Saturday, April 9, 2011

Patience pays off with perfect paddling on the Piru

Middle Piru Waterfall
When I first started creeking it was a rainy winter in Los Angeles.  First up was the Arroyo Seco in Pasadena.  That took an extra weekend to finish up (story for some other time, perhaps).  After that we decided on the Piru which has a middle section and an upper section.  The upper was harder and a little low so we decided the middle was a better choice all around.  And it was.  The paddling wasn't too hard but enough to make me nervous now and then; the scenery was incredible; and the company was outstanding.  It always remained one of my favorite river trips in spite of the log jammed shallow scraping for the last several miles followed by a bitter lake crossing into fierce headwinds.  And since that time six years ago I have longed to get on the upper sections - supposedly the same great scenery and better whitewater and still less than an hour from downtown Los Angeles. But the Piru is fickle and often only runs for a day (or less) after big rain storms.  So the timing never worked out.

Upper Piru Put In
Now I live several hundred miles north of L.A but I still keep my eye on the flow of the Piru.  With our recent flurry of winter storms leaving snow even in the south there has been snow melt feeding the Piru.  And it gave the creek a more predictable flow window that lined up with one of my days off from work. So with an all too easy convincing of my buddy Alex to ditch his job for a day I prepared for the twelve hour round trip drive to get on a fifteen mile class IV/V wilderness run within shouting distance of ten million people.

Upper Piru Hard Luck Gorge
So what was the end result? Yet another river experience that I expect will stay with me for a long time and one that has made me more excited than ever for the upcoming season of exploring seldom run rivers with good friends.  The truth is that the whitewater wasn't as good as I was expecting.  Perhaps that's because I had built up all too high expectations, or perhaps because of the long sections of willow dodging and manky rapids. But there were definitely some fund drops in there. And the scenery wasn't quite as good as the middle section - though still quite impressive given its location. No, what really made it great was the return to that spirit of adventure, that sense of exploration and of being out there with a good friend. That is the essence of why I kayak the river and that is what I plan to focus on this season.

Here are some more pictures and below is the video - which probably makes it look even better since I cut out the bad bits.

UPDATE:  I just ran into a friend from San Diego who had paddled the upper Piru a week before we got on it.  They had significantly higher flows.  Here's a link to his vid 

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