Friday, April 25, 2014

Salmon Canyon with Oregon Field Guide

Last summer, I got a call from a friend who works for OPB as a rigger (setting ropes to get cameras into remote places, along with the rest of the crew), saying that they were doing a story on kayaking the Salmon River Canyon.  He said I should come along, and asked if I know a couple of the other guys that would be there, he thought their names were Luke and Ryan.  I said "oh yeah, Luke Spencer and Ryan Scott?" Of course his response was affirmative, Luke and Ryan are essential figures in the Columbia River Gorge pedigree, with a combined tally of over 20 runs down the canyon.

I stated simply "I'm in."

In the weeks that followed, we firmed up the group, which would include Luke, Ryan, Keel Brightman (another SRG veteran), and Willie Illingsworth.  We emailed schedules, checked weather and flows, tried to confirm a date, and finally pulled the trigger.  The OPB crew spent the better part of a week getting the shots lined out and putting a good plan in place.  All us kayakers had to do was show up and get it done, with about 8 go-pros that they lent us.

The result was fantastic!  OPB did a great job with their shots and the edits and all the interviews.  I was highlighted a little more than expected, mostly after I had the worst ass-kicking of my life.  It was the first time I've ever been on the recieving end of a rope, and it's on five cameras.  The OPB crew felt bad and super excited at the same time, cause the footage is great.

Without Further Delay:

One thing that was overshadowed by my massive wipe-out was a general discussion amongst all of us, boaters and crew, about the spiritual aspect of kayaking.  The episode touches on the subject, while not really delving in too deep.

For me, boating is the ultimate experience of nature, or at least one if them.  Whether you're running the Salmon River Canyon or canoeing down the John Day, boating allows a person to commune with nature in a way that's quite rare in today's world.  There's an element of meditation, of pure presence that comes with sports in the wilderness that really brings us closer to ourselves.

Again, in a short, it's hard to capture this element.  I think the guys who put together "Why We Go"  which detailed the late and great Curt Joyce's final river trip, did a damn good job of explaining the spiritual aspect that I'm talking about.  Curt, you're so loved, and so damn missed!

Much respect for the guys who put this together, it must have been really hard.  Such an expressive piece.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Product testing on Eagle Creek

Matt does some product testing on Punchbowl Falls last year.  Skirt stayed on!

 *He hiked back up and stomped the piss out of it.

Keep an eye out for our trip from this year where we endeavored to paddle a more complete section of the creek.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Boulder Creek; Siletz drainage


Stream: While logging is an important and necessary industry in our state, I often wonder what Oregon's Coast Range might have looked like before Big Timber got ahold of it.  

The Valsetz region of the Coast Range is one of the most heavily logged areas in Oregon, but there is one watershed in this area (Boulder Creek) that is still on public land and remains largely unmolested near creek level.  Access is tough, and the run is challenging so not many boaters get in there.  For those that do and have the capacity to appreciate the place for what it is, it is a special trip.  

The best put in for Boulder Creek is at the confluence with Bridge Forty Creek.  The run starts pretty small with some class III-IV and wood.  Within the first mile the stream becomes a sheet of bedrock and turns to the right, at this point eddy out left to scout Boulder Creek Falls.  This big falls has been run twice so far by Matt King and Ben Mckenzie.  The lead in is intimidating and the right side lands on rock.  The whole thing drops about 50' including the lead in.  Aside from the intimidation it has a good line and landing zone.

Matt King is in there if you look close.

Below the falls things clean up a little, with many class IV(IV+) rapids and continued wood hazards.  The further you get downstream, the better the rapids become and the less wood there is to deal with.  The best section is downstream of the confluence with Little Boulder Creek.  

Give yourself as much time as possible on this one, you are in a deep canyon for the second half and will be fighting daylight regardless of how smooth your run goes.  Bring food, water and your sense of adventure.
Flows:  You need at least 4,000 cfs in the Siletz for enjoyable levels, 6,000-7,000 cfs is a nice medium.

