Trinity River Overnighter -Steel Bridge to Junction City, 2012 (click on first slide to run a slideshow)

By Kit Hewitt (with an addition by Eric)

September 29-30, 2012

Trip leader: Eric R.

Flow: 450 cfs Lewiston Dam release

Air Temp: HOT

Water Temp: COLD

Them’s the facts!

For me, different trips have different senses attached to them. This trip I was attuned to my ears- or my ears were attuned to the river. Gosh I just have to use the word ‘attuned’ but it doesn’t sound quite right….

I was listening a lot.

There is the acute listening, where we scout the river ahead by ear, listening for the high-pitched applause of the river thinned out over a cobbled bar, or the almost subsonic roar of a narrow chute dropping into a deep hole, the river drumming against the white foam.

We try to be always aware of what’s ahead and the first thing we know about a rapid is its sound although there are times when a big drop will have a smell that will carry even farther upstream than the sound. It’s a fresh smell, slightly misty with a soupcon of fish. Its almost subliminal like a faint recollection of a childhood memory.

On the Trinity this weekend we had nothing to worry about, although we did have 2 swims – both of them the kind of swim where the boater was surprised by an unexpected element hidden in the ordinary.

I was attracted to the sound the water made when it was raked from the surface by the fine branches of hanging bushes along the shore. There were lots wild grape and blackberries hanging into the water and the burbling of their small branches sounded like giggling and feels like it, too, when I see it.

Charlie and I started the trip by getting up Saturday morning at 2:30 AM after going to bed at 9PM Friday. Charlie had to work late on Friday and we thought it would be better to sleep in our beds instead of arriving in camp at Steel Bridge after midnight, setting up tent and bags and having a rough night until 6 AM, dragging our old bones out of said tent and bag to eat breakfast with Eric and the rest of the group. Instead we arrived in Redding at about 6:45 AM and ate a hot breakfast at the Lumberjack Café (Cypress exit, turn left under the freeway and go about a block, its on the left – also there is cheap gas at the third gas station on the right). The food at the Lumberjack is typical road food, nothing noteworthy to the good or bad, but the real attraction is the video entertainment on the walls. They show tapes of lumberjack competitions. It is amazing what a big guy with a chainsaw can do to a 18 inch thick log in 7 seconds! Three times!

We arrived at the put-in at 8:15, as the POST group was finishing up packing their gear and starting to load the boats. We dumped our gear on the ground in a pile and got ready to shuttle. Three of us were on the road by 9.

Shuttles always take longer than you think and this was no exception. People asked us when we got back if anything had gone wrong. “No,” we answered, “Don lead us there at 90 MPH and on the way back Amy drove at a much more sensible 70, that is except when we were doing the speed limit, 25 MPH, in Weaverville.”

By the time we got back, the boats were loaded and all the community gear was distributed. We had 3 tandems and 6 solo boats; 12 paddlers total. This is not a combination of boats I would recommend on a cold winter trip; the solo boats are a bit slower than the tandems and if we had limited daylight we could have been doing dishes in the dark.

We stopped for lunch at a new boat access about a mile above the Douglas City Bridge called Indian Creek River Access. It is a large, wide parking area on the north side of the highway. The boat access is marginally usable by truck but I doubt that a trailer could make it down to the water. We ate in the only likely spot but I think hand carried boats are the limit for this access. Snowy, Karen and Don’s dog, eagerly helped us clean up the spilled crumbs and even ate an apple core for us so we didn’t have anything but plastic litter to carry downstream from the lunch spot. After we passed under the Douglas City bridge we were followed by a bat who was strafing the river looking for bugs. Karen, our resident professional naturalist said that there are some bats that like the daytime. Not to worry. It didn’t seem to be worried about us and fluttered near enough to the boat that we could see its gnarly little face as it went by.

