Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Puzzle Time!

November 10-12, 2006

I have just returned from a weekend in Hood River after the floods, and let me tell you, It is WET up there! It rained almost the entire time I was there; it would rain for an hour, break for some sun, then go back to a drizzle and maybe break again a little later.

I left Bend, Oregon Friday morning and proceeded to drive the long way there (since 35 is closed) at a pace where my gas mileage would have the chance at being over 16 mpg. SWEET!

Hood River
Photo by: Kim Russell

Got there around the late afternoon—ish (emphasis on the ish), and ended up skipping dinner to watch some flood footage of the area from this past week that my friend Brandon Backman took. Most of the footage I saw was similar to the pictures I posted last week: trees down, once existing roads now non-existing, as well as some awesome footage of some local rivers. (I will try to get the video and post it).

Apparently, the Main Hood River reached flows sweet enough to produce epic waves. In the video, they looked almost Skook-like: big, nice, even pile with great air potential. They looked super fun to go out and surf only till MASSIVE trees and root balls floated by. WHOA! Then there were the trees being cartwheeled underwater that would all the sudden pop up at the wave. Definitely made things look a little less appealing. haha. I guess that with a spotter watching for wood as you took a ride there would be a whistle blown every three seconds or so. WOW. That is a lot of debris!

After watching the video, Brandon and I made plans to paddle the Dee to Tucker section of the East Fork of the Hood River the next morning, watched some more random kayak video, and crashed early. Sweet. We woke up at a good time to rally the East Fork with a crew, only that crew was not happening this morning. Oh well. We went anyway, putting in at the town/bridge of Dee, where we had a 6 mile paddle ahead of us that would only take about an hour tops.

The Confluence of the East Fork (the muddy river in the right of this photo), and the Main (the clear green river on the left side).
Photo by: Kim Russell

This section of river is a big-water class IV fun-run that starts on the East Fork of the Hood and joins the Main Hood River after about three miles. It is hard to even describe this river… At these flows, above 3,000, the river was still coming down from flood stage, so things were super different: The river starts out fairly narrow with no eddies. The upper section feels creek-like with lots of S-turns and what would be steep drops at normal flows. We put-in at Dee to some super muddy water with enough asphalt from the destruction of highway 35 in it to build a whole new highway. Wohoo! Definitely did not want to open your eyes when you rolled. As it was, there was enough gravel being spit out at you at wave crests without the asphalt. Haha. We put-in and paddled this top section super fast (read: lots of water).

Photo by: Kim Russell

A drop we got out to scout: Around the corner a few days before, there was a HUGE hole, but this time there wasn’t. It’s amazing what floods do. Sweet waves though huh?

After a few miles, the river gets pretty wide and becomes more big-water feel in character. There are two main rapids on this lower stretch: Island 1 and Island 2. Like I said, I had never been on the run before, but from what people have said, it sounds like things have changed immensely, especially these two rapids. Right now, it’s big water, big waves, big holes and lots of random rocks. SWEET. One of the rapids that you usually start right and move left, that’s about 75 yards long or so, you now start left move right. Weird. Haha. Oh well. It was super fun, and made for a great way to start the morning! I will say it was kind of scary kayaking down past pieces of dam and culvert though. Ah. After seeing what was on the banks of the river and resting in the shallows, it made you wonder what was just under the surface… what looks like a rock might not necessarily be one (if you know what I mean---scrap metal or concrete from the dam). After thinking about that…. I pretty much didn’t want to roll. AH! Did a few times though and everything worked out! Yea!

That afternoon, I met up with my friend Adam Craig who was running the Little White Salmon River, just across the Columbia River, to do some paddling. Not before grabbing a veggie-burrito take-out style from the taqueria and sat in the comfiest of all comfy chairs in the world waiting for my layers to dry in the dryer :). Did I mention Brandon Backman has a dryer? It was sooooooo nice to be able to dry some of my gear from the morning and have warm layers for the afternoon paddle. :) hehe.

