Story:Keith Richards-Dinger Photos: Rick Norman
Well, I called Rick Sat. evening from Kernville; nobody was home, but his answering machine said "anybody that wants to do Hospital Rock on Sun., just leave word and I'll be at the Noisy Waters at 9am." So I left word. I was thinking (hoping?) that both Rick and Keith B. would be coming up; the plan was for Rocky to join them on HR, while Preston and I were to have a relatively relaxing day on Gateway. Rick showed up alone, and I started thinking that Rick would probably much rather have a group of 3 than a group of 2 on the hard stuff (I know I do), so maybe I should join them. But my shoulder had been bothering me a bit on the Forks, and I didn't want to leave Preston in the lurch. So we put Rocky's boat on Rick's van and drove up to the put-in. The bird's eye view of the river on the drive up confirmed my decision to do Gateway with Preston - HR looked very steep and congested. While R and R got suited up, I opened my big mouth and said to Preston something like "good thing you're here to save me from joining these guys on Hospital Rock." He quickly assured me that he wouldn't mind if I did. So a quick read of the guide book, some experimentation with my shoulder, and assuring myself that I would keep out of trouble by walking everything that Rick did and I was suiting up too.
Rick and I portaged the first two rapids on river right. Rocky ran both (in fact he ran everything all day). The first was a complex, congested boulder sieve that he made look easy. The second had a moderate lead-in to a big drop (15 ft?) with a huge hole at the bottom. He managed to get himself into a little chute on the left that led to a sloping rock slide into the pool below.
Rick and I ferried across to river left and scouted and then walked the next rapid on the left. I can't remember the rapid, except that I wanted no part of it. Rick continued portaging on the left; the next rapid looked hard but not impossible, but then I remembered my promise to myself to portage like Rick and shouldered my boat.
Then I think we all got in our boats and paddled for maybe 100 ft. and got out again to scout. Rick again started walking. At this point it'd been close to an hour from the put-in and we'd come maybe a 1/3 of a mile and I hadn't really boated anything. I decided that if I was going to hike the whole river, I shouldn't have brought my boat along. So I broke my promise and started boating. I think Rick carried two more good rapids and then he started boating too.
From then on Rick portaged maybe 5 more times and I carried only once around the last hole of one rapid after Rocky did 3-4 cartwheels and then his boat did many more by itself after he swam out.
There were tons of good rapids! Only 3 or 4 stick out in my mind, Rocky and Rick probably remember some others. The first one of these we entered on a small chute on the far right. Just below this was a 6-8 ft. drop carrying a lot of water. There was a barely submerged flat rock in the pool below. The idea was go off moving right to left and land in the pool to the left of this rock. There were tricky cross currents just above, so neither Rocky nor I managed this. Rocky nosed straight in, backendered, flipped, rolled up and paddled out the hole like it wasn't there. I kept my nose up a bit and the hole gave me a small backender and pushed me up onto the submerged boulder. There were 4 chutes exiting from this pool, the 3rd from the left was the only clean one - a 5-6 ft. drop into another pool. From there we moved all the way right and caught an eddy under the right wall. Then a big S-move, ferry all the way to river left and then ride a big pillow back to the right. Rick had to do a rock slide put in just above this pillow.
The next one I remember is probably the one Stanley and Holbeck mention as a 15 ft. fall they portaged by seal launching off a mid-stream boulder. A bouldery entrance, then a good mid-stream eddy to sit in while Rick got set up for pictures. Then your choice of 12-15 ft. waterfalls, the right or the left. We both chose the left. The landing was clean but we both got pushed up against the right wall. Rocky landed far enough downstream to reach a handhold in the rock to pull himself clear, but I had to venture back into boil line to get away.
The 3rd one that sticks out was a series of moderate drops leading to a big rock that the entire river piled up on. Just land on that pillow with your nose pointed left and it'll surf you into a nice eddy (but with vertical walls). From here the was a measly looking 4 ft. drop into the next big pool. Rocky paddled over and disappeared. The next thing I saw was his nose coming back up, then his stern, then his nose, then his stern, etc. Eventually I saw him swimming in the pool below, but I kept seeing his boat's nose, then its stern, etc. for several more minutes. Even better than Locomotive Falls! As the eddy's walls were steep, smooth granite and the rubber on my booties sucks, I had to wait several minutes for Rick to come back and get me out of there with a rope, as I didn't care to repeat Rocky's acrobatics in the hole. This chute was against the left hand wall, there is another chute to the right that might be reasonable.
And then near the end there was a beautiful 15-20 ft. fall with a clean landing and a perfect, smooth rock about 1/3 of the way down on the left hand side to boof off of and land as flat as you want.
A little after this, we saw a good route up to the road, and as it was 5 o'clock, we decided it was a good time to call it a day. As it turns out we were just around the corner from the diversion dam. Stanley and Holbeck say this is only two miles from the put-in, but I think its closer to three. The hike out wasn't bad, except for the class V poison oak. Less than 5 minutes after getting up to the road, a ranger pulled up and offered us a ride back up to our car.
All in all an amazing, excellent run. I really would like to finish it, but by the time I get back from the MidWest the water will be long gone. I'm not even sure it'll last till next weekend. CDEC says the flow yesterday was 775 cfs (inflow to Terminus). Looking at the rest of the run from the road on the way down, while there are still some big drops, in general it looks easier than the first part we had already done (but then things always look easy from the road).
On to the first picture