If you are ever talking to someone and you find out they have ever run a class V rapid, stop immediately because they are probably an asshole.– DC
Trying to get out of his usual grind yet remain within the confines of what his injuries allow, The Logging Road Cyclist headed off to Quartzville Creek for a relaxing and pretty ride. For anyone seeking a paved glide along a beautiful river, this is the ticket. One can either do an out-and-back along the whitewater runs, or, since Quartzville Road goes eventally to Hwy 22 way up high, it could be a piece of a longer route. This area gets a lot of use in the summer, so TLRC recommends bad weather riding up here. In the rain, with snow a few hundred feet up, Quartzville Canyon feels remote and isolated. The aesthetics are helped when mist covers some of the more savage cutting.
Besides getting out and fiddling with the Spongy Wonder’s adjustment, TLRC simply wanted to see his old stomping grounds. He had spent many days paddling on Quartzville and still has a strong attachment to the river and it’s canyon.
TLRC first ran Quartzville 25 years ago on the day after Thanksgiving. He was half insane from grief and alcohol following the rapid disintegration of his marriage only a few weeks before. He thought that he would seek relief in two familiars: alienation and paddling. Thus he took his open boat up to Quartzville for a bout of solo open boating on a river he did not know.
In the event the boating was great. The alienation not so much. The day was the traditional go-to-the-Willamette-to-cut-a-Christmas-tree-day for what seemed to be most of Sweet Home and TLRC hitched a ride back to his Volvo in the back of a pickup with a bunch of happy kids. He was cheered up for a while, and Quartzville became sort of a healing spot for TLRC.
After a hiatus of about 5 years TLRC was back in a kayak and started to spend a lot of time on Quartzville. The lower run of 8-9 miles is generally easy with a few rapids that reach IVth class. In spite of the heavy logging there are many very pretty spots along the river. The water is generally clear, at least one doesn’t get the feel that the headwaters have been as heavily logged as doubtless they have been.
The upper run is more substantial, containing many class IV-IV+ rapids and one bona fide V, the Double Drop. Double Drop was where TLRC first had to face and deal with the fact that, as a middle aged kayaker, not only was he not the paddler he used to be, he pretty much didn’t want to try anymore to be that either.
As the name suggests, Double Drop consists of a pair of sequential steep drops. They are not all that big, and singly, followed by a pool, neither would be all that big a deal, although the lower one does have a pretty nasty reversal in a narrow slot. The sum, however, is much more than the parts. TLRC ran it for the first time and got away with a spectacular tail stand in the lower drop, having hit the upper one just right.
At this point TLRC was pretty happy with himself. Not knowing too many of the locals, he thought that, given his own success, Double Drop was something the upper echelons of the paddling community did as a matter of course. It wasn’t. When he found this out, and given that Double Drop is actually a pretty scary little thing to run, TLRC found himself agonizing every trip down over whether or not to run it. This consistently ruined his Upper Quartzville trips, as he was, in fact, scared to run it again, and, on the other hand, didn’t like feeling like a pussy if he didn’t. The alchemy of ego: happiness at getting through it once transformed into self-loating at later demurral.
The second time through was when he set himself up for disaster later on.
TLRC was paddling with a group that included the local suicide kid DC. At this stage of his career, DC was pretty good, but ran stuff that was way, way above his level and generally got away with it. Like all 25 year-old male class V boaters, DC had an attitude, to say the least. He treated TLRC with a certain amount of respect (given his rep from the California Golden Age days), but it was pretty clear that TLRC was an artifact.
Just above Double Drop, the other members of the group as a matter of course took out to portage. TLRC was feeling hot that day. He had been boating well, and had run Canyon Cr. the day before. He and DC sat in the eddy above together and DC asked if TLRC was going to run it. From the look in his eyes and the tone of his voice, TLRC KNEW that DC did not want to run it, but in the nature of things (TLRC: artifact; DC: young stud) TLRC also KNEW that if he, TLRC, ran it, that DC was bound to do so too. TLRC simply couldn’t help himself. “Yes.” “Aren’t you going to scout it?” said DC, rattled. “No” said TLRC, twisting the knife (one almost automatically scouts something like Double Drop), and just took off. TLRC had a perfect run, DC did well too, and better, from the perspective of TLRC, DC knew he had been played.
Not long afterwards, TLRC paid for this.
Somehow TLRC had hooked up with a travelling boater from West Virginia (he said Sweet Home reminded him of home). They went up to Upper Quartzville together. This guy was young and a better and much more modern boater than TLRC. He’d bomb down stuff sight unseen and pretty much do alright. When they got to Double Drop, the visitor just took off, much as TLRC had done a few weeks before. TLRC was feeling a bit out of it that day for some reason, tired, hungover, whatever, not really focused. Regardless, he followed.
TLRC hit the top drop about as wrong as one can and got spun around backwards between the drops. There is sort of an eddy in there, and he thought that perhaps he could scramble into it and recover himself, but all this did was lead to the worst possible outcome. He dropped dead sideways with no downstream speed right into the reversal in the lower drop.
TLRC found himself riding a horrible reversal with about every bad trait it could have. Upstream, water was dropping vertically from 4 feet up strait into the reversal, like a weir. Downstream, the water was rushing straight upstream, like a weir. There was about 6 inches of clearance off either end of TLRC’s boat. There was absolutely nothing he could do but hang on and not escape. He held on. Finally, he got flipped and held under to the point where the only option was to swim out, at which point he got flushed way under water and popped up 20-30 feet downstream. His boat stayed in for a long, long time, doing end-for-end flips, spinning around the long axis, disappearing and reappearing….TLRC cowered on the rock until he eventually got his boat back.
Afterwards, TLRC loudly proclaimed to himself and anyone who would listen that he was, as a matter of principle, never going to run that damned thing again. He didn’t, and also enjoyed every Upper Quartzville trip after that. Except maybe the one at 5000cfs, for which “enjoy” doesn’t quite fit.