Access:   The section from the confluence with Little Boulder Creek (44.933920, -123.670526) down to the confluence with the North Fork Siletz (44.920561, -123.696239) is going to be the only section of this creek accessible to most boaters.  If you decide to do that run, I recommend continuing down the NF Siletz to this point:  44.892501, -123.716100 for an additional 3.5 miles of good fun on the NF.

If you want to check on current access, contact the BLM NW Oregon office and ask about access to The Valley of the Giants. You take the same route to Boulder as to the VOTG, crossing Boulder Creek less than 2 miles before you would get to the VOTG trailhead.

To get to the area, first cache the map onto your phone.  Google does not acknowledge the road along the NF Siletz as existing, so you will need to read your map the old fashion way once you reach the turn headed north up the NF Siletz.

Take Valsetz Road out of Falls City, or if it's a weekend you can drive up the Siletz from Moonshine Park.  Find your way along the logging roads to this turn, and head north: 44.878294, -123.708203  From this point Google Maps will not be useful.  Continue on the road, passing by the optional take out down on the NF Siletz here:  44.892354, -123.716192.

Continue upstream 3-3.5 miles until you cross the bridge over Boulder Creek.  Then, refer to the following map to access the lower section of Boulder Creek.  This lower section is still available to boaters most any weekend, and if coming in from Falls City on weekdays too any time fire danger is not high.

If you want to paddle all of boulder creek, putting in above the waterfall, continue reading.

"The Oregon Coast range is a mountainous version of the Bermuda Triangle.  Gates appear, open, and close randomly.  The famously incomprehensible road system is constantly evolving, so maps are only marginally useful.  Even those who are experience in land navigation can soon be hopelessly lost without a GPS.  Tourists are regularly swallowed up by these mountains, and sometimes they don't survive the experience.  Needless to say, for those who love adventure, this is a special place."

             ~Jason Rackley;

For the above reasons I won't be giving step by step shuttle directions.  A summer scouting trip for access is recommended.  If you try to figure out the shuttle for the first time the day you plan to run the creek, you will run out of light.   Valsetz road to the Valley of the Giants has historically been open to the public on weekends when there is no fire danger, expect every other road in the area to be gated and closed except during hunting season.  Though even that option may disappear in 2017. (2019: Valsetz Road is still open). 

Put in:  44.93, -123.6292
Take out:  44.9206, -123.6962

If you can't figure out the shuttle route, there is also the option to hike in from the take out along what the maps label as "jeep trails" along the north side of the creek.  Below are two maps showing those trails.

Click on the map to enlarge it.

The hike is under 4 miles, and after the first mile looks pretty flat.  I do not know the condition of the "jeep trails" other than that around the falls they are good for walking.  I would not be surprised if in some areas they were overgrown.

Trip Report

This was my second time down Boulder Creek in the Siletz drainage.  It is an enjoyable but logistically challenging class IV-IV+ run with a tough 50' waterfall that can be portaged.

Paddling in the dark can be very enjoyable under the right circumstances, or it can be very dangerous under the wrong circumstances.  This trip had a little of both.

The first time I did this run with Matt and Eric Harvey we needed to hike in 2 miles through the snow and had to charge on the river to get out before dark.

Photo: Matt King

Snow has a way of creating elegant situations.
Photo: Matt King

This time around everyone was once again pretty excited about running this rarely paddled stream.   All nine of us in fact ( a large but doable number given everyone knew most of the others pretty well).  The meeting time of 8:30 in Monmouth turned into not leaving Monmouth until after 10.

We were in good spirits on the long drive into the NF Siletz drainage.

We ran into another group of boaters doing what looked sure to be a fun run on the NF Siletz.

Shortly down the road we encountered a log across the road that we had beta would be there.  Dan had the foresight to pack a manual chainsaw.

  Time: 11:30   AM

We continued on and made quick time of leaving a car at the take out where Boulder Creek enters the NF Siletz.  We embarked on the long shuttle drive (a little under 15 miles on arterial logging roads).  We didn't need to resort to a map or GPS but having one in the trunk was a comfort.

During this period we encountered logs 2, 3, and 4 that required attention.

