By Kanako Iwata-Eng
After heavy mid-week rain, the Dungeness was higher than we liked on Friday, February 17, 2017. Changing plans, Bill, Doug, Pete, John T from Canada, and I ran the Park to Riverside section of the Sol Duc. John had to leave, but the rest of us camped there and drove back to the Dungeness on Saturday, February 18. Claire, Lora, and Josh from Poulsbo joined us at the Dungeness Hatchery.
This was my fifth time running the Lower Dungeness and, at 1050 CFS, it was higher than I had ever run it. We put in at river right above the bridge next to the Dungeness Forks Campground. The river is steep and creeky at this first part. Below the campground, the Gray Wolf Creek comes in and the river becomes wider and flatter, but the excitement continues.
This section is rated Class III, but we had to be on our toes at all times because of the wood hazards. The three to four portages I had made in the past because of wood were not an issue on this trip.
Most of us loved the flow with fast water, boofable rocks, and surf waves. (A couple of us felt a little nervous.) There were still many rocks creating eddies in the middle of the river. Some spots with water flowing in from three directions had wild boils. One pinch, previously blocked with a log for a few years, was open but had a “forever” eddy where you go around and around and around.
Near the end, there is a pinch with a log across. In the past, with lower water, we had gone under it at the right side. This time, however, two trees completely blocked our way. Josh and Doug took out in an eddy about 10 yards above the logs. With Doug pointing exactly where to eddy out, Claire and I also took out there. The rest of the group walked a longer way, but we all safely portaged around the pinch and finished the run.
Bill, Doug, Pete, Lora, and I camped at the put-in. We walked up a little to scout the last part of the upper run. The last drop, called the Mouse Trap, is the only Class IV rapid, and it didn’t look impossible. However, there was a huge river-wide log jam above it, and some of us planned to take out there and walk the Mouse Trap.
The next morning, Bill decided the water was still not low enough to run the Upper, as we had either never run it or not run it for many years. Jon arrived and agreed not to run the Upper. I asked him to run the Mouse Trap with me, and we scouted it together. The water first goes toward the river left wall. According to Bill, it used to have a tree going up and down at the river left eddy, and they had to time it and go under it, thus the name, but it was gone. With that day’s flow, all I had to do was stay in the middle, not go too far left near the wall.
Jon went first, and I was next. Instead of following Jon closely, I chose to run my own line. Trying too much not to go left, I hit a rock at the right side of the entrance, was spun around and went into the rapid backward – and in no time, I was upside down. Even though the flow was decided too high to run the Upper, this section was too shallow and rocky. I hit my forearm once, my head a few times, my glove almost came off, and my back was scraping the bottom, but I tried to roll four times. Finally I got out of the boat and got to the shore, right at everyone else’s put-in. Oh well, there is always next time, right?
We ran the Lower with confidence, made the successful portage at the end where Doug sawed the tree blocking the pinch. Hope it will be gone by the next time.
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