Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Kern Festival 2013 - Who needs water anyway!

Photo by Lindsay Grossman

Well, we didn't exactly have NO water. We had some. Just not very much. And it wasn't because of cold weather which can happen sometimes in April. No, we had super low flows for this year's Kern River Festival because there just wasn't any snow to melt. The Brush Creek race, the highlight for many boaters, was canceled. There wasn't even enough water to make scraping down it worth the short hike in. And forget about Dry Meadow or most of the upper Kern - with diversions in full effect on the middle stretch it was hardly recognizable as a river.

But while most of my NorCal friends opted to skip the six hour drive down to the Kern I was still committed to going. It's the one time of the year that I know I can find a large number of my SoCal friends in one place. Maybe we can boat a little, but more importantly is the chance to reconnect and see what everyone is up to - who has a new boat, a new shuttle rig, or new kids on the way.

So I never wavered in my plan to attend. I got to see some friends from LA and San Diego who came up to paddle. I got to stay with my buddy Gilbert who's now retired and making the most of his free time: he did the Gold Medal Camp the week before, competed in the triathlon and slalom races over the weekend, and is planning a Tuolumne trip and more paddling this week. The weather was warm and the town was full of boaters having a good time. It was enough to make me happy.

Photo by Lindsay Grossman
But my dedication was rewarded with the announcement the night before I headed down that the road to the Forks was open. The Forks of the Kern is one of my all time favorite runs but the road is never open until May due to snow (or apathetic Forest Service workers). But some of the locals at Bakersfield Whitewater put the pressure on the Forest Service and use the lack of snow to our advantage and got the gate unlocked for the weekend. Paddling was back on the table.

It ended up being the lowest I've ever done the Forks (about 450cfs) but it channelizes pretty well. The run was easier at this level - as long as you dodged the rocks - and its the first time I've run every drop on the same trip. It was a great day of paddling in warm weather with old friends and new. I also squeezed in a little slalom practice (someday I'll have to take more time to train - it's so fun!) and a nostalgic paddle leading someone down the Powerhouse run for the first time (the same run I learned to paddle on).

Photo by Lindsay Grossman

You can't have a river festival without water. We had just enough. More importantly, you can't enjoy a festival without good friends and I had more of those than I knew what to do with.

Here's a few clips of our Forks run - didn't shoot much since we had to keep paddling to get the 16 miles done as fast as we could with the slow pace of the current.

No comments:

Post a Comment