Sunday, March 18, 2007

Clearwater, Revisited

Saturday was warm, the Middle Fork of the Nooksack was peculiarly holding steady at 900cfs, and a big crew was heading up from Seattle. While there was some worry that Clearwater would miss the majority of the rain heading our way, we drove up to the put-in anyway in hopes of finding water. When Hale and I pulled in, not only did we find the creek was at a respectable level, but there were about 12 guys ready to go (let's see, me, Hale, Chris, Tim, Tony, Jamie, Todd, Andrew, Marty, Shertzl, Ammen...). We had a veritable interstate collection of boaters, ranging from as far away as Colorado and Arkansas. And I can safely say that I was the most mediocre of the bunch.

The seldom run Rocky Road at a good level, as seen from the bridge over Clearwater at the bottom of the run.

Clearwater put-in. As crowded as we've ever seen it.

The character of Clearwater is a little unusual as far as local creeks go. A great many rapids are carved out of Chuckanut Sandstone, forming fun shutes, ledges, and slides in several mini-gorges. Other rapids are the more typical boulder filled style (including giant, orange weathering dunite boulders, shweet!). The first few times I swam, er, paddled Clearwater, we didn't get out to scout anything. It was 400 fpm of "Boof left, eddy right. Ready?" Things have changed. Island Drop, in the middle of the run, has changed and is now a manky boulder pile, which goes poorly on the left and has wood on the right. The best line will probably be over a hard left boof in the middle while avoiding the boulder which backs up the landing on the center right. There was a fun rapid after Island Drop that has changed, and then you get to the lead in to Orange Slice. The right side will probably go, banging over bedrock and then through the narrowing (?) slot called Door Number 2. Most folks didn't run this one due to the wood issues in the ledges just downstream.

The new and unimproved Orange Slice.

Downstream consequences that kept most folks form running the right sneak on Orange Slice.

Shertzl and Hale, mourning the loss of Orange Slice.

Most things after Orange Slice are similar to the old lines. Continuous and steep. The one notable exception is Ski Jump, which is taller, and you now run down the far right.

All in all a great day and it felt excellent to be on the water again. I had a very mediocre day, including, yes, a swim into a recirculating eddy below Slide for Life that somehow worked itself out (after I swam over the next ledge and got out, my boat followed suit and beached itself at my feet) and I plugged the hell out of both ledges in Bark No Bite. However, most things went well, not bad given all this grad school sitting and a steadily climbing water level.

When we finally finished many hours later the Middle Fork was on its way to spiking over 2000 cfs. The correlation remains a little funny, but Clearwater seems good between 1000-1500 cfs on the MF Nooksack gauge, depending on whether its rising or falling.

I think the rest of the crew had a great day as well. It felt nice to be on a backyard classic with so many phyched boaters.

Chris T. calling the boys home. The crew was stretched a few hundred yards upstream in little eddies, waiting for the take-out to clear.

Downstream from the take out...the lead-in to the pinny, woody Rocky Road.

Tim guarding against the consequences of a blown finishing move.

Shertzl bringing it home.

Andrew doing the same.

Slightly worse for wear crew at the take-out, 1.5 miles and 4 hours later.

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