Friday, July 16, 2010

West Cherry & Graceland

After a huge run in Royal Gorge and taking a few days off paddling to celebrate 4th of July I was ready to hop back on it and go boating again. The levels of Dinky and Fantasy Falls dropped fast with a few crews hitting both over the Holiday weekend. It was kind of a toss up on what to do next, but over the years it is a natural move to head for West fork of Cherry Creek. It has been two years since I got on this run last. Myself and a group of South Easterners got there and bagged the second descent of the massive put-in slide named "Graceland" after John Grace's ballsy first descent.

This time I met back up with my kiwi boys from Royal and rallied a huge possie down from Coloma to Sonora. Camping in some of the worst mosquitoes I have ever seen we got our boats and carrying systems ready for the big hike in. We left the Box Springs trail head early in the morning and made the 4 miles to the canyon rim in a few hours. From there you have a nasty descent to the rivers edge. Manzanita and steep rocks make the walk very hard and tiring. Once we got to the river we all left our gear and continued to hike up stream a half hour to the monster slide we could see the entire hike down.

The crew walking through the mosquitos and over the granite to the put in.

The first view you get of Graceland looks so big from there, makes for a scary walk down to the river.

We got up there and the slide looked scary and massive, but there is a very noticeable good line all the way through the drop. I was ready to give it a second go! I scouted the line through the top very carefully so I didn't go off line and hopped in my kayak above the unbelievable horizon line.

Coming into the ski jump going super fast. What a view from there!

Catching some huge air in the middle. The money shot!

After the crux all you have to do is ride down the bottom bouncy slide with out screwing up.

Scrape....scrape....bounce...bounce...speeding up quick...going fast....flying through the air...more sliding fast...boom trany hit...picking up sped again...bounce...bounce....bounce! That's about what it's like to run this drop. I have reached this speed in my kayak a few times before, but very very few times. I was so stoked to have run this enormous rapid again i my life time! I had a good line so it got Bradley ready to go big and run it as well.

Brad going huge of the flake...this is my favorite photo I have ever seen of this drop. It give you an idea of the true nature of the slide.

Brad and I stoked to be at the bottom...ready to watch B go!

Brad looked so sweet through the whole top section...he caught so much air off the huge ski jump and came into the next crux to center. With an unlucky line he caught the only steep flake in the trany and pitoned his kayak a little bit. With a quick roll he was back upright and heading very fast down the bottom half of Graceland. It was good to see some more people step up to this drop because it is so big that I think a lot of people that are capable of running it just write it off as "Too Big"!

Brenden Bayly looking small at the top of the of the most spectacular locations for a huckfest in the world. Look at that dome.

Brendan Bayly, who paddled with a ton in 2007, was back in Cali for a few week and fired up to get some quality boating once again. He saw our lines and wanted some for himself. B ran a different line at the top. Instead of coming left to right, he started off far right the whole time. He had an incredible line through the whole drop. Going very fast and staying upright he was very fired up at the bottom after about 30-40 seconds of serious class "gnar" boating.

Leaving Graceland with a nice boof.

After dealing with the entire hike in and huge slide we set off downstream towards camp. There is a great/mank section of whitewater that comes next. This time around I didn't portage any drops in this section! I was stoked on that, but did take a few unusual hits in maybe the steepest mank in Cali??? After that we conducted a few portages around some terrible sections of river before paddling maybe a mile more to camp. It was a long day and had plenty of action to make us very hungry and sleepy.

Bradley boofing at the top of a nice set of drops on day 2.

Day 2 starts off good with lots of fun warm up slides. Then the classic West Cherry drops come. Some nice tiering slides and huge boofs lead you to the terrible 30 foot pothole. Which I always walk after my extraction from the pothole in '07. Then come some big mank slides that lead to the "Charlie Beavers Mega Rapid."

Charlie Beavers Mega Rapid!

B and I gave it a go and had good lines taking some hits and running the rest of the stacked up huge gorge well. It goes like this big entry slide, 15 footer to 25 foot slide, nasty curler slide, and a mank boof to slide. The whole drop comes together as one of the biggest pieces of whitewater in Cali, good shiat! After getting through the next few miles we arrived at the huge portage to Upper Cherry Proper. It take a while and it was extremely hot as we walked our asses off. Once in U.C.C. we enjoyed high water through some of the lower gorge of the creek. There are some huge slides, huge holes, and a few portages in there. It is one hell of a section of river at these levels!

Arrival at Cherry lake ends the adventure of West Cherry. It is not everybodys favorite run, but to me it is insanely beautiful, has one of the most massive slides in the world, great camping, and hard whitewater...what more can you ask for?

The back of "Mum" we got it all Demshitz'ed out!

Gringo driving shuttle.

The LVM guys called it..."The best kayak assisted backpacking trip in the Sierras."

Later E.G.

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