Saturday and Sunday September 10-11, PG&E again increased flows from Pit 5, thus creating another wonderful weekend of level IV and V rapids for whitewater enthusiasts.
I left Burney late Saturday morning and arrived at Big Bend just before noon. I went straight to the parking lot where kayakers exit the river by the bridge. It was full of people who had completed their first run.
The first person I met was Lauren Burlison from Redding.
“Hi! I remember you from last year,” she said.
Burlison had returned with her friend Ian Janosko for another run on the rapids. Both are students at Simpson College in Redding. Burlison has one semester left before finishing a liberal arts major preparing her to be a teacher. Janosko is a nursing student. They came with a group of friends from Placerville. Janokso was planning to organize a race from the Madesi River Access.
Before heading up to the Madesi River Access where the race was to begin I met another group of happy kayakers from Southern Oregon who had just finished their first run.
When I arrived at the Madesi River Access, I met Susan Stalcut from Spring Rivers who was keeping track of how many people entered the river. As of 12:45 there had been 85 people on the river. Last month only 36 had signed up. Stalcut counted 59 kayaks and 6 rafts on her list.
Most had come to camp for the weekend. Friday night, several local musicians and drummers from Big Bend had come to the campsite for an evening jam.
As we were talking Nathan Stayrook Hobbs from Grass Valley and Nate Corona from Reno came in to get ready for their second run. Hobbs said that one of the other rafts had gotten stuck three times. It was an inexperienced crew with an underinflated raft, but they made it down to the bridge all right.
In the meantime, Janosko was busy signing people up for the race.
One of those present was a young daredevil, Rocco Russo from Cottonwood. Russo had been here last month riding down the river with a camcorder on his head. Russo has a video of him going over Lion Slide (Hatchet) Falls on youtube.
Russo and one other kayaker volunteered to go downstream to make sure that everyone was safe at two of the more intense whitewater areas. Then thirteen racers entered the river and lined up with their sterns on the opposite bank.
At just past 1:30 Janosko’s father, Boomer, using his hat as a starting flag yelled, “Ready, set, go!”
After watching the start, I headed down towards Big Bend. On the way there is an overlook where I caught a glimpse of the racers through the trees.
As they passed below I could see that Janosko had pulled into the lead. I headed toward the bridge at Big Bend.
When I got there, two PG&E employees had just finished measuring the flows. They told me their figure was 1275 cubic feet per second.
Shortly thereafter, Janosko came around the bend. He screamed with joy as he passed under the bridge.
Not far behind the remaining pack of racers descended.
I was happy that I had been able to come and cover the race. The Spring River and PG&E employees were happy to see that there was a good turnout. The kayakers and rafters were happy just to be here.
As I chatted with folks from the Sacramento area, Reno, Oregon, Placerville, and Redding, I heard comments such as
“You are so lucky to live in such a beautiful area!”
“It’s so peaceful here!”
“I love coming up here! It’s freedom!”
All very true. Pit River Country is wonderful.
Kayakers would continue to enjoy additional runs through the afternoon on Saturday and then again on Sunday till 4 p.m. That would conclude the whitewater flows on the Pit 5 reach for 2016.
However, there is still more rafting to be had on the Pit River this year. On the first and third weekends in October, PG&E will be increasing flows on the Pit River below Fall River Mills so kayakers can ride over Pit River Falls down to Pit 1 Campground.