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

No comments: