Wednesday, February 25, 2009


So, I've been thinking a lot about kayaking lately. For no particular reason really, I've just been considering the question most people ask me: "Why do you kayak?" To them, well, it looks like about the most frightening thing a person could do. I don't know if that is the case, cause I can think of a lot scarier things a person could do. Now, I'm not going to say that I don't feel fear when I slip into my boat and let the current pull me down stream. Heck, since my swim on the Hood in January, I've had more than my share of fear. That said, fear is a part of life. In proper amounts, it can be health and protect us (seriously, for untold generations it has kept us humans out the mouths of any number of creatures). I do believe that you have to learn to handle your fear and channel it into something that guides you through the type of adventures that bring it about. I recently read a quote by Susan Jeffers that, I think, sums it up nicely:

"We cannot escape fear. We can only transform it into a
companion that accompanies us on all our exciting adventures."

So, why do I paddle... hard to tell. There is a certain part of me that needs the adventure that kayaking brings and, maybe, that same part needs to feel that primal fear that accompanies such adventure. Then again, maybe I just like being a enigma to people.

Until next time...


Monday, February 23, 2009

Weekend ReCap with Jim

Well, another weekend behind us and it was a pretty nice one here in Pdx. Shell and I headed out to watch our nephew (Gavin Nash) swim in the Oregon State High School Swimming Championships. He did GREAT! Gavin took second in the 500 freestyle and his relay team took 2 Second Place medals and a First Place medal, the time for which set a new Oregon High School Record. I didn't swim competitively in high school, so I was a bit lost during most of the meet, but it sure was exciting to see him do so well and Shell and I are both really proud of him.

Saturday, we took one of the better February days to finally clean up our back yard after all the winter storms we had. Having spent a considerable amount of my life at or around a golf course, I'm pretty particular about my grass, so it was good to get it cleaned off, assessed and a game plan devised for my late winter/early spring yard care. Shell and I also got the fire pit going, buring some old branches, etc. that were in the yard... I simply can't get enough of that campfire smell.

Sunday was paddling day and I organized a group trip to the Upper Klickitat (Salmon Hatchery to Leidl Campground) in Washington State. Final count at the put in was 15 paddlers, a great turn out for this trip and a testament to the hardiness of Pacific Northwest kayakers.

I'd never paddled this section before, but it is classified as a Class III run. However, on Sunday flows were on the extreme low end of good, so I didn't really know what to expect... that is, with low flows, some runs become more difficult and some become easier. Overall, the flows we had gave this a Class II/II+ feel, but you could tell by the gradient and the drops that more water would make this a wonderful Class III/III+ run. Couple that with the stunning scenary and you have a section of river well worth the drive. I'll let the photos tell the rest of the story...

Looking downstream on a typical section of the Upper Klick

Tim enjoying the float

One of the prettier waterfalls on the Upper Klick

Brit digging in and moving downstream

Nobu says "Hang Loose"

My buddy Aaron taking in the beautiful scenary

Typical columar basalt formations on the Upper Klick

On the drive home, Shell and I stopped by Husum Falls on the White Salmon River to take a look at the log that became lodged in it during the last high water event (See Below). I sort of knew what to expect, but I wasn't prepared to feel as sad as I did once I saw the log. The White Salmon River is a pretty special place for me. The Middle section of this river (The Mid White) was a huge step for me and I spent a good portion of my early kayaking months (which coincided with the courtship of my wife) walking Shell down to the put-in and watching her float away. I would drive down to the take out and look at Husum Falls and think "someday, I'm going to run that drop with Shell". When it finally came time to paddle the "Mid White" and run Husum Falls with Shell it was, to say the least, a super high point in my kayaking. Every time I come up here and get to paddle this section of river, it reminds me of special paddling is to me and how lucky I am to have a partner who I can share these wonderful experiences with. Now, the river is still there and we can run the Mid White section, but it just won't feel the same without being able to finish off with Husum Falls. We'll see what the rafting companies can do about it, but for the immediate future, Husum Falls is out of the question... I'll miss you old friend!

So, that's all I've got for now... I'll be out there exploring the beautiful PacNW again this weekend, hope you all can do the same!
Until next time...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rogue River - President's Day Weekend 2009

I joined 48 other paddlers (rafters and kayakers) for a President's Day trip down the Rogue. Flows were a fun and juicy 3210 CFS - 3440 CFS for the weekend and the weather was pretty fair. Shell was gracious enough to let her husband be absent over Valentine's Day, so I could experience this trip... just another reason why I love her and am lucky to have her as my wife.

