Monday, February 25, 2008

Illinois River Trip Report: 2-22 to 2-24-08

Photo by Ryan Morgan

Here's a little eye candy from our last Illinois trip. We had a little excitement, but no major swims or other carnage. Keep your eye open for an article about the trip in the Outdoor section of the Medford Mail Tribune.

Pitcher Plant colonies along the bank in the lower canyon

Pete Wallstrom dropping into York Creek behind Scott Photo by Alan Douglass

The one class IV between Pine Flat and Prelude Photo by Ryan Morgan
Will Making the move at Clear Creek Photo by Alan Douglass

Scotty "Too Hotty" going big at Pine Flat. Put those oars in the water, man! Photo by Alan Douglass

Will rowing the Media Boat through York Creek Photo by Alan Douglass

Scott Rion and crew getting told not to mess with the bitches at "Pimp Slap"

Everyone trying to get a peek of the maelstrom at Green Wall

Our water level was right around 1500 cfs at Kerby. This is a nice optimal flow for most of the river. We mostly had endless class II, quite a bit of class III, and about 7 class IV rapids. Green Wall, however, was an outright menace. At lower flows, the main ledge hole loses its bite while at higher water the sneak on the left opens up. At this flow, rafts absolutely had to run the hole. The bottom drop also packed more of a punch than I've ever seen before. Carnage was inevitable. First up, Scotty Rion!
Scott got a little sideways and started to surf in the hole.

If I were responsible, I'd have put the camera away and gone to my kayak to help with safety at this point, but there were already several others downstream. Shortly after this photo, Leland got sucked out and flushed out of the boat.
Miraculously, he was able to grab on and keep from getting swept downstream. Then the boat spun again and he was in the gut of the hole, getting pummeled. Can you spot the swimmer in this photo?This was more than a minute after the raft started surfing. Just after this, the boat finally flushed out with everyone back in the boat!

After this, Ryan and Alan decided they should paddle down and set kayak safety below. Again, I was irresponsible and hung out to take pictures. Alan and Ryan both flipped in the bottom hole with their big boats, which was a little unnerving for me.

Pete came down and had a clean line through the upper drop, but ran the bottom hole sideways with a big high-side. Scotty "Too Hotty" Fine fired it up next and had the cleanest line of all. This was the closest to carnage he ever came: Photo by Alan Douglass
I was next with the smallest boat designed for surfing waves, not bombing down class V. Alan and Ryan kept thinking: "And Dan playboats this $h!+?" Photo by Alan Douglass
I did fine with the kayak sneak around the top hole, although I had a little trouble with the ferry back right. I came barreling down moving left to avoid the monstrous hole at the bottom. All was in vain: the laterals guarding it surfed me right back into the middle.

Dropping into a hole much bigger than me. Photo by Ryan Morgan

I got stopped immediately. And yes, I am in this frame. Photo by Ryan Morgan

Still in the hole. Keep in mind that this camera could only take one picture every several seconds. After an exciting rodeo session, I finally flushed out..... Photo by Ryan MorganOnly to get pushed into the undercut wall on at the bottom, flipping again. What a ride!
Photo by Ryan Morgan

Will came down last and gave us a little finale. They got sideways dropping in, but Will called a nice, early high-side command. Photo by Ryan Morgan
One of Will's oars popped out, so all he could do was high-side. Photo by Ryan Morgan
Thinking his oar was gone downstream, Will went for his spare and slipped it in so he could row again. Notice the bags hanging off the side and gear floating downstream..... Photo by Ryan Morgan
Will was finally able to row out of the hole after a minute-long surf. Alissa and Tyler had extremely clean lines through Green Wall that day: they walked.

Despite a little adversity, everyone was safe. We were blessed with a strong crew of boaters and everyone exhibited good boating skills and excellent judgement. We all took a breather and continued down through the class IV gorge.

