Stranded! and Douglas Revisited.
In the shuttle confusion of locating my paddle after the Birkenhead, we had somehow left Andria's paddle on the side of the road up there so needed to drive almost an hour back to get it after running Callaghan the next day. All went well and the paddle was recovered, but as we started along the curvy road down the hill back to Pemberton the brakes went hard as a rock and quit working. I was standing up and hammering on the peddle as hard as I could, as we accelerated around curves and over a set of train tracks. My heart was pounding, and the wheels were squealing until I finally brought it under control and geared it down until we coasted to a stop. We managed to make it back to Pemberton at about 5mph, and slept the night at the main intersection near the visitor's center waiting for a shop to open the next day. I had diagnosed the problem as being a dead vacuum pump, which I figured should be a standard part. When the shop finally opened, we learned that it would be the next day at 11:30 before the part would arrive by bus from Vancouver. So we camped in the heat (90+ degrees) on the side of the Sea to Sky Highway near the shop, across from a gas station on one side and a McDonalds on the other. Fortunately our window washer friends Lance and Lynne passed by in the afternoon, and kindly drove us to the bar to cool off for a few hours.
With the new vacuum pump installed, we were about to head for home when I saw a facebook update from Demshitz saying that they had returned to Vancouver from Skook. We had paddled Callaghan and Cheakamus with Jared the week before, and figured they might be just the crew to take on a Douglas Creek mission with us - so I facebooked a picture of the triple falls to Jared. "holy shit yea. we are in." was the response, so we picked up some food and refreshments and headed back along the lakes.
Demshitz arrived in the night, and we rallied up to Port Douglas the next morning to check out the falls. As we passed through town, Demshitz saw a guy on his porch waving at them, but not knowing whether he was trying to stop them or simply being friendly, they waved back and rolled on by. Arriving at the power plant and parking just behind it, they were stoked to see what we had found.
Having checked it from the bottom, we decided to drive up to the top of the falls and have a thorough scout from there (there are roads to top and bottom). On the way up we ran into someone from the construction company that is building the plant, and he said as long as we didn't go up to the top of the diversion, we could check out the falls. He had to check with the guy we had seen in town, though, to see if it was OK with him. We proceeded to the top while he drove down to town.
Not long later, the contruction fellow returned with the guy from town in the truck. We had run into him before 3 years ago when we were driving up toward Douglas to scout, and he had told us to go check it out. We were discouraged by the gate, however, and turned back on that trip. This time he was not friendly at all, and was in fact totally pissed to the point of almost frothing at the mouth. He asked if I remembered him, and I said yes - that we had met him 3 years before and he had told us it was OK to check out the creek. This made him furious, and he denied ever having met us. Since there is only one non-native guy who lives in Port Douglas, and I further remembered that his name was Rick and that he was distinctive looking with a huge beard, I'm sure it was the same guy. He said it was a liability if we tried to run the falls. I assured him that we were professionals and would use all proper precautions. His response: "If you're professionals, then you know that this isn't even worth your time." He gave us 30 minutes to get out of there, or else...and told us never to come back.
Demshitz went for another scout to see if they could just bomb it, but confirmed what we already knew from our previous scout: due to the size, difficulty, and the caves, this set of falls was only feasible with extensive safety set in several different spots. It would be far more involved than 30 minutes allowed. Discouraged, we drove away - passing Rick's house while he was angrily glaring from his porch. How a white guy has the authority to keep us from running falls on native land is beyond me, but there is basically no law in these hinterlands of BC, and kayakers have been shot at and had their cars burned by locals with no legal recourse in the past. Discretion prevailed, and we left without getting the first and last descent of Douglas Creek Falls - the one that got away. It remains to be seen whether the diversion will make it impossible to ever run this falls, but the presence of crazy Rick and the imminent transfer of the power plant into the hands of the power company present substantial obstacles to this creek ever getting kayaked.
Leaving Douglas, Demshitz hit Rogers Creek and we pointed the van south and east towards home.