Monday, June 22, 2009

16 who dared: Tuolumne River 2009

16 who dared, tuolumne river 2009

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Tuolumne 09

complex logistics, but i can handle it, 17 oops 16 (namomis dr wouldnt let her go after surgery) gathered with a mountain of gear , food, kitchen, camp lumped down the rocky putin path. overhung from great party, gathering the night before next to the river. the river is up, 22-2400 cfs and promising higher, strap down, rig to flip, and off on the raging tide. johnny and greg are on board, after tying down the load, greg is backup rower boatman in training, never done class 4, but hes a great guy and capable, just needs experience. just what i need to have him take over on the easier stretches.

good runs, lotsa room with the water, way left at nemesis, never done that before, i just follow bcs red kayak down the slot. sunderlands is huge, monster side curlers coming off the right cliff, i climb high on the left, turn and hit them head on and we plough thru, not the fate of steves trip, one of their boats is upside down in the eddy,
they looking forlorn on the shore, picking up the pieces.

Aside from a surf of ramshead hole, the rest is great fun, lunch at clavey and hike to the fossils, swim in the creek, mellow out. beer and premaid sandwiches fuel us for the clavey drop. it is steep, i hit a vshaped hole and get knocked off my seat, and lose an oar, but the paddlers keep paddlin, keeping me away from the wall, and i see dinosaur rock far away and relax, running the last drops backwards. "all upright, at the bottom of clavey, all ok."

Grays is really big, riverwide hole stops us even tho we are full steam ahead, and i land on johnnys head and crick his neck, hes ok, but that took us by surprise. On down the rio, easy runs at high water, and into camp on the sandy beaches downstream of north fork. set up camp for a day of rest and fun hiking.

Monster ravioli meal, salad, wine, beer, margaritas, 2 pies for dessert with whipped cream. oink. tom is doing his thing, has 6 burners going, 2 tables for prep, one for booze and a king size bbq for the dutch ovens. I rig a fish flag and the led solar lights and we are ready to party. Ben sings some of his great songs, i do a pancho and lefty performance on his guitar, and fade away.

coffee early, im after the fish, hook one on a fly, but he gets off. we prep for the brushy rocky hike and take off up the canyon. dings are happenin, blood shed, i have a gouge on my forearm from rowing clavey, but it stops bleeding fast, just looks bad. we enter the gorge and swim up through the pools to the upper falls, vertical walls up 50 feet on both sides. people hanging out in the sun, the water is cool, canyon goes down to get a wet suit. i hang in the jacuzzi with cathy and we revel in the beauty of it all. bash back down, taking it slowly and carefully to pizza lunch at camp and long snooze, more fishing, still no keepers, and long conversations about important things under a 20x20'tarp blowing in the wind. friends drop in, bcs wife wanda with 3 kayakers, and jeff and adam, sierra mac guides on a field day kayaking, they are going to redo the gps locations of rapids on the cherry creek run for me. i lost the original notebook. always duplicate critical field information.

dinner is an heroic bbq with 2 salmon fillets, 4 tritips, potatoes, salad choch. cake for dessert with whipped cream. more songs, im wiped and crash out, cathy comes to visit and it really hot to do more of this kind of stuff. i fade to drunken fools staggering by me on the way to camp.

great bkfst, fathers day, whoopee. biscuits, gravy, eggs, chicken sausages, more coffee, a beer or two to wash it down. now we get organized, and pack it all up, load it on the boats and off to more glory downstream. a cabin, donkey engine and mining debris occupies us for a while, then the pull of turnback creek, to no avail, the creek is dry, out onto the lake and the tow and the ride up from the bridge for the drivers late, we derig and hang on the beach at moccasin for 3 hours before they show up watching the scene, huge boats, drunk mad people, end of a day with lake people.. Tom has done the money calculation, and its 90$, man what a deal, Marty helped greatly sporting us the shuttle.

Sad farewells, cheers and good feelings all around. we did it, i did it,organized the whole thing and it came together in one coherent whole, everyone working towards the same goal. fun on the river. We run to smoke, my fav restaurant in Jamestown with Canyon and the next order is margaritas and fish tacos, then the long run to santa rosa where johnny takes off for the gfs, ready for it.

