Tuesday, October 27, 2009

East Fork Lewis Revisited - A Lesson in Exploration

This past weekend, Mike Glass, Aaron Nudelman and I headed out to explore the East Fork of the Lewis River's "Waterfall Run" at extremely low flows. The guidebooks call for a minimum of 400 Cubic Feet per Second ("CSF") on this run... on Saturday, we had 190 CFS when we started and 177 CFS when we finished. Most people shy away from this run at this flow, so we didn't know what to expect.

We decided to put-in just above Sunset Falls (18 Feet) in the easily accessible pool. With a warm-up consisting of paddling across the pool, we dropped over the falls and into the unknown.

(The Author prepares to drop over Sunset Falls)
From Sunset Falls, we moved downstream, encountering generally low water, but enough to have fun and enjoy the beautiful fall scenary. The first major drop you encounter below Sunset is Sky Pilot, which we got out to scout. Unfortunately, the water levels made this awesome rapid unrunnable and a mandatory portage ensued. Just below Sky Pilot lies Hippie John's Hole, which we got out to scout... the water level precluded the normal left route (which dropped into an ugly, sived up mess), but allowed for a technical move cross current to the right, a drop down a small slide and another move left to squeeze through a boat-width size slot between a large rock and a small rock outcropping. We all executed the move cleanly and hollered as we dropped into the pool below the final move, although the rock at the bottom and I did get a little too close for comfort, resulting in a nice bruise on my elbow.

(Mike Glass executes the first move in Hippie John's... you can see the normal left line at the far right of the picture)

(Aaron Nudelman exits through the slot at the bottom of Hippie John's... the rock at the left of the photo is where I bashed my elbow)

Below Hippie we paddled towards the "Gorge" section, taking out to scout and make sure we had lines through the Class IV "Screaming Left" and "Dragon's Back". Normally all, but the most experienced paddlers portage Screaming Left, but today the line looked very clean, so we all decided to "give 'er". I hiked down to Dragon's Back, but couldn't see the last drop very well. That said, it looked clean and we were all feeling good, so we all dropped in. Mike and I ran Screaming Left and finished in the pool above Dragon's Back via a nice 4ish foot ledge. Aaron ran the sketchy right hand line and cleaned it, as Mike and I hollered encouragement.

(Mike and Aaron in the run out below Dragon's Back)

(Fall colors on the East Fork of the Lewis River... It doesn't get much better than this)

From Dragon's Back, we all proceeded through John's Swimming Hole, which at this flow features a 3ish foot drop at the very end and Mr. Twister (site of my beat down on my first run... redemption was had by a clean, albeit not pretty, line on Saturday). The final challenge of the day was Horseshoe Falls (22 feet), which required us to get out of our boats, drag them up to the lip, put-in in the pool at the top of the falls and paddle at break neck speeds to get up the dome that guards the lip of the falls. We all had good lines, but found keeping to the left of center very difficult.

From Horseshoe Falls, we all floated (and sometimes pulled ourselves) to the take-out, laughing and talking about how much fun we had exploring the EFL.

You know, it's funny, when we had to portage Sky Pilot, we all stood by the side of the river and determined the point at which our exploration would be deemed a "debaucle". However, I'm pretty sure even if we had reached the predetermined debaucle point, we would have enjoyed our run. It combined the best that kayaking has to offer: good friends, mental and physical challenges and a beautiful setting.

Until next time, take time to appreciate the Fall... it only comes once a year!


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