So, for those of you unfamiliar with the Rogue, the Wild and Scenic Section (Grave Creek to Foster Bar) is a great combo of Class II, III and IV water and has some of the most spectacular scenary I've ever seen.

The first day starts out at the Grave Creek Put-In and paddlers are immediately met by Grave Creek Rapid, which is an eye opening set of 2 Class III rapids with lots of stuff going on, stark eddy lines and big boils. Within the first mile, paddlers come upon Rainie Falls, which definitely requires a scout, if for no other reason to just look at this monster. (You can get out on river left and walk right up to the lip to look at lines.) Now, I've seen this drop in pictures at flows around 1400 CFS and it looked "good to go", but on this particular day, the 3+ foot drop off of the rooster tail rock led into a messy recirculating hydralic, which combined with a 4 foot boil coming off the left wall, made me just stare in awe at this beautiful work of Mother Nature. (Quite honestly, it scared the beejezus out of me and it took me about 1 minute to decide to seek a different line.) There are several chutes that looked good and one cat and a hard shell (Well done Erik!) ran them with success. However, with only a mile under my belt and still feeling a bit groggy, I opted for the Fish Ladder, which was a lot of fun at this flow. The rest of the way down on the first day, we hit Tyee, Wild Cat, Slim Pickins, and the Black Bar twins (Upper and Lower), all of which provided some great Class III paddling amidst stunning scenary.

Saturday night we camped at Horseshoe Bend, which is a great spot. It rained a bit the first night, but we had a great dinner of Beef Stroganoff, several bonfires and some liquid warmth to keep the mid-thirty degree temps at bay.

On Sunday, we did 18 miles, starting out with Quiz Show, Kelsey Falls and numerous other Class II rapids. The water was moving pretty quick and the sun was shining, so life was good. We stopped at the Zane Grey cabin, which was cool and provided a nice break. It was a great break and it amazed us all that, though it was only February, it smelled and felt like a spring day. After this brief respite, we got to the meat of the day... Mule Creek Canyon, Blossom Bar and Devil's Staircase.

Mule Creek Canyon is about a mile long and as narrow as 2 boat lengths in spots. Into this canyon flows the entire Rogure River, so you can imagine the type of hydralics and boils you experience. All I can say is that it was INTENSE. You start out with some great Class III rapids at the Jaws, where paddlers stay left to avoid a nasty little slot. From there, we moved to the center of the river and dug in, essentially boil hopping our way down, trying to avoid the huge eddylines and whirlpools that form out of nowhere. Coffee Pot, the last significant spot in Mule Creek Canyon was more like a huge Espresso machine on steroids, but we all dug through it with success. I was mentally spent by the time we reached the Lunch Eddy at the bottom of the canyon, but I was whooping, hollering and laughing too much to notice. We stopped at Stair Creek Falls, which is awesome, and moved towards Bloomom Bar. On the way, we came upon a River Otter that was inclined to pose for the camera and allowed Erik and I to get within 4 feet of him. After he'd had his fill of us, he jumped back into the river and swam along side us for about 50 yards... a very cool experience.

Next up was Blossom Bar Rapid, which is classified as a Class IV and for good reason. This one has it all... crux moves, big water and a stout boulder garden. We grabbed the eddy on river left and talked about lines: The crux move at the top is the most important, as it avoids the dreaded "Picket Fence". I'd been studying the great diagram in Matt Leidecker's book and felt pretty confident I could do it as soon as I saw the entry slot. My buddy Erik ran first and signaled with a head tap about 1/4 of the way down. I dug in and headed for the slot to get in behind the Goal Post Rock, nailed it and did a great airplane turn around the hole and down the green tongue... I slowed down in a small eddy just long enough to see the rest of my line... I grabbed some current and read and ran the rest of the rapid, going right of the Volkswagen Rock and hitting an eddy on river right to wait for my other friends and provide safety. Everyone made it with style and we stopped to grab some lunch above Devil's Staircase.