Just before camp, I decided to hike my boat up to run the little tributary waterfall. This time I thought the upper drop looked good too, so I gave it a go, giving a little more carnage to the trip, but that's a different story...... Photo by Alan Douglass

Upper Wind River: IV+ (WA)

After having a good day in the sun on the Washougal River, Will, Ryan, Danielle and I decided to try out the upper Wind River in the Columbia River Gorge. The weather wasn't as good as the day before, but we weren't deterred by snow out our way to the take-out. The All-Trac leading the way through mud and snow with a sweet new alternator.

The well-known gage rock at the take out had water sloshing through the horns, which indicates a good medium level. We dropped my car off and headed up to the put-in.Getting ready at the put-in.

The first mile or so was mellow class II leading up to Initiation: a long class IV boulder garden. Ryan was the only one who had done the run, so we were mostly following him. After Initiation, the action kept coming for several miles. We moved quickly without scouting anything and bombed through dozens of class IV drops. Ryan chose great lines and we would regroup in an eddy to watch Will come through. Will nailed everything and we would peel out again once he was through the rapids.
Will dropping through Ram's Horn

Eventually we got to a steeper horizon line and eddied out. Ryan was just above the lip boat scouting and I found a parking spot on the right. Ryan gave me the "go left" signal, grinned and dropped out of sight. A few seconds later I saw him re-appear in the pool below and followed. It was a fairly tall ledge with some big hydraulics, but the left line was a fast, clear tongue.

"That was Ram's Horn" declared Ryan when I caught up with him. Personally, I love not learning learning where the well-known rapids are until after I run them. It kinda takes the edge off. The experience was similar at our next big drop.
The author negotiating some of the "in-between" stuff

The river resumed it's normal character of continuous class III with periodic class IV drops for another mile or so (it's hard to remember because it all went so fast). Eventually, the river disappeared again, only this time Ryan disappeared with it. Where the hell did he go? I grabbed an eddy and looked over my shoulder to see him signaling left. I aimed toward the slot he indicated and paddled hard. This was one of those drops with a boof flake you want to find to help clear the hole. Well, I found it. It was right there, two feet to my left as I dropped into the gut of the hole.

I pulled the best boof I could without any rock to launch off of and it went surprisingly well. I landed flat and kept paddling downstream to clear the hole, but all in vain. The hydraulic stopped me dead. I changed my strategy and spun around, then paddled full-strength back INTO the hole. Strange, I know, but I drove my bow deep into the green water, launched into an ender, and it was just enough to shoot me out the backside of the hole. I rolled up the the moving pool below, and, to my astonishment, saw Ryan upside-down against the wall. I guess while I was getting worked, he signaled for Will to stop, which was just enough to flip him. Ryan rolled up and Will came through with a good clean line. "I think that was 'Climax'" said Ryan.

Climax marks the end of the real whitewater on the upper Wind and we made our way through a few miles of class II boogey water to the take-out.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Washougal River: III (IV)

On Friday, Jan. 11th, it rained. It rained a lot in the Columbia Gorge region. It rained enough for the Washougal river in southern Washington to get pretty high. What is normally a class II/III- residential run had turned into a fast big-water section. Even with the extra water, the run was mostly class II with a couple III's and one class four: Big eddy. The one rapid was fun with big waves and holes scattered across the river for a few hundred yards. Other than that, the most difficult part was the put-in.
Ryan convinced us to launch on the NF of the Washougal, which would add an extra mile of river and some excellent play waves. The access here is decent for kayaks, but challenging for rafts. We ended up belaying the boat down a hillside until it got stuck. From there we played around with getting throw ropes stuck in trees for a while until we could finally load the raft.

Once we launched, the river was very fast. In the first mile we encountered several outstanding surf waves. Unfortunately, I was in my creekboat and couldn't take full advantage of the playboating all down this run. I was able to surf my Huka on some of the longer, faster waves however where displacement hull got up on plane.

Ryan on one of the smaller features.

Further downstream, there were many more small surf waves with great eddy service, such as the one pictured above. I had trouble staying on the waves with my sluggish boat, but Will and Danielle in the raft did just fine.
We made our way to the take-out without incident, other than me flailing through some of the big water in a boat designed for steep creeks. Damn, I shoulda brought a playboat! As per usual, beer and kettle chips awaited us at the take-out and we gladly indulged.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Canyon Creek, WA

The Drop Zone on Canyon Creek.

