You are here: Wolf Creek Gazette Online/Trinity

Canoeing the Trinity: Rapidly declining fortunes

As the expedition season drew to a close, Miss Adventure and her bold party headed to the far north of California to survey the Trinity River by canoe.

As always, the true point of the excursion was to find something incredibly trivial to debate around the campfire.

Thus:  Whether Smokey, the bear, is named Smokey the Bear or Smokey Bear.smokey

Miss Adventure was of the unfortunate opinion that his name is Smokey Bear. The F.B.I. (Federal Bear Institute) tried to settle this years ago, ruling that she was correct.

Nobody asked Smokey, who was incarcerated at the National Zoo (1950-1976)
on unspecified charges with no access to legal council.

Smokey was married to Goldie, whose married name may or may not have been Bear.

Shiver me timbers

Since this was the final expedition of the season, we sought to make it the most adventurous by styling ourselves as river pirates. River pirating requires:

1. A river.

2. The swirling maw of  death.

3. Friendly, formerly sea-going fishes jumping out of the water to
peek at your canoe.

Our lucky streak again held up as there was more water in the Trinity in October of 2003 than there has been in more than 40 years: Since the completion
of Lewiston Dam which diverted up to 90 percent of the river into
the Sacramento River, which ultimately ended up with the Westlands
Water District, near Fresno, for the irrigation of sassafras fields
or whatever it is they grow down there.

Somehow word leaked that the bold explorers needed water for canoeing, so the salmon and the Hoopa Indians teamed up to sue thetrinity1.gif
people who had taken the water. The Hoopas, it turns out, have an
ancient tribal tradition of serving free salmon pate in their casino.

The diversion is not undone but a lot more water was released to the
Trinity this year to support the salmon migration and we were there
to give them encouragement.

Learning Curve

The trick of whitewater canoeing is one cannot learn whitewater canoeing unless (drum roll here please): One goes whitewater canoeing!

Which is what we did. Or at least it is what Brushy Bob did. Miss Adventure
opted to miss this adventure.

"Why don't you go," she said. "If you live, maybe
we'll both go."

This idea had merit; she could take care of the shuttle back to camp,
and it would avoid the screams of terror, whining and cowering that
she finds so objectionable.

 The part of the river in question was between Lewiston dam and the Trinity
Alps near Weaverville. This area offered rapids no worse than Class

The rating system is not perfect because rapids change with season
and water flow.

The intended camp at Steel Bridge was unacceptable because it was
cramped, so the party headed down river to Douglas City. 

This was also a car camp but we found a site facing the river that offered reasonable
privacy. Other campers favored the opposite end of the campground
probably because the hill offered shelter against the cold. It also
was closer to the rest rooms.

The campground host - the source of firewood - was in a very unhostlike
demeanor. We paid for firewood but it never came. Nor was he speaking
to any of the campers, including us.


Luckily Miss Adventure is a talented wood hawk who conjured up wood from
places where Brushy Bob had not seen even a stick of kindling.

The day following our arrival we set out to find a place to launch
Tippy canoe. We found a good launch several
miles upstream at Indian Creek, we scouted it in the morning, when
no one was there and returned a few hours later when we interrupted
two salmon fishermen, who were not pleased to see us.

We schmoozed them into a better mood.  Miss Adventure and I parted ways then and I approached my first rapid about 30 feet downstream.canoe

This rapid split between a low-water rocky stream and a deep-water, wooded undercut bank. I boldly chose neither option and landed on
the gravel bar that separated the two and portaged to the deeper water.

After that it was apparent the art of river running involved instant
decision-making, which I was undecided about. Submerged trees and stumps are the principal navigation hazard.

Suckered by Scenery

My initial thoughts were, "Wait till Miss Adventure sees this!" The river
was beautiful and the woods displayed their fall colors. Downstream
in a current requires little paddling. One need only to keep the boat
straight. Seeing over the bow from the rear seat is tricky though,
especially since I spent most of my time gandering at the woods and
the mountains.

Which had the effect of suckering me into the next rapid while I was
busy sightseeing. Everything actually went pretty well and shooting
rapids is a pretty exciting business.

The first minor capsize occurred at the end of a long rapid where
the channel suddenly was split into two by a protruding rock. I took
the right channel, which was the right decision except for the submerged
tree stump blocking it. My attempt at emergency navigation drove the
bow of the boat up onto a sand bar, which tipped the rest of Tippy
into the drink.

I threw my leg out and kept the boat from going completely over, and
said something like, "Gee, that was close. I'll have to be more careful."

Slow Learner

Which I was until the next capsize. That occurred while I was in the
middle of congratulating myself on having chosen the correct channel
and was confounded by a last-second, submerged boulder at the end
of the chute.

