Trip Report: Trask River - Feb 2020, 4300 to 4600 cfs
Tibulations on the Trask
Submitted by Tom Riggs
“Hey Riggs, Cheryl and I want to talk to you”. It was Scott Harvey and he had me cornered at the OWA Christmas Party. I looked for the exits but they were all blocked by white elephants and my feigning deafness trick had run thin so it was time to suck it up and take it like a man. Well it wasn’t about a tequila induced gambling debt after all; they wanted to know if I would lead a river trip this winter.
Since tequila might again be involved and the word “river trip” was mentioned, how could I refuse? It had been a couple of years since I had run the Trask, so I said put me down for Superbowl Saturday. It turned out I was a week off, so I later corrected it to Feb 8th. Prior to leading a club trip I like to get in a good scout if I can; so Paul Morin and I drove down highway 6 and back up the Trask River Road on a wet and drizzly Tuesday (Feb 4).
Nip’s Landing is a steep wooden drift boat launch and could possibly be used as a boat take out with enough manpower and/or a winch. It is usually used as an embarkation for fishermen who want to lazily float toward Tillamook in search of sir “Lunker.” This location would also require running Dam Hole and the rock piles above and below. The river on scout day was about 2100 cfs and all the rocks were showing in that section. I was not interested in having a pin kit demonstration so we opted for the take out at The Lower Peninsula where there is a nice circular drive and some parking - not to mention a manageable landing for inflatables.
Further up the Trask we looked at Stone Rd boat ramp, another wooden dory launch about a mile above The Peninsula. Then we stopped to look at Sphincter rapid, a class III rapid at the 30 mph curve sign. All was straightforward with this section.
Soggy Sneakers mentions the gorge at the log bridge. Well the log bridge is long gone but the gorge is still there so we parked the truck barely off the road and walked back to see a small alder in the river all the way across. There was, however, a route over the top of it to the left so as long as everyone was aware, that crucial move could be completed. It’s definitely worth another look on launch day. The biggest hazards were the snow laden log trucks bombing down the Trask River road. They take no prisoners.
Finally we found the entrance gorge just downstream of the launch site at the bridge to the East Fork fish rearing facility. It was clean but the walk to the put in was guarded by blackberry bushes and a large rotting river rat (no not a boater, but a decaying racoon). I cleared out the brush to get access to the river but left ol’ stinky in the path. No, Morin, this article is not about you.
Getting to and from the river is part of the adventure so we opted to take the Trask River Cutoff to cross over Hembre Ridge and drop down to Kansas Creek rd on highway 6. About a mile up the cutoff there were stakes along both sides of the gravel road about 9 feet apart and it was evident that the grade had sunk and was not long for this earth. We drove across it as gingerly as we could with a ¾ ton pickup but I would not want to navigate this soon-to-be washout with a trailer so that was something to note in the scouting report.
The rains continued the rest of the week and I got emails from Bruce Ripley and Michele Gila with concerns about the high waters on Saturday. Scott Harvey called and we discussed the flows and predicted flows for the coast streams and decided there can sometimes be too much of a good thing. A gauge reading of 7,900 cfs on the Trask River the day before our planned Saturday float may be a little too much of a good thing to warrant sensible boating on this typically small river, so we opted to change the run to Sunday where flows would be 4600-4300 cfs. The river giveth and the river taketh away. Some boaters dropped out while others were able to accommodate a Sunday run.
The birds were chirping, the sun was shining, and the rocks were covered. What more could you ask for on the Trask? With that set of conditions we had Scott Harvey, Joe Wright, Josh Hollander, Steve Oslund in cat boats, Lynn Bufka in a hardshell, Rob Cruser in an IK, and Steve Herring, Art Utter, Brian Riggs, and me in a paddle raft.
