The gradient slowly levels out, the valley widens, and a few more side streams enter giving more flow allowing the creek to mellow out a bit. The pack bridge signaled we were at Monumental Creek which allowed us to delve into one of our more intelectual conversations on the trip. Question: Why does Monumental Creek flow into Big Creek? Shouldn't it be the other way around? Answer: I don't know. There have been a lot of fires in the whole Big Creek basin in previous years making for a lot of dead and downed timber. This all makes for large, river wide log jams. Since the water isn't very pushy now we can see the logs coming, and boat right up to them before getting out and going around. There are definitely signs we weren't the first dragging boats around these obstacles this season, but it doesn't look like there were very many before us. It's not all mellow though. A couple short canyons still provide some challenging drops, but we successfully navigated these despite my scouting induced fears to the contrary. Paul even managed them with a ripping headache.
In all it was a long, fun, rewarding day, so when we got to the Vines airstrip we decided it would make a perfect stop for the night. Vines is a short, dirt strip down near creek level that is primarily used by hunting outfitters. When we flew up Big Creek a couple days earlier, their were 3 planes on the ground there, but tonight we had it to ourselves. It felt good to get out of the boats, stretch our legs a little and relax over a dinner of stuffed tortellini in pesto sauce with chicken, pine nuts and sun-dried tomatoes.