Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A weeklong Celebration of the Cheat River drainage, Part Two (Hiking through the woods with a kayak, Waiting for the water to go away,and Red Run)

The Monday after Cheat Fest it began to really rain. Morgantown got 2+ inches of rain in the early morning hours. My wife had an exam, so I played some phone tag with people, and Ed Gaker and I agreed to meet up once Rebecca got home and settled in with the kids.
In the interim, Ben Dunham called and told me that everything he'd seen around Morgantown was blown out, and that he was on his way to Daugherty Run near Albright. I held out hope that Quarry might just be high, and maybe even falling, but an inspection at the top proved it had at least 2x as much water as was prudent, maybe more. Ed and I decided to leave a car at a nearby parking lot and go catch Ben. While we were parking, a truck drove by with boats. We waved at the guys, and they backed up to talk. They were planning to put on Clay Run, which drains the middle of Coopers Rock State Forest, and flows into Quarry Run in the steepest section. They'd hiked the run before and thought it would have some drops worth doing. I warned them that we'd seen waaaay to much water on Quarry, and wouldn't be able to boat below the confluence of the two creeks, but that we would probably be okay on Clay until then. Hopeful of something new to run, we set off on foot down the creek, essentially starting from the ridge atop it's headwaters.
3.5 Miles later, we reached Cheat Lake, having boated only a few yards of creek. The very top of Clay, out of the pond at the State Forest, was too small, and once there was boatable flow, the constant wood and lack of eddies in the tiny streambed made things difficult.
This 4' diameter culvert was interesting and fun early.

By the time we reached some good boulder piles and slides, the creek was high and still woody. Before long, we'd reached the confluence with Quarry Run, and 600+fpm does not handle the volume of water we saw in a "safe" or "fun" manner.

Big slide just below the confluence. This is the last third or so.

If you've ever seen "A Token of My Extreme" you may recognize this as the entrance to the real big slide where Jeff Snyder paddles into an overhung cave, disappears into the pillow and emerges onto the slide below. (Then vows "Not To Ever Do That Again") The cave is in the upper right quadrant of the photo, and was kinda full on this day.
Once we got back to the cars, the guys were kind enough to get me on the road home quickly, as I was late. They continued over to Bull Run after they ran the shuttle, and found it was much too high as well.
I spoke with Ben that evening, and he'd gotten three runs on Daugherty, including a solo sandwiched in between two different groups.

Tuesday morning brought still high flows and at least 4 different groups checked Bull Run throughout the day, expecting it to have dropped overnight, but it continued to remain much higher than anyone wanted. I stayed home with my kids while Rebecca studied for her next final. Creeks further out were running, but I hoped to stay on runs close to home and fast to do. Ed and I planned to try for Bull Run again in the morning,with him checking it early and hopefully getting a run in before his 11am final in Advanced Organic Chemistry. I also talked to Ben again, he did three runs on Fikes creek. A pattern is starting to emerge...

Wednesday I met Ed at the creek, and I think I pretty much talked him out of a high water run on The Matador, Bull Run's premier waterfall. A small storm cell had put 1/2" of rain right on the creek overnight, and it looked no lower than the day before. In retrospect, we should have put in below the falls and paddled the bottom of the creek at booming high water, but Ed was tired of driving to the creek and not being able to knock off the Matador, and just wanted to get going. Plus he had that final in a grad level chemistry class.
He did make up for it by running Stupid Falls on the East River in Colorado a week later, so hopefully he feels better now.

More rain was coming Wednesday night, so a bunch of people made plans to meet Thursday and try to get a run on one of the Canaan Valley creeks. 11am Thursday found lots of kayakers at the Otter Creek trailhead parking lot, the shared takeout for Red Run and Otter Creek. Seneca was too low, Otter was running, Red Run looked perfect, but might still be rising, and Red Creek had yet to be seen. We left cars at the trailhead, so we would have options, then drove to check Red Creek. It was too low, and the sun had come out, so we decided to get some burritos for lunch then put on Red Run.
Our group of 8 made quick work down to the first slide.
Ben Dunham, trying to keep warm in a pvc rain jacket (drytop forgotten at home).

Soon after is Goliath, a high speed, turning mix of bedrock and boulder
Don Smith starting at the top as Matt Fithian films.