1242 words, copyright terry wright 2009

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Carson river camp Terry

We were drinking wine, eating beans and dreaming of the glory of life, with Rodger my companion on many adventures, curious, toothless, great story teller saying "I've gotta get outta town, theres no work, i owe johnny 500 bucks and i need to feel the rod in my hand and the sharp tug of trophy trout on the other." "How bout a 3 day trip on the carson river? I 've been checking the level and its ok now, but going down fast. we could drive up monday, put in and float down to my camp near the hot springs and fishing hole and spend 2 nights there, a layover, and just hang out. Ive got all the equipment, wed just need a minimal commissary and some food; Ill pay for everything but your booze, if you bring some food." His reaction is immediate: "Im on, I ve gotta get outa town."

OK now for the wrestling around of equipment, sorting out stuff buried in the barn from months of throwing things in there, I unearth Lucy, my 16' avon pro river raft and ready for adventure. I think of all the other heavy things, and praise the lord for deliverence by Rodger, a human bee, bopping around, packing stuff, talking constantly, i show him what needs to go, and he approves. The danger lurks though, 2 people packing, and he not used to river trips, but a real camper and finally we are loaded up and ready to roll monday morning 7 am.

The miles flash by, traffic on the freeway, last food and forgotten stuff stop. "what did we forget?" we talk about it, and come up with a few things. "I know we forgot something, but its too late now, 2 old guys, 65 and 66 at play in the rivers of the lord.

We check out the alternate direct route, mormon emigrant trail, but the tow truck guy doesn't know, his boss says there's still too much snow, so we banter a bit. Tow guy says, "Well if you get stuck up there, im the guy whos gonna come up to tow you out, so please go up the trail, things are kinda slow around here". We laugh and i take in the buzz cut and racing sunglasses,dirty tshirt, ready smile, great sense of humor of the mountain men.I know of what i speak, i are one, lived here in Pollock Pines for a year, and now ensconced in a home in Benton, east sierra high desert.

On over the pass, fast ride, arrive at Markleeville on time, pick out some flies, some beer and on to putin. the river looks ok, about 800 now, but the weather threatening, dark clouds, hints of rain, thunder. surrogate bonnie comes on with two little girls, takes my 50 and writes down all the particulars of our shuttle, out on wednesday afternoon. Interminable packing process, i look for the board for the bottom of the frame to no avail, thats what i forgot, we'll have to improvise, the SNAFU way, slings for the cooler, ill have to stand on the floor, bumping rocks. oh well it could have been a lot worse. I don't find my padl jacket in the truck, so i have no rain parka and no warm jacket, things forgotton are piling up. I find the ikea big tote bag and with 3 cuts have a shoulder and upper body cover waterproofed. Ill just have to make do with the shirts and pants i have to stay warm.

Finally off on the rio, accompanied by rumbling thunder, flashing lightening, rain showers and low water. We make the cut at the bridge and rodger is paddling well, helping out a lot, i couldn't have done it without him. Easy float to the confluence, remembering the fat trout i snagged here with eileen, our first wilderness date. I snooze in pittering rain, rodger explores, but soon we are on our way, getting wetter and colder. Catch up to a family group, men and kids, major fishing gearheads, new equipment, we agree on camps and go on, gathering firewood along the way. Catch up on a major rock at the top of the last rapid, a big fat tan rounded thing, rodger gets out and lifts the raft off of it and we tuck into our little cove and camp.

The tarp lean to set up and camp pitched. rodg gets the fire going and soon we are sipping wine and enjoying being on the river. I snagged a sheepskin cover from the passenger seat of the truck, but it is wet, so that tucks around the fire. we are pooped, darkness comes and the smoking lamp is lit. terrys perpetual bean pot affords us a hearty meal, complete with cooked bison burger for punch. Tales of the river are told, previous trips here, of people and incidents, kailen father and son trips, and a 5 day with cathy and the geology crew. And off into the night, cold in my light sleeping bag, dress for the occasion and break out the silver survival tarp finally warm enough to sleep. Light rain continues, but we are ensconced under a mega leanto tarp.

