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By Jessie Stone

This time of the year is unbeatable in California and Oregon. No matter what the snow pack is, there is always good boating to be done! Juerg and I headed to Coloma after the Reno River Festival to see what we could paddle and to visit our good friend Rachel Wiese who lives there. Rachel is a paddler, marathon runner and very hard workingwoman. She is also a former kayak student of EJ’s, and mine and is Phil Boyer’s girlfriend.

When Juerg and I arrived, we totally lucked out because everything was running and in fact some things that never run were going. I was very excited to try my new Little Hero and wow, was I super impressed with it. For the first time in my life, I have a creek boat that fits me! Let me tell you how wonderful that is. It is so great to feel like you can paddle something that is the right size and make all your lines with not much effort. It boofs super easy and feels perfectly balanced. I am so thrilled with that!

We started with a nice trip to Lavazola and Pauley creeks where this time of year, you are guaranteed to meet up with other paddlers and definitely people you know and maybe have not seen in a while. The levels were perfect and we had a great day with Kiwi Blue, Rick and Eric of Bomber Gear. The water was high enough that we could even run the portage. It’s a gorgeous canyon and I feel so lucky every time I get to be there.

Next, we met up with my friend Marc Goddard from Bio- Bio Expeditions and paddled Canyon Creek. Apparently, it doesn’t run very often so we were very lucky that it was going and we had a perfect flow. At the put – in we ran into some paddlers we had met at the Reno River Festival, Anthony and Cyrus. Though the creek run is not long in mileage, it definitely took a few hours to get down. Since it was new for all of us, we took our time and scouted various drops. It was pretty steep, quite continuous, and awesome!

After a fun high water run on Chili Bar at the South Fork, I headed to Lars Holbeck’s memorial just upstream of the put in for Chili Bar. What an incredible event! It was so special to be gathered with all kinds of people who loved Lars. In and amongst the group were some incredible pioneers of California whitewater, Chuck Stanley, Richard Montgomery, and Hayden Glatte. These guys made all kinds of amazing first descents with Lars and when you see the boats they ran stuff in, it is truly awe inspiring. In addition, Lars and Chuck’s guide to The Best Whitewater in California is still what most paddlers rely on when kayaking in California.

Many people got up to speak about Lars and share their adventures with him. It was an incredibly beautiful and moving experience and I felt very grateful to be there. Lars’s spirit was there for sure and it was so wonderful to see how this one person had brought so much joy and fun to so many other people. It sure is a great reminder to live life to its fullest every day just like Lars did.

After that, we headed to Oregon to have a quick visit with fellow kids camp instructors, Margie and Hayden Glatte and run some of the prettiest rivers I know of, the Smith Rivers. The three forks of the Smiths run through the rugged Kalmiopsis wilderness and out to the coast. Along the way, they pass through some beautiful wild countryside and redwood forests. These rivers don’t often have water in them, as they are almost entirely rain dependent.

When I heard they were running, I told Juerg that we had to go. Since we didn’t have tons of time, Juerg and I agreed to run the gorgeous south Fork gorge. The day we went, we had the perfect amount of water and not a sole was around! The water in all the Smith Rivers is crystal clear – you can literally see all the way to the bottom for many portions of the run. I kept thinking of what Lars Holbeck had written about the Smiths saying that you feel like your kayak is floating in air because the water is so clear. And it sure does seem like that. The steep gorge is absolutely beautiful and apparently the serpentine rock forming the gorge makes the water clear.

We had a perfect flow of about 1100 cfs. The sun was out, and it was a fantastic paddle in the gorge. We scouted as needed and luckily didn’t see any wood, as portaging would be pretty difficult in the steep, slippery gorge. The remoteness, good whitewater and beauty make this a very worthwhile trip just mind the large undercuts.

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