Opal Creek 
 just add water

Mid-week trips can be really tough to get going.   Generally speaking, a large percentage of the available boating population chooses to waste their weekdays at a 'job',  meanwhile neglecting their responsibilities to the rest of us, their boating bretheren.   Wednesday night, with Opal Creek running at 1500 cfs,  I put out the call and as usual recieved the same tired litany of weak excuses  "...dude, you're not hearing me, I have a job,  a J. O. B.  Job, get it, cannot come...    ...I can't just quit...   ...stop calling me a dick..."    Whatever.

Luckily at 10pm I got a call from Jeremy, and we rallied to the put it together on thursday morning.   When asked why he didn't have a 'job', Jeremy told me he was currently a stay at home dad,  which gave me a mental image of a three year old girl home alone,  "Ok, honey, here, just watch these Tao Berman videos, and daddy will be back in nine hours."  I didn't ask.

At the put in, we met up with Luke and Bryon,  guys who actually have priorities.  

You know someone doesn't trust your driving when they get in the car with a helmet on,  either that or they're just one of those special kids that has to wear a helmet all the time.

 Dejectedly,  Luke unpacked his AK,   I pulled the glock out of my PFD,  and Bryon stuffed his sawed-off back in the trunk.   Oh well.

There is about a mile or so hike to the put in,  I was not informed of this beforehand.

Crossing over a bridge we look down on this very nice multi-tier runnable falls.   This hike down is hideous though...

...so we keep on truckin',

The put in is directly adjacent to an abandoned mine shaft,  and this inviting sign.


...the thing about a mine shaft is,  there could be a sign that says,  'Danger, LANDMINES, POLAR BEARS, NUCLEAR WASTE, EBOLA VIRUS, SARAH PALIN'  and you'd still have to go check it out.  It's just one of those things.

"come here often?"

The drop above the put in pool has an especially evil looking left side slot,  boxed in, recirculating, with a tree jammed down into it.   Not a good line.   This would be the final drop (run on the right)  of the upper hike in run,  a 4+ run I would like to come back here and do.    I am one of these sick people that actually likes hike in runs.

  At Opal water pours seemingly from every crevice nourishing a carpet of green that covers every surface available.

Below the put in are dozens of class 3+ bedrock/boulder drops spaced by short pools in a spectacular steep rainforest gorge.  There are a few true 4's in  here,  a sieve to be avoided, and a drop that slams into a wall, but otherwise, it's all good times if you have the skill set.    I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

 Big Ugly is one of three conseqential drops on the run  (although that is misleading, every drop is consequential if you flip in any of the 3+ drops you can hit things, and break your bones,  which has happens from time time.   Practice your skills, and stay upright!)    What makes big ugly, ugly, is that the whole rapid slams hard into a wall.  It flushes, but it still wouldn't feel real good to hit it.    Boats have broken here requiring unpleasant hike outs.

...and nothing is more likely to make you slam into that wall than a guy with a camera right above it.

After the lead in drop you have about three strokes to get on line...

...and if you can't get right with a bit of right angle so you can brace onto the pillow,  you get stuffed into the wall.   Like all walls, the move here is to lean into the wall to keep from flipping,  however,  I think Jeremy made the right choice here,  at this point it was either hit the wall with his boat, or hit it with his body.   

I did a bit better, missing it the wall with my boat, but leaning hard into it at the bottom and dragging my paddle on it with a loud raking sound. 

Bryon and Luke of course cleaned the drop.   Both these guys are rock solid class 5 boaters and it's a pleasure to watch them reading the water and then sticking their lines.  

Soon we eddy out above Big Fluffy,  a 20 foot runnable waterfall, with a class 4 lead in, and a left side hole pocket at the bottom with a nasty reputation for pounding boaters at higher flows.    There was no consideration for Jeremy and I.  Sure, you could probably run it as a class 4 boater and come out smiley side up,  but I've always thought it was dumb to run things you weren't ready for.   Maybe next year.

The whole river drops into this walled in log choked gorge at the top of fluffy.

Luke scouts Big Fluffy.

Luke runs the class 4 lead in drop.  There is some very uncool wood here,  be careful!

Luke drops over big fluffy,  there is a bunch of stuff to mess you up right above the lip here,  at this point Luke has gotten a little weird, but he's still focused and waiting for the boof.

