Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Illinois

Illinois at Kirby 1800-1850 cfs

Beautiful and alluring Green Wall.

Story by David Chatham. Photographs by David Chatham and Don Matteson.

Pastor Dave Pauli and I began planning this trip about 3-4 weeks before the eventual date. He had one requirement which was that it couldn't take place on a weekend so that he could give his Sunday sermon. We discussed the need to have back-up plans given the Illinois's reputation for fickleness in regards to acceptable flows. As the day for the trip arrived, we were blessed to have phenomenal weather (65 degrees and clear skies), and optimal flows (1800 cfs). Was this just incredible luck or divine providence? I'm not sure, but I did ask Dave if he'd be willing to put in the good word for me for any future expedition trips that I would be on.

Anyway, the group consisted of Dave, Don Matteson, Denny Dahlgren and myself. The three of them would be taking a 14' raft with center oars, and I would be in my IK. I was also lucky in that they didn't mind carrying a little extra gear for me. We camped at the put in, and got to enjoy a meteor shower before going to sleep. After awakening, we found some impressive animal tracks only a few feet from our cots.

Carnivore tracks a few feet from our cots.

Before we put on, a small commercial group showed up for a planned four day expedition, but these were the last people we would see for the duration of our trip. We left the put in at Miami Flat at 10 AM. We ran several class III rapids, and a couple of big water class IV rapids before stopping for lunch. I got a couple of swims in for practice (sure), once for being a little lazy in my paddling, and once after getting pushed out of an eddy by the raft. The water color was a sea green to emerald color, with fantastic lighting for photography.

David smiling for the camera.

David in emerald paradise.

After lunch, we ran some more class III rapids before reaching Pine Flat. I ran the line on river right first without problem, and set up to take pictures of the raft for their run. The raft got stalled in the hole, and surfed briefly before making it through.

Dave Pauli and crew busting trough Pine Flat.

We ran multiple more class III rapids before setting up for camp at 3 PM not too far above Prelude Rapid.

The raft team in one of the multitude of the Illinois's class III's.

Snow atop the high peaks surrounding the Illinois.

Before reaching camp, it had gotten cloudy and a little chilly, but fortunately, it never did rain, and the clouds mostly cleared.

Don and Denny putting on the finishing touches for the tent site.

We cooked dinner, washed dishes, and then I went for a hike while the other guys relaxed. On my hike, I walked straight into some poison oak before I realized it, kept going and made it up to a ridge overlooking the river canyon before hiking back to the campsite.

View upriver from the ridge above our campsite.

We awoke the next day to another glorious day with completely clear skies, and put on at 9 AM. After a few minutes, we came to Prelude Rapid (Fawn Falls), and we all ran the straight forward line on the right.

The raft crew in Prelude Rapid.

Shortly after that, we arrived at Green Wall. The raft eddied out at the top, but I was able to paddle part way down and catch an eddy just above the big holes.

The huge holes in river center and river right at Green Wall.

We scouted for quite a while enjoying the scenery and discussing lines, and then I went first. I made the entrance holes just fine, but got a little lackadaisical thinking that the big waves at the bottom would be fairly easy, and got to go for a quick swim.

David's first run though Green Wall.

The raft followed my line exactly, with some pinball action, before entering into the main current and sailing through the rest of the rapid.

The raft taking the technical line through Green Wall.

A little irritated with myself for flipping, I hiked back up and ran again. For the second run, I entered farther left at the top, was able to paddle out earlier into the main channel, and paddled hard through the rest of the holes to join the raft.

David's second run of Green Wall.

We ran Little Green Wall, and then stopped for a quick lunch. We then had some class III's and another long class IV rapid.

Class IV rapid below Little Green Wall.

Another class IV rapid below Little Green Wall with several big holes.

Shortly after this, I ran Submarine Hole rapid boofing the pourover easily. The raft got a little turned just before the pourover, but straightened out in time, got stopped, the guys highsided, the raft did a 180 degree spin, and then they were able to back out. Unfortunately, they were too close behind me for me to be able to set up to take pictures of this. After Submarine Hole, the rapids got farther apart, though there were still some intermittent entertaining class III's.

The raft team punching another big hole.

Don, Denny and Dave smiling and waving for the camera.)

I did find a waterfall coming in from a side creek that I climbed up to run. There wasn't quite enough water to make it easy, and the drop turned out to be more of a seal launch, but was still fun.

David running a 13' waterfall (seal launch) from a side creek.

We passed through some beautiful canyons and got to watch some bald eagles chasing each other, and saw a few red tailed hawks in addition to the normal dippers, mergansers and vultures. We arrived at the takeout at about 2:30 PM and our vehicle was the only one there. Yet another amazing trip in the Pacific Northwest.