wake to overcast skys, oh well, life isnt perfect, the sheepskin is dry, so i have another garment. coffee filters and filter holder mysteriously did not get packed, we had it in our hands, 2 many cooks.....but we are in survival mode, doing what we can with what we have, creatively, solving problems as they appear, or not. that is the challenge of all wilderness travel, a melding of knowledge and creativity helping us get along.
i improvise with 2 beer cans, one with holes in the bottom,the other to drain into, still grounds to spit out, darn it, gotta check the list next time. We stalk the wiley trout, rodger gets a 10" i get a 15" and we are happy. Laze around, check out the small hot spring downstream, perfect temp and comfortable pool right above the river. Time to hike, cross the river with padls, then over the hill to find the family in the big pool, i soak in a very hot 112 deg. new pool above. To the lower pool and it is crowded, so i take some pix, one of their dog leaping off the cliff into the river 20 ' below. back to nap, and hang out, fish some more. I stalk the wiley trout and see a big one in the rapid. I am fiddleing with gear when suddenly a huge torpedo fish leaps straight up, a monster, wow, that would be a great catch and release scene, we could never eat all that trout. I make some casts with a big lure to no avail, oh well, theres always tmw.

"Y'know, we could stay another day, we wouldnt have to run tmw, we have plenty of food and beer, and it might upset mitch, who is expecting us wed. night, but it would be cool to hang another day." "I have nothing i have to be back for" rodger agrees and we make it so. Another mellow evening aroundthe fire. rodg has ignited a big pine snag, and it spits flaming drops of pitch and smells wonderful.

still cold in the flimsy sbag, even with the sheepskin over me, but sleep comes later, waking with birds chirping. The camp squirrel makes a pass, beautiful markings, white patches and stripes, ever inquisitive, looking for bits of food.

Clear with puffy clouds, still cool, grounds in the coffee, eggs and beans for bkfst, and off to the fishing hole. The second cast lands right where i want it at the end of the eddy and wham! a huge tug on the line then more, and i have him hooked. careful not to break the line, i bring him in but he fights fiercely
twisting, turning running. I keep the rod tip high, rodger coaches me to bring him into shallow water, but he is a monster with his own agenda, running out and back, then up to the eddy and i coax him back to the shore, bumping and cartwheeling, trying to break the line. finally i get him into the shallows and work him to shore, rodge is all ready to jump in after him, when he makes an unexpected tug and is gone snapping the line. Shit, i throw down my rod, but what a rush just to play with this huge guy. Rodger checks my reel "you didnt have any drag at all! he broke the line because your reel wasnt set right!" oh shit, now i really feel bad, oh well, again the reward is in the play, I just wanted a photo of the big guy before letting him free. now he has to deal with a plug in his jaw, it should slip out or rust out soon tho.

Rodg takes the cell phone and we cross the river to relax fish for me, he is headed to the top of the ridge with mitches phone no. to no avail. we fish from that side, and 3 people appear, looking like fit old time river guides, one complements me on my pro, 1982 avon raft, and we will visit kindrid spirits. First a nap then i cruise to the upper camp for a dump in the shitter, and surprise elly, looking at rocks, she remembers me from the tuolumne celebration, where i blew off a grease bomb and lit up the whole camp. Old time guide, and chris and mike from columbia, old zephyr boatmen, great walks to mariposa lilys and talks of old times.

Mike Whips joins us around the last campfire, beans and a couple beers for dinner, long stories about the rivers and people. Tired in the dark, light off a roman candle for good luck, then to bed in the snug nest.

Cold and clear in the morning, i see my breath. we start packing a breaking down camp. i am wiped and have to nap for a while, then stagger around trying to help rodger, but hes good and knows the routine. Finally loaded up and down the rio, a stop at the waterfall, then through a new rapid, boulder fell from the right cliff sending a shot of water straight up. We catch up to the zephyr crew, rodger fishes and gets a 12 incher, i snooze. down the rio around the bowknot bend, rodg rows me well, then into the lower canyon, fun rapids, hawks and a young eagle being harassed by two small birds flitting across the viewscape.

Takeout, no vehicle, mike and i climb to the upper lot and there they are, ready and waiting. we load up and use the hand truck to get the raft up, mike is a big guy and helps us with the frame and lifting the boat into the back. we take leave of our new friends, and head to gardnerville, stopping for cigs at the smoke shop. i call mitch but hes off somewhere climbing or in saline. we find a great pub and settle in for the la lakers game, pesto, call johnny and everyone is paniced about us, we put it to rest, they gave us 24 hours before calling the search and rescue.

rodger drives into the night and i snooze a bit, home at 1 am, happy and tired.

copyright 2009, Terry Wright