This summer was much busier than summers before as I decided to try out commercial guiding again after taking a break 3 years prior, before I teamed up with Stio.
The season started a little late due to the amount of snow California got in the winter and spring. There were plenty of roads to the river closed from the amount of erosion the snowmelt caused, crumbling the carved-out roads cut out of the mountainside. First it was the put-in, where you put the raft in the water to begin your trip. There was a debate on if the Forestry will allow any access down the trail until it was fixed. And then the take out with the same issues of road maintenance, which was much more of a county problem and they were already dealing with access points to Yosemite that is only a 40 mins drive away from the River.
Before heading out, I was able to find some fun rivers along the way. First, Lochsa Madness – if you haven’t seen a series of rafts going through a huge stacking wave named Lochas Falls, then this is something to add to the bucket list. Lochsa Falls gets its name from its sudden steep drop into hydraulic waves. Below are photos from the road. People would set up chairs and tailgate to watch all the boats run the falls! The next two are myself and my friend running the falls in my little 10 ft raft. We did not make it.
I also spent some time down in Southern Utah running some of the creeks before heading off to California to start the season! Despite not opening up trips till the first few weeks of June, there was still plenty of highwater left in the month. Typically, you will only see flows above 10,000 cfs on good snow years, above that is an unusual highwater year, and we had 14,000 cfs for most of June! We made it through the highwater pretty clean this season, with hardly any swimmers and most boats upright.
The Tuolumne River is some of the best whitewater you can find in California and in the lower 48. You have 18 miles of continuous techy whitewater on the Main Tuolumne that can be done in 1-3 days. Above that is the best world class V on the Upper Tuolumne: Cherry Creek. With the highwater, there was a short, but nonetheless amazing, Creek season. With the roads closed, our fearless leader was able to allow access on the Forestry road as long as we had people walk down. We loaded our the trucks and Subarus full of gear to drive down and the rest of the guides and guests had a peaceful three mile hike down to the water. There were even some other logistics we had to figure out. We needed to get camping gear down river without gear boats; it was too high to take heavy boats down with the flip potential. So we would take some kitchen boxes, tables, and overnight gear down in paddle boats with guests. We would leave the gear at the campground only accessible by river and then the next day, we’d bring more things. It worked. We were the only company running the river with it being that high. All other companies opted not to till the water dropped or the access became easier. In order to take out, we would need to cross the whole reservoir as our takeout was closed due to road conditions (reopening the road was low on the counties to-do list.). We had log jams to climb our rafts over and we had to be pulled by a small tug boat or jet ski across 5 miles of flatwater.
We had long days and different challenges between logistics, whitewater, and time but it was a very fun summer. Bonds were built between guides and we were able to take a lot of unique and fun people down the river, sharing a bit of the river life with the guests. That is something that I love about rivers: it easily connects people of different walks of life and for a moment you get to share the same experience.