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N. Fork Skokomish--no pain, no gain...

Skykomish, N. Fork
Class: V      GMap
1. The Upper Upper North Fork
Trip Date: 6/6/2009
Written on: 7/5/2009
Written by:

By 8:30am Ben and I had our boats on our backs and were hiking up the trail from the "Staircase" ranger station. We averaged about 1 mile of progress for each rest stop, resting at 5-10 min. each stop. After about 6 miles of hiking, we reached the footbridge over the North Fork. Presumably, this is where Bryan Youngs put in for his trip in 2004. You can find his T.R. on the Oregonkayaking site.

We decided to continue upstream a few more miles past "Camp Pleasant", but by this piont my burden was feeling anything but "pleasant". Still, my backpack rig had gotten me 7 miles with reletively little pain. We figured we'd been hiking a little less than 4 hours, and had gone roughly 8 miles. Aside from a short gorge visible from the bridge, the creek moved through a flat, somewhat broad valley and seemed devoid of whitewater. There were many logs spanning the creek in this section above the bridge. I was feeling regrettful about hiking the extra distance, but not wanting to cheat ourselves of potentially good whitewater we continued up another mile (mile 9) to where a huge logjam blocked the entrance to an obvious canyon. Here we ate our first lunch, and put on...
There was a tight little slot we ran through some wood, and some class II and III moments before we started encountering blockages of wood. The most notable portage was a difficult climb around a falls formed by and choked full of several logs interlaced verticaly against the canyon walls. Ben managed to lose my boat into the outflow of the drop, but recovered it just as quickly around the bend. We portaged 3 times in this first canyon, all due to wood. The rest of the canyon was beautiful, if unremarkable for it's whitewater. Korb's book describes the geology of many of the O.P.'s canyons as having a steep drop in the intial cut of the canyon (at it's "head"), followed by mostly flatwater inside the canyon itself. That fits this canyon to a "T".
The class II paddle through the valley was tedius and required 5 more portages around spanning logs, and lots of ducking and dodging around other wood. This totalled 8 portages by the time we reached the very short cnayon that spits out above the footbridge. Save yourself some effort and simply put in here.
Below the bridge there was a 1/4 - 1/2 mile strecth of loggy, shallow class II/III- before things began to clean up. Portage #9 showed up: a riverwide log. An obvious canyon formed, and finanally we were rewarded with strings of runnable whitewater. Much of it came at us in segments of Read 'n Run class IV+ interspersed with frequent scouting and a few harder moves.
We had a sense of making good time as we enjoyed the tight, technical character.
One Double drop had a nice flow and a classic feel to it. Ben shot video while I ran a luscious green boof on R. Left, lining up for a delayed boof on the rightside of the second drop.
more to come...

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