Last Minute Mission to NY

4.26.19 – 4.28.19

This past weekend Thomas, Peter, and I got in a quick trip up to the superb whitewater up in northern New York in the Tug Hill plateau and Adirondacks. Originally the plan was to head out to Ohio for the Cuyahoga Falls race. I had been interested in the Sheraton Section and Tinker’s Creek for some time and the race seemed like a good excuse to go on a mission I’d otherwise not take. Thus I sent out feelers and started to rally a crew for the trip. As the date drew closer the forecast stared looking like rain might bump things too high. So I started working on a backup and checked what the conditions up north would be. I had been watching Alex’s videos of the spring runs they were getting and was itching to get up for some of the fun. The ground was primed from a storm a week ago and things were looking good for the incoming one. So I checked to see if people were interested in a New York trip if I drove. A core crew was, thus a backup born.

On Thursday evening conditions were looking very up in the air. The rain had started but gauges had yet to rise. I reached out to Alex to see how he thought the weekend in New York would be. He had a good feeling for the prospects of the weekend’s paddling. Thus the dithering began. By Friday morning the rain in both locations was in full swing. The gauge for Cuyahoga had started to rise. I wasn’t quite feeling the six hour drive out there to get skunked. Being Ohio, there’s no other whitewater. If it was a no go, it would be a no boating weekend. But I still wasn’t quite ready to make the call. The yes/no margin had narrowed and there wasn’t as much rain as initially predicted. Thomas reached out to the organizers and they were still optimistic as the gauge was downstream of a big tributary.

Afternoon came and levels had gone above running and Tinker’s was starting its spike. I decided New York was the better choice, with the infinitely larger run selection, and started the attempt to redirect. We decided to discuss things when we met up to carpool. Then around the time Thomas should be leaving to meet us, I get a hurried call. He was having trouble getting his car started. While it wouldn’t