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Pilchuck River 3-12-2011

Pilchuck River
Class: III+(IV)      GMap
1-Road P-500 above Boulder Creek to Menzel
Trip Date: 3/12/2011
Written on: 3/12/2011
Written by:

Itís Friday night and once again, I am trying  to figure out where to paddle.  Ben suggested Yellowjacket but Iím thinking itís a little low based on the level I ran it at last year.  We went back and forth on the usual suspects Ė Sky, MM, Green, etc and quickly discarded them all.  I made a half serious suggestion to run the Pilchuck River and to my surprise, Ben says ďLetís do it!!!Ē with a lot more enthusiasm than I was expecting.  Especially since itís a 4 mile minimum hike in.  I drive past the take-out for Pilchuck River every time I head to the Sky drainage and have often wondered what is up there so soon Iím as excited as Ben is.  We make plans to meet up at my house early in the morning so we will have plenty of daylight.  The trip is on!!!  I gave Samson a call and he was in too.


I spent the rest of Friday evening looking at Google Earth, topo maps, and AW.  I went down to the garage and rigged up a kayak cart out of a 2x4 and the wheels off of my lawnmower.  The plan is to strap the boats to the wheels and drag them in.  Then, at the put-in, I will pull the wheels off and cut up the 2x4 into pieces that will fit in the stern of my creeker. 


Saturday morning, we all meet up at my place about 8:45 and load up into my truck for the 10 minute drive to the start of the hike.  Itís about 40 degrees with a steady rain Ė not exactly the ideal conditions I would normally look for on a 4 mile hike but this is a mission and  we press on.  We get to the dirt road turnoff and prepare for the hike.  Samson uses his kayak backpack and Ben and I strap our boats to the cart and pile in our gear.  A runner and mountain biker give us a little beta on the road conditions, mainly that we will need to watch out for the downed trees and depending on how far we go, weíll encounter snow.  Ben and I quickly find out that while our kayak cart rolls well enough on the dirt road, itís quite heavy and requires both of us to pull.  Itís about 10am when we get moving.


Our first obstacle comes right away.  The dirt road to the putin is gated and our cart wonít go around or under.  So we struggle to lift our monstrosity over this gate.  Note to self Ė next time strap the boats to the cart after the gate.  We get going again and are remarkably pleased at the good condition of the road.  Even though it is cold and wet, we are soon sweating and take a break to strip down.  About 1 Ė 1.5 miles in, we encounter our next surprise.  Part of the road has washed out and to keep people that may have vehicular access off the washed out section, DNR has put a massive pile of rocks across the road.  Another miserable carry of our kayak cart over the jumble of rocks.  And 100 feet further down the road is a downed tree  that we managed to drag the cart over without too much difficulty.  A few more easily navigated down trees and a lot of rest breaks later, we catch sight of the class IV gorge and this gets us really pumped.  From what we can see from the road, weíre in for a treat.  Just beyond the gorge, the road nears the road and we decide to put in here.  Weíre about 4 miles in at this point and about 2+ hours from the car.


Once on the river, we quickly paddle to the gorge and it is everything that was promised from the glimpse off the road.  A gorgeous canyon, quality IV- rapids and we were all grins.  Unfortunately, the canyon ends too quickly.  At the end of the canyon, there was a river wide log and we found a cool sneak on the far left side.  However, while the tougher whitewater ends, the river turns into a pretty class II moving water float through lush forest land.   A short fun class III- section comes toward the end of the run and then we hit the dam.  I donít know what this dam is for but it is a death trap.  It scared the hell out of me just standing above it on the bank.  All too quickly, we are at the take-out and I make the .75 mile walk back to get the truck. 


While this run isnít something I would do every week, it is definitely worth doing when you are in the mood for an adventure or something different.


Our level was about 1140cfs which is on the low side but very runnable. 

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