7 or 8 years ago I remember flipping through a paddling magazine, and being captivated by an image (similar to the one on the left)in a advertisement. I remember being captivated by the image, thinking it the most spectacular whitewater I’d ever seen. At the time I probably assumed it was somewhere exotic. Chile, or Nepal, or something like that. It wasn’t until years later that I found out that stretch of whitewater was in Califonia.
A few weeks ago I had plans to meet Carlos, a paddler I’d “talked” with online. Friday afternoon I found out I no longer had a job, and considered cancelling my paddling trip. But I rationalized that there was very little I could do on a weekend, so I might as well still go. I think I talked Carlos’ ear off during the drive up, I was in weird state of mind. Saturday morning found us in the Kernville Park, speaking with George about waht we wanted to paddle. Ideas bounced around, and we came upon the idea of doing Dry Meadow. George had done it before, but it would be the first time for Carlos and I. And the first time I’d paddled with either of them!
George and I only had our playboats with us, wrong for this type of run. We stopped by the local paddle shop and demo’d the Pyhrana H3 245, which was a GREAT boat. Loaded the trucks and set up the shuttle. Feeling ambitious, we put the shuttle vehicle at the bottem of the Limestone run, adding about 3 miles to the run. A bit of looking around for the right unmarked dirt road and we were at the put in. It was early afternoon by now, not much of an early sstart!
The first few miles/hours of the paddle were pretty junky. Low volume creek, lots of brush, hard to find a line. Lot’s of scraping down little rocks. Some funnish small drops, but lots of junks. I was starting to question whether anything was worth this. After a bit, we were there. We took out above the falls, and got out to scout. 9 falls overall, but the last two are un-runnable. George showed us the lines, it was impressive and scary at the same time.
I had some serious butterflies in my stomach, but they went away. I think I clenched my stomach so tight they suffocated. After carefully scouting each drop, and trying to remember all the lines, we walked back to our boats. George went down the first drop, then Carlos, then me. You have to take the drop, then park your boat next to this little landbridge, climb out of your boat, then relaunch. As I lined up at the top of the first fall, I was watching Carlos trying to climb out his boat, and then I blew the line I needed. The first drop, and I get caught in the recirculation, getting pummeled by the waterfall. I fight it for what seems a long time, and finally break loose.
It’s over far too quickly. Spectacular and fun, but pretty short. We’d got such a late start, and the approach took long enough that we don’t have time to hike up and run the Teacups again, so we start the portage around the last two, unrunnable falls. It’s allot of work, carrying boats over that kind of terrain. (for the climbers out there, imagine doing the descent from Tahquitz, or the approach to the Needles, with 60+ pound Kayaks and paddles, in booties. UGH! ) In one spot we use the throw lines to lower our boats down a big granite slab. Later we have a moment of excitement when George’s boat begins sliding out of control down a steep side gulley. Luckily it hit a bush that stopped it.
We rest for a bit after the portage, then run the last fun slide into the forks of the Kern. We’ve got several miles of Class IV continous rapids, one Class V rapid, and then more Class IV to get back to the car. The class IV stuff on the forks is fun and challenging in it’s faily continuous nature.
We stop and scout Carson Falls, a well known tough class V. George elects to run it, and Carlos and I stand by on shore, waiting with throwbags at the ready. He makes it clean, and I decide to run it. As I head towards the top, I realize too late that I’m quite far left of where I wanted to be. It goes Ok, and I maange to get through, though I get rolled right at the end. I come out fo the water to the cheers of some hikers who’d watched my run. Exciting!
It was getting late, and cold, so we powered to the end. It was a long day of paddling, lots of work and some spectacular whitewater. Very cool adventure.
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