  Time:  2:00 PM


We reached the put in parking spot and did the 100 yard walk through the woods into Bridge Forty Creek.  Putting on we encountered a rapid that required scouting and safety.  The hundred yards from the top of this rapid to Boulder itself took 20 minutes due to the small tributary and many boaters.  It would be easy enough to walk straight to Boulder by veering left from the vehicles and skip Bridge Forty Creek.

First rapid, an interesting section of rock and water.

2:25 PM

Upon reaching Boulder it was apparent there was more wood in this upper section than the last time I was here with Matt and Eric.  Everyone started talking about the wood and getting nervous.  The first 200 yards of Boulder really set a precedent as people become timid about hustling downstream due to the abundance of dangerous wood in the creek.

It was not long before we arrived at Boulder Creek Falls.  Many people quickly decided to portage this tough drop.  In the end only Ben Mckenzie was interested in paddling the falls.  He took the same line that I had seen Matt take 2 years earlier which was a right to middle move.  Its a tricky lip with an even tricker and highly consequential lead in.  Ben greased the line.

3:15 PM

It was after 3:30 by the time we were paddling away from the falls and tensions were already mounting.  Below here the stream cleaned up significantly but the woody section from above the falls was still vivid in everyones minds.  We moved slowly through this section and scouted often for wood.

At one point Ben was easing himself under a tree that came loose and landed on him, requiring assistance to hoist it off.

As tributaries came in we started running some quality whitewater and spirits rose a little even as fatigue started to set in.

We had a pin that took some heroic action by Joe to rectify.  This pin put everyone back on their heals.

5:30 Finally Little Boulder came in on the left and I knew that we were in bad shape time wise with dark arriving at around 6pm, but the large group was finally getting into something resembling a rhythm.  We started moving a little quicker and the added volume was welcome, making for some pushy rapids and some holes.

There was a quarter mile long section of pushy boulder gardens that proved to be the tipping point from holding on, to nearing loosing it as a group.  I was chasing down an IK as I entered another rapid and chose to pass the craft instead of try to coral it.  Sam along with Ben arrested it downstream in the first pool we had seen in some time as I headed upstream to check on the paddler.

As I headed that way I saw another boat floating downstream along with its captain.  Ben and Sam once again collected our friend in the pool and the gear as I continued upstream.  The IKer along with two other paddlers made the prudent choice to efficiently portage this rapid.  By the time we were all moving again the light had changed as it was close to dark.

We were in what I remembered as the final gorge.  We had two wood portages in here, at the top of the first portage it was already 6 o clock, the time we had hoped to be off the river by.  We now knew every minute of light was more than we were counting on.

First gorge portage 6:10

After the second portage it was twilight.

Oddly enough, even after the obstacles we had faced and the lack of light, people pulled it together and for the first time we were really moving cohesively as a unit.  I looked back to see everyone in our team spaced evenly and charging ahead as stoically as they could muster.  Had we been moving at this pace and efficiency the whole time, light would never have been a problem.

As twilight faded we encountered the final boulder garden of the run.  I knew if we scouted it we would be running it in the pitch black and saw a line through it so I kept paddling.  The wood situation was worse at the bottom than I had been able to see from above or remembered and two people had close calls.  This was the hardest decision of the day, but I still feel it was better to boat scout the rapid with the last minute of twilight than to run it/portage in the complete dark.

It took a couple minutes to get the group back together and some team encouragement was needed to get everyone back in their boats.  People pulled themselves together for what I remembered as the last rapid (a slide into a hole).  Alex and Ben gave good beta and everyone came through well.

A minute or two after that rapid I took this video.

A ways below here I had a conversation with the unrelentingly positive Sam Causey where he pointed out how now that the rapids were class II, the setting was nearly romantic.  I knew what he meant and relaxed a bit on the 15 minute paddle from here to the take out letting the trip soak in.

Before long I started hearing cheers of joy as people saw the taillights of the take out car (Lucas had hiked back to the cars after breaking his paddle on the first rapid and was about to drive upstream looking for us.)

Everyone regrouped at the cars and the nerves and fear washed away instantly as relief began to set in.

