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.

1 comment:

James said...

Will you please post a link to your Blog at The Kayaking Community? Our members will appreciate it.
Members include: Kayakers, Kayaking Experts, Guides, Clubs, Groups, Etc.
It's easy to do, just cut and paste the link and it automatically links back to your website. You can also add Articles, Photos, Videos and Classifieds if you like.
Email me if you need any help or would like me to do it for you.
Please feel free to share as often and as much as you like.
The Kayaking Community:
I hope you consider sharing with us.
Thank you,
James Kaufman, Editor