Ross Herr Kayaking

Dinky Creek, CA

Alright, it’s been a long time since I’ve been in civilization long enough to get caught up on all the photographs from California this year. It was a crazy season to be in CA, especially for a freshman like myself. Dinky Creek is a trip I will remember forever. You gotta work these days to truly remove yourself from the everyday life and crowds of people; Dinky was just that kind of trip. After finding our way to Balch camp in the evening we met up with some crews from a run that day and were stoked to hear of a great medium high flow. Dinky Creek is known for having some ultra clean drops, beautiful surroundings and as much challenge as you wanna bite off.

Our shuttle in the morning involved loading up the van full with people and heading up one of the slowest windy roads I’ve been on following the rim of the North Kings River. Being in the back seat of my van is the perfect car sickness machine so riding for a 2.5 hour shuttle back there was no easy task. Luckily, there were an abundance of great overlooks to check out along the way.

We loaded our boats for the two day mission and prepared ourselves to head in for battle with the manzanita bushes on the hike down to the river. The trail was pretty easy to follow, and keeping your helmet on to push through was definitely a good choice. Here is a shot from the first overlook and a quick break from the bushes.

Adrienne, being short, definitely had an advantage ducking and diving.

At the get in, eating some food and getting ready.

The first 3rd of Dinky Creek starts off with some really great bouncy slides with big pools waiting for you at the bottom. No warm-up necessary after the hike, so show up and start riding. Scouting is easy but one of the first lessons I learned is make sure you’ve got some good rubber on your feet. Walking around on slippery granite can be class V alone if your shoes can’t hold on. Here are some shots of Adrienne and Toby McDermot on the opening slides.

After the opening slides you’re fired up just in time for Willie Kerns. A really fun almost-vertical drop, to slide, to hole, to sloping 30ish footer. It’s nicely gorged in and has the opportunity to offer all kinds of lines. Our group showed, as long as you’re lined up by the bottom, you should finish in good style at the bottom. Here is Geoff Calhoun leading the charge on the first drop.

He momentarily eddied out, then lined it back up for the grand finally. Here he is at the lip of Willie Kerns proper.

Adrienne also lined up for some Willie Kerns fun. (The Willie Kern name comes from the legendary paddler breaking both his ankles with a bad landing off one of the edges.)

From Willies drop down the river tightens up and falls down deeper into a committing canyon. The drops become bigger, consequences higher, and reasons to have the best people you can possibly bring in with you become obvious. There are some tricky portages too. The most challenging portage offers two options. Toss your gear from high and make a good size leap into the pool below. This option holds a fair bit of risk especially at the higher flows. Our group opted for the slightly more laborious but definitely safer option of lowering yourself and gear to a ledge below and helping each other seal-launch a more manageable distance. With this option only the last person has to throw-and-go; I highly recommend this safer option. Here is Adrienne and Geoff lowering down off my Speedloader 70 throwbag. The drop directly below the portage is a must scout, pick a good line as consequences for missing your line here are also high.

From the main portage down it cleans back up again with more awesome slides, boofs, and ultra classic moves. We made our way through “breakfast slide” just as the sun was coming down making for some awesome lighting and great shots. Here is Toby and Adrienne showing us how it’s done.

A few drops down from breakfast slide we rolled up on two California locals and immediately could tell the scene wasn’t right. They had a rough day fighting with poison oak and battling out some really technical moves on the canyon walls due to losing gear on the main portage. They had opted for the throw-n-go from the high ledge and each of them lost their equipment through the rapid below. One of their boats was tied up in the rapid, unreachable, but luckily, the other members gear finally ended in the pool where we had met them, slightly damaged but for the most part, in usable shape. We decided to join in with them for the night and offer up whatever we could. We got a great fire going in a hole in the rock and exchanged stories from the days adventure.

Drying off the gear in a true veterans fashion.

Kayaking is an amazing sport for so many reasons. One being the ability to roll up on your fellow kayaker in need and be willing to do whatever you can to help them. We shared food and layers and discussed the plan for making it out in the morning. We had a SPOT rescue GPS with us and knew we could easily call out for help if it came to it. Hiking out of Dinky is really not an option, especially solo. You have miles of dangerous terrain in all directions and navigation in the thick oily brush would be treacherous. The one member who’s gear made it to the eddy decided to join us on the paddle out and we would send help with the SPOT coordinates for a rescue once we got out. The full moon in the canyon silhouetted the rim and the frogs surrounding us on the rocks kept the night full of life as we went to bed. When morning came we were quickly alerted by the sounds of a helicopter skimming past the canyon rim. Plan A quickly changed to plan B and we all frantically waived down the California Highway Patrol chopper. After several passes they threw down the below note in a tube.

We sat down, got their attention and as they pulled away to get a radio signal we frantically grabbed all our gear and made a tiny landing pad on our granite slab camp site. It was incredible the ability of the pilot to bring the helicopter into the narrow canyon. He landed twice on the rock, just big enough to set down the feet for a brief minute. First time to let out one of the officers and a second time to load our new friend and take him away safely.

A rescue like this couldn’t have possibly been made any easier. Our only loss was time and we finally departed from camp by noon with many miles of whitewater till our destination back at Balch Camp. We reviewed our river signals one more time to make scouting quick and confusion limited and hit the river. The endless and awesome clean drops of Dinky Creek did not disappoint. With the sun setting on all our minds we moved quickly and unfortunely many perfect 20 footers and awesome slides did not get captured on this trip. I guess that’s why I already am looking forward to next year. Here are some of the final photos I grabbed from the second day.

Needless to say we made it out safe and sound, even with ice cold beers waiting at the take out thanks to our new comrades from the river. There is nothing like an adventure-filled trip on the river with some of your closest friends to make you really appreciate everything in life. We celebrated with another great camp deep in the California forest and slept soundly under one of the brightest moons I’ve ever seen. Here are some parting shots from the final day. Hope you enjoy the pictures. I’ll be posting more from the past month in the next week so stay tuned and keep coming back.


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