Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It's beginning to look like Christmas on the BBush

Saturday, Mike Glass, Aaron Nudelman and I headed up into the Santiam Drainage to run the Breitenbush River in what was probably the last time it will have enough water until Spring. Although, as of the writing of this post, the BBush flow has risen to over 500 CFS, so who knows.

We were greeted by balmy 35 degree temps and snow at the take-out and were all glad we had drysuits. The run itself is an 8 mile long Class IV that drops 80 FPM... the upper 6 miles is pretty tight, but the lower 2 miles is much wider. Even at low flows, the action was pretty constant, though the 3rd quarter of the run was pretty uneventful.

Words can't describe this run, though I'll do my best... (see also Jason Rackley's write-up at http://www.oregonkayaking.net/ under the "Rivers" tab) - suffice it to say this was one of the coolest runs I've ever been on.

Paddlers are immediately faced with a drop just a bit after putting on... The Slot was a pretty impressive drop, even at low flows and features an undercut right side. There is a nice boof flake at river center, but it is pretty boily below.

Looking upstream at The Slot

Mike taking his "probe" position very seriously...

Below The Slot, paddlers go through some great technical rapids and drops... pretty much one after another. Next up is The Notch, which at this flow was only marginally runnable. Normally, paddlers run this on righer right, just off the old stump wedged into the drop. That line was, however, without water. After looking at the drop and discussing possible options, we all portaged, due to the high probability of getting pushed into "the notch", that was less than a paddle blade wide and had definite pin potential.

Looking right into "The Notch"

Another piece of excellent real estate on the BBush

Aaron was all smiles on our run... he was as "on" as I have ever seen him!

I don't know if I enjoyed the paddling or the views more...

There was a lot of wood on the run... one barely manageable limbo log, another mandatory portage and a tricky log that was wedged into the lower section of a drop... My buddy Mike found it and got pinned sideways... luckily I saw him get stuck and wave me off, because both of us in that drop would have been pretty dicey. I was able to hop out of my boat with my throw rope and run down stream, only to have Mike flip over the log and roll up... I'm glad he was okay, but I'm sure it took another hour for my heart rate to slow down. Both Aaron and I were able to run the far right line on the drop, which required a quick zigzag, which we both executed cleanly. After this little episode, the action slowed down a bit until paddlers reach the concrete bridge across the BBush, which signals the final 2 miles of the run and more non-stop fun.

Looking down stream at the mandatory portage

Mike tries to keep warm during one of our portages

Lots of little Class III drops lead up to Barbell, which we all ran on river left down a REALLY fun boulder garden... you can also run the right side of the island, but at the current flow, it didn't look very good. Several more Class III/III+ drops come before Woo Man Chu, which is the last drop of the run and WHAT A DROP! We ran the far left line and, with a little speed and forward lean, you shoot off the lip and drop about 8 feet into a small, boily pool... TONS OF FUN!
A short paddle downstream places you at the gauging station and the take-out!

This is a FANTASTIC run and I'm glad I got to experience it with two great friends...

Until next time, get out there and explore!

The author... all smiles and "plus" one goatee after a successful run down the BBush

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Big Rain = Big Adventure

The rain has been coming down in a pretty regular pattern lately in the PacNW, so it is now time to get out and explore some of the lesser known/explored runs in our part of the country.

On Saturday, Mike Glass and I headed to the coast range and the Wilson River drainage to hit the seldom paddled North Fork of the Wilson (Flows were at about 5 feet on the Wilson at Tillamook gauge). It started to pour rain as we left the highway and headed up into the moutains. After about 30 minutes of driving uphill, we dropped back down to the river and saw a relatively narrow and steep (80+ FPM) stretch of water. At the confluence of the West Fork of the Wilson and the North Fork Proper paddlers have a decision to make: put in here for the 3.3 mile run down to the main Wilson, or head up one of the 2 forks.

We originally scouted the North Fork, as it is estimated to have gradient in the range of 140 FPM. As we drove up stream, we saw one quality drop after another through the pouring rain, but were sadly greated by a large pile of dirt in the middle of the road. We got out to inspect it, only to find that the road had been washed away during the last high water event. This was particularly interesting, since the NFW was only about 2.5 parking spaces wide at this point, so the volume of water raging downhill must have been impressive. With little chance to make it further upstream, we turned around and headed back to the West Fork to scout. After about 2 miles of driving we started to pull away from the river at a pretty steep grade, so we chose a Put-In that involved the least amount of bushwhacking. We couldn't really see much of the West Fork on the drive up, given the thickness of the forest and the distance it lay below the road, but given the quality of what we saw and the North Fork, our expectations were high.

Mike finally reaches the river after our bushwhack from the car.

Once on the water, we immediately had to portage a river wide log, which concerned us just a bit. After another 100 yards or so we had another portage, followed by a limbo that actaully scraped the bill of my helmet. Luckily, that was the last of the major wood we encountered for the day and, all-in-all the WFW was a lot of fun and we looked forward to the confluence that featured a really quality Class III/III+ drop.