As we rounded the long bend in the river below Douglas City we saw some more of that bizarre river mediation work (Trinity River Restoration Project). I really hope this stuff brings back some habitat for the salmon because it looks like hell and we weren’t seeing very many salmon. The lead boats did see an otter and family on the shore. They were calmly hanging out in a sweeper and didn’t seem to be disturbed by the boats although by the time we came by as sweep they are gone and we didn’t hear about them until camp.

Most of the rapids above camp were washed out but there were some tricky places where the current was fast and shallow, always a challenge on this run.

We arrived in camp with exactly enough time for setting up the kitchen and fixing dinner and washing up as the sun went behind the hills downstream.

I thought about giving this article the title, “How to Boil Water,”  because as dinner approached completion there had been about four people hovering around the pot waiting for it to boil and lots of instructions and counter instructions about how to heat up the pasta dinner brought by Dave, who made excellent plans for making a quick meal. It was reasonable of Dave to think that he should freeze the pasta and meatballs because the meal was cooked days before the trip and the weekend temperatures were expected to be in the 90’s. What he couldn’t have planned on was that the food would still be a solid block of ice on Saturday evening. Sometimes coolers are much more efficient than we expect or would like. Someone worked out a double boiler setup that allowed the pasta to heat up without burning and we had lots of snack things and salad to eat while we waited. As is usual on a POST trip there was lots of help.

Alan built a lovely fire and we watched the sky pink up as the sun set. Everyone brought out their cameras to take pictures of the sky as it filled with streamers of delicate pink and orange clouds.

Almost everyone was in bed by 9. The Saturday of this overnight trip is always a long day.

Sunday morning, Charlie and I were up early but Alan was up earlier and he had a lovely fire going when Charlie staggered down to the kitchen to start the coffee. I packed up everything but my clothes and went down to fix breakfast – sausage, polenta and brown sugar. There was left over oatmeal from Saturday’s breakfast and I had about one portion of the polenta left over. I brought bagels and cream cheese but neither package was touched. You would think all we did on these trips was eat.

After packing up (we were off the beach by 9:15) we drifted along, listening to the river, watching for critters and generally having a gentle good time.

The low sun made for some spectacularly lovely sparkles on the river and there were some newly downed trees to wake us up from the stupor of long windless pools. Sometimes there were long stretches of cobbles to tiptoe through. The air temperature 10 feet above the river was already in the 90’s.

Eric R. took a swim. Here is his version of the story:

Aging is something we’ll all have to face and I mention it here because it helps explain one of the two flips on this great trip. (See Kit’s report for the good news.)   I don’t know why newcomer, but fine paddler, Mark tipped, other than that Eric F. and Amy went broadside into an eddy unexpectedly and the only route left open to Mark was the brush.

The second spill happened, in fact, because of the first.  Eric R., me, pulled into shore to offer help to Mark, Fortunately Mark didn’t need any because Eric couldn’t get out of his boat.  He was temporarily crippled.  Not arthritis, just the stiffness that happens to sixty-eight year old legs when they are used to kneel in canoes.  They cramp.  Paddling’s still possible, it’s just that the transition to walking is slowed.  There’s no leaping out of the boat and running to offer aid.  The only possible first aid is a methodical and cautious removal of one leg, then the other and a longish wait while the feet become weight-bearing.

Each of us club members know that part of our commitment is to be able and ready to help when another flips.  We fish out gear, boats and swimmers.  We  throw ropes and help right water-filled craft.  To do all these things requires mobility.  We rarely see paraplegics paddling.

To avoid being a functional paraplegic, I listened to Carol Evans who suggested that raising the pedestal just an inch might allow blood to get all the way to the feet.  Pending that possibility I decided to immediately try something I already employed on quiet stretches.  I got off my knees and sat on the thwart.  This sitting position prevents cramping.  Of course, it also raises the center of balance.  It’s why in canoe classes, as those I took long ago with POST at the Richmond Plunge, the novices are told to sit on the seats and rock their canoes.  The boats flip and the novices swim. Then they kneel and can rock away to their heart’s content.

