Monday, May 15, 2017

Eel River Mountains to the Sea - Day Two

Paddling a Loaded Kayak

Day two, we loaded our kayaks.  Packing food, clothes, and equipment to live out of a whitewater kayak for 8-10 days can be quite challenging.  As we packed and repacked, what was truely essential was determined.  Tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tarp, stove, cook pot, water filter, spare paddle, and an extra set of warm clothes were determined to be the essentials.  In any extra space, we squeezed in fresh fruit, beers, and tequila.  
The challenge of packing whitewater kayaks for 8-10 days in the wilderness. Photo by Jeff Laxier
As we launched on our second day, I realized that I had not packed my boat evenly and my boat was stern heavy.  It felt like I was riding a wheelie down the river.  Waves and boils seemed to be constantly grabbing my unbalanced boat and challenging my balance and bracing skills.  At the top of the most difficult rapid of the day, a wave capsized me.  As my kayak flipped upside down and my head dunked in the freezing cold water.  With my kayak stuffed full of what we needed to live for the next week, I knew that I had to roll my kayak up right.  With hundreds of rolls under my skirt, I went on autopilot and rolled my kayak upright.
Cate starting down Ramsing Rapid.  Photo by Jeff Laxier
We did about 13 miles of the 17 mile Hearst Run on our second day.  In my opinion, it is one of the most scenic stretches of the Eel River.  In the spring, wildflowers add color to the river banks and hillsides..
Lupines and Indian Paintbrush growing on rocks along the Eel River.  Photo by Cate Hawthorne
About a mile into the Hearst Run, the river constricts into a tight gorge.  Ramsing Rapid aka Ramsing Corner is a class III rapid at the beginning of the gorge.  At high flows both Ramsing's Rapid and the gorge often challenge kayakers with whirlpools and boiling eddylines.  The flow was pretty high on our trip (possibly 3,000 cfs).  I have to admit that I was relieved when we emerged from the gorge.
Hey Diddle Diddle, Down the Middle through the gorge section of the Eel.  Photo by Jeff Laxier
On emerging from the gorge, we came across a wild pig and her piglets
Wild sow and her piglets along the Eel River.   Photo by Jeff Laxier
Other wildlife that we saw included river otters, deer, bald eagles, and a bear.  We saw the bear when we were camped at Indian Creek.  We had just finished dinner and were enjoying a couple of beers when the bear sauntered out from a cluster of rocks on the hillside just up river from us.  He strolled along, hopped up on a log and bounced up and down on the log.  He hopped off and continued on his way up the ridge seemingly unconcerned about us.
Our camp on at Indian Creek.  We were sitting on the large rock when we saw the bear.  Photo by Jeff Laxier
This was a really nice day on the river.  It was sunny and 60 degrees with little to no wind.  We managed to fit everything into our kayaks that we needed and the two of us were off on a wilderness kayaking adventure on the Eel River.
Cate and Jeff preparing to launch at Hearst on the Eel River.  Photo by Jerry Albright
Day 3 Camp Cranky Pants

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