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C.C.Lewis: Curiosity Satisfied!

Canyon Creek (Lewis)
Class: IV+      GMap
2 - Fly Creek to Merwin Reservoir
Trip Date: 4/11/2010
Written on: 4/13/2010
Written by:

After an AWESOME time at this year's East Fork of the Lewis Race, hanging out with the wonderfully vibrant PDX boaters, some of us found ourselves wanting to run Canyon Creek. The weather had dried out and warmed up for Saturday's races, and Sunday continued the trend.

Lots of folks wrinkled their noses at the idea of dealing with the infamous logjam that has recently plugged up the gateway to this Crown Jewel of Washington Creek'n. But during saturday evening's alcohol fueled campfire scene I became increasingly sure this was how I wanted to spend the following day. There had been only a few vague reports to come out of Canyon Creek since the landslide dumped all of those trees in there. It was reportedly a 45 min portage. Or was it an hour? 30 min.? Was it IMPOSSIBLE? Well, I knew the latter could not be the case. I hadn't paddled it since the landslide and I had to shed some light on this.
   Eventually 12 of us would collect at the put-in: Me, Dan, Adam, Fish, Nick, Drew, Christi G, Gordon, Bart, Bret, Leif, and Phil (plus a few others who put on before us). Lots of people to make a fun party out of it!! We would discover the character of this ominous logjam that has all but shut down this fabulous creek entirely to a fickle paddling public...
   Eagerly I paddled through the class II, past the class III drops toward the real reason I was interested in being there: To see this logjam. I'd forgotten all about the two mean "Thrasher" drops beyond its location. I'd forgotten about the sweet read 'n run boulder gardens and the 17' "Kahuna Falls". The sparkling beauty of "Champiagn" and the sweet boof at the "Hammering Spot". For me it was all about the logjam.
   "Leif Kerchoff ain't afraid of no pile of logs!" I said to him in a flattering tone as I paddled by him at one point. Because people act as though the whole creek is completely ruined because there's a logjam on it. Some stay away as if afraid of adventure, others as if afraid of inconvienience. Silly Webyakkers! Leif and I had both agreed in the past we'd like to check this out, now here we were...
   Soon we saw the green bridge high above- the one often used by bungy jumpers to get their fix. Just downstream below the bridge the mamoth roadblock of logs swallowed up the river's flow. Fish led the charge, already out on them finding the clean route. I didn't bother pulling over to the side of the river where the canyon walls are already steep. With this type of large jam I often just paddle right up to it in the center of the river and get out on them. The logs are so massive and jammed so tight, that carefull traversing is completely possible, if not downright easy.
   I followed Fish in our familiar game of "chutes and ladders", with Nick closely behind. The jam is full of 40-50 foot logs, 2' in diameter. On such a sunny and dry day, it's as easy of a poratge as a kayaker can ask for--most of the way. It's true that attempting this portage on a rainy day with wet slimy logs would really suck, so factor that in.
   I want to stress that walking on logs is a needed skill here in the PNW.If you are any kind of hiker, kayaker, fisherman, logger, whatever- you need to have skillz walkin on logs in these here parts! And this portage should more be looked upon as an opportunity for those class IV paddlers who've yet to spend much time portaging stuff.
   There was a brief but difficult crux just before reaching the summit of this mountain of logs, but it wasn't anything a good crew couldn't help each other with: we handed each other our boats in the steep section of the ascent. Once we were on top of the world (of wood, that is) we stopped long enough to appreciate this natural phenomenon (well, some of us did). Me 'n Gordon jumped off of logs that were quite high above the river (30+ feet?) while camera shutters snapped away...
We were paddling again, and arrived at "Prelude To Thrasher" in short order. I don't understand the name of this rapid, because from what I've seen and heard, this first drop is the one that hands out the most thrashings. Some were getting out to scout (smart idea) while some of us just bombed down over the drop (not such a smart idea for me). I'd seen a really good friend have what can be described as a near drowning experience here, and another friend of mine had a similar swim. Why didn't I scout? Guess I was stupid at the moment.
   Fish and Nick bombed down through and popped out below, and I followed. I ended up off line-too far left. I plugged in right into the ugly corner pocket on the left (it's VERY undercut), where I carped for a few seconds, alternately flipping , rolling, struggling to dig my way out, and getting drawn back in to repeat the cycle. I was considering a swim like it was the S. Frk Skokomish all over again, but something inside told me to continue trying. Eventually with some effort I was able to back my way up toward the middle of the river where the pour-over ledge was shallow and weaker. I got out stern first.
    I saw Leif sitting in the eddy. His face was Beet Red. I know that flustered look. I was feeling exhilerated, and exclaimed "Looks like you got the shit kicked out of you too!!" Nick was laughing his ass off. Not really sure what happened to Leif, you'd have to ask him. It seems as though a T-rescue may have been required. Yes, "Prelude To Thrasher" is a stout drop not to be taken lightly. The bench of rock flanking the leftside is very undercut.
    Further down the run proved to be well worth a 20 min. portage over a little pile of logs. Gordon took "The Meat Line" at "Kahuna Falls", melting deep into the fold and plugging super deep, emerging downstream of the fat boil. A few quality boofs later and it was flatwater time. I found it rather enjoyable in the warm sunny afternoon of the day. We paddled off to our right to where a huge off-verticle slide entered Lake Merwin. It was higher than 40', and looked as though it needed double the flow to be runnable.
I don't think we could have picked a finer day to re-discover this awesome creek. I was in the neighborhood already, surrounded by kindred spirits, and the weather was nice. If you haven't paddled Canyon Creek yet, don't let a few sticks get in your way. Show some fortitude and hike your boat over them. Expect to spend 30 min. portaging, 30 min. paddling awesome whitewater, and 30 min. paddling the flat glass out to the bridge.
  -oh- and don't whine about how much you hate flatwater. That's bad form. Besides, your forward stroke sucks ass way more than you think it does. You can never stop perfecting it (no matter who you are), and flatwater is the best place to focus on what your knees, hips, heels and toes are doing. If you haven't needed a solid stroke yet in whitewater, you will. If you cultivate it now you'll be glad you got it when the chips are down. You can't expect to float through everything, you know ;)
~ jP

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