Shawn Yingling up on the big pillow at the bottom, as Fithian continues to document.
Just downstream is the "Seed Spitter" drop, which I chose to walk, and then regretted after watching a couple boats go through. Not enough to un-portage and run it though.

Adam Johnson landing the pourover below the seed spitter slot.

Matt Fithian route finding in Maze rapid as Ben Dunham looks on. Ben is now warm in a borrowed drytop, thanks to the kindness of Jeremy, who abbreviated his own run to get to work on time.

Adam Johnson in the middle of the Maze.

Geoff Calhoun finishing up the Maze.

My favorite photo of the day, the bottom of Maze is just visible at the top of the photo.

Below Maze, we at a lot of time up getting around wood, pulling a log out of the water, and dealing with two equipment breaks. A snapped paddle blade, right above the Red Run Falls, and just below it, a badly broken boat, beyond any bituthane repair.

A breakdown solved Geoff's paddle problem, but Adam had to hike his boat out. Don volunteered to go with him, since he was familiar with the trails to the take-out, and also pointed out that daylight was fading, as it was about 6:30pm by then. The remainder of us continued downstream through several more big rapids, and then split up further at the cave rapid, which is hard to scout or film well, as it is ringed with large boulders and rhododendron. Three of us ran through, while the other two carried around and put back on a few minutes behind. With the exception of one poorly placed log, the mile below the Cave drop was fast, fun, read n run boulder gardens all the way to the Dry Fork of the Cheat.
A few more photos are available at my Picasaweb gallery, and at Shawn Yinglings.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A weeklong celebration of the Cheat River drainage. AKA "How I spent my Cheat Fest" Part One.

Woohoo rain. I considered naming this blog something with "rain" in it, because its such an integral part of the boating here. Other than a few Dam release rivers, you can't go kayaking, especially creeking, without rain. I ended up doing something else, as there were several other folks writing under banners with "rain" in them, and I didn't want to seem unoriginal. So I stole a name from an old bumper sticker instead.

Cheat Fest is always the first weekend in May, and it's almost always wet, or at least damp. After a check of Bull Run, which my optimism convinced me was running, I got the kids to the sitter (Hooray! Grandma!) and met Adam Johnson. A second opinion and a few hours of ebb led us to leave Bull Run for another day, so we left a car at the adjacent Big Sandy/Cheat takeout, then backtracked to Deckers Creek. We had about 300cfs, which is a good minimum as the gage reads these days, and then drove up the mountain to the Little Sandy.
We were joined there by Jim, from New York/Connecticut, and headed down the tributary of the Big Sandy River. It was pretty low by that point in the afternoon, but once we reached the confluence of the Big Sandy, we were on big, brown, roiling water. And we were not alone! I have never seen that many people on the Big Sandy River. Dozens and dozens of boaters were enjoying the upper stretch of my home river. Eddys crowded with groups, craning over their shoulders to look downstream, with leaders explaining the wheres and whats. Surf spots were crowded, with friends corralling errant, driverless boats. It was pretty amusing and very colorful.
The river was still at 7.1 when Adam and I passed the bridge at Rockville, and after a quick help to some swimmers, we were downstream and all alone (Jim took out at the bridge, where his ride was waiting). The Lower Sandy was great, fast moving fun. One quick portage around the entrance to Big splat, and we were soon at Jenkinsburg, and then off to Cheat Fest.

Sunday brought drizzle and chillier temps, and after a round of calls and texting, I ended up back on the Big Sandy, with hopes for an afternoon run on something smaller. Ben Dunham, Bobby Miller and I got a quick run at 6.7, and Sean Devine met us back down at the take out. We popped over to check Bull Run, and decided to put on. It was low, but it sure beat folding laundry and watching TV, which is what I would've done at home.
Ben Dunham in the first rapid. If you have ever driven into the Cheat River take out (Jenkinsburg) from river left through Masontown, this is the drop next to the old mill (which is now a house).

Bobby Miller in the wall check rapid.


Video by Bobby Miller. Thanks man. I stalled out a little at the lip, and ended up doing a weird twisting thing off the Matador. Ben did a nice job hustling into the eddy sans paddle yes? Bobby says it right in the video: Low but Fun. I'm glad I got on, especially since it eluded me the rest of the week.
I have a few more photos in a picasaweb gallery.