The trip started off right, skipping the last day of class before break to get us an extra one on the water. Piling in the Forerunner with Leif and Natalie we drove through the night and added one more Dave to the party in Reno. We headed on to Auburn that night, and camped outside of the Sierra Outdoor Center. The next day we were ready to fire up the first run of the trip. After a few calls we decided on the Sierra classic, 49 to Bridgeport. This was my first taste of California granite. The picturesque canyons were better than any photo I’d ever seen of the run. From Auburn we headed farther north. We could’ve easily spent the whole break paddling around Auburn and even farther into the Sierras but Leif and Natalie had some friends we planned on staying with in Aracata (FYI, the home of Kokatat). I wasn’t too disappointed about leaving more Sierra classics for another trip, because by the next day we were already gearing up for another classic run.
After waking up rather damp from the rain and being skunked on two low volume creeks Leif and I opted for a run through Burnt Ranch Gorge, while Natalie ran shuttle. Natalie was more than happy to read her book, grab dinner for us, and thank god put my sleeping bag in a dryer. I had been excited about trying out my new bivy sack and in hasty packing didn’t bring a tent. Lesson learned, when it rains on the west coast, it rains! and when it doesn’t, it drizzles.
Rain or shine we made it on the river and Leif showed me good lines down Burnt Ranch which was running a relatively high 2500 cfs. I say relatively because a few days later 2500 would feel like low water. Apparently typical summer flows are around 500 cfs. From my Rocky Mountain perspective I’d say it was similar to Gore Canyon, minus the rapids made from railroad tailings and with 2 to 3 times the number of significant drops. If you can picture that then you can imagine it was a pretty solid day of boating.
The next day we rallied early for a low volume run called Willow Creek which, thank you rain, was at a medium-high level. But regardless of water this creek still had a slight scrape-and-pinball-off-rocks kinda feel. You spend enough time boating in Colorado and you’ll know this feeling well, we felt right at home. Heads up to anyone who may run this one in the future, be weary of the “Forbidden Zone” (cue dramatic gasps) which separates the upper section from the lower section. I guess it’s steep mank that lands on to mank, with mank and scary things in between. I'm not real sure what it really entails, but it’s no bueno. I can’t say I have good beta for the portage takeout, the whole upper section was a bit of a roller coaster ride, but just make sure to seek out some beta if you ever want to get on this creek. It’s a super easy shuttle, park on the side of the highway right after the bridge crossing the river and takeout in the town of Willow Creek.