The Guidebook

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Fantasy Falls 2009

This past June I took my second trip to California - living on the west coast, within driving distance, makes it pretty easy to get there. Leaving in early June and just having a week, the main event of the trip was Fantasy Falls on the NF Mokelume. This is the second time I've been down this great run - an updated beta section can be found here. To break up the drive we made a quick stop at the Little White in Hood River - always a treat.


Boulder Sluice.

This year was assembled a solid crew - last year it was just the two of us running the river with little beta and no shuttle - a good adventure. Two from Vancouver, one from Whistler, friends from Montreal and Petawawa and finally my southern compadre Ben from Chattanooga whom I'd met on a trip to the Green last year made up our crew.

Right from the get-go the epics started. The plan was to leave two vehicles at Salt Springs, loading my truck to the brim with 6 dudes and all our kit. Obviously we'd have to take it slow, but it would save having to drive back to the take out after getting the put in car - the shuttle is long. The plan however was short lived - within five minutes of leaving the parking lot I drove over a bump and all six boats flew off the roof, with the rack still attached. Damn. After some serious swearing and picking up the pieces of the rack we rallied the other vehicles to run shuttle - we'd just have to come back at the end. We had hoped to put on that afternoon and we were already late having had to pick up a boat in Sacramento (we lost a boat on the Little White below Spirit the day before).


Loading my truck with too much stuff.

The final nail in the coffin to not paddle that day was the 2 inches of snow on the ground when we finally got to Ebbets Pass on the shuttle. Even though there wasn't snow at the put in bridge, there was some serious thunder and lightning - it was an easy decision to hold off until the next morning to get better weather. We drove down to Bear Valley and feasted on pizza and beer in instead - good thing too because on the way down we drove through a huge! hailstorm. We saw a healthy bear along the road as well.


Just below Ebbets Pass.


Steve and Matt, no pleased with the wintery weather.

The next morning the weather was much better, and being well rested and under sunny skies we set off on the river. Being the only one to have already run the river I tried my best to remember everything down there. Day 1 starts off with some pretty manky stuff, then it slowly turns to better and better bedrock rapids. Here's a few shots of our first day. We paddled to the typical campsite below the first gorge.


Phil, Matt and Ben.


Steep mank early on.


Some of the first bedrock.


Easy stuff at the start of the first gorge.






Something not appealing that we walked.


Scouting one of the last rapids on day 1.


Ben Davis. The last, and my favorite rapid, of the first day. You can see the campsite downstream on the right.


Matt Kompass, the same.

I had an exciting line in the last rapid, breaking off my paddle after flipping in the entrance slot. I didn't realize it had happend until I tried to take my next stroke, flipping again when there was nothing to paddle with. I guess the look on my face was a priceless mix of surprise and fright - there are some big rapids immediately after..

The first night was awesome - clear weather, good food (check out the smokies - James Mole eats like a king on overnights, and brought enough to share - definitely better than freeze dried mac and cheese) and some wicked humour. We discussed the importance of NASCAR, the joys of BBQ and the culinary delight of Aunt Tina's beans.


Mole's kitchen.




Can't be a kayak trip without some dip.


Nighttime on the Mokelumne.

Day 2 is my favorite of the trip - the gorge right below the camping is schweet. Like all the trips I go on though I end up taking my camera out less and less as the days go on so I have less and less photos to share - there's a few below. Day 2 is the day with all the big gorges - some are good to go, some are pretty horrible. Lots of good stuff though.


First drop on Day 2.






One of the best rapids of the trip.


It's not all bad-ass - nice meadow boating on day 2.


Ben Davis, mushroom boof.


Mr. Kompass, mushroom boof.


A big cliff.

Day two brought us through a lot of river miles - it was long, with some hot, tough portages. However, we ran lots of great stuff and picked a choice campsite at the exit of one of the gorges - that night we spent building a massive fire out of dead manzanita. We also tried our best to roll a giant boulder over a cliff, but it didn't work. I also nearly stepped on rattlesnake - my first sighting in Cali.

Day 3 has some good whitewater, but I don't think it's as nice as the second day. From where we camped we had to do the big portage around the waterfall right at the start and were at the fantastic Fantasy Falls by mid-morning. It's such a sweet spot there. The rest of the day has 2 or three other big grante rapids and a bunch of no-so-tough but really good granite stuff. It stays solid right in to the lake. We had no takers on the Island or the Thing, even though they both end in giant pools.

And that was it - another wicked trip. The paddle out sucked, and it was a long long shuttle. By the time we reached somewhere to get food, the only places opened were Denny's and Taco Bell. Upon seeing the Denny's menu, it was shouted by one memeber of the crew "Nine dollars?! Do you know how many tacos I can buy for nine dollars?" Said person continued to Taco Bell while we ate horrible food at Dennys - it wasn't as bad as the Taco Bell though - the taco eater spent the rest of the night nearly shitting his pants over and over again, much to our amusement...


Great mountain scenery on day 3.


Fantasy Falls - Max Kniewasser.


A parting shot - camp #2.

And that's all I got. Click here for the Fantasy beta. Merry Christmas.

4 comments:

George said...

Steve- been trying to find your email addy to get permission to grab one of these pics for my (noncommercial) flickr site. I've hiked a lot of the Mokelumne Canyon at low water (I'm just a newbie paddler) as my family owns a cabin at the north fork bridge put-in. Just wanted to show side-by-sides of low and high water. Great site and thrilling trip report.

George B. in Seattle

Steve Arns said...

Hey no worries, you can add a photo to your flickr site. Pretty nice place for a cabin!

George said...

Steve- thanks! See the side-to-side compare at:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mokelumnekid/

Steve Arns said...

George - those are some cool photos of the river at low water - some of the other spots I recognize as well.

I've seen people hiking up the river from itss outlet into Salt Springs Reservoir, but never from the top. If you ever have the chance you should try that too - the mountain scenery on the lower reaches of the river are fantastic, there are some really big granite rapids, and great camping. The campsite at Fantasy Falls itself even has a stone fireplace built there.