May 31, 2014

Steamboat Creek: rocks, rapids & sweat - Day 2

We woke scratching bites, courtesy of all the tiny little gnats that I hadn't realized were dining on us the evening before. I'm quite pleased we brought our double rainbow tent instead of a tarp.

The night was warm, the sleeping bags used as a quilts, and the day held the promise of adventure.

Last night during one of Kirk's wanderings (while I love reading at camp in the backcountry, Kirk loves exploring) he crept as far downstream as possible to note that we would be entering a gorged section soon. Sure enough we rounded the corner from our camp and into our first of many gorgeous gorges. (say that five times fast!)

We pulled to river right to scout. The creek split into two channels, but we couldn't see much from where we exited our boats, so walked downstream a bit. The first channel broke into several smaller channels with the largest producing an imposing rapid. Imposing for all the rocks showing at this water level. We hemmed and hawed over running it, and upon further inspection deamed the rocks more than we wanted to deal with.

Part of the right broke off into a few little side channels like this

The main right channel rapid ahead
We put in (the rapid is on the upper left) above here when we returned to our boats
The island proved to be about 100 yards of a volcanic rock shelf and by the time we worked our way to the end of it, knew we wanted to swim the calm blue waters of the right channel to make our way to the island to see what the left channel had in store for us.

Island on the left
Again, the beauty of dry suits! We hopped in the water and were on the island in seconds. With a view of the left channel we determined that outlet too was too shallow to run. Bummer. But we worked our way back upstream to the point where the channels split to check out the conditions of the right channel from a different perspective. Hmmm, no dice.

Kirk goes for a swim

I had the brilliant idea of crossing the left channel and working our way upstream so that we could swim back to our boats (really, I didn't want to backtrack if we didn't have to). The creek was shallow enough to make our way across, and once on the opposite side we hiked upstream and swam across the full creek to our boats.

boats on the other side
That's when it happened. Our waterproof camera decided to crap out on that swim. No more camera. It has increasingly taken worse and worse photos until the whole thing fogged up and proved to be useless for the rest of the weekend, which was a shame because the MOST picturesque and KNARLY sections were next.

Well, we both decided to portage the right channel's rapid. Once below the rapid we were in a deep channel of rock and deep deep blue water. I just love it when the water is this color.

Right around the corner we spied an awesome rocky beach river left and decided it was time for lunch and a good nap. With only 10 miles to do over three days, we luxuriated in the time we had each day, and since all the scouting and portaging had taken some time, why not have lunch!

We paddled over, ate a bunch and spread out on the rocks for a snooze in the sun. We both brought our Eno hammocks to use on the trip, but as most of the shore was covered in poison oak, i wasn't brave (or stupid) enough to try and hang it from the surrounding trees. A rocky beach proved to be just perfect in the warm sun.

After rousing ourselves I looked downstream to notice the fencing of the parking area above the upper Steamboat Creek Falls. We were already really close to our next portage. The upper falls are about 20' and were NOT runnable at this water level, not counting the rebar and man-made junk in the second tier of the rapid. An old fish ladder was knocked down and pieces landed in the waterfall.  Granted I would NEVER run them, but Kirk, that's another story.

Photo from
The above photo was taken at a higher water level than we experienced.

Below that we had a calm mile of creek until we passed under a bridge that takes people to the falls over look and a campground.

We wanted to get away from the road to make camp that night, and we keep pushing on, not finding much suitable.

We entered another long gorge section. We got out to scout a few times, running one, walking the other due to the water being too low over a rocky ledge feature.

Then came the big daddy. We had to walk a few hundred yards on rock ledges (river right) to see exactly what the waterfall looked like, and it looked like death. Ok, not death exactly, but a fat log in the bottom made the run un-runable, again, not that I ever would. So this big one was worthy enough for me to dig out my phone to take the next photos. I don't know that my words could do the area justice.

Kirk dragging his boat behind on the portage

That is not for me, but incredibly cool. River-wide log in the bottom not visible in photo.

We had to drop ourselves & boats into the water up there
We were traversing quite high above the creek, but we managed to slide ourselves and our boats fairly close to the water and then threw our boats in water and jumped in off a small shelf. Which is a good reminder to me to practice getting in my boat from the water. I suck at it and thank goodness we weren't in moving water.

There were very marginal camping choices in the next little bit of creek, and we ended up doing a few more scouting journeys to check out more gorged sections. I was getting tired. We had both been sweating profusely in our dry suits over the last big portage...and that is not pleasant.

I cursed myself for passing by a better camp option than we had seen in a while when we ended up having to yet again scout. But as luck would have it, we found camp around the bend and I'm glad we waited.

We scored a sandy beach.
Right below a little rapid
Our yard sale approach to cooking.
It was truely a great day.

May 29, 2014

A Tropical Memorial Day Weekend on Steamboat Creek - Day 1

We went to the tropics over our long weekend.

