Friday, May 16, 2014

Kayaking the Cal Salmon

As you may have noticed if you follow this blog, I haven't done a lot of whitewater kayaking lately. There's a couple reasons for this, partly the record drought here in California the past two years, partly my move to the coast, and most recently wedding planning. Well, I'm now a happily married man and the spring runoff is at its peak, as low as that is, so I finally got in some paddling here in the Coastal Range.

I made it up to the Cal Salmon the other week, coincidentally during the U.S. National Rafting Championships. It assured lots of people in the campground and easy shuttle partners. I have to say that after paddling the race course (at a leisurely pace) I didn't envy those who tried to sprint down the long stretches of flatwater at these low flows.

In spite of the low water, we still managed to get on the S Fork Salmon for a nice day of creeky fun. There wasn't much push in the water but it channelized enough to take out the mank from the bigger rapids. You just had to be careful about what slot you chose as lots of the doors led to nowhere. We took our time and did some scouting and had a pleasantly uneventful day. Everyone else was down on the main river and we had the gorge all to ourselves. A great way to get back into whitewater.

The next day we did the Nordheimer and Butler sections on the main Salmon. We started before the race, hoping to done and on the road at a reasonable time. We managed to catch up to some locals at Cascade Falls, the first big rapid, and got to follow their lines through Freight Train. After leading a new river the day before, I got lazy following people and dropped into a sticky hole that I only escaped upside down. A good reminder that you're always responsible for yourself and not to let up.

Freight Train went fine and we continued on through Butler, and easier class IV section below. We stopped at the biggest rapid for a snack and a scout and thought it looked fine. Again I followed my buddy and lost my balance coming off the pillow halfway down. No big deal, but I hit a rock in the middle of my roll and went over again. More rocks, more shallowness, and I was scraped along upside down and on my back deck. I probably should have held on since I was making progress down the rapid and I knew it ended in a pool, but I got tired of getting banged up and deciding swimming would be easier. It was, and I got to shore with no problem.

It was definitely frustrating/humbling/embarrassing to swim on the easiest section of the weekend. I'm sure that being out of paddling shape and tired at the end of two days of solid whitewater had something to do with it. But mostly it was the lack of mental sharpness, the focus it takes to stick your roll quickly when you need it and hang on long enough to make it past the rough spots. Some more time on the rive would probably cure me, but the water's already gone. It's back to the ocean, which has many lessons of it's own to teach. Hopefully I'll take them with me the next time I get back to a river.

Here's a quick video of the action:

No comments:

Post a Comment