Now, as a general rule, I don't like to take long breaks during any sort of sport, especially when I'm feeling "in the groove" and I've got a Class III/III+ staring me in the face. However, we were all pretty hungry and 30 minutes later, with an overly full stomach, I peeled out into this little monster. All I can say is that I took what can only be described as the worst line in the annals of kayaking history, got barrel rolled by a curler, typewritered into the river right wall and, 4 roll attempts later and still bouncing off the wall, pulled my skirt... ARGH! Luckily, I grabbed and eddy and got back to my boat with the assistance of my buddy Brandon. Apparently, Lucifer thought I was a little too cocky today and thought he'd let me know his thoughts... thanks Dark One! We finished the rest of the float down to Tacoma Bar and, as the meal team for Sunday night, the kayakers prepared a feast of penne pasta with meat and veggie sauce, salad and bread. The weather was warm, the compay outstanding and we all sat around the campfire till 11 before drifting back to our respective tents for a well deserved rest.

The last day was an easy 6 mile float down to Foster Bar and a grueling 8 hour drive home.
This trip was my first self support and it was a great experience and I'm looking forward to a return trip to this magical place. Below you will find a few pictures from the trip, but the gallery (photos courtesy of Jim Funk, Dick Sisson and Erik Stoermer) can be found by following this link:

Getting Ready at the Put In

Scouting Rainie Falls

Morning on The Rogue

Blossom Bar Rapid (the crux move is right at the top, behind the large rock to the bottom left of the raft)

Looking back upstream from the take out at Foster Bar

Until next time, enjoy the pictures and remember... right out side your door is a magical land... get on out there and enjoy it!

See you on the river!


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Next Stop The Rogue River

Well, I'm heading out tomorrow for a 3 day trip through the Wild & Scenic section of the Rogue River. We'll be putting on the water at the Grave Creek boat launch and taking out at Foster Bar, for a total of something like 36 miles. Normally, you have to have a permit for this trip, but between October and May, anyone can paddle this great river. I'm joining a rather large group (48 people last I counted), most of which are made up of rafts and cats. There is a small contingent of kayakers though, many of whom I've paddled with before (including my buddy Brandon Bloomquist). Shell was supposed to head down to Cali for a scuba diving trip, but the weather down there was going to be crummy, so she is holding down Fort Funk up in Portland (you really have to love a woman who would let her husband go on a kayaking trip over Valentine's Weekend... I know this guy does!)

The weather forecast shows cold temps (low to mid 40's during the day and low 30's at night), so we'll see how accurate the comfort rating on my sleeping bag is. Oh and did I mention snow... yea, snow is definitely a possibility. I'm looking forward to the photos that I bring back, as the river is likely to be totally empty, aside from our group.

You can read about the river here... (This doc has some great photos and write-ups about the river)

Also, if you go to Google Maps (see link over to your right) and type in Galice, Oregon you can follow the course of the river.

Anyway, I hope to have some great pictures and stories to share with you all when I return.

Until then... enjoy your journey!


Sunday, February 8, 2009

East Fork of the Lewis... The Waterfall Run

I had my first trip down the EFL's famed Waterfall run (Class IV/V) on Saturday, February 7th, with my buddies Mike Glass, Brandon Bloomquist and Aaron Nudelman... all I can say is "WOW".

We put in about a 1/2 mile above Sunset Falls, which provided a nice warm up before with hit this 17 foot waterfall.

To make the experience interesting, I got flipped in the hole just above the pool and hit a nice roll, which had a great, calming effect on me. We scouted Sunset Falls on the way up, but got out of our boats to look at it one more time. Mike went first and nailed a clean landing. I was pretty nervous, being the highest waterfall I'd ever been on, but ended up running it pretty clean. In spite of my weak boof stroke, I penciled in and came right up, whooping and hollering. Like I said, that was the highest falls I'd ever run and, for me, it was a great accomplishment. Here's a picture of my buddy, Aaron Nudelman, charging over Sunset Falls... and one of Mike "sitting safety" below the falls (the line at these flows is at the extreme right of the photo):

From Sunset Falls, we moved out way down through Hippy Johns Boulder Drop (so named, because someone discovered a guy meditating on a rock in the middle of the river... I've been there, how he got on a rock in the middle of the river, I'll never know), Sky Pilot and the other unnamed drops and chutes above the gorge section of this run. We all had really clean lines through everything and smiles covered each of our faces.

The next major section of this run is called "The Gorge", mainly because the walls of the river shoot straight up and, well, it's a gorge. There are 2 main rapids in the section: Class IV/V "Screaming Left" and Class IV "Dragon's Back". We got out of our boats above Screaming Left to scout. It only took me a minute to decide to walk it with my buddy Mike Glass... the risk/reward ratio just felt off to me. Brandon and Aaron both walked it as well. We walked down to Dragon's Back to make sure wood had not worked it's way down and happily discovered it was clean. After looking at the line and discussing options for running it, we all decided to give er'.

