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By Darin McQuoid

Last spring Ben and I set a new precedent for the amount of kayaking to be done in a California snow melt season. This spring I little expected to have anything similar happen, but now that it’s all said and done, a longer snow melt season let me match last years epic. I decided to include some carnage counts for all the runs, these runs can be hard on the gear and the body. Everyone is between swims, every creek boat will eventually crack and paddles like to vanish after swims.

UMC. The first true Sierra style run of the season was new run to me, and one of the modern classics – Upper Middle Cosumnes. I ended up getting on this run three times and loved it each time. Special note, high clearance vehicle required for shuttle. Or Dodge Sprinter if you are Stephen Wright. One day run. Hike: 20 minutes on a vague trail. Group Carnage out of all three runs: one cracked boat.

Kaweah River. Every year we make the pilgrimage down to the low elevation granite wonderland of the Kaweah. Classic runs that make a great warm up for the rest of the High Sierra season that quickly follows. One day runs with no hiking. Carnage: bad beta on a "throw and go" and I still occasionally limp due to a fractured ankle. Mandatory two week break because I couldn’t walk.

South Branch. Lots of waterfalls, a few larger optional drops, clean water and one of a kind scenery make the South Branch of the Middle Fork of the Feather a must visit location every year. Some look down on this run because it’s too easy. I think it’s too fun! Getting to take Stephen Wright, Tanya Faux and Seth Dow into this wonderland was a highlight. One day run. Hike: 30min-1 hour of steep uphill, lots of ibrpofin for the ankle. Laps:3 Group Carnage: One broken paddle.

Took a break from the creeking to see friends in Reno. Had a great showing of Hotel Charley IV. No competitions for the uncompetitive 🙂

One of the best one day runs in the state, Kimshew road is often gated and this year only had a two day long window. Thankfully we caught it right after Reno. For some reason "triple slide" was giving up the pitons this year, not that I was going to run it anyways. Days 1. Hiking: nope! Group Carnage: 1 swim

South Branch, back for one last lap as flows dropped out. Good friends & good times with the Knight brothers. Finally ran "99 Problems" after walking it six times.

Dinkey Creek is a personal favorite of mine. It could be done as a one day run, but it’s in the middle of nowhere and has a 2-3 hour shuttle. With that much effort, why not enjoy the location? Rumored to be best between 200-300cfs, perfect @ 500. My normal crew went mia on me, and I had a blast taking down a big group of British, Scottish, and one Kiwi. Days: Two. Hike: one mile. Group Carnage: Three Swims, including the worst I have ever witnessed.

Royal Gorge. If we could have done anything different last year, it would have been squeezing in a run on Royal Gorge. Unfortunately for us, the flow never came in while the road was open so we did two laps on Dinkey, not too bad of a consolation. This year things worked out, and I put on with Devin Knight, Chris Korbulic and Taylor Robertson. Unfortunately my helmet buckle (my bad, way overdue to be replaced) broke on Lower Heath Springs. Hike: none. Days: Three. Group Carnage: one cave incident/vertical extraction of yours truly, one broken paddle later in the run. Unable to finish due to the lack of a helmet. Still got to run a 40′ followed by a 50. Of note, Chris Korbulic fired up the fourth descent of Wabena, first ran by Ben Stookesberry.

Yuba Gap. I’d driven to this run a handful of times but it never had water. American Whitewater arranged a flow study, and we got to enjoy what may just be the best one day run in California. Days: one. Hiking: none. Carnage: none. Two days in a row. Props to Little Dave for doing three days in a row. Chris and I needed ibrpofin just to finish two days in a row.

Fantasy Falls of the North Fork Mokelumne. This tough three day run is a personal favorite of mine. It was the first of all the High Sierra multi-day runs Chris and I got to paddle, and it was a joy to return with Chris again for our third adventure down the river. This river is better with more water than less and is often done too low. It’s worth waiting for the perfect medium high flow! Days: three. Hiking: none. Carnage: two swims, one by myself over a 15′ waterfall.

Upper Middle Kaweah. Ben Stookesberry got done with the Hotel Charley video tour, came to my house and dropped the tour gear so we could load up and go somewhere. With no true plan we drove to the Kaweah, and ended up getting on the rarely run Uppe Middle section. Days: Two Hiking: Four Miles. Group Carnage: none but one good hole ride.

Marble Fork of the Kaweah. I am not sure how Ben made this seem like a good idea, I guess his enthuasism is undeniable. One of the toughest days of the whole season, with a handful of epic drops. Days: One. Hiking: Four Miles. Carnage: none

North Fork of the San Joaquin. One of my favorite runs from last season, we knew it was going to be a little high when we started the drive to the put in. Chris was bummed about missing this one last year, and we decided "damn the torpodeos, full speed ahead". Once reaching put-in we realized flows were really high. At least four times the amount of water I had seen it at last year. We were scared, but flows dropped considerably overnight and the next day we ran everything minus the large waterfall, where ending up in a cave was almsot guaranteed. The rest of the run was so good it didn’t matter. Days: Three. Hiking: Eleven; Nine in Three out. Carnage: none

Upper Cherry Creek. The marquee California multi-day. What a way to celebrate the Fourth of July weekend with Ben Stookesberry and Garrett Brown. Garretts first time in his creek boat since Upper Cherry last year. Days: Two Hiking: Nine miles. Carnage: one cracked boat

North Fork of the Kings. Dubious beta led us to this run that has been on nearly everyone’s radar. We decided it would be at perfect water levels while Upper Cherry was in. It was a bit low for us, it was still fun and we’ll be back! Days: Two Hiking: Eleven miles. Carnage: none

Middle Kings. This is where the whole California season leads. It all seems like training for this epic run. Or perhaps training for the grueling hike in. Traversing a whole mountain range with just a kayak gives a feeling of deep accomplishment, and exhaustion. Getting through the Middle Kings without swimming I feel like I "got away with one". Days: Five. Hiking: Fourteen miles, peaking at 12,000 feet. Carnage: Two swims, one pin, one lost paddle.

Looking back I am surprised to have completed such an epic season and I can’t say enough about how well the Hero paddles on these expeditions. Hiking is one of the hardest parts for me, and the light weight of the Hero a relief for the forty-four plus miles hiked to paddle these wonderful rivers.

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