Forks of the Kern – May of 2009
The Forks of the Kern, one of the crown jewels of wilderness Class V, is an awesome run. This was a staff training trip for Kern River Outfitters and we spent three days on the Forks. The day before the trip half the group packed in with the mules and rigged the boats. The next morning, the remainder of the group hiked down and we were on the water around 11:00 AM. It was around 2800 CFS so not too big but not too small, lots of great IVs on the first day. Night one was spent at the beautiful “View Camp”.
On the second day we ran Vortex and Big Bean. Vortex was pretty nasty so we spent a fair amount of time there but no portaging and, for the most part, clean runs. Big Bean, above Vortex, had a great hit in it. If you are familiar with the move at Freight Train on the Cal-Salmon, Big Bean will remind you (although a mirror image) of dropping into the big lateral. We had a late lunch below The Gauntlet (which is immediately after Vortex) and then jumped into the Geology section (big class IV stretch that goes on forever). Fire Starter (Gary) had quite the swim at Four-Mile but other than that all was well. Spent the night at Confusion Camp.
Confusion Rapid aka Westwall is a long rapid with a few different potential routes. The first part would probably be Class IIIish if it weren’t for the consequences downstream. The bottom part of the rapid is fairly significant with a few undercuts to worry about and some monster waves and holes. We picked our way through the top and then jetted right of everything, dropped into a good-sized hole, and were through. It’s an intimidating looking rapid but one you can go real slow in… Slow, slow, slow.
After Confusion we stopped at Dry Meadow Creek and hiked to the famous “tea cups”. After some lunch we pushed on downstream to Carson Falls, stopped to scout, dropped in, and then it was a sprint to the take-out. This was a particularly memorable trip for me because I had my mom and girlfriend as my paddle-assist. Nothing like adding some anxiety to Class V! Just thankful that neither of them swam (well, Dana did get her hair pretty wet on the first day) and that I could share such a beautiful canyon with them.
Here are photos of the trip: