Monday, August 02, 2010

Exploring the Granite Planet on Upper Cherry Creek

Last week I was fortunate enough to take a trip to the granite planet on Upper Cherry Creek. Due to a work commitment and coordinating a plan for Gareth's dog, we had to wait a couple days to put on, which led to the water being lower than preferred. As it turns out though, Upper Cherry with any water in it is a spectacular place not to be missed.

Typical Upper Cherry scenery
I feel like most things great require work, and for Upper Cherry that means a 12 mile hike to the put in with a loaded down kayak strapped to your back. The first two hours were pretty miserable for me as my kayak backpack system more or less fell apart on me. Eventually I decided to give up on it and create a new system for myself with made the remaining 5 hours of the hike much more bearable.

Taking a lunch break on the hike in
Hour six of the hike 
After arriving at the creek we spent some time relaxing in the water and enjoying the sunshine. Eventually we decided to get away from the notorious mosquitos at the put in and head downstream a few rapids to find a campspot. The put in slide/drop was super fun. Just downstream we found a sweet granite slab with its own sandy beach to rest up for the night.

Me hitting the first boof of the run (Photo by Eric Giddens)
 Introducing Gareth Tate, the newest up and coming videographer to the whitewater world
Chilling at Camp One (Photo by Eric Giddens)
Waking up on Upper Cherry (Photo by Eric Giddens)
This trip was special in that it not only included two friends, Rebecca and Allison, who hiked the entire trip along side us in our kayaks, but it also included Bishop, Gareth's dog. Bishop now has the first known dog descent of the entire Upper Cherry Creek, from hike in to paddle across the lake. It was a pretty difficult feat for him, as he is not exactly fond of steep slick granite slabs, but he made it happen. Congrats Bishop!

Bishop checking out his new territory
No words can describe it (Photo by Allison)
After a great day of low angle slides and low water creeking, we finally arrived at the most well known rapid on Upper Cherry, and probably all of California- Cherry Bomb Falls. There was a big debate here as to whether or not to scout the gorge, or just go in there. With the water low, the fact that all of us have seen numerous videos and pictures of the place, and having multiple people that had been in there before, we felt pretty good about bombing (no pun intended) in there. The only thing we werent so sure about was how the exit drop of the gorge, which is backed up by a rock, would handle the low water. Eric was a bit concerned that there might not be a line there with the water being so low. After hiking up the first part of the scout, we all got lazy, had a group meeting, and inevitably decided we'd just deal with whatever we got in there and went back to our boats.

After a quick scout of cherry bomb proper at water level, we all launched off it. There were mixed results on whether or not it was better to go left of the rock at the entrance, or right of it. I decided to go right of the rock and had as good a line as I could've hoped for.

Rachel Curtis launching off Cherry Bomb (Photo by Allison)
Me dropping the Bomb (Photo by Tim Collins)
After we all got through the main drop, we still had the left, left, center, right, center, left sequence of drops in the gorge to get through. It was the final left that we were a bit worried about, but Drew was able to do a sketchy scout and give us the thumbs up that the final drop still went. That was a bit of a relief...

Our team making it through Cherry Bomb Gorge
After Cherry Bomb the creek just keeps delivering. Next up is the oh so fun Jedi slide followed by teacup drops which take you right into Flinstone Camp. We had a great evening of lapping these drops, racing them, swimming them, fishing, drinking tequila, and all around enjoying the company of everyone there. It was hear that Josh, Nick and Taylor caught up to us and joined the party.

Gareth boofing into Camp Two
Josh and Taylor swimming into Camp Two
Drew fishing at Flinstone camp
Gareth prepping his camera
Enjoying the night 
Flinstone Camp, Morning Three
The next morning we awoke to morning laps on the tea cups before making our way down to the good below. Right off the bat you have a series of back to back sweet drops... West Coast Groove Tube, Perfect Twenty, Douple Pothole, Waterfall Alley, Kiwi in a Pocket and Dead Bear.

Taylor Cavin at West Coast Groove Tube (Photo by Allison)
Me at the Perfect Twenty Drop (Photo by Allison)
Gareth at Double Pothole
Waterfall Alley
Nick Urquart at Kiwi in a Pocket
Taylor Cavin at the second drop of Kiwi in a Pocket (Photo by Rebecca Giddens)
My boat going big off of Dead Bear (Photo by Gareth Tate)
A big group of us all ran Kiwi in a Pocket and were psyched to get to do so. This was one place where the low water allowed us to run a rapid we may or may not have otherwise. This did lock us into a somewhat gnarly portage around Dead Bear, but we worked as one happy team and made it happen with relative ease. It actually turned out to be fun in the end as we all launched our boats off of Dead Bear with everyone else sitting on a rock just downstream cheering us and our boats on. Some boats had great lines, some not so much....

After lunch at Dead Bear we had a bit of a low water paddle out until reaching the last of the goods right before dropping into the lake.

 Getting Bishop, the hikers and their packs across the lake (Photo by Tim Collins)
What can I say? It was an amazing experience filled with lots of beautiful granite, fun rapids and quality time with good friends. Low water is definitely better than no water on Upper Cherry Creek!
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