After a bit of a hiatus from this blogging stuff, I'm gettin' back after it. I'm planning to do an awful lot of boating over the next year and should have some pretty great runs to document. Of course, it's not like it's anything new because everything I run is already in the guidebooks. But I can at least offer my own opinions to those who care and those who know me might actually give a damn. (Thanks Mom and Dad).

Since I had the run-in with the tall-boy of Negro Especial, I've been doing some high-water boating, enjoying getting tossed around in my playboat. We did a two-day Illinois trip with the gauge peaking at 5,000 cfs on the last day, giving us over twice that at the take out. Shortly afterwards Will and I joined up with 14 other lost souls and spent the 25 shortest days of the year running the Grand Canyon. Once back in the rainy northwest, we spent a weekend on the Smith, enjoying high flows on the class IV+ North Fork and class V Oregon Hole Gorge.

Will and the raft crew near the end of Oregon Hole Gorge

Over superbowl weekend I got back into creeking mode with a run on Canyon Creek in Washington. Canyon Creek is a classic among Portland-area boaters for its fun whitewater, scenic canyon, proximity to the city, good waterfalls, and long season. It's been a cold month in the Pacific Northwest and all our precipitation is locked up as snow in the hills. Good thing Canyon Creek was still running!

I met up with Ryan, a friend from the Grand Canyon trip. Before we left town, our group grew to seven and we ultimately launched with nine paddlers: way beyond critical mass for carnage on such a tight creek. Plus we got snowed on.

You can read all about the mile-by-mile of this run on any number of sites and I didn't take pictures, so I won't bore you with snowy details. Basically, there's a mile or so of warm-up followed by several narrow technical ledge drops that culminate in The Thrasher. Thrasher is a deceiving rapid with a nasty undercut and snow. I watched Mike Long run it first and decided it looked pretty simple while it was snowing. I managed to flip over before even going off the drop, but was able to grab enough water to pull myself out of the hole and past the undercut, where I rolled up in the snow. Two other paddlers went into the undercut here, two portaged through the snow, and one swam after getting stuck. Carnage had begun.

Shortly below Thrasher was the "boulder garden," a description I associate with boulders dividing the channel where eddies abound throughout the snow. This was more of a messy class II that led into two powerful creek-wide drops. I didn't really know what to expect, but both times I boofed hard enough to clear the holes (or just plug through them, I'm not sure). Either way, I stayed in my boat, which is more than some could say. One guy had a pretty bad swim when he flipped in the upper ledge. Did I mention it was snowing?

Flying off Big Kahuna

Below the boulder garden we boogied down to the lip of Big Kahuna Falls. Only a couple of us even bothered scouting this one, which is a testament to how easy this 18-footer is. I'd never run a drop this big or snowy before, but it can't get any easier: line up at the lip, tuck, and fall off. No paddle strokes necessary. Around the next corner we arrived at champagne: another unbelievably easy waterfall, despite the snow. I scouted out the line and saw and easy boof flake in the middle above the 12-foot drop. Just below was the horizon line for hammering spot. By this time I was in waterfall mode and decided to try running the last one snowblind. Wrong decision.

Tim runs champagne while the author looks on.

An O-Shit moment at The Hammering Spot

I'm glad Mike didn't take this shot a second later, because a sequential shot would show me getting stuck at the lip, sliding off, leaning back, flipping ass-over teakettle, and landing almost flat on my head. Good thing the water was deeper than the snow! I rolled up without trouble and we headed downstream. The very last rapid is named Toby's after a kayaker who drowned there. Toby's is a big junky ledge with no safe line except for a little sneak that we took on the left where we paddled up onto a boulder and seal-launched down the back side.

This rapid drops into the lake where Canyon Creek gets backed behind a dam. Just when the gradient picks up, the flow stops. Countless kayakers have wondered what the drowned riverbed would have to offer. Once we hit the lake, we had two miles of paddling on the lake to reach the take out and we hiked up to the cars in the snow.

Slogging through the snow at the take-out