Sunday, April 02, 2006

SF Skokomish

Fish waits below Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

After Scott and David had an exhilarating run on the Crooked Saturday, they met us for some fun Sunday creeking on the South Fork Skokomish, a fantastic IV-V creek run that is one of the most scenic on the Olympic Peninsula. David Chatham, Mike Hoover, Mitch McDougall, Brian Vogt, and Scott Waidelich were along for this run. Novak wanted to join his, but five consecutive days celebrating his 21st birthday left him barely able to drive, let alone paddle.

Video: SF Skokomish [20 MB]

We had flows of 850 slightly rising, but Scott and David thought it felt like more water than their previous trip at 850, so who knows. I thought it was good medium flow, not pushy, but decently filled in. After a quick shuttle and hike down the old road, we were moving swiftly through the class II warmup, which was just long enough to loosen up without getting bored.

Then the Skok took a right hand turn and the walls rose up. We ran some fun boat-scoutable class III before arriving at Big Momma Jomba, the only significant drop in the short first canyon. This rapid had a squirrely hole center and a nice burly ledge hole at the bottom. Scott lined up first and had a great line through the first half of the drop.

Scott works his mojo in Big Momma Jomba

In quick succession, Mitch followed and he and David had the tidiest lines on this drop. Hoover cleaned it too, then it was my turn to hand off the cameras and drop in.

Mitch makes it look easy.

David has an ideal line -- upright and in his boat!

Hoover styles Big Momma Jomba.

I had a nice eddy all picked out along the right wall, and a vision of a nice left angle over the entry hole then a big carve back right for a perfect line on the ledge hole. I blew that line by the third stroke, failed to attain the eddy and bobbled through the entry hole. Made it through with no trouble, but had to opt for plan B on the left, which worked but was the wrong angle for the ledge hole ... with predictable results.

The author, about to check his drysuit integrity.

After more fun III-IV, the gorge opened briefly for a short calm stretch. We were quickly faced with the ominous unscoutable entrance to the second gorge. I followed David right, and had to claw my way out of a sticky hydraulic. Left was much friendlier and closer to the eddy to scout one of the most congested drops on the Skokomish.

Scott ponders his line in the second gorge.

The drop pictured above is the rapid below the entrance to the second gorge. A line exists on the right, which feeds into a backed-up hole with a nasty piton rock in the exit. Or you can run the chute above, which features at least three undercut boulders. David was the only to run this drop, and he styled it.

David drops in (video capture).

Hoover, eddy hopping on the Skok.

Next up is a fun IV drop run along the left wall. There were some squirrely currents here and some badly placed rocks above the second move.

Scott on the entry move.

Hoover fights for a roll above a nasty rock pile.

Mitch over the second drop.

Scott lines up for the third and final drop.

Everybody wound up getting thrown into the rocks above the second move here. Hoover took a swim, and his boat took off. Mitch collected him with a timely throwbag, but boat and paddle were off downstream. David and I put cameras away and went down to meet Mike while Fish and Mitch gave chase to the boat. David took Mike on as a passenger and the made all but the last hole of the solid IV boulder garden above High Steel Falls. Watching that run from 10 feet back was the highlight of my day -- nice lines guys!

We got everything picked up right under the bridge, everything back except for a throwbag and Hoover's Waterstick bentshaft paddle. Next up: High Steel Falls! Only David and Mitch opted to run this drop today.

High Steel Falls.

Mitch, visualizing his line.

David cleans the drop, making fools of all us doubters.

Mitch explores the right wall.

We now had two missing paddles, after Mitch's was wrenched from his hands below High Steel Falls. Both breakdowns now deployed, we headed downstream quickly hoping to find the paddles before the wood stuffed drop coming up quickly.

The next major drop is Bobbing for Butler, which has a burly seam ledge-hole entrance that tends to throw people left -- hard. After clawing out of that seam, I saw boaters piled in eddies river left and right, and I got complacent about which eddy I'd catch. I noticed Scott, sitting in the last reasonable eddy. He looked at me and shrugged, saying "Find the line, man. It all goes!" And then I was in it, running blind. After a monster ledge hole, I found myself being flung hard left into a horn rock above a steep ledge. I came up under my boat, where I was able to get a breath, before slamming hard into something with my hip. After getting back in my boat, my paddle washed right up to my boat, and Scott was coolly paddling 2 feet away from my boat. Thanks for giving chase bro!

David quickly joined us in the eddy below the drop while Mitch and Hoover set up the portage route. Since we'd missed any chance for camera work -- doh! -- David and I went on down to the portage to look for the missing paddles. No luck, but Fish soon joined us with David's spare paddle. Mitch had recovered his Powerhouse above Bobbing for Butler.

The portage wasn't too bad, a steep slope back down to the river then on downstream. The next two drops I really enjoyed. They were both good to go boat scoutable class III-IV drops, but neither was at all what I expected and that made them fun.

We bombed several more fun III-IV drops before pulling out to scout the mank-fest called Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. I had planned to portage this anyway, and with my questionable right edge due to the hip, it was an easy call. Scott had planned to run, but his boat ghosted without him. Mitch hit him with a rope as he jumped into the runout to recover his boat. That just left David, who styled the drop with what is alarmingly becoming his customary aplomb.

David styles Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

There were a couple of fun class III drops before the canyon peeled back and we made quick work of the short 3.5 miles of class II before the takeout.

This is a great run. Not sure why we had so much carnage, but everyone handled it well and we all had a great time. I can't wait to get back and take my swim in High Steel Falls!.

For more photos of the Skok, check out Steve's great trip report featuring some excellent photos.

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