By Dave Costello
Eagle Falls is pumping at 2,000 cfs, well over the recommended limit for this rarely run Class V on the South Fork of Washington’s Skykomish River. It’s been raining continuously for the past two days, and our shuttle rig has been hydroplaning all over the interstate. A bearded man in a Mount Index trucker’s cap, emblazoned with an image of the snow-covered peak rearing up behind him, approaches our group of six test paddlers standing roadside with our quiver of four shiny new creekboat demos. He takes a pull from the half-empty gallon jug of water in his hand. It’s Sunday afternoon, and he’s evidently still nursing a hangover.
“What’s the plan?” he asks. “I came to set safety.” He has no safety gear, so I assume his idea of setting safety is to tell us what’s good to run and what’s not, and then let the chips fall where they may. It’s a common strategy among Seattle area boaters I’ve found, and a great reason to stage our creekboat review here—these people are accustomed to consistent high water, to charging the ever-changing, high-consequence Robe Canyon again and again, until the river’s jagged blast-rock bottom wears their creekboats thin. It’s one of those few paddling communities where people are willing to listen to whatever half-baked plan you might have, give you their two-cents on it, and then wish you good luck anyway.
We tell our new friend what we’re up to: a couple laps on Canyon Creek of the Stillaguamish on Saturday, and today’s run on Eagle Falls down to the Split Rock takeout on the Skykomish (portaging Canyon and Sunset Falls), plus a lap of the Upper Tye if the daylight holds. Tomorrow it’ll be Canyon Creek of the Lewis. A nice extended weekend of Class IV-V boating, testing out boats that were designed for this type of water and this sort of abuse.
“Upper Tye?” he says dubiously. “Sounds like a suffer-fest. There’ll be snow up to your chest.” He looks around at our feet. “You’ll need gaiters.” This was his only advice. When we go to scout it ourselves, we discover that he was right in every detail but one. Gaiters could not have helped.
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2012 Mamba Creeker
Check out the highlight/carnage reel from the 2012 creekboat review below.