© 2009 Adam Johnson

Part 2 of 2: Tour de California

Jay Moffet probes the stout, finishing with a good line.

So, after a good warmup on the Kaweah, JB Seay, Jay Moffet, & I headed north to Groveland, CA, aiming to paddle Upper Cherry Creek. Alas, this infamous creek–along with it’s 12 mile hike in–was still too high this middle of June.

Shannon Caroll jumps in for a swim.

So, we evaluated our options. After a nice boat outfitting session and a quick swim, we headed toward the Cherry Creek section of the Tuolumne. Arriving at the take out, the massive Lumpson Falls, very late, we evaluated our options and decided to nix that run that afternoon. As it turned out, this was a good decision. None of us knew the run and it ended up being 2,900cfs, roughly 900cfs more than the maximum reccomended level.

Lumpson Falls with a whole-lotta water.

Then we heard about another creek that may be good to run. This creek, which shall remain unnamed until unveiled on the web by some locals of that area, had reportedly only been run a handful of times. The beta was that there was a crappy bushwack hike in with lots of poison oak but the rapids were all quality.

Starting the stout hike into the Canyon.
Entering into what JB calls the “Ewok Village”.
The ewok village was just about what it sounds like: anything from crawling on all fours to hacking through branches whilst pulling your kayak downhill–for about two hours.
Mid ewok village. Pretty much the scene for about two hours.

We have heard reports of people finding the right line down the hill and only taking an hour. Some have even spoken of some 25 minute hike. All I can say is, if you go in there, do your homework. Google earth it and you can find a good line down the hill. Don’t take our line through the ewok village.
Adam Johnson rappelling into the canyon. Photo JB Seay.

We eventually got to the river, washed off the poison oak, and started in on the goods. We had heard reports from a previous crew that they had about 300cfs when they ran it. We quickly discovered that we had a whole lot more than 300cfs. We guessed 500cfs to 700cfs. Over the next few days, we confirmed that the creek had a dam release and was over 700cfs. Without a doubt, a healthy level.
Shannon Caroll early in the run. Photo JB Seay.

We encountered a bunch of quality rapids. All granite, all big and fluffy. Some not so fluffy. But great stuff for sure.
Portage #1. There was a line, but it was not for any of us this day.
Jay Moffet runs a sweet 15 footer somewhere in the middle.
The same drop from below. Look at that granite!

The run just kept serving up the goods. One after another. Until we got to this stout:
Shannon Caroll runs the entrance to the stout.
The lip of the stout. Whoa!

It ended up being about a 35-40 footer with a reconnect shelf about 3/4 the way down. Below that, a slide into a pourover that was backed up by a large granite boulder. Another stout indeed.
Shannon Caroll runs the stout with a good line down the left. Well done!

So, after watching Jay and Shannon fire it up, JB and I were scouting, scratching our heads, looking at the drop, looking at the portage (which looked just about as hanus as the drop itself), and said, “Ok, it’s time to go.” So, I got in my boat, boofed the crap out of the top drop, and ran the stout direct. I boofed, hit the shelf, which knocked the wind out of me, and landed in the pool below. I rolled up and paddled right to boof the last pourover hole with success. In the eddy, I gave a hoot and looked upstream for JB to run the stout. I was able to snap this photo just as he landed in the froth:
JB somewhere in the froth.
Recollecting below the drop.

JB ran a bit too far center than the rest of us and hit the shelf hard. When he got to the bottom we learned that he had messed up his ribs and that there was some sort of cracking noise going on. Yikes! JB then had to take it easy for the rest of the run.
A cauldron-drop that we portaged late in the day.

At that point, it was getting dark and we were concerned about getting out of the gorge. We started to route a lot of whitewater and portage some otherwise marginally ok looking rapids. I ended up hurting my rotator cuff on a class four drop by getting on my back deck, hitting a rock, and over extending my right arm. Now two kayakers hurt, we continued onward.
The slide where we took out. It was long enough to take three shots to get the whole thing.

Eventually, we got to the top of another giant horizon line and found that part of it was man made. It ended up being a huge 100 yard long slide into a 20′ terminal pourover. JB and I immediately packed up ship and took out on river left. Shannon and Jay were going to walk the slide on the right and found that the canyon only continued with more stouts downstream. They got back in the water, ferryed to river left, and started hiking out along with us. At 7:45pm, this was a good decision as there ended up being about two more miles of whitewater before our takeout.
Half Dome + 360 degrees of granite. Yosimete is incredible!

So, tails between our legs, we hiked out and licked our wounds over the next few days. We went to Yosimete and admired the giant rocks everywhere–truly incredible.

If you plan on heading into this creek, here is my advice: 1) Have lots of time. Set shuttle and camp at the putin. Hike in the next morning early. 2) Be on your game and be ready to run some stouts. 3) Do your homework. Call the dams to make sure there is or is not a release. Go on Google earth and find the appropriate line down the hill.

I plan on heading back in there one day for sure. For now, I am back in West by god working and finishing up my last year here at WVU.
To see more photos from this mission, check out my Picasa web album.

Until next time,

-Adam Johnson


  1. Anonymous
    Posted July 15, 2009 at 4:05 pm | #

    middle cherry! yeah man1

  2. RiotAJ
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 1:12 pm | #

    Nice guess (although it wasn't that hard to figure out).


    -Adam Johnson

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