The intended procedure was to seal launch into the eddy below Screaming Left, pop over the little ledge below it and head down. We all set safety for Mike and he nailed the drop... as evidenced by the photo...

Mike got out and set safety with Aaron for Brandon and I. Both Brandon and I had super clean lines... I'm not sure who was laughing harder! We all set up for Aaron's descent. Unfortunately, Aaron got a little sideways in his seal launch and got stuffed in the hole and pinned against a rock and had to swim. He self rescued and we were able to get his paddle and boat.

After we all got back in our boats, we floated in awe of the pure beauty of this place...

From the Gorge, we moved down to John's Swimming Hole and got out to look at it... there is a large piece of wood blocking the entry, but we snuck around it on the left and all hit our lines at the bottom nicely. This is a great dope and ends in, yes you guessed it, a swimming hole:

Below John's Swimming Hole, we hit Mr. Twister, which is a benign looking S-Turn rapid. Yours truly failed to have enough speed going into the second turn and got stuffed and pinned up against a rock. I held on and though I was getting a pounding on my head (my new helmet has the battle scars to prove it), hit an off side roll and popped up, much to the delight and relief of my buddies... we decided it was a opportune time to take a break and we found a nice sunny spot to pull out and rest.

You know, paddling is a weird sport... you experience places and feelings that other non-paddlers don't really understand. As we sat there, laughing and looking at this beautiful, untouched place, it struck me just how lucky I am to have buddies like Aaron, Mike and Brandon.

After we got back in our boats, we floated down to Horseshoe Falls (22 feet) and scouted on river left. I was pretty intimidated by this waterfall, as it seemed appreciably bigger than Sunset (given the heights I found when I got home, I guess I was right). We hopped across the rocks over to the entry slot and all discussed our intended lines. Mike went first and nailed the drop...

I hopped in my boat and made my way to the slot. I got a little hung up on the rocks getting in, but pulled my way into the water and slide down the little chute, steadied myself in the stiller water at the top and dug in for the dome at the top of the auto boof flake. I nailed my intended spot and sailed off the edge, nice softish landing and popped up, whooping and hollering. All I can say is that my Jackson SuperHero ROCKS!

Mike and I set up safety for Brandon and Aaron and both nailed the waterfall.

From Horseshoe Falls, we floated down to the take out, laughing and remarking just how great a day it had been.

When I think back on it, it was a great day... not just because I paddled something that was difficult and required all the skills I've acquired in this sport, but because I was able to paddle this beautiful stretch of river with 3 great friends...

Enjoy your friends and family and, if you get a chance, head out into America's wilderness areas... they are pretty special places and those who work to protect them deserve all the thanks we can give them!

I'll see you on the river...


NFMF of the Mighty Willamette

The weekend of February 1st, Shell and I drove down to her folks place in Cottage Grove, Oregon to help with some home improvement projects and help her mom get ready for an extended trip to Nebraska to visit her parents. In hopes of being able to make it back to the White Salmon to join my buddy Lanson for a run down the Farmlands section of the White Salmon River (Class IV), I brought my gear along, but after spending the better part of Saturday removing and hanging drywall in my in-law's laundry room, I knew I wouldn't be up early enough to make the drive home. So, with a "pass" to go boating from my lovely wife Shell, I called a buddy of mine who lives in Corvallis to see if he was interested in running the NFMF of the Willamette (Below the Gorge to Westfir), a Class III, 8 mile stretch of beautiful whitewater. The run features some really quality drops, 2 of which are 3-4 foot ledge drops. This was the first solid Class III run I ever paddled, so it is pretty special to me. In short, I was stoked!

The flows for this trip were on the low side of okay (837 CFS) and it showed once I got up there. Pretty much everything you can scout from the road (which lies quite a ways above the river). The last time I paddled the run, it was at 1200 CFS and everything was super clean. However, at this low flow, both ledge drops looked pretty manky. We headed up to the put in and discovered quite a bit of snow and downed trees. Reports indicated that the river was clear, but, given everything I was looking at, I anticipated a slow move down river, with lots of boat and foot scouting. Once we got on the river, we were met with beautiful opal green water and some nicley technical Class II+/III- boulder gardens.

