Two of my east coast hommies, Drew Duval and Baker Davenport, rolled in from the east coast recently with an appetite for Cali Swirls. Therefore, we loaded up Big Red and headed for the Baby's Bottom of all mountains, the Sierra Nevadas. You could say their smooth granite is quite attractive to us Swirl Chargers. The warm sun, sandy beaches, rockin music, great food, and beautiful women also lure us to what we consider the 'promised land'.
We started off the season with a rare run that flows into the North Fork of the American called Shirt-tail creek. We escaped death at the put-in by the skin on our chinny chin chin, as Robbie Hogg informed us that the locals don't take kindly to strangers.
Shirt-tail creek entering the North Fork of the American.
The flow was low, but the flair was high, as we waited on a feather leather's wedding to proceed on the sketchy shuttle road. I shouted to Drew, " We need more Flair!" Joyously boofing our way down the creek, I commented on how similar it was to a SE creek, with smoother rocks and less mank, of course.
Heres Baker Davenport posing Jah Rhasta style in front of a swirl.
After awakening from a frosty morning next to the river that beholds the Royal Gorge, we took a nice jaunt down the Giant Gap, which proved worthy of scenery and rapids. Chawanakee Gorge of the San Joaquin River is sooo hott on the Cali radar right now. The only reason this section of amazing river is running, is because Edison electric is having damn dam problems. The river was spiking into the 1000 cfs range; so, we took a pilgrimage to the promised land of Three Rivers, CA to wait it out.
Eric Giddens charging a phat boof off Triple Drop on the East Kaweah.
We found the East Kaweah to be the perfect place to spend a day on the water in the warm sunshine. Our good friends Eric and Rebecca Giddens, Geno, and Kevin Smith joined us. It was my first time in the East Kaweah, and I'm hooked like hydrogen is to oxygen in water. The level was a bit low, but we beggars can't be choosers.
The group chilling in a granite wonderland.
The next day, we got an early breakfast at We 3 Bakery, and drove to the mystical Chawanakee Gorge. After speaking with an Edison employee, our thoughts were confirmed that we would have a healthy flow of 950 CFS. The faucet was stuck and he was fresh out of WD-40; so, we ventured into the unknown. As we paddled by the powerhouse, it reminded me of Deliverance, as the dam employees looked at us with judgmental eyes, wishing they had the freedom we were about to exercise.
Chargeable? I think not...
Drew Duval and Kevin Smith taking one leap into the burlizone.
Big ups to the noble soul who rigged up a sturdy sailing rope, which greatly aided in the descent down to the river. The feeling of being 'in there' was very apparent even at this early stage of the adventure.
The water is stellar in there.
As we entered the rapids, the walls closed in quickly, and it began to look similar to the Devils Postpile.
Venturing into the unknown is what we live for.
The character of the river was stunning. Large boulders filled the granite slot, and gave way to a variety of lines through the rapids. The river delivered everything from tight slot boofs, to swirly eddy turns into man-eating hydraulics. We were slightly gripped, as we had read about a Trilogy of Big Drops in the Book. We found runnable rapids throughout the entire gorge, even though we portaged a few due to the stompiness of the flow. Unfortunately, the camera wasn't a priority during this run, as we weren't sure how long it would take to complete the run, which ended up being about 5 hrs.
Drew plugged her deep on this one.
Drew fired up a Big Drop, and pulled out a crucially,wicked, backender recovery above a giant swirl. He styled the line, but didn't sell it enough for Kevin and I to proceed into the raging aqua. We blazed into many of the rapids we could barely boat scout, and found this mad-bombing technique similar to the style required to complete the bottom 9 of the Kings in a day. Besides, you can only run a rapid blind once... right?
Charging a massive ledge hole... the norm for the day.
After a long, incredible, and satisfying day on the river, we paddled the lake while admiring a few steep creeks blowing in from the high mountains above. I love this run, and would definitely go back in at 950, and maybe a little higher, not much though. A lower flow would be considerably mellower and might allow one to feel brave enough to conquer all the swirls in there. The nature of this run is intimidating due to the sheer cliff walls, but the large boulders allow you to easily find eddies to get out and see what the burl is all about.
The end of the rainbow is in there.
Get in there while the getting is good! I would say this is a Classic California Class V run! Hope to get back in there ASAP! As always, stay Charging!
Peace-- Will Pruett