The Clear Fork

Quote from undisclosed paddling partner: "maybe we should just meet up this afternoon, pack our shit in the car, _____ a ____ and start driving north...we'll figure it out when we get there?" I was in, of course.
Plans to paddle this weekend came together much like they often do: on the drive north away from god-and-water-forsaken Corvallis. After some discussion and general mayhem we came to the decision to go to Washington. Great, narrowed down to the state. The Cowlitz drainage soon followed, but we still weren't sure what we would do once there. The Cowlitz has a wealth of streams feeding its main flow, most of which are lesser known class V adventures. We had paddled some of those other creeks and indeed had our share of adventure. Having been there before, but never paddling the Clear Fork, the supposed crown jewel of the area, and one of the best runs in the PNW, had us feeling a little more apt than usual to go for a well known and popular stretch. Not to say that we have anything against well known runs; the Little White probably stands as our collective favorite run, but for some reason, when in the Cowlitz, the call to explore had always overwhelmed our desire for a guaranteed quality run.
So there we were again, weighing our options and scouring over topo maps, when we noticed this rather large, steep, and easily accessible river. Clear Fork of the Cowlitz it was.
We made our way to the put-in mid-morning and were soon walking down a steep trail to the river.

We had heard that there was wood in the first, and possibly best, drop on the run and that we should veer right off the trial as to avoid the portage and put in below said drop. Odd as it may sound, we were all disappointed when we saw that the drop was quite clear of wood, but hiking back up to the top was not really an option.

Chris and Jeff still happy to be at the river.

After putting in, we quickly came to a fun little double drop.
Jeff going for the boof at the top.

Chris, same; and boofing the bottom drop.

The wood in the first drop must have made its way down and lodged in about ten more of the rapids. It did often aid in scouting, of itself.

Soon after this double drop, there was a sweet little gorge with a few slides into some meaty holes, then some portaging and some bouldery junk, then it's all kind of a blur of scouting, portaging wood, and running some fun rapids.

This slide was in there somewhere. Jeff, moving in.

Chris resurfacing after going deep.

This falls, affectionately known as 'Bitch Slap', about to dole it out to me.

Shortly after resurfacing.


The paddle out after the goods was relaxing and scenic, and the take-out was a welcome sight.
That night we drove straight to the Little White with little to no doubting and were again affirmed of the quality paddling in the great state of Washington. Maybe next time on the L Dub we'll stop a couple times and take pictures, but I wouldn't count on it.