GUNPOWDER....the day the keg exploded
Mike Betts

Gunpowder....July 04....We've all been doing one section or another for many years. There's the spicy little one mile class II-III section from Pretty Boy Dam down to falls road. Packed with nice drops and twisty turns, very playful at the right levels, but usually a strainer here or there. And Oh So Cold water! Great for a hot summer day. Then the middle section so many of our club members enjoy, putting in where the upper boaters take out. Nice moving class I, always some downed trees to deal with, but a fun filled afternoon. Again, Oh So Cold water. And lastly the lower section. Nice class II-III and a longer trip than the upper.
So I'm sitting there on a Sunday afternoon thinking " what can we boat today?" hmmmm....need to stay local. Just ran the Muddy yesterday. Nice group of a dozen paddlers, including some beginners we were leading down for their first white water trip. The phone rings...."Hello?" "Hi Mike this is Stew, it rained 6 inches down here yesterday ( Stew being our local reporter on the GP levels ) you guys wanna boat?" Ok twist my ar....that's enough! what time? We're bored and need water!
So I gather up my protégé Brenton, armed with Dean's hand paddles, and off we go to meet Stew, Ken, and a new friend Barry, ( yet another flat water paddler we met on the SusQ one Thursday evening during Romper Rooming, who decided to buy WW gear ), and who ever else might show up. We all meet at the Falls Road bridge about 4 p.m. and I'm jumping for joy to see the gauge at 3.7 ft. Usual levels are between 1.4 ft, and 2.4. Smiles all around, and questions from Barry, who has never been there before, questions we have all had, is this a good level? Is it harder than a lower level? You know how it went for us too right?
Ok, so we're carrying in the old fire road to the creek, when the sky opens up and lets all it has pour on out. I swear you could have almost boated the trail it rained so hard. We're seal launching into the water one by one, still pouring, and the water is very warm. Unusual for those who know the Gunpowder. We coach Barry on peel-outs for a while before heading downstream. Wow!, this river looks much different at this level....but wait it gets better! I'm probing all the drops, catching eddies and signaling to the others where the eddies, lines, trees, etc. are and we're hopping down one at a time, keeping an eye on our new guy especially. About half way down ( it's still pouring ), I notice the water which is beautifully clear quickly changing to a chocolate milk kind of hue. Not only that, but it's getting louder, deeper, and....this is too cool! Stew points over the hillside and one could see absolute torrents of brown water coming into the creek. Of course all the pools below each rapid had disappeared, few eddies left or right, and one huge strainer crossing the top of a favorite drop. The tree was actually forming a pour over which Ken decided to boat scout. I turned around just in time to see him being swept out of the eddy, flipped and swimming after his boat all in about 2 seconds it seemed. The rest of us are out of our boats to portage the blockage, and running after Ken, who had managed to get his boat on shore, but lost his paddle. I suggested he shake one of the limbs he could reach on the strainer and up popped his red bladed Lightning stick....only to disappear again! I did mention before that Brenton was hand paddling, so I had stuck a break down paddle in his boat, which we assembled and gave to Ken. The next drop had a big water screaming left turn to it or a river left monster hole slide. I said I was going to go for the ferry to left and do the drop, every one else could decide their line upon review of my success or lack thereof. Fastest peelout I ever did, or so it seemed, was at the drop at a very fast speed, down the ramp, into the hole, and felt like I hit a wall, ok a soft wall, this drop was fun, you went in, got buried to your neck in the pile, sucked you backwards just a little, but would let you power out with a couple of strokes. What a blast! Most followed my line one at a time, big grins all the way round. A narrow channel where the spin hole USED TO BE, and an exciting ramped S turn at whale rock,the right side forming a nice drop, which Stew decided to try. Brenton took advantage of the last fast moving rapid by paddling to the top, flipping himself over with his hand paddles, and rolling about 15 times nonstop, up and over, up and over, made me dizzy.
We get down to the bridge and discover the chocolate milk we've been paddling was still rising. By the time we took off the gauge was completely under water! I don't remember what it's highest mark is....5 or 6 ft? Anyway, we had a ball. And we did not have to travel along way to experience big water on a small creek. And a happy ending....Ken went back the next day and found his paddle waving to him not 20 yards downstream from where we last saw it. How cool is that?
Paddlers all K-1
Mike Betts
Brenton Petrillo
Stewart Thrasher
Ken Gustavsen
Barry Paup

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