This was almost exactly like the first incident with worse consequences.
Tippy went over and swamped. This too was adjacent to a gravel bar.
I righted Tippy and threw all the gear onto the bar.

Or most of the gear. Some stuff was busily floating downstream, which
I slogged and fetched just in time to see the swamped canoe getting
underway without me. I managed to catch her just before she got into
fast water.

This would have probably been a comical sight had any onlookers been
present. Can salmon laugh? I thought I heard a few snickers. I was
getting hungry at this point and wisht I had a Snickers.

I was also wet but pressed on down river because it was the only choice available.

I regained my courage and things went pretty well for awhile. Despite
overwhelming evidence that I should do so, I did not tie my good shoes
to the cleats although I had secured the camera in the dry bag and
secured the drybag to the portage bar.

Sure Hon, I'll be careful

Near Douglas City the river makes a horse-shoe turn, the current is
faster and the rapids nastier. I prepared for this with the bold plan
of portaging anything I could not be sure of.
last rapid
There is a wonderful rapid just below an old bridge abutment left
from mining or ranching days. The channel divides here. The deep water
channel undercuts a bank about eight feet high. To keep in the clean
water: Shoot over a two-foot drop, let the current take you into the
undercut and then kick out right at the last second into the backwash
and the main channel.

I executed this perfectly and was just full of myself. I expected
to be inducted into the Canoeists' Hall of Fame right then and there.

Into the Abyss

Unfortunately the exit from this rapid is the entrance to Lost Shoe
Rapid, named here for events which had not yet occurred.

 Had I kept my courage and just zipped straight into this abyss, everything would have been fine.

Instead I tried to backpaddle into the eddy and get a better look
at things. This did not work. The current sucked me into a downed
tree. I ducked but a branch caught the bow and dumped me right into
the foam.

That instant was an eternity: The moment when I realized this was
really happening and there was nothing I could do to save myself.
I have had nightmares of this nature.

Hang on to your hat!

The shock of the icy water was so dramatic, I do not remember
being washed down the rapid. My first memory is of floating down river in very deep water with the bow loop of the canoe in one hand and a wide-brimmed fedora clutched in the other.

I must have been a little disoriented. I knew where I was but some
things around me did not make sense. One of my first observations
was how well the float jacket worked; the second was what to do about
my predicament.

I tried to kick toward the bank of the river but the current was too
strong and I was not about to let go of the boat or the hat. My thought
here was that: “Wherever Miss Adventure is, I know she does not want to see
a hat floating by without me being attached to it.


Here's where it got tricky: I was floating downstream first, followed
by Tippy. My only hope was to land on a rock in the middle of the
river, but I needed to do this without being pinned against the rock
in fast current by an upsidedown canoe. 

I already had enough problems.

I managed the landing and got the gear up on the rock, and the canoe
rightside up. It floated but was completely swamped and too unstable
to use. One shoe was gone, the bilge pump was gone and my army canteens
were gone. The drybag and the paddles were still in the boat.

Being a little chilly and marooned, I was highly motivated to resolve
the predicament. I tried bailing the boat with the remaining shoe,
but that was not effective. Eventually I managed to dump the boat
without getting the gunwale underwater again. How this occurred I
cannot say. I also had some scrapes and bruises that I noticed for
the first time.

Squish, Squish, Squish

There was still some water in Tippy but she was safe enough to paddle.
I drifted downstream a bit then paddled upstream to a little beach
that was less than a half mile from our camp. I dumped the boat on
the beach, got the soggy camera from the drybag, put on a soggy jacket
and hoofed it back to camp in my soggy river shoes.soggy bob

Miss Adventure wasn't at camp but I got dried out a little and went to find her. She was stationed at the final rapid near the take-out at the bottom of the campground waiting to take a photo when and if I got there.

We went back to the canoe, where she helped me get sorted out. It was too far to portage, so I negotiated the last three rapids without incident. For reasons that escape me, Miss Adventure declined my invitation  of a ride downstream.

Miss Adventure's Viewpoint

She had a different view of the expedition:

I was relieved that Brushy Bob was okay with going it alone and I would be the shuttle driver for this adventure.  I drove him and Tippy to Indian Creek put-in. Then worry set in. Telling myself the fact that he had much more experience with boating and water didn't quell the worry completely. I considered it an omen that he was so willing to strap on his life vest. As I pushed him off and snapped a picture or two. I thought, this is the last time I'll see this man in one piece.

Not knowing how fast he would be traveling, I stopped at the little store and found out they don't sell firewood.

