Thursday, November 29, 2012

Wiki #5: A desert rose

The boaters here at Into The Outside all have our own lists of creeks we want to run, as well as a collective list of streams we want to explore.  This last year saw us checking off a few of these, while many others remain in the shadows.  Some went well and provided us with fantastic adventures, while others lead us on long hikes with little to no redemption in the form of whitewater.  To us, the reward can come in many forms, and all trips advance our knowledge of ourselves and the world around us.

It is for this reason that after taking off the Deschutes at the end of a five day boating binge, I decided to take the long way home in order to check out an obscure creek that has been on our collective list for awhile now (I think Matt put it there).  I did not have my GPS in working order, so was on the phone with my dad (guiding me from google maps) a lot and flipping through the Gazetteer I had just borrowed from Matt to locate this small creek that appeared to have enough water on the gauge (250 cfs in July!).  I stopped in the town of Warm Springs to grab a couple snacks before making the short drive up a gravel road to its drive-able terminus at a yellow gate.  It appeared to be about a mile to the take out, then a few hundred yards to the put in.

I quickly got my stuff together and hiked as quickly as I could, watching the sun drop behind the canyon rim. I located the take out at a small low head dam adjacent to a large wooden structure whose purpose I could not decipher and decided the stream had enough water to explore.  I followed a path to my left up a small hill and eventually saw the flat water at the top of the steep section.  I put in just below the first set of class five and manked my way down some fast paced whitewater.  I was thankful I had minimal flows, as this would be very frightening whitewater at 500 cfs.  It was truly a puzzle linking eddies, as the run was not boat scoutable and many dead ends existed outside the preferred line.

As I neared the end, the late start was becoming an issue as it became dark and instead of scouting the last class five, I just walked with my boat and put in below, running the rest of the class three to the take out in the dark.  I hiked out by moonlight and started the 3+ hour drive back to Monmouth, lucking out with an open gas station in Madras.

I would not recommend this run to tentative class five boaters.  With water in the creek I believe this short section would be noticeably harder and just as consequential as any of the runs in Oregon.  It was fun piecing it together at low flows, but you will want to be on your game and scout the whole run with 400+ cfs.  The hike is easy and there were no mandatory wood portages in this quarter mile section. If you are all about the burl and gnar this creek is for you.

The desert rose, it has its thorns but if you can keep it online the pedals should be worth it ;)

Film coming.... some other time.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

International Outside: Ecuador

Beyond the Pacific Northwest

The water and the woods in the Pacific Northwest is some of the best in the world.  With so much good stuff to run and see so close to home, it's sometimes hard to imagine any good reason to go elsewhere.  Sometimes though, an opportunity presents itself, and you get on an airplane with your "waveski" and burn some jet fuel on your way to a distant continent.

 Last winter, I had the chance to hop on an Ecuador trip with a great group of paddlers.  We planned on heading down to Quito, meeting up with our friend Abe (from Boof Sessions), and getting as much darn paddling in as we could.  Sure enough, we paddled every day, often on multiple rivers, got on some of the best rivers I've ever seen, and boofed and boofed and boofed. 

That's one of the things about boating in Ecuador, the character of the runs is so unique, and so different than anything I've seen around our home turf (except maybe my backyard run, the Lostine.)  Everything is super continuous, super bouldery, and you really do just boof over and over again.  Most rivers are like an easier version of Getting Busy, but can go on for many, many miles.  So much fun!

Here are a few shots highlights from our trip, big thanks to Abe for taking the pictures. Unfortunately, my camera blew up on me on the trip, so I ended up with nothing...

Rio Pusuno:  We didn't put on this one, had to leave if for the next time (in a couple months!).  We hiked down, the water level was good, then it jumped 3 feet in less than 30 minutes, and almost trapped us down in the canyon.  The most intimidating move of the whole trip was the upstream ferry trying to get out of here!

Ominous Water, Pusuno

The mandatory 30 footer, Pusuno
 Rio Jondachi:  This one's an absolute classic, we ran it a few times, it's the kind of river that could never get old.
Jondachi, First Rapid

The tricky one, Jondachi
 Rio Misahualli:  This one's big water pleasure all the way, with a big portage in the middle that our friend Greg Mallory ran a couple years back, making him famous in the paddling community in Ecuador.  Not suprisingly, he styled it.