Crossing the Hood River Bridge into Washington
Photo by: Kim Russell

Once the dinger went off on the dryer, I jumped in the car and drove across the bridge to the take-out of the Little White. The Little White is a continuous solid class V run for about 5 miles with little to no eddies (or so I’ve been told)... I have never run this before, (one of my goals for next summer), but the guidebooks, pictures and stories I have heard make it sound super fun. With names like Getting’ Busy, Wishbone Falls, S-Turn, and 35 ft Spirit Falls, the run can’t be anything but awesome. (I will be writing a trip report on this hopefully by next summer). I got to the take-out around 1:30 pm and waited for the group to show up. In the meantime, I had a pretty sweet conversation with one of the Portland boys that involved how nice it would be to lie down in the sun, only it sucked because the asphalt was wet. Yeah…. No, really, it was good. He’s cool. Go Paul! Anyway, just as we were getting concerned, about 17 people appeared on the lake paddling towards us! WOW! That has got to be a record of the biggest group on the Little White Salmon ever! Tao showed up first, followed by a crew from Oregon, including Adam, and then a crew from Boise, Idaho. As they pulled up, we were told there were two injuries: a possible broken back from landing too flat off Spirit falls, as well as a gnar cut above someone’s eye from some good face/cockpit bashing off Spirit as well. OUCH. About an hour later, the guy with the back issue was taken to the hospital in Portland were he was X-rayed and said to have a compressed T12 vertebrae as well as a crushed vertebrae with pieces floating dangerously close to his spinal cord. Keep your fingers crossed for him! After what sounded like a fun yet slightly stressful Little White run, Adam and I went and paddled the super mellow Husum Falls section of the White Salmon. We put-in with about an hour and a half till darkness and ended up taking out right as the sun set.

At about 4 feet, there was a good amount of water in this section (compared to summertime flows of under 2 feet), and we were able to find some sweet waves to fulfill our desires. Adam had some good rides, threw some sicky blunts and donkey-helix’s (the new word for a sweet trick when you pretend to throw or else “throw” kind of unintentionally but it turns out weird or super cool.) Yea. We had some good ones of those. There was no carnage, and we made it down to Husum Falls by four thirty-ish. I decided to portage as the hole in the center looked super gnarly for playboats, and Adam ran it far river left side at this S-turn channel. In the process he did this cool move where he gets stuck on a rock right at the edge and sits there for a little while. It was good stuff. Haha. No really, it sucked, but it worked out very nicely. That night, while Brandon was at work, we took to practicing our skipping skills in town (while looking ridiculous and freaking the locals out) and met up with Brandon for a movie.

The next day, it wasn’t raining anymore! It was clear skies and slightly chilly, but nice! Brandon took off early to go to a meeting, and Adam and I went to get some breakfast at the bagel shop…..there is nothing like a cheese bagel with cream cheese in the morning! YUM! Or eggs and bacon! (If you can’t tell, my life revolves around good food). Not really, but kind of! :) After looking over a map of Washington we concluded we wanted to run the EF Lewis or Copper Creek if it would work with our timing (we both wanted to be back in Bend around 7, so that would mean leaving Hood River around 3:30). It didn’t work that well, so Adam made a few calls and the Green Truss section of the White Salmon (see below trip report for more info on this section). I took a pass on the Truss this trip, the river being almost four feet. I wasn’t feeling up for a beating. Turns out it was juicing! Good times though! Meanwhile I went to pick up two creek boats I needed to bring back to Bend for some friends…. Now there will be three creek boats and one playboat on my car for the drive home… sweet.

I went home, took a quick nap, and waited till Brandon got back from his meeting to go paddle something a little less gnarly. Adam decided to paddle Panther Creek, a Class IV+/V creek that runs in to the Wind River that afternoon and head home afterwards… Brandon got home around 11:00, but after looking at the weather report for that evening, I decided to head home early and miss the snowstorm. Check out my rig….

What do you do with three creek boats and a playboat when you need to drive about 175 miles and want to get good gas mileage and avoid being blown off the road from 60 mph winds?


Puzzle-work by: Brandon Backman and Kim Russell
Photo by: Kim Russell

Seeing how my car only gets about 19 mpg on the highway on a good day with no weight, no boats or passengers in it, I figured having three creek boats on top of the car would mean some seriously bad gas mileage. (Not that having them in my car would be much better, but I figured it would be a good idea seeing the weather report called for crazy strong winds and lots of snow for the drive home). Plus, I was delivering two boats to some friends back in Bend and wanted to get them in the car if I could. :)

Needless to say, the boats made a great arm rest on the way home. Although it was about two feet higher than a normal armrest would be. Still awesome!!! I think I got about 16 mpg though. maybe. Ouch. At least gas prices are now $2.59 here and not $3.50.

Photo by: Kim Russell

This is what I came home to ...... SNOW. And to think Mt. Bachelor opens Friday (today)!

I later learned that Adam’s run down Panther Creek went well, and that if anyone is ever thinking about putting in at the upper put-in don’t… It is class two for a few miles with a lot of long-jams that somehow you can paddle through, and adds about an hour or two onto the total trip. He got off the water just as it became dark and was able to make it home in good time even with a gnarly blizzard and bald summer tires!

(Sorry for the lack of kayaking photos folks…. It was hard to get pictures on the East Fork since there were no eddies and if I popped my skirt to take a photo at any point my boat would fill with water and I would swim… Didn’t really feel like doing that so not too many photos there. On the main white Salmon on the Husum Falls section, we wanted to get down before dark before we froze our bums off). Bummer.

Kim Russell
A.K.A. Kiddo

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