Cumec Magazine - Australia and New Zealands Kayaking Magazine

Dylan Thomson dropping into a crack on the East Fork of the Kaweah, California. Photo Michael PeacherWords by Dylan Thomson. Images; Dylan Thomson, Jared Seiler, Michael Peacher and Jake Greenbaum.

I had long dreamed of getting my face wet on some classic Californian granite gems. May 2013 was my chance to fulfill some of those fantasies.

Arriving in Portland on April 30th, I quickly went about collecting a large Pyranha Burn and the other necessary pieces of paddling paraphernalia required for my trip.

The plan was simple; get up early on the 1st, go for a lap on the Ldub with long time Kiwi buddy Michael and an old Canadian slalom pal Chris.

  1.  We would then part ways with Michael, load Chris’s truck and drive our arses South into Cali.
  2. Run the shit!
  3. Throw Kyle Hull into the mix and suddenly the single cab Mazda B2300 wasn’t so roomy, but the buzz was escalating exponentially.

Twenty Hour drive to California. Dylan Thomson and Chris McTaggart. Photo Dylan ThomsonTwenty hours later we arrived in Three Rivers where we based ourselves for the following four days. The Middle and East Fork’s of the Kaweah River were exactly what I was hoping to find to start my first Cali experience. We rolled a nine pack into the East Fork and proceeded to bomb out a sweet run without portages, and generally mint lines.

The “Hospital Rock” section of the Middle Fork is an absolute stunner of a run. It’s not hard, but it sure packs in a lot of epic drops and rapids in a stretch of river that you can mob through in less than an hour.

We got some beta that we needed to check out “Chuck’s Slide” on the section of river above “Hospital Rock”. With a name that stems from a whitewater legend such as Chuck Kern, this was a slide that was bound to be awesome, and it was.Camping in California High Sierras. Photo Jared Seiler.

As the Kaweah’s started to drop out, we headed North to run the famous Upper Cherry Creek.

I knew nothing of Upper Cherry Creek other than it was an epic run. The plan was to have an early start, charge the walk, put on and bomb out in a day. This all sounded pretty rad to me.

Maybe that was because I had no idea that we were not only trying to sneak in on a cold snap in the hope of lower water levels, but also that the run normally took 2-3 days.

Firstly we didn’t get our early start, but started up the path nevertheless. After a couple of miles our team of six was down to just myself and Jake Greenbaum. It was at this point that I realised just what we were getting ourselves into. It also dawned on me that we weren’t going to sneak in on a cold snap as the day was rapidly heating up. Minor details I thought. We made the decision to hike into the base of Cherry Bomb Gorge and rally out from there instead of going the full length with no overnight kit.

The look on Jake’s face when we got to river level said it all. He looked nervous. “Dude, the river’s huge. Water shouldn’t be flowing over those ledges.”

Putting on in the pool at Flintstone I still didn’t quite understand the effects of the highwater, but I was super amped to go kayaking. Having just had the last two days off the water there was no way I wasn’t going boating today. Burly ledge holes, and powerful hydraulics soon slapped the focus back into me as we battled our way downstream through some of the sickest whitewater I’d ever run.

Upper Cherry Swim 1

Arriving at the lake and eventually the car Jake and I were absolutely ruined. Stoked, but ruined. Shortly after departing the drainage we discovered that the flow was 1160CFS as opposed to the recommended 600CFS.

Keeping the buzz on, we promptly headed to “Silver Fork” where we were lucky enough to catch a primo flow to enjoy the many slides and more technical rapids that the run had to offer.

“Fantasy Falls” was the run we had been waiting for, and was our next objective. Since arriving in Cali I had been hanging out to scare myself and rumour had it that Fantasy was going to be the run where that would happen.

Our team consisted of Chris McTaggart, Kyle Hull, Jared Seiler, Nick Murphy and Jake Greenbaum and myself. Nick and Jake had been down the run a couple of weeks earlier and Jake had claimed the 4th descent of “The Untouchables” which had been first run by Sam Sutton last year.

The stoke was high as we bombed our way through an amazing day one and set camp at “Front Porch”. Something was lingering in the air at camp that night. Playing on everybody’s mind was day two and more specifically “The Untouchables”.

Day 2 of Fantasy Falls is an unbelievably good day kayaking. After a couple hours on the water the chatter had slowed down completely from the only guys that knew the run. Could it be that Untouchables was nearing? I was on Jake’s tail when he turned to me and said “This is what you’ve been waiting for dude. We’re here.”

It looked good to me,  and I was quick to jump on the opportunity to be the first in our group to drop in.

Pretty quickly I was followed by Jake, Kyle and Jared. Every line was slightly different, but all were successful!

From here out, more epic kayaking continued until we made it down to the reservoir and cold beer.

Fantasy Falls Swim 2

We took a couple rest days and got a leisurely lap on South Silver before we headed right back in for round two on “Fantasy Falls”.

Levels were lower but the stoke was equally as high. We were joined this time by Evan Garcia and Louis Geltman who had just driven the mammoth distance from Hood River to get amongst the action. Round 2 saw seven descents on “Jedi Mind Meld”, seven descents on “Untouchables” (including one accidental switch run by myself and a hike up second lap), seven descents on “Island”, and eight descents on “Show me Your Tits” (including four swims out of the “Thing”)Dylan Thomson, switch run on the Untouchables Rapid. California. Photo Michael Peacher

Dylan Thomson and Kyle Hull on the Fantasy Falls Section of the Mokelumne. Photo Jake GreenbaumUnfortunately, by the time we arrived at the take out, the level at the reservoir had come up so much that our beers were never to be seen.

The conclusion of our second lap on Fantasy Falls meant our time in California was over. Part two of the trip was about to start, as we prepared ourselves to head back North to Washington..

Part Two. Washington and beyondcoming soon.