 Jungle Beauty, Lower Misahualli

Below the Portage, Lower Mis
 Rio Topo:  Another amazing river, just got damned, but can still be run.  Number two on my personal favorites list (second only to the Papajacta, which also just got damned).
More Boofs, Topo

Slot drop, Topo (the main line on this one is super stout)

Ecuador Hitchhiking, Topo

Long story short, Ecuador is an amazing place to paddle.  We had such a good time, and having Abe as our guide made the trip a million times better.  There's no way we would have be able to paddle all the runs we did in the time we had if it hadn't been for his intimate knowledge of the area, local contacts, general stoke!  The other thing that was amazing about hanging with Abe; we got to experience the real Ecuador, we hung out at local restaurants, shopped at the regular markets, and really got to experience the culture in a way that you'd probably miss if you went with one of the bigger tour groups.  So big thanks to Abe for showing us Ecuador Paddling!

Now get over to Ecuador and get boofing!

Chilling in Baeza

Benham Duo, Final Cut

While most everyone has seen this already, Mr. Bakes finally put together a video that includes all the footy we got.  Duo madness:

Topo Duo Benham Falls from baker scott on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Father's Day 2012

My dad has been interested in checking out Opal Gorge in his IK recently.  Initially it was off his radar for the same reasons many boaters choose not to run this section.  From what I have gathered many people are turned off by the commitment factor of the Unscoutable, Unportageable rapid guarding the entrance as well as the fabled portage at the Undertaker.

I had run the creek a week or so before, so knew the Un-Un was good to go and it was a sunny day so the Undertaker portage would not be an issue.  We decided to see how IK's would fair in the gorge!  The day being Father's Days, I decided to also take an IK for this father-son trip.  It has been a long time since I have run anything significant in this type of boat so I through the crack in Thor's to get back to the top of the last segment of that rapid.  I came through smooth to a cheer from the many swimmers and sun bathers lining the shore.

We headed down through the mile or so of class I and II leading to the gorge and I was quickly reminded of traits the IK possesses that are superior to hardshells, topping that list is comfort!  I relaxed in a reclined position curious as to the effectiveness of the Bomber Hydrogen neoprene pants that I was relying on to keep my now exposed legs warm.  I gave my dad verbal beta for the boulder garden, but the resulting tailstand caused swim #1.  After a more thorough description of the Un-Un we both had smooth lines.  One more class three and we were in the heart of the gorge just above the Undertaker.  Oddly enough, the portage eddy gets much trickier at these low flows and the stress level is increased.  We made quick work of the river left portage (less sketchy than right in my opinion) and were pleased by how the IK's handled the seal launches back into the river.  The low water exposed the true nature of this rapid, where all the water goes under either the finger of rock on the left or the boulder on the right.  The boulder garden (Unicorn) was the only spot the river felt low, but there was still enough to float on down. Next was the Sierra slot, which I think is harder at these lower flows.  I was surprised to come through with only a small squirt, at this point there was a breakdown in communication and I sent my dad right into the rooster tail that always results in a flip.  We checked out the line at fish ladder which was looking only slightly marginal today and we took the usual line along the left bank, putting back in at the beautiful pool below.  From here to Salmon I tried some fishing but was unsuccessful.

It was at this point that I realized I had been totally comfortable the whole trip with only a drytop and neoprene pants from Bomber.

In the pool near Evans creek a group of onlookers jokingly asked if they could watch us run the falls.  When they realized we were serious about running it their eyes lit up and they rushed downstream to watch us meet what was sure to be our demise.  We scouted from the left for awhile and decided to run the falls via seal launch on the left.  My dad went first and was pushed to the right where the power at the base of the falls got the best of his attempt at a dry run.  I followed with a near identical line.  Unsatisfied with this result I solicited the help of the onlookers and went back, hitting the kicker on the left for an upright and refreshing line!  My dad finished the day with a scooter shuttle and we rejoiced in our IK descent of Opal Gorge.

My second lap over the falls this day.


side note:  Someone got shoved under the river left finger in fishladder falls a few weeks ago.  They resurfaced in an underwater cave, pushed themselves down and flushed out.  Take what you will from that information.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Starts with a Bang

Oregon just recorded the wettest October in documented history. The last week of the month alone saw well over a half foot of rain in certain areas. The best part about this early season deluge? The freezing level hovered well above 8000 feet for the duration  Although this doesn't bode well for my skiing plans later this winter, it did provide a healthy dose of water to the high elevation creeks in the area, without limiting access with snowfall. When Sunday morning rolled around, I found myself asleep at the proverbial wheel. Jacob and I hadn't expected quite the precipitation that ended up coming down and by the time we had checked levels, the clock was already reading 7:30. After a groggy pow-wow over the phone, we decided to check out the East Fork of Rock Creek... If you've been paying attention to this blog, you'll know that this didn't trip didn't go quite as planned. Despite to amazingly scenic down the I-5 corridor, tongue firmly in cheek, Sunday was a bit of bust.

