Saturday, December 21, 2013

California in the Fall - Festivals, Fun, and Granite

Summer/Fall hangin out on the granite beside the play wave on the S.F. American pic by Nate Calhoun
I have been hanging out in California for the last 5 summers and every year I seam to make my stay a little longer. This year was no exception as I first arrived to Cali back in April not to leave until the beginning of December. The scene is laid back to say the least. Hanging out in the Coloma area I was able to surf on the South Fork of the American and soak up sun rays on a daily basis.  California also has 4 annual races held on some of the dam released sections that flow in the fall. The festival/race season starts with the Cherry Creek race. Will Pruett took first place at this years race and tied the course record- congrats to Will!  Note - this year we were forced to relocate the party shortly after the race due to the Rim Fire that would eventually become one of the worst fires in California history. The damage from this fire will have a big impact on the 2014 whitewater season in California as access to Upper Cherry, West Cherry, Middle Cherry, Cherry Proper, South Tuolomne, and Clavey will not be available due to park closure.  

The Rim Fire was one for the books!
Kayakers will not be able to access many of the rivers affected by the rim fire.

The 2nd Festival was Feather Feast held on the Tobin section of the North Feather. This festival is always a good time and is the biggest Whitewater festival on the west coast. It is a big fundraiser for American Whitewater and a good chance for all skill levels to meet up and party down.  The river is not the hardest but has a definite California feel to it with high canyon wall and smooth granite boulders.  For most this dam release represents the first time back in a creek boat since the last of the snow melt. This year Isaac Levinson took first place and learned why winning the Tobin Race has a heavy trophy that can make feel more like you've lost! All of the winners had great attitudes as they were forced to drink victory cocktails that may not have been anywhere near desirable. Tracy Tate placed high on the overall standings at 5th and came in 1st in the Women's division.

Sky view of the N. Feather taken by Shon Bollock
Good to be in the Green Boat on the Tobin pic by Sara James
Charging pic by Wes Schrek
The winners of the race had to spin this wheel to decide which cocktail they would receive! All of the choices were pretty gnar! You have to lose to win at Feather Fest! All include MacGregor and some sardines! 
Hangover paddling the day after the party- railgrab! The run is really good for downriver play! pic by Sara James
This year the 3rd and 4th festival had scheduling conflicts and Burn Fest of the Burnt Ranch Gorge of the Trinity was held on the same weekend as Gnarlfest on the South Fork of the Feather.  Both events are always fun and have a good race.  I had been hanging out in Humboldt and chose Burn Fest as it was considerably closer but as the name hints I believe Gnarlfest is a little more heavy of a race.  I was super stoked to claim 1st place at the race and then more stoked to hear Will Pruett had done the same at Gnarlfest.  As these two festivals wrapped up the festival/race season it was clear that it was either time to move on or get amped for skiing or snowboarding- change is in the air! 

As a mass start race I was able to get prime real-estate at the finish line! 
Celebrating my first place victory! My trophy - this beautiful beer stein! 
Here is a video put together by Robby Hogg of this year's Gnarlfest with Taylor Calvin giving a wonderful spin on the history of the race: 

In California you always have to keep an eye on the gauges as dams may spill or divert water into a river bed at any time.  Hell's kitchen of the N. Stanislaus will typically have a super short and unannounced flow window in the fall. With the low water of the last two years it would of been completely rational for the run to not see water this year. But Will Pruett kept the faith and checked the gauges regularly, allowing himself, Thomas Moore, and I to cash in on the super short flow window of 48 hours.  Hells Kitchen is aptly named and is a hell of action packed run for being a dam release.  Certain runs have big rapids that have seen few descents and for Hell's that rapid is known as Portage 24. For the second time now I have indeed portaged the behemoth but it haunts the back of my eye's and hopefully one day I will fire it up! The big one aside we had a great fall day traveling through the deep granite gorge- gotta love some granite.  Highlights from the day were knowing where we were going (Last time we had an epic!) and ticking off the quadruple drop which we had not run 2 years before. 

Thomas Moore stepping it up on the Quadruple drop!
Heading for the seam! pic by Thomas Moore
Thomas Moore on Mini Curtain
Everyone likes a good horizon line! pic by Thomas Moore
Will Pruett on the Curtain
Here is a short video Will made of our day on Hell's Kitchen: 

Hells Kitchen 13' from Charge Productions on Vimeo.

Once again under the watchful eye of Will we caught a small flow window on a diversion into Deer Creek near Grass Valley. It was a short run but any creeking in the dryness of fall is more than welcome!

Will Pruett and Mike Peacher making their way down the river on a beautiful fall day!
Mike Peacher getting steazy as he flies down the slide on Deer Creek!

 Catch you on the Rio!