Thursday, October 6, 2011

California 2011 Part III: Clover Creek

After spending five days in the Kern drainage (see previous post), on our sixth day in California we broke camp early and began driving north. It took a bit longer than we expected, but by mid afternoon we met up with another truckload of southeasters in the town of Three Rivers to discuss our next move. Almost everything in the Kaweah drainage was still too high, but Greg Garrard and Chas Lemley suggested that we join them for a run on the Shatner Ranch section of the South Fork of the Kaweah. They had made the run the previous day and assured us would still be at a good level. The S.F. of the Kaweah wasn’t really on our radar, but with the opportunity to join up with a solid crew who had done the run the day before, we quickly agreed and followed Greg to the put-in. A look downstream from the bridge at the put-in gave us a preview of the continuous boogie water that would characterize the entire run. [To get an idea of just how continuous, check out some helmet cam footage shot by Austin Nickell HERE]

If any short stretch of the Shatner Ranch run ended in a pool, the run would be considered easy class IV. However, due to the continuous nature and non stop gradient, any mistakes would be quickly complicated and with no pools throughout the run, recovery could be difficult. This was demonstrated about a third of the way into the run when Leigh and John got tangled up and ended up taking a tandem swim. Thanks to quick moves by Greg, both swimmers got to shore pretty quickly, but the gear recovery took a bit more time. Luckily all was recovered and we proceeded downstream with a more cautious approach. Under different circumstances this might have been one of my favorite rivers of the trip. However, my strained shoulder was becoming more painful with every left brace and when the take-out bridge came into view, rather than wishing for another run, I was relieved to be done. Our combined crews then proceeded into Sequoia National Park to camp for the night and position ourselves for our next objective, Clover Creek.

The next morning we packed up camp and started gaining elevation as we drove up further into Sequoia National Park towards Clover Creek. As we moved to higher elevation, the parks namesake giant sequoias began to tower overhead. We parked and made the short walk to the General Sherman tree. While not the oldest or tallest tree, the General Sherman tree is the largest tree on earth (based on the volume of its trunk). One of the limbs on the massive tree is seven feet in diameter. As we made our way back to our vehicles I couldn’t help, but to think that walking through a grove of giant sequoias, some of which are thousands of years old, is a nice reminder of what our place should be in the natural world.

Clover Creek is high in the Kaweah Drainage in Sequoia National Park and is actually a tributary of the Marble Fork of the Kaweah. I wouldn’t call it a legitimate creek run, it is more of a hike and huck adventure in a beautiful setting. The runnable section of Clover Creek is really a long series of cascades that make up a single impressive granite slide. A short hike down the trail from the parking lot led us to the creek. We continued to hike upstream on river right, first reaching the bottom of the slides and then continuing upstream to what seemed like the logical place to put-in. We dropped our boats and then hiked the length of the slide a couple times, scouting and planning our runs.

Greg was the first to make a go of it and then the rest of us made our runs one at a time while the others would position themselves at different points along the slide. Some in the group hiked back to the top for multiple runs on this impressive series of slides. I couldn’t resist running it once, but considering the state of my shoulder I didn’t want to press my luck. Between the smooth granite, beautiful cascades, and wildflowers lining the banks I just focused on shooting more and more photos of this special place. Despite the fact that we did relatively little boating that day, in retrospect it was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Seeing giant sequoias for the first time, running an awesome slide in an idyllic setting… what more could anyone ask for.

After leaving Clover Creek we made our way out of Sequoia National Park and back to the town of Three Rivers. Our combined crews spent one final night camping together, sharing a few beers, and reviewing the pictures and video from the day. The following morning our two groups we parted ways, each with different objectives in mind. They were still holding out hope that the forks of the Kaweah or South Silver might come down into the runnable range, while we had our sights set on Downieville, California and the easy logistics provided by Pauley and Lavezzola creeks.

Until Next Time...


kayak session

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