Double Clavey

Kyle Phillips

For breakfast this morning we watched the water rise over Clavey Falls, converting once impossible rocky obstacles into raging fountains. The change was quite gradual though. We watched as the waterline crept over small cobbles, bringing life back to the algae that had been left high and dry for the past two days. The water kept growing, insistently fighting its own geomorphological skeleton and forming powerful rapids. In watching the dynamic change of it hydrology, we certainly got to know this rapid more intimately than any other on the “T”. 

Once the water had risen fully, I rushed over to where the boats were being set-up. I was pretty gun-hoe to ride down this thing. It was then, that I was offered to go ahead of the group as a paddler in Avi’s Oar boat. Hell yes! I hopped in and we set off! There wasn’t much time to get acquainted with the boat before the falls sucked us right in and spat us over the peak. As I was in the front, I received the brunt of the wall of water that rushed at us when we hit the bottom. Though I was instructed to paddle in some direction or another there was little I could do but flail erratically as I struggled to get my bearings back and not get thrown off the boat. If the river were conscious, I’m sure it would have found my powerlessness quite amusing. Somewhere in that span of chaos, I was reminded of the fan rock that we’d been told to watch out for. It was specifically pointed out to us on shore as we were waiting for the water to rise. It stuck out quite prominently before the water rose, but by the time the flow peaked out it had turned into a fanning fountain primed to launch boats into unpredictable places. I frantically looked around for it, but really couldn’t discern anything through the surge of whitewater until it was too late. Naturally, we hit the thing straight on and were launched over it!

I thought all hell would break loose and we’d be launched out of the boat or shot into some of the rocks that abounded around us and get stuck. Luckily however, we landed quite smoothly. I suppose the amount of weight in the boat had greatly contributed to keeping us more or less on course over the fan rock.  While the original aim was to not hit the fan rock, I dare admit that the added suspense and surprise and subsequent adrenaline rush attributed to that fan rock makes Clavey Falls my favorite rapid of the Tuolomne. In fact, I liked it so much that I hopped out of the oar boat and ran back up the bank for a second serving in one of the paddle boats. It was awesome.

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