By Kanako Iwata-Eng
When the Team finished the annual Thanksgiving Day Lower Green Gorge run, Captain Bill Petty decided to change the plan. We were originally supposed to meet at the Humptulips and run the Narrows section, but it had been raining and was forecasted to rain a lot more. When we ran the Narrows in October, there was a riverwide log in a bad place, and we made a 1.5-hour portage climbing up a vertical wall and crawling through thorn bushes. Even though many registrants were hoping for the Matheny Creek, Bill made a safe option to head North.
On Friday, eight kayakers headed to the North Fork of the Calawah (Class II+). Except Bill, we had never run it before. The run is long 9 miles, and the shuttle was very long. The area seemed very remote and deserted, but many hills were sadly clear cut. On Thursday, it was heavily raining, and Doug said it was snowing on the way, but it was sunny and mild on Friday. The river was at a nice level, 5510 cfs by the Calawah gauge, with many surf waves and small eddies behind rocks. There was one riverwide log we could easily portage in either side. Another portage was over a nice ledge drop. There were three sketchy openings between logs. After scouting from the left shore, all but one made a short portage. Sasha ran in the left shore chute.
It started raining at night and kept raining hard in the morning. Despite our hope to run the Salmon Cascade section of the Sol Duc, we headed to the Riverside with a new plan to run the Park to Riverside. We found the flags on the take-out tree were in the water blocking the eddy. We changed the plan again to put in there and run to the Hatchery. Though the Sol Duc gauge was about 3700 cfs, it was definitely much higher. Waves were big, but the river features were washed out. We flew down two sections in two hours. Wil flipped in the Mosh Pit, rolled a couple of times but swam. Some had taken out above the Mosh Pit, and a few of us luckily caught the boat a half way around the Hatchery. That night, we had a group dinner. Bill cooked fish, three kayakers from Sequim visited, and we enjoyed excellent dinner. It even stopped raining when eating.
On Saturday, four of us stood at the Riverside again. The water was about a foot lower than the previous day, but the tree with flags was still in the water. Bill said the Dungeness, and we headed East. We had heard Jon Almquist’s party ran it without portages a few weeks earlier at about 1500 cfs. It was around 1000 cfs when we got there. The water was thumping right below the put-in, but the river features were all there making the run enjoyable. As we knew where we last portaged, we didn’t scout and portaged. A couple of them were unnecessary, and with a little higher water, we probably could go over the rest.
After taking out, walking across a stream to the shore, I was pulled by my boat and swam. It was only a few yards before Bill caught my boat, but I was getting close to the main current. As I swam before putting in this summer, this made my experience balanced and complete.