Not wanting to miss the grand arrival, I hiked to the area we had visited the day before. It had a nice beach, picnic table and a large, graffittied rock smack in mid-stream (The very same rock he was marooned on later).

A Kodak Moment

The rapid curved down from up river and was a beautiful sight from the beach. I was to photograph this major event and, as I sat there, I wondered if a better spot might be farther downstream. I moved downstream and settled on a rock jutting into the river just above the take-out site at the campground's swimming and beach area. I had a view of the straight section of river and a busy little rapid from which Greg
will be merrily floating down any time now.

Watching the sun's rays dance upon the ripples mesmerized me - it was so alive! Movement is constant and changing. Then suddenly the dance was over, the sparkles gone, shadows covered the water. The sun had dropped behind the ridge.

"Any time now," I said.

I counted the number of partly submerged rocks in the little rapid. "Don't ask," I whispered to the river. "He's just being careful."

What part of Woof dont'ya understand?

While I waited, I sent Abigail (loyal dog-type person) back to camp to make a couple of salami-and-cheese sandwiches.

Suddenly I heard a bark behind me. There she was, but without the sandwiches.

“What is it girl?” I said.

“Woof, woof, woof,” said Abigail.

"What is it Ab," I repeated. "Is little Bob drowned in the river again?"

"Woof !" Abigail replied.

Of course, this is an embellishment of what really happened.
Abby cannot make salami sandwiches without getting mayonnaise all
over her little paws; she's pretty good with grilled ham-and-cheese though.

Hearing a noise from the path, I looked over and coming down the trail was a very soggy, wet profile of someone slightly resembling Brushy Bob!

My jaw dropped as I took in the sight of dripping shorts and disfigured
hat. Wait now! He is NOT supposed to be on land! This is all wrong!

Doing the Math

I slowly put 2 + 2 together saying “Oh My!” I really had hoped and almost believed it would go without a hitch ( So much for optimism).

And, he was laughing! Later I learned that if I had stayed at the first beach to photograph him, I would have had front-row seating to the disaster. Funny how things work out.

Brushy Bob becomes Soggy Bob

Miss Adventure used her magic to fetch up enough wood for a fire. This was good because it was cold at night, and a certain person in that vicinity was in a damp condition.

Miss Adventure did get some canoeing in the next day when the pair mounted a salvage expedition upstream. Below lost shoe rapid is a graveyard of lost shoes, Bic lighters and other paraphernalia. The only thing they recovered was the hose from the bilge pump. The pump, the missing shoe and the canteens were sunk or gone. Someone else will find them.

We spent the rest of our holiday hiking on the cliffs overlooking the river. Although there were salmon resting or feeding in the pools,the camera could not record this from so high above the river.

Salmon Science

The fisheries biologists freely admit they do not know how the salmon know the things salmon know. This is based on the literature posted at Douglas City. The fish spawn and move downstream to sea. They range as far as the Arctic Ocean and then return to their home streams in between one and five years. I would not be apt to believe this, were it not for the evidence that it is true. I cannot think how one would know that a fish from the north coast of California has gone to the
Arctic Sea.

The Trinity joins with the Klamath River downstream of where we were, so the fishes somehow know who's a Trinity fish and who's a Klamath. This is both heartening and sad because it is a one-way trip. The fish that are caught along the way do not get to make it home.

Sure she will!

Miss Adventure has vowed to get her feet wet  on the next river adventure or perhaps the one after that. That would be good. Abby and Soggy Bob need the ballast.

Notes on Smokey the Bear:
1. Smokey the cartoon bear was born in 1945.

2.Smokey the real bear cub was rescued from the Lincoln National Forest fire in New Mexico in 1950.

2. Goldie, his mate at the National Zoo, was a cub orphan from New Mexico. She was sent to the National Zoo in 1961.

3. The pair did not beget any little smokeys but they adopted Smokey ll who filled in as Smokey after the original bruin died in 1976.

4. We do not know the fate of Goldie

5.Smokey was actually rescued by soldiers from Ft. Bliss, Texas who were pressed into firefighting on the Lincoln Fire.

6. Since 2005 is cartoon Smokey's 60th anniversary, there is an abundant supply of Smokey knick knacks for sale at federal ranger district offices. Much of it is really cool.

7. Before Smokey was named official spokesbear in 1945, there was considerable debate in the Dept. of Agriculture about whether the spokescritter should be a wide-eyed, Bambi-style  doe or a cute bear.

8.Had it been the doe, think of the impact this would have had on Southern Law enforcement.

9.Federal Rangers (and Smokey) look the way they do because the U.S. Army originally managed the first national parks. Hence the uniform is pre-WW1 Army field dress.

Wolf Creek home page|| e-mail: