By Nick Troutman

This summer I was fortunate enough to join Dane for a lap down West Cheery Creek. I was beyond stoked as West Cherry, and especially the famous Graceland slide. I flew out met up with Dane in the little town of Groveland. From there we quickly bought some supplies for our overnighter, though focused on keeping it light as we were going to have to hike it all in on our 6 mile trek into the creek.

We were lucky enough to convince Michael Ferraro (with some crisp dollar bills) to drop us off at the trail head and run our shuttle down to the takeout lake reservoir. Once we made it to the trail head we did a quick gear check, make sure our boats were loaded and then we started our 6 mile trek into the creek. Our boats must have weighed up to 80pounds with all our overnight gear and food. It was hot, there were mosquitoes, and a huge hike in front of us, though we focused on how great the views were and how great the whitewater would be. After a couple hours into the hike we finally made it to the ridge and were able to see the river and the Graceland slide. It looked magnificent, even from such a distance, being that we still had over an hour hike down and into the river bed. Eventually we made it down to our campsite. We had a quick rest, unloaded our gear and basked in the beauty of the canyon for a moment before we continued hiking up to the top of the Graceland slide.

Once at the top of the slide I realized just how steep and how little water was running over this smooth granite waterslide. Dane volunteered to go first, which was helpful for me as I still had several questions about what would happen as you bounced your way down the drop. Dane flew down with a stylish line and it was enough to sell me on the idea of giving it a shot. I went next and hit the line just as I had hoped for and discussed with Dane. Though, honestly I still felt a bit out of control as I bounced my way down this beast of a slide. I walked back up to watch Dane go for round two. Again he made it look easy, and it was just the push I needed to jump back in and try for some smooth redemption on lap 2. My second lap was one of wildest rides of my life as I slid and bounced my way down a couple hundred feet all the way to the bottom. It was around a 2-minute ride, though it felt of this weird combination of an instant and a never-ending eternity. Once at the bottom I cheered with an exuberant amount of excitement. I was utterly stoked, though I also felt that the 2 laps were enough balancing of the edge of control for me. Dane and I paddled down to our camp site at the bottom of Graceland and started to set up. We build a fire, cooked some dinner and enjoyed life under the stars. 

The next morning was Dane’s birthday. We got up early, cooked up some oatmeal and coffee for breakfast and packed up camp before hitting the river. Dane wanted to start the morning off with a couple more laps on the Graceland slide, though I had enough from the day prior, we started hiking up and I set safety and filmed him do a couple birthday laps. We then continued on down as Dane lead my down rapid and rapid with little more instruction than “follow me”. I trusted his judgement and line choice and blindly followed my fearless leader. Every now and then Dane would eddy out and say something like “umm….. you might want to just take a peak at this one.” We had been rallying through tons of class 5 rapids, so I knew if he told me to scout it was clearly something substantial. We had a couple of portages around some log jammed rapids, though mainly we just kept rallying down non-stop. Once we hit the confluence of West Cherry and Upper Cherry the river flow practically doubled in volume, and the whitewater got a fair amount bigger and pushier with some large holes. There was little to do except try to stay on Dane’s tail and we kept charging through the high volume creek. We eventually made it to the Cherry lake reservoir for a 45 minute paddle out. I took a moment to savor the events of the day, as well as a quick Picky Bar to fuel up before our lake paddle. Once on the other side of the lake we found Dane’s truck, loaded up and headed back to Groveland to enjoy a deliciously cold birthday beverage. 

All in all it was a truly incredible river, and one that I will never forget. I am forever grateful to have been in such a magnificent location, surrounded by massive granite walls, gorgeous whitewater slide, and a sunny blue bird day out in the California wilderness. It was the cherry on top (no pun intended) to be there with one of my best friends, and brother-in-law, Dane Jackson, and to have shared the day with him on his birthday was just incredible.

Check out Nick's full video at https://youtu.be/K-yvz2cuJuo