July 4, 2013
4.3ft on the gauge at the top bridge, all natural flow
(photos of paddlers courtesy of Nathan and Lee)
I started my paddling career in Kibler Valley over thirty years ago as a kid, have ran it a zillion times and could probably paddle it blindfolded. And yet, she still found a way to shake things up and present a new twist. With the hydrostation down for repairs and a ton of rainfall, we were treated with a high-water, natural flow run on Independence Day. The gauge below Public Enemy was at 4.3 feet. Almost two feet higher than a full release. The day did not start out very well, as my paddle flew off my truck during the two mile drive to Lovill's Creek for some park and play. I was not able to find it and whoever picked it up did not call the number I had on it. Ken posted online though that he would bring a loaner if I wanted to meet him in Kibler. Sounded great to me as I was really curious what the river would look like. When we arrived, we found the big rock at Basketball Falls underwater. Wow. Never even seen it get close to that high before. Unfortunately, a big log was stuck on top of it, so I was not able to boof it. Man, that would have been something. I debated between play boat and creek boat for a long time, decided on the play boat, then changed my mind and swapped it back out for the creek boat. I made the right decision. By this point, I have been around the block a few times and knew that what we were looking at was well within my wheelhouse, but it would have been more than a handful in the Fun. I was impressed with how willing Ken was to jump into what was obviously a challenging set of conditions. It was my first time paddling with him and he definitely isn't lacking moxy. We walked the boats up to the Power House rapid, which meant that we started off with a bang. I skirted it to the right and caught the eddy. Ken hit it closer to center and took an adventurous swim through the next series of big holes before pulling his gear over on river-right. From there we dropped through Public Enemy and Basketball without issue. Things were big, different and most certainly fun in that section. It was so neat to run a river I know that well, and yet have no clue where the holes were going to be. After running the Upper Nanty a couple of weeks earlier in my play-boat, I felt pretty good in the creeker and had a dry-hair run that leaned more toward fun than stressful, which was awesome. Lots of friends were in the valley to check the level, which gave us some additional safety from shore and also meant that we got some cool photos. Below Basketball I was talking to Ken about some downstream wood when his boat backed into a hole and flipped. This time the boat got away, although Ken was in pursuit of it from the river. The boat was flying though and showing no signs of slowing down. Ken took out at the second bridge and I stayed in pursuit. The empty boat and I kept trucking for close to a mile before it finally stopped at the island below 7 stitches, that is how fast the river was flowing. The SRVCC gang was there and ready for a quick boat rescue. I parked my kayak at the lower end of the island and bushwhacked my way up to the boat, clipped Jack's rope to it and threw the rope back across the river. Soon, Ken and I were back on our way. Ken hit a quick combat roll and we were good to go. The wave trains were big enough to actually boof. Serious fun. We met back up with the SRVCC gang at the picnic tables. They were heading to the Mayo, but Alison decided to stick around and run a second lap with us. This time we put on at 7 stitches and took out at the Slate House just upstream from the church. The run was really, really fun, but over far too quick. It was a special day on a favorite stretch of river. The natural flow was certainly a rare treat. Thanks to Ken for meeting me and sharing his paddle, to everyone who shared photos with us and to Alison for making the second lap with us.