The gang met at The Lower Peninsula, and consolidated boats and people for the shuttle to the put in. We road scouted Sphincter and it was read and run then just stopped on the road with flashers to do a quick scout of the Log bridge gorge. Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight! In this case, one of the locals was in our traffic queue and refused to get directed around our stopped convoy. He did however jump out and cuss us up and down enough to make a longshoreman blush. What could we do? Well, we moved the convoy up the road to a pull out and received the flying fickle finger of fate salute from Mr. Grumpy as he passed. It’s best not to provoke the locals unless you want your car bashed in while boating. One of his neighbors witnessed Mr Grumpy’s tirade and noted he was famous for having the personality of a Tasmanian Devil.
It turns out the Trask river road was closed at times on Friday due to side streams flooding the pavement with debris. The debris had been scooped to the shoulders and there were no log trucks hauling on Sunday. We reached the bridge launch point and had boats rig on both sides of the river given the limited real estate.
Steve Oslund and Josh started down the first canyon in their orange cats and since we had a paddle crew that needs to power forward for most of the maneuvers we launched behind them. The plan was to have Lynn’s hardshell and Rob’s IK in the middle with Scott and Joe providing rear guard. The paddle boat was gaining on the orange cats in the first gorge and we could not see the boats behind us so finally we were able to find a suitable eddy to grab just past the bridge leading below the gorge.
We waited for about 4 minutes and then saw Joe coming down the river with his foot in the water trying to get the submerged kayak under control with the paddle in close formation. Art Utter blew his pathetic whistle to let Hollander and Oslund know we had a yard sale coming at them but we weren’t sure they heard it, so I blew my whistle and it was the same pathetic sound. It turns out we had the same brand of weenie whistle and the peas weren’t wobbling.
A few minutes later here comes Scott with an IK paddle and he’s wrangling in the IK. We get his boat corralled next to us and then we waited for a few minutes before grabbing the throw rope and scaling the moss cliffs to get to the road to hike back up to find our missing “yakers”.
Nobody swimming down the river so the paddle crew and Scott head up the road to investigate. Finally we see Lynn on the non road side blazing a path through the sword fern, blackberries, vine maple, devils club and other vegetation that the Coast Range has to offer. About 100 ft behind her is Rob also bushwhacking. Don’t believe his story that he was tracking elk. Heck we saw two herds on the way to the put in.
Anyway, they reach us about 30 minutes later and some days you just aren’t on your line. At least that’s Lynn’s explanation. Rob stopped to help Lynn retrieve her gear and his IK got away from him into the drink while trying to ascend the slip n slide moss in the upper canyon.
Rob was able to get back into his Ik but Lynn received the booby prize and was relegated to the paddle boat. No free ride Lynn, grab one of the spare paddles and heave ho.
Her Princess river boat cruise ended shortly as we caught up with Steve and Josh and Joe who had retrieved her gear. Back in the saddle for Lynn just above the Log Bridge Gorge.
The tree that had been in the gorge during our scout was probably in the Pacific after getting flushed by Thursdays flows but there was some nice class III boils and slots to navigate. After we paddled the gorge Steve Herring noted that the boats were not behind us so we eddied out at makeshift cable crossing just above an island to re-group.
About 15 minutes pass and here comes Steve Oslund outfitted as a cargo boat. He is carrying Lynn and her kayak on the back. We knew deep in our hearts that Lynn missed being a member of the paddle crew so instead of the Fab Four we were now the Fab Five as Lynn was picked up by our rescue boat after Oslund made her walk the plank. Arrrgggghhh!
We ran a tight flotilla past some hidden houses on the Trask then rounded the bend and passed through the Sphincter without getting wiped out and passed on by The Stone Rd boat ramp.
One section we could not scout from the road was around The Peninsula where there was some nice class III water with a few holes to avoid. The front paddlers got their faces washed there.
Finally around the bend of The Peninsula I saw the blue ribbon I had tied around the tree to mark the approach to the take out. Five boats and the two yaks was a nice mix to get the boats landed and up off the beach.
Photos by Scott Harvey