Yep, we drove there in about three hours. Ok,tropics may be stretching it, but the weekend was filled with crystal clear water, some in deep pools of jade, with warm blue skies, dripping moss walls and little flowers everywhere. 

We went back to Steamboat Creek. 

I love that place. Kirk decided to take his hard shell kayak, although after all the portaging we had to do, next time I'm sure he'll take his packraft. 

Last weekend we were so enamored with the few miles we did on the upper section, that we determined with three days we would run the whole 10 mile section down to the confluence with the North Umpqua River. 

Kirk has run this section in his hard shell a few times, it's definitely a Class V run at higher water levels, but after boating at levels around 500 cfs last weekend, we discovered the rapids became more pool drops, and the rock ledges exposed at lower flows would make portaging the rough stuff easier for me. And why not have a grand adventure? Lets go!

Look at that...our three days of gear fit in our boats! This is my first time using the cargo fly on more than a day trip, and while the idea is brilliant, there are a few things I would change about the set-up if we were installing the cargo fly ourselves (as we may do with future packrafts). The zipper on the back of the boat is just short enough to make getting the dry bags in and out of the boat a bit of a harrowing experience. I've learned if you compress the long dry bags enough before putting them into the boat, it won't seem like you will rip out the zipper at any moment, but why not make the zipper just a few inches longer? Why not put it on the inside tube on the inside of the boat? Why not make the zipper on the dry bags longer as well? Anyway, I'm still learning how to pack the boat but these thoughts were heavy on my mind as I feared ripping out the zipper while packing.

We soon discovered the water levels had dropped to about 300cfs from 500. While we weren't scraping bottom, I would not advise trying this run at lower water levels. In fact 500-600cfs seems like the perfect level.

As is was Memorial Day weekend, we encountered people. The creek touches the road off and on over the 10 miles, the first two miles are practically road-side and as there are lots of beautiful swimming holes it was no surprise that we had an audience at times. 

When water levels are this low, it's a good idea to scout even small rapids and pour overs, the last thing I want is an errant stick or rock to poke a hole in my boat. Wearing our dry suits with just a tank top, shorts and socks on under proved to be quite comfortable. I was worried about over heating, but the water temps kept us glad we had on that protection.

Kirk going off the lip of the drop.

Just look at the color of that water!

Kirk can surf anywhere.

After we had gone about four miles, it was time to find camp, and when we encountered this rapid we decided it was time! The creek diverted in two channels, the above channel about a 15-20' drop that looked too hairy at this water level, and the other...

was partially blocked by a large log. I believe Kirk would have run either channel had he been boating with a more experienced kayaker. I haven't had much experience with white water rescues and need to spend some time doing that. Anyway, it was a beautiful area to hang out and even though we didn't see any flat ground, we figured we could make camp work on the large exposed rock ledges near the falls.

I decided to keep my dry suit on and go swimming below the falls. Keeping some air in your suit makes bobbing along in the water pretty fun!

Kirk discovered there was a perfect campspot just downstream a few hundred yards, so we gathered up our things and made our way down the banks of the creek to a picturesque little spot. 

We made friends

The next morning I spent a few hours reading and sipping coffee on the rocks, it is my vacation after all!

Stay tuned for day 2...

May 19, 2014

Steamboat Creek

We headed to Steamboat Creek on the North Umpqua this weekend. The day was hot, the water tropical.

We boated a few miles of the creek, about 10 miles upstream of the confluence with the North Umpqua River. We boated the lower few miles last year, and LOVED the clear blue pools among huge bolders and rock ledges.

This creek MUST be explored further. Stay tuned for the next adventure...

May 1, 2014

This One is for the Ladies

I've been wanting to write a post about drysuits. About peeing while wearing a drysuit. Talk about the most amazing piece of gear ever for cold water/weather boating, but the worst piece of gear to get out of in an emergency...

After too many close calls, too many jumping/cursing/flailing sessions over getting the drysuit over my head and off in time, I decided to invest in a funnel.

no, not that kind of funnel

Now I could have gotten a women's specific drysuit with a zippered bottom, but when looking at the design, I didn't want the zipper to rub on the thin plastic of the packraft. Kirk and I reguarly put whole days or weekends in our boats, and the last thing I wanted was a hole were my women's specific zipper is.

So I headed to Google to find a funnel. So many choices!

Do I want the GoGirl, Whiz or Shewee? Or maybe the P-EZ or Smartway?

I ultimately decided on the Freshette, not sure quite why, but the hard plastic cup could be shoved into the zipper of my drysuit, the hose replaced with a longer one if needed, and hey, it was fairly cheap.

And it works beautifully. I've even taken to using it when not in my drysuit...such a novelty to be able to stand up when peeing.

Ladies, you don't have the do the dance anymore, try a funnel!