We quickly approached the first significant horizon line, identified by a huge rock wall on river right. We could see the line from the road and we entered a sweet sweeping green tongue on the left of a large boulder... the river dropped maybe 6-7 feet and had a really nice pool below (though everything flowed straight into the rock wall, so you need to execute a bit of a "S" move coming down the tongue). Moving down river we approached the first ledge drop and go out on river right to scout it. Though there appeared to be a questionable line to the left of the main flake, I couldn't determine how rocky the landing zone was, so we opted for the 3 foot seal launch below. After this we paddled several other Class III boulder gardens and chute-style drops, most of which required boat scouting. The last ledge drop required a portage on river left, as the two main lines looked pretty questionable and, with only the two of us, the better side of caution indicated that it would be better to shoulder our boats. Just below this drop, however, was another excellent 6-7 foot drop, with a beautiful green tongue on river left... very good times for sure!

Towards the end of the run, paddlers get to the "Ledges", which are a series of 3 distict drops, Class III in nature, but at this level required some very tight and precise moves to avoid the obvious pinning potential. Spending time watching my friends from the Tri-Cites in Washington (Lanson, CB and Jim) scouting on Tumwater Canyon on the Wenatchee really helped here, as I eddy hopped my way up to the edge to get the line and lead down... thanks for the lessons guys!

All in all... a fantastic run!
Have fun out there... it's a big beautiful world we live in.

January Reflections

January is always sort of a let-down month for me. Christmas in my family is a really big deal and I sort of wait all year for that time of year. Shell and I did a lot of decorating at our house, cut our own tree and spent the better part of a month listening to Christmas music... and I loved every minute of it.

So, into January we move... the weather in Oregon was, shall we say, less than favorable. We started out the year with snow, rain and more snow, so the rivers we going straight up (See January 1st story). This was followed by wind and more wind. Paddling was actually cancelled due to high winds... sheesh!

In any event, I had some interesting adventures during the month of January...

The weekend following our New Year's trip my buddy Mike and I headed up to the Hood River to run the Dee to Tucker section (Class III/IV) at about 6 feet on the guage. It was a big water day, for sure and eddies were few and far between. The water was cold and it was "game on" the whole way. About a mile above the take-out I got stuffed in a nasty little hole and after getting worked for a while came out of my boat for, what would turn out to be a really ugly swim. I made it out due, in no small part, to my Swiftwater Rescue Tech training (THANK YOU RESCUE 3 INTERNATIONAL!) After getting denied the following weekend, Mike, my buddy Aaron Nudelman and myself headed up to the Washougal River to run the Big Eddy section (Class III). It was a great day and the weather was pretty good. We all had very clean lines and whooped and hollered our way down... I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story:

The next day, Shell and I hosted the Intermediate trip for the Oregon Kayak and Canoe Club. I'm the Vice President of the club, so this was a pretty special day for me and the first in our series that we run every winter. We opted for the Dodge Park to Oxbow Park run (Class II+) on the Sandy River. This was a great time, though we started the day off with snow... again, a weird winter in Oregon. Overall a great trip, made better by the fact that I got to paddle with my Shell... the grace she has on the water never ceases to amaze me and as I continue to paddle I just hope that, someday, I will be good as she is. Again, I'll let the pictures do the talking (Note though, the pictures at the end of the exposed tree stumps is pretty interesting: When Lewis and Clark came down the Columbia in 1805 they experienced the area in the recent aftermath of Mt. Hood's volcanic eruption... in fact, they found a 3 mile long island at the mouth of the Sandy River, which was caused by the debris that came down after the eruption (think of the Toutle River after Mt. St. Helen's blew). Anyway, the amount of debris that came down must have been huge, because at Oxbow Park, the recent floods have exposed a 100 ft high bank, inside of which are the huge trees you see... NOW, that must have been one heck of a flood!):

Aside from paddling, Shell and I had friends from Nashville come in for a weekend... it was the windy weekend, so I got to spend lots of time with them and Shell... Brett and his wife Aida were a blast to have in town and Shell and I had lots of fun showing them the town and experiencing some of Portland's great Middle Eastern cuisine.

So, January is over now and looking back, I guess it wasn't such a bad month. True, I have a whole year before it is socially acceptable to listen to Burl Ives , but I guess that is a small price to pay for getting to spend time with my wife, my friends and family in this magical land we call home... our Oregon.

Until next time, walk softly out there and I'll see you on the river.