Middle Fork and North Fork American River

Trip Report  by Keith Gale, Intrepid Trip Leader

MF Flow:  450cfs
NF Flow:   550cfs
Weather: Temperatures (mid to upper 70s), clear skies, modest winds with some river gusts in the afternoon.
Campground:  Ruck-a-Chucky
Attendees:  Don & Karen, Kate & Alan, Bill and Nancy, Thad, Dave, Keith, Peter (Sat only), Carol (Sat only), Vince and Shauna (Sat only), Lee (Sunday only) Jack (Sunday only)

Dave and Peter left Concord about noon to secure a campsite at the Bear River county park.  Normally, their early departure usually would ensure a campsite, but this season saw unusually high demand and we were shut out. I was unable to join them because of a meeting in San Francisco.  During a break, I was able to get Dave’s voice mail and text message regarding the campsite dilemma.  Dave noted Ruck-a-Chucky was available.  We discussed options and decided to camp at Ruck-a-Chucky.  I should have expected this campsite demand, in early February when  I went to reserve my Folsom SRA campsite for my paddling course, it was almost full then.

Thad also departed about 1PM to meet them in Auburn for dinner and then depart for the campsite.

I departed Clayton at 8:00AM as I needed to make a quick Safeway stop to get some bagels.  Carol E. passed me as we were heading up to Raley’s off Foresthill Avenue.  Everyone was there by the 10:30 timeframe.  We had decided to delay the meeting time by an hour as the expected 450cfs release was due at Ruck-a-Chucky put-in by maybe noon-ish.  The shuttle was facilitated by pulling Vince and Carol’s boats and using their cars for shuttle.  They had maximum space as they did not have any camping gear.  We deposited the vehicles at the Mammoth Bar take-out on the way to the put-in.  One advantage of this trip is the shuttle can be quite easy if you can get a shuttle car established-which can only be done if there are vehicles that can carry more than one boat (hint, hint).

We met Dave, Peter and Thad upon arrival. Everyone was at the put-in by 11:30.  We had the usual snafus at the put-in, but all worked out by 1PM and we were off.  The flows were better than expected and the typical thin area was well hydrated, so no dragging.  However, that is not to say there weren’t any challenges.  Thad was trying out his new Bell which is really a race car in a canoe-skin.  Bill and Nancy had a spill kinda quickly, from which Nancy sustained a minor hand injury. I had a spill as I was messing around one wave and was backflushed right into a small hole. I almost surfed it, but ended up sideways and did not get downstream fast enough to prevent the inevitable.

With Vince in the picture, you know there is going to be a surfing rodeo somewhere on the river-and he never disappoints.  We did find several surf spots to play in and it was fun to rotate through the surf hole.

At lunch, Thad was kind enough to permit Vince and Keith to ride the new stallion of the class-and boy, is it sleek, smooth and glides so smoothly in the water. Great hull speed and acceleration.  A little spicy in rapids, I would believe.  Need to have a good brace.

Subsequent to this, there was a rapid I either do not remember (most likely) or the flows disguised pretty well.  This is a tricky little rapid with maybe two entrances-and some quick moves thereafter.  Not really meant for tandems-solos have a decent chance.

The remainder of the trip was nonchalant with a take-out about 5:30.  It was a bit slower than normal.  The shuttle ran smoothly and we were back in camp for a late dinner.
The food at this event was worth the trip itself.  Kate and Alan provided a fresh fruit platter and crackers with cheese.  We snuck some of the garnishes from the chicken tostada salad fixings for the appetizer course (mmm..guacamole).  Don and Karen did a marvelous job with pre-cooked chicken packaged with fresh fixings.  And dessert was a ravishingly delicious strawberry shortcake complete with whipped cream.  I think there was chocolate passed around-but by then, the prevalent wine had sunk me pretty deep.  We did not even get to Debbie LaDue’s classic cookies and bars.  That is how much food we had.

A gentle fire wafted us to sleep.

A warm night provided early risers.  I rumbled out of bed about 6:30AM to find Dave already had coffee prepared.  Breakfast was pretty easy with bagels, yoghurt and cream cheese with left over fruit bowl from dinner available immediately.  Debbie LaDue again contributed chocolate infused carrot bread. This kept the hunger at bay until the French Toast/Sausages were finished.  I way overestimated the demand-and thus had to make sweet scrambled eggs for the friendly pooches in the camp next door.  Thad had lunch organized in the second campsite-so food was aplenty (again).  I actually think I gain weight at POST events!

Since Nancy had injured her hand on Saturday, she decided to explore Auburn in lieu of the paddle.  I had Dave contact Lee to divert him from the meeting place at Weimar to the Upper Lake Clementine parking lot.  This provided easy shuttle logistics.

Don departed early since he was not involved with the shuttle and to catch Eric (who had cancelled but my cell service did not link up until too late to really matter) at Weimar Crossroads.  Departure from the camp at 9AM to meet Lee and his friend Jack went smoothly.  Lee was already packing his and Jack’s IKs onto Dave’s van.  We quickly re-planned the loading of gear into Bill and Nancy’ truck for ease and the shuttle was set.  Lee dropped his van off at the Upper Clementine parking lot and Dave brought Lee, Jack and Thad back to the put-in.

There was some miscommunication on the shuttle details and thus some delay to the put-in.  After all was established, we were off by 12:45.  We had three solo canoes (Keith, Thad, Bill), three IKs (Lee, Jack and Dave) plus two tandems (Don/Karen; Alan/Kate).

The Shirttail rapid, which had been scouted from the road on the way to the put-in did create some concern and it took a bit of confidence-building/prodding to move past this rapid.  Lunch was soon thereafter which gave everyone a chance to catch their breath.

There were a few rapids which were scouted-and all were run successfully.  Kate and Alan were really beginning to gain confidence and capability.  Bill, in his solo configuration did a marvelous job.  There was one rapid which was lined by the tandems with a easier route for the solos on river left.  Again, I do not remember this rapid from previous runs.  I think there is such thing as paddler’s dementia-and I have early signs of it.  Must have hit my head too many times.

The river was benevolent for the most part.  I did swim twice-one kinda stooopid and another when I was surfing and was thrust into a side surf without being really prepared for that.  Quick self rescues solves these minor distractions.

Lee showed me a scenic, somewhat shorter (41 minutes) route back to Upper Clementine.  Instead of going all the way into Forrestville on Yankee Jim Road, there is a cut-off  using Spring Gardens Road.  If nothing else, it takes you past wonderful little waterfall-see the pictures:


At the takeout, Dave was able to reward us with remaining cookies and chocolate bars.  I had spent a few minutes taking pictures of the waterfalls on Yankee Jim Road which was enough time for Don to beat me to the take-out, load his boat and gear and for him and Karen to depart before I even made the road into Upper Clementine.  Talk about efficient!

This was one of the better trips I have led on the MF/NF American.  Thanks to everyone who made it happen.

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