Luke slams down flat, and a little sideways into the meat of the hole on river left,  stops,  and pulls himself through.   It's hard to believe the reputation of this line.  From what I could see, at this flow,  there was a lot of water pushing through there.  It looked like you could even plug it.   The key word in that sentance being YOU,  not me.

You can see the stoke on Lukes face, even from this angle!

The rock island in the middle of the falls is the only conceivable place to set safety, and at that it was more like 'faux safety'.   A rope from here wouldn't do much besides pull a paddler across the falls.  Better than nothing I guess?

  Through the guard holes and twisty currents,  Bryon holds his line.

Bryon waits and waits and at a point where I was certain there was nothing left to pull on, he explodes into a late boof that sent him sailing over the hole.   Nice.

Bryon and Luke wait downstream.

The portage here may not be any safer than just running the falls.   After carrying down over slippery wet rocks...

...you have to walk through waist deep moving water right at the lip of the plunging falls,  and climb the boat up onto this island...

...once on the island, with the falls falling all around you,  you have to carefully crawl into the boat....

Ready... Set...

Go!  a fifteen foot seal launch right into the base of the falls!

After fluffy, the river mellows a bit, and we cruised through some class 3 boulder gardens with a few surprise f-you piton rocks.

Opal is awesome for so many reasons, but this rapid is a big one of them.   At the very end of the run, Thors Playroom is a long drop filled with slides and ledges that seems to be runnable any which way.   The rapid ends in two six foot ledges at the end,  not shown in this photo.   This rapid looked so much like a big kayak playground to me that I didn't take it seriously,  leading to probably the most embarrasing thing I've ever done on a river....

Right after we cleared the double drop at the top tier,  there was a short slide that Bryon and I were running pretty much side by side.   I took one hand off the paddle and looked over at him with my hands in the air, and yelled,  as a joke,  "Oh my god, we're gonna die!"   but the joke was on me because I hit an underwater flake and got deflected right into a rock,  I rode up onto the rock, and without my other hand on the paddle,  I flipped and pinned for a second,  and flushed around the rock.   Unable to get the paddle set up and with more shallow slides about three boat lengths away,  I tried a handroll off my paddle and missed,  then I slammed into another rock and pinned,  flushed around that rock,  and finally got my hand onto the paddle,  firing a quick roll just in time to spin the boat and run the next slide.   Yes, ladies and gentlemen,  I am a complete jack-ass.  

But wait,  there's more!   Just one drop later we encountered the final ledge and got out to scout for photos,   Bryon pointed out an easy line over the first drop that led to a nice fat boof at the end, just to the left of the wild hole at the bottom of the second drop.   I said,  "sweet,  I'll hit that then."  and peeled out with lazy strokes and a mushy eddy turn.   I'm not really sure what happened next, because the first drop is utterly simple.  I can only assume it was bad karma from me being a lazy boater because I instantly flipped.   Knowing there was no hope I could even set up my paddle in time,  I plastered myself to the front deck and ran the final drop on Thors upside down and backwards before rolling up.  Luckily I only barely hit my head and suffered nothing worse.    I KNOW luke got a photo sequence of this from below because I saw it on his camera,  so check back for better carnage photos.

Bryon fires off the final boof,  upright.   

Conclusion:  even though I am a complete 'tard,  Opal Creek rocks.    This is a beautiful and highly rewarding class 4 run,  tightly spaced 3+ rapids and a few must make moves are what makes this run class 4.   There is a good risk/reward ratio on this run and I found it pretty easy compared to the Upper Wind which is my current difficulty measure.    Highly reccomended for the intermediate class 4 boater, which would be me.

Thoroughly embarrased,  I carried up to the car where Luke was waiting with a Hams.   It's taken a lot for me to get used to drinking the shitty beer so dearly revered in boating culture,  but I can now say that I actually find PBR palatable.   Hams on the other hand,  has a flavor of PBR mixed with formaldahyde and lighter fluid.   It literally tasted like something that was not safe to drink.  The first beer I can ever remember not finishing.    After a brief discussion on why the f***ing Hams bear is black and white,  Luke remembered that it was time to feed the baby....

Back to Class IV kayaking blog

Bonus photo!

Bryon the dark lord.