Another six days off and the grind tole of the ER has me wanting to go escape in the remoteness again and find myself all over in some canyon I have yet to explore. Our hit this trip was to go over to the Cowlitz drainage and see if we could do some obscure tributaries and creeks that have not been done in a while by crews ever since the floods of 2006 that placed a lot of menacing logs in some of the finest stretches of whitewater in washington. The Cowlitz river is nestled smack inbetween Mt. Ranier and White Pass in a deep valley that hosts two of it's headwaters as the best class V around. We were after the tributary of the tributary, the runs higher up that are steeper and more difficult to get to. The weekend was going to be a mission tagging new personal runs exploring canyons and dwelling in the old growth forest. Well as the rain hit every day and the water levels were rising, unlike our motivation to run high water that's what we did, spent a lot of time with the old growth. Boating a little, bushwacking through the woods alot and seeing some amazing canyons along the way.....
We drove around the park and peered into many canyons and found nothing we really felt like running...... Below , exploring Nickles Creek flowing from a glacier on Ranier.
Here is a glimse of Box Canyon on the Muddy Fork of the Cowlitz. The Muddy fork is one of three major tribs of the cowlitz. Our plan was to run a canyon down from this but the water level never played to our favor. One crew has done this section once reppelling in and many crews have hiked or made out with there life in the canyon below Box Canyon. Our attempt was the third canyon down stream but never got in there. The Muddy Fork is a truly committing place and has been explored but not paddled top to bottom....
A little fox
We really wanted to get on Johnson creek. The last known crew to get in there is unknown and the last report was "full of wood, lots of portages great canyon and good whitewater but not worth doing" . Johnson is an amazing gorge that never gets run due to these reports of people deeling with wood issues in narrow parts of the canyon. Since the 06 flood and most of all the other rivers in the area with new wood we thought Johnson might be there for us to explore on a day when the water wasn't rising so fast........ SO we opted for the 2.5 mile upper that was supposed to be less committing and shorter with some class IV-V in it but again has probably not been done since the 90's..... and now we know why it's not been done since the 90's...
We hiked in to the main gorge to check flows and still thought it was more water than we wanted to deal with knowing we would encounter log jams in unkmown spots. After almost making a bad decision to run Johnson and then trying to quickly think of some other canyon in the area we could run but the water everywhere was coming up fast and our daylight burning we decide to go up stream and explore the upper.... Remember kids ! running rivers is not all about running whitewater, It's about exploring new canyons and being places few have ever gone.. oh yeah and portaging lots and lots of wood..
Dear diary : If a river is laced with alder trees and meadows before the gorge expect a lot of bush wacking through log jams
Uhhh where did the river go ?
The entrance to the canyon: this would have most likely been a sweet rapid before the flood....
Still hiking..... we would get out to walk around jams and would see more down stream and just keep walking.. once we got to the canyon we spent some time getting around a couple jams that took a while then it opened up with a couple of rapids we got to run.. almost forgot we were kayaking.
Yellow Jacket Creek
Since the water was high on the Cowlitz we decided to go down to her sister drainage the Cispus and run one of her tribs Yellow Jacket Creek. Again our theme for the weekend was obscure runs and this is one that non of us had ever done. We were going to put in on the canyon above but it was raining something fierce and cold so the two waterfalls and mandatory 30' cliff jump off an unrunnable falls didn't sound fun not to mention we were still dealing with rising water. After making our way into the main canyon the yellow Jacket proved to be an amazing river. Easy fun class IV mostly boat scoutable with a couple of mini gorges of towering basalt cliffs and the sense of being really remote. There was a May fly hatch that I noticed and was looking for trout in the deep pools. This is a magical little gorge and I will be back in the summer to kayak in there with my fly rod. To think there are rivers all over my back yard I have never been on.???
JD freestyling through the woods making his way hopefully to the river......
Some good fun class IV bebop
JD slices through a rapid on Yellow Jacket
Yellow Jacket Creek was a non stressful day with amazing canyons and clean fun whitewater.
A really cool Log placed by the high water