However, I happened to have Monday free and with Stephen Cameron and Jesse Shapiro both chomping to get on the water, I wasn't to be denied again. Hagen gorge is one of the closest class IV-V creeks to PDX but requires a lot of water to really get going. In fact, up until Monday, I'd never been on the creek when it wasn't 'a bit manky'. Thinking about it, I've never heard of anyone running Hagen when it wasn't on the low side. It takes that much water!

As we drove up the Washougal drainage, I began to get a little nervous as I watched the main stem fly by the window like a freight train. This being the first real high water event of the season, the main washo. was nice and brown.. and bore a mess of debris.

Fingers crossed, we arrived at the confluence of the North Fork Washougal and the Main, ditched a car, and headed up stream towards the put-in. Upon crossing the first bridge over the North Fork, I think we all let out a sigh of relief to see that the creek was high, but not in flood stage. There were eddies and the didn't look like chocolate milk. It was higher than any of us had ever paddled the North Fork, but it looked manageable.

We continued on the put-in, hiked to the dam, and got to work. It only took a few paddle stokes to realize that the creek could not be considered low. All the rocks that I'm used to brushing against on the upper section of Hagen were covered up and the run had some real push to it. Eddies were present, but things still moved incredibly fast! It must have only taken 5 minutes to get down to the lip of Hagen Daaz falls.

Euphoria was up next and after a quick scout, everyone fired er off without too much incident. I did get pushed left on the last tier or the drop and had to improvise a little to avoid the u-shaped hole at the bottom. In between Euphoria and the confluence is a normally benign ledge drop that kind of snuck-up on us on this day. High off of Euphoria, we all routed downstream through the gut of this drop relatively lackadaisically. This resulted in one serious beatdown and a rather prolonged boat rescue. With the water level, the ledge resembled a low head damn that would not relinquish! Credit to Steve for stepping up and performing the live bait rescue!

Tea kettle falls was heinous... But Steve fired anyway and made it look reasonable. Before too long, we were standing at the lip of Crack Den. Aka. Crack in the Earth. This is when I realized just how much higher the creek was than I normally paddled it. My camera was dead at this point.. but... the normal portage route on the left was actually a channel on this day. That should give you an idea.Water fanned out over the entire bed rock ledge of the left and there was actually a very strong veil pouring off the left directly into the pinch at the bottom of the rapid, which made for a rather ugly looking class V. Steve opted for a throw and go while Jesse and I performed a long drawn out portage high on river left. Not really recommended.

Given the level, we opted to take out early at the bridge above the normal north fork stretch. We were a little worried about the second (class VI) crack drop just downstream. Steve and I both recalled it being rather difficult to stop above this cataract, even at normal flows.. so we were a little hesitant to commit with the juice. The hour long boat rescue had also taken the wind out of our sails to a degree, so we opted to hitch the shuttle and call it a day.

Despite the early exit, the weekend proved to be a great kickoff event for the upcoming season! Bring on the rain!

Here is a little head-cam from Euphoria!


Also! Make sure to attend the PDX Kayaker Film Festival on November 16th! No trailer this year, but rest assured, Into the Outside has an entry.

Bomber Product Reviews

Bomber sent me a lot of gear this Spring and I have been very excited to try out all the new gear they have been creating as a part of a campaign aimed at exposing their new line to the kayaking world.  I have been very happy with all the gear and have had a good chance to wear it in.

This picture highlights most of Bomber's products that I use.

Drytop:  I have the blue Bomb long sleeve dry top.  This is a very cool product that is versatile in its ability to mesh well with other Bomber products.  The tunnel system combined with the K-bomb skirt produces the driest seal I have ever had while kayaking.  The system is just as simple for the user as a normal drytop, but the outer band keeps even more water out.  Combined with the Hydrobomb dry pants, a virtual drysuit can be created using the connecting fabric as demonstrated in this video.  This works really well and I have yet to have any water break through the seal.

Neoprene pants:  The hydrogen Neoprene pants are the product I was most surprised by.  I knew Bomber was all about keeping paddlers dry, but this wet product is just as impressive as the rest of their line.  The pants are thin, causing no restriction to mobility.  At the same time, they are very warm.  Where these have proven very useful for me is during exploratory runs where I spend a lot of time walking through the woods.  In these situation I am often worried about getting holes in my drygear.  With the Hydrogen pants, I don't have to worry about holes because they do not require a dry seal to keep a paddler warm.  I used these when IK'ing Opal Gorge to test how warm they were when I constantly had water splashing my legs as well as taking a swim at Salmon Falls.  The pants were even warmer than I hoped and I feel comfortable relying on them to keep me warm during a swim in frigid water.

