This has been one of those seasons… that will be talked about for years to come, a once in 20 yr snow pack coupled with below average daily temps, combining for an epic, prolonged snow melt. It just also happened to be our (Louise Urwin and myself – Tyler Fox) first season in California. Score !
Upper Cherry was by no means our first river here in Cali, but due to a non-stop paddling schedule started off on my first day in Cali, we have had zero time for sitting at Computers. Therefore, we are starting now with one of my favorites – Upper Cherry!
It started like most of our trips, last minute. We received a worrisome call from the boys saying it was dropping out fast, contrary to our inside info that it wouldn’t be runnable for another couple days and would have a big fat week long window. However, we couldn’t take the risk and made the necessary steps to getting the mission underway. A quick overnight pack and a last minute call to Josh Neilson pulling him off the couch, and we were driving through the night towards Cherry Lake.
Camping at the trailhead we broke camp and started to set shuttle at 5:30am. The 20min shuttle lasted for an hour or more as one of our drivers got slightly separated and lost from the convoy. We finally hit the trail around 7am, with fully loaded boats on our backs and the first signs of daylight breaking the skyline. The hike is 9 miles along a beautifully maintained trail. It took our group between 5-6 hours but the view at the end of the hike is worth every drip of sweat.
Right out of the gate the river starts off with an amazing long slide ending with a 15’ rooster tail boof. Pure magic, I couldn’t ask for a better start to a river.
From here the river goes over a couple more big drops before hitting the Moon Slides a never-ending series of super smooth low angle slides.
We camped just above entrance gorge, with a couple other groups. The anxiety was fairly high among our camp neighbors, as it turns out the level was “High” making Cherry Bomb gorge “Full on, pushy with sticky holes”. We all fell asleep with these thoughts in our head.
After a nice sleep-in and casual breakfast we were fired up and ready to get some! We made it through entrance gorge, which had some steep, fast rapids, into the large pool above Cherry bomb. We all hopped out to have a scout, however, we were fairly committed to running it at this point. The line was clear, it just looked a bit fast and rowdy. Safety was set just below the weir and further down above the sieve pothole… there was nothing left but to commit. Get in your boat and take those final 3-4 stokes pulling your self out of the eddy and onto the slide. Exhale.
Landing at the bottom of Cherry Bomb you have a split second before you need to start dealing with how you are gonna get over the weir, once past the weir you can catch an eddy on river left, fist pump – scream – fist pimp, then let your heart rate drop. From this eddy all you need to know is leftleftmiddlerightmiddleleft … you got that go! The first couple drops are fairly chill, but from there on the holes start to pack a serious punch and will throw you around if your not charging. The most hectic section is the 2nd to last drop which at these flows pushed super fast into the mandatory Left at sieve pothole the exit to cherry bomb gorge proper. I was sooooo stoked to make it through the gorge with sweet lines and no problems. I quickly scurried up the smooth granite wall to shoot from the media ledge.
Below Cherry Bomb you slide pretty much straight into the Jedi-slides, a series of beautiful teacup drops finishing in a large lake and Flintstone camp. The next couple miles are all time classic, unfortunately we had spent a bit of our day dealing with Cherry Bomb and needed to make quick progress to make the takeout by dark, so we kept the cameras in the boats.
Highlights definitely included dropping into double pothole, entrance included, going off beta from Josh. Looking back up at that staked section of whitewater truly gives meaning to PGA (Post Granite Awesome). Waterfall alley contained some serious whitewater in a committing gorge, but was highly rewarding with clean lines. Kiwi in a pocket and Dead Bear are there for the taking. After the confluence with the West Cherry, Redrock Gorge and Exit Gorge kept the cl V action coming right until the very last drop, which lands in Cherry Lake.
Such an amazing adventure!!
Keep posted for more to come.
Team Level Six Members Tyler Fox & Louise Urwin