The shuttle went smooth as could be hoped for in the torrential downpour, and everyone took turns recounting the days events.

While from the outside it is hard to see a trip like this as a successful one, those who have been in this situation know that you end up learning a lot about yourself and your friends and while you don't generally seek out that type of ending, there is still a lot to be enjoyed.  On this trip everyone on the team had their roles and executed them when they needed to, Go Team!

  I thought we had got away with one on this trip, little did I know Boulder Creek had left me a little surprise for later that week.

Daylight savings will be a welcome extra hour of light in the evening.

Flows the day we were there averaged in the mid 6k range on the Siletz.

Happy Adventuring,


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Nestucca River

This run has descended into obscurity in the recent past.  It has a promising write up in the guidebook and flows when other Oregon streams are low.  It could be that this lack of interest stems from the legal issues surrounding the kayakers who were arrested in 1991 for scouting a rapid on private property back when this stream used to be run on the regular.  We checked out the stream this year and were surprised by the quality!  We found the stream to have a number of rapids and lots of paddling!  I can't say it much better than the guidebook, so I have retyped the report below.  You can buy a copy of that book here.

The Nestucca River, classified as a State Scenic Waterway, drops relentlessly through a lush scenic forest into a small valley into which a few small farms are squeezed.  Some stretches are quite uniform in gradient, others are pool drop.  Much of the river can be seen from the road.
    On this run, the river flows through about half national forest lands and about half private lands.  The rights of property owners along the river became a major issue in 1991 when kayakers were arrested for trespassing while scouting the class V rapids.  The issue is not yet resolved.  Do not us private lands to scout or portage around the rapids.
   At the put-in at Rocky Bend Campground, the gradient is nearly uniform.  Shortly downstream is a class IV rapid.  At 1.5 miles below Rocky Bend, after a curve to the right, is Silver Falls, where the river drops over and through a jumble of boulder (class V).  At high water a class IV sneak is on the left.  Immediately following is a class IV rapids in which the river flows around some boulders and over a shelf.  A fast rock garden then leads to a log bridge that is an alternate put in.  Enjoyable class II and III water continues for the remaining 6 miles to the take out on river right.
                                                                                                  ~Soggy Sneakers

 Our take:

We found the guidebook description spot on.  The stream is indeed a State Scenic Waterway, flowing though a forest.  As stated there are a few quaint farms in the valley.  We put in higher up than the guidebook run to get some extra miles.  We were worried that what we could see of the stream from the road was mostly dull looking, I don't think any of the rapids are visible from the road and the sections viewable from the road passed by quickly. Though no doubt, there is a lot of flat water.   There were a few sections that diverged from the norm, including a mini gorge section up top which had some class IV.  If a paddler feels comfortable on Jordan Creek, they should be able to handle this run.  A middle section offered some anthropogenic fish habitat that could be paddled over.  Take a look if you are unsure what the best route through and over these are.

There is a campsite part way through the run accessible from the river if facilities are needed.  There were a couple tributaries with fun slides in the 10 foot range on the upper section that can be walked up and ran.

Silver Falls was the rapid on our minds all day, resulting from our unsureness of the runnablility/scouting/portaging situation we would be faced with.  As it turns out we were able to scout it from well below the high water line, avoiding confrontation with land owners.  We took a left line and thought the section surrounding Silver Falls above and below had whorthwhile rapids.  We had 1000 cfs on the gauge, and we were able to scout all the rapids from river level.  This is as low as I would recommend running this section.  I don't recall any portages, though there were probably one or two for wood.  More water would be better.

 Edit of the Nestucca River by Anna Herring and Priscilla Macy.
A lot of the tributaries and features in the area had bible themed monikers.  We were throwing around a lot of "Church" and "Jah" jokes that day.

Bible Study from Jacob Cruser on Vimeo.

1,000 cfs on the Nestucca gauge provided minimal enjoyable flows.

Take out:  45.2788, -123.7071

Put in:  I don't actually remember, but the fun mini gorges were above the put in used in Soggy Sneakers.