But I’m not a novice.  My daughter, who is a novice, thinks I’m a master paddler.  So I decided to try paddling, even in white water, not merely on the seat, but on the thwart.  So that I could rescue others.

Because the Sunday stretch of river is easy, and I was last to load my boat in the morning, and I nonchalantly tossed in my gear without tying it at all.  So when I bumped the bank near Junction City, turned around, bumped it hard backwards, swung broadside and tipped hard, then counter-tipped even harder, a dispersion happened.

It was a slowish flip and the water shallow, though strong, so I easily grabbed the boat and pushed it across the river to the far shore.  Enroute my left shoe came off.  And those untied things – a big, cotton jacket, a mesh bag holding a half-drunk bottle of Rosẻ, a stainless “Coffee People” cup, and a fold-up saw, plus the much-appreciated groover (well sealed) all floated on down the river.

Carol rapidly collected the jacket and Rosẻ.  The saw sank the mesh bag and got caught six feet down in very swift water.  I hope to fish it out next year.  Kit and Charlie corralled the groover. 

A few turns downriver and the shiny cup hove into view before the skiff of some fishermen who called, “A shoe just went by.  We tried to catch it, but missed.”

From across the river a bank fisherman hollered, “There’s a pair of underpants over here.  Those guys (pointing to his buddies) were afraid to touch them.”  I wasn’t and gladly pulled the soggy briefs into my boat.  They were mine.

That the shoe’d been spotted encouraged me.  It’s a comfortable Hi-Tec river model and so I paddled on, sweeping my gaze back and forth across the water.  Soon there appeared, on shore, the six POST boats not involved in the back of the pack mishap. 

I yelled, “I flipped.  I’m after my shoe.”

Confident of the urgency of my quest I became lead boat.  Immediately another skiff appeared in an eddy.  They hadn’t seen the shoe.  But in another moment, Don and Karen, close behind me, spotted it.  So did Dave.  Both boats raced for the soggy prize.  They collided, and Karen grabbed it, then passed it to Jan who  brought it down to me.

Soon it was back on my foot.  And I was back on my knees – Eric R.

Just upstream of Junction City there was a huge amount of construction/destruction going on just upstream of the Dutch Creek Road Bridge. Don was of the opinion that it was another re-working of the mining tailings near the bridge – gold selling at $1500 per ounce these days. But someone else thought it was more river remediation. I am not sure. What I am sure of is that it really looks raw and horrible and I hope the next season’s flooding restores the river to normal instead of these areas that look like urban renewal sites in Detroit .

After we finished the shuttle, Charlie and I took our car and went  exploring on the road that follows the Trinity on river right, immediately below Douglas City. We checked out the two campgrounds and after scraping bottom in a washed-out gully we turned around and went back to the highway and then into Weaverville where we took a quick tour of the Joss House museum. Its definitely worth a look, next time you are in town.

Just as we pulled into Redding we got a call from Eric who was in the POST van, “Where are you? Do you want to join us for dinner at Pietro’s in Vacaville?” I answered, “No, we are just getting into Redding, we’ll pick something up later. Where are you?” Eric answered, “Oh, somewhere above 505.” I said, “No, we won’t be able to meet you.” Eric: “Did something happen?” Me: “No we just went into Weaverville and saw the Joss House.” Eric paused: “OK. See you later.”

Charlie and I ended up eating dinner at Granziella’s (sp) in one of those towns that starts with “W,” (Williams? or Willows?).

By the time we got home the weather had changed profoundly- it was cold and foggy in Berkeley. The temperature plunge from Redding at 100º to Berkeley at 55º was quite a shock, though not as bad as flipping into the Trinity on a hot day.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Trinity River Overnighter -Steel Bridge to Junction City, 2012 (click on first slide to run a slideshow)

  1. I am really happy to see comments here.
    If you aren’t already a member of the POST elist leave your email address below so you can receive notification of new posts.
    – Kit

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s