we were only getting deeper into the canyon, about to get into the big water.