Typical scene on the West Fork of the Wilson

We both ran the confluence drop clean and moved down stream through fast moving water and more quality drops. At one stretch of the river there were two sweet drops, one of which we both skirted on the right, to avoid a monster hole... the next had a sweet Class II+ lead in, followed by a double hole drop of about 5 feet. The rest of the river was pretty much the same... fast, steep paddling with fun little drops. It was a great run, culminating in me getting beat down about 100 yards from the take-out, smacking my elbow on the river bottom, losing my paddle, an obligitory swim to appease the river gods and a hike back upstream to run the drop again... thanks to this nice smack on my funny bone, I now own a pair of elbow pads.

North Fork of the Wilson - Just below the confluence with the West Fork

On Sunday, Mike Glass, Aaron Nudelman and I joined a few other friends for a descent down the Upper Upper Kalama (Flows were at 1690 CFS on the EFL Gauge and 2400 on the Toutle Gauge) in Washington State.

This run is classified as a Class III (IV), but I would place it at this flow about III+ overall due to its continuous nature. During the bulk of the year, this section of the river is unaccessable, because Weyerhauser owns the land and has it gated off. However, during hunting season, paddlers can explore the upper reaches of this river - an undertaking that is well worth the time. We traveled, once again in the rain, to the gate and proceeded about a half mile to the first bridge, which is the normal take out for the UUK. After gearing up, we headed into Weyerhauser land, which feels very far away from everything... creeks and waterfalls were everywhere. We drove over one particular creek that had 2 sweet looking waterfalls, both clean of wood. About 11.5 miles from the take-out we reached Road 7300 and the next to last potential put-in (paddlers can proceed all the way up to Upper Kalama Falls, which I understand is quite a site and paddle down for a total run of 15 miles).

The Upper Upper Kalama

The first 3rd of the run was very fast and continuous and featured lots of hole dodging. This type of river didn't last for long, as small drops started to appear and before we knew it, we entered the first of maybe 6 mini gorges. The river took on more of a pool drop nature, with lots of horizon lines, some blind corners and beautiful scenery. There were tons of little creeks feeding into the river and even more waterfalls. This section was, in a word, AWESOME!

The end of the gorge section features the largest of the drops on the run: Double Drop. A fun class IV drop, DD is created by the river squeezing through a 20ish foot constriction and dropping over 2 ledges... I would say the river drops maybe 15-20 feet in about 30 yards AND THIS IS A MANDATORY DROP AT THIS FLOW... PORTAGING WOULD BE NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE AND GETTING OUT OF YOUR BOAT WAS A CHORE IN AND OF ITSELF. The first drop is a fun move from river center with right angle and brace against a large converging wave... typewriter to the left and move hard to the right to drop down the green highway to the bottom, avoiding a large hole on river left... I got punched hard to the left on the first drop, held my deep water brace, but didn't not get far enough right and caught the edge of the hole, but rolled up quick on the flush with a fist pump.

The final 3rd of the the run opens up again to a little slower moving water and wider river, but with some equally fun drops... all in all, a great run and well worth the time to paddle it. All total, it took us about 3 hours to paddle the 11.5 miles, and that was with stopping and a precarious scout at DD.

Uh, yea, there is a paddler in this picture... you can see the top of the helmet and some paddle

The group prepares to enter one of the many blind corners on the Upper Upper Kalama

Okay, that's all for me... it was a great weekend and could only have been made better if Shell had been able to paddle with me, but she was pursuing her other passion (scuba diving) up in Seattle and had a great time, so if she's happy, then I'm happy.

Until next time...

Monday, November 9, 2009


So, I recently joined Oregon Health & Science University's team in a global movement to bring much needed attention to cancers that affect men. I’m doing this by growing a Moustache this "Movember", the month formerly known as November. My commitment is to grow a moustache all November and I am hoping that you will support my efforts by making a donation. The funds raised go to the Prostate Cancer Foundation and the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LIVESTRONG).

What many people don’t know is that 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime and testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men aged 18-35. Facts like these and my own personal experiences with these illnesses have convinced me I should get involved.

To make a donation, you can either:
• Click this link http://us.movember.com/donate/your-details/member_id/422608/ and donate online using your credit card or PayPal account , or
• Write a check payable to ‘Movember Foundation’, referencing my Registration Number 422608 and mailing it to: Movember Foundation, PO Box 2726, Venice, CA 90294-2726.All donations are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation will use the money raised by Movember to fund research to find better treatments and a cure for prostate cancer.

The Lance Armstrong Foundation will use the money raised by Movember to fund:
• The LIVESTRONG Young Adult Alliance program which has the goal of improving survival rates and quality of life for young adults with cancer between the ages of 15 and 40.
• Research initiatives to further understand the biology of adolescent and young adult cancers.

For more details on how the funds raised from previous campaigns have been used and the impact Movember is having please go to http://us.movemberfoundation.com/research-and-programs.

Thank you all so much for listening and for any help you can provide and feel free to pass this around to others who might be interested.

Thanks and watch for updates on my own person Movember odyssey!