It's nice not worrying about getting pin pricks in your pants!

Spray Skirt:  I use the K-Bomb spray skirt and reviewed that product here.  The point is this is the driest skirt I have used, and is highly resistant to implosion.  It can be difficult to get on at first, but this issue is mitigated by storing it stretched for a couple weeks or having a friend help at the put in (once wet there is no issue getting it on).

Dry Pants:  Hydrobomb dry pants.  I have little need for drypants by themselves, but when combined with the Bomb drytop create a semi drysuit that really gets the job done.  I have yet to have any water break the seal of the semi drysuit.

Staying dry in Bomber gear!

Contour Camera:  The Roam camera is similar in concept to the GoPro.  The differences are the Roam is slide on slide off, so no fussing with the buttons before every shot, no shot of you looking confused into the camera, and no need to ever take your helmet off.  The lens is flat as opposed to fish eyed, so long distance features show up well along with close up objects and features.

A short video I made on a low water trip to the Little White using the contour.

Teva Cherry Bombs:  These booties are awesome.  I had given up hope on booties, switching over to hiking shoes because the booties couldn't hold up to the abuse I was putting them through.  The Cherry Bombs are designed for long hikes and grip.  There is just enough sole to be able to feel the ground beneath you and contour to the terrain, but thick enough that your feet are completely protected.  The strong, but low profile design allows a paddler to fit comfortably in the boat.

Supportive, they even keep me from slipping on the barkless, wet sticks and logs that line clearcuts!
 I was able to make it through the whole clearcut without taking my boat off the shoulder once, thanks to the confidence of the Teva Cherry Bombs!

To visit their website...

Be Ready!


Thursday, November 1, 2012

EF Rock Creek: The Rock

all photos by Emile Elliot unless otherwise marked.

  This run has a rave review on Oregonkayaking and I had heard promising things from others who had tried to run the creek.  We had some water this weekend and decided to finally see "The Rock" for ourselves.  Access is pretty easy following the description on Oregonkayaking, the only tricky part for us was locating the take out trail, but Alex saved us from getting skunked (for now) by spotting it on our way out.  We put in at the bridge and dealt with a handful of log portages and a hornets nest that found Alex's neck and Nate's hip.  Alex hiked out at this point, a few more portages later Nate joined him.  Emile and I got to the falls and found a really clean, fun looking drop with some sketchy logs in the outflow.  We decided to wait for the logs to evacuate the pool before returning and running this drop.  We hiked to the road to communicate with Nate and Alex and decided to continue on regardless of the likelihood of a torture fest.  We portaged two parts of Sluice box due to wood, but the parts we ran were fun.

 The sequence of myself running the bottom of Sluice Box. 

 The bedrock drops we ran that lacked wood were fun in a unique kind of way.  They were very low consequence that were run right down the middle.  Just sort of paddle to the top and then enjoy!  Unfortunately, most of the drops had wood and there were times I felt we were just walking along the creek until we saw a drop we could run, running it, then resuming our never-ending trudge along the bank.  By the time we got to Damage Inc we were more than over the creek, but there was still lots of work to be done so we did it.  It was nice to see the take out.

The altered, then altered again Damage Inc.           

 Getting back in below.

This run would be totally worth doing if it lacked wood like back when the Oregonkayaking team was running it, I really liked the style of the drops.  Unfortunately it is unlikely this run will ever return to form without some help.  I wouldn't be surprised if there were over 100 pieces of wood in the stream contributing to a portage with many more on the banks waiting their turn.  As is, the park and huck of the falls is likely all that is left of a past gem.

Ghris Gabrielli launches big off Nutcracker!
photo EJ Etherington


The gauge mentioned on Oregonkayaking has been discontinued.  Thomas is close by though so here is the flows on Thomas on days the EF Rock Creek has been run. Shooting for 1,000 cfs or more in Thomas Creek seems to be a good bet.

 This is the flow we had, on October 28, 2012. I'd go back again at the same level.

These are the flows OregonKayaking had.

Compare below the same days on Rock Creek (from the OK trip report) and Thomas gauges.

The Shafer creek Near Lacomb gauge is also a gauge on note.  It's a little further away, but the size of the stream is similar to EF Rock and has same elevation, even the same drainage shape.  50-100 cfs is probably the medium range to shoot for on that gauge.  The OK guys ran it at 100 cfs dropping to 50 cfs on that gauge and flows were good, then again at 70-60 and had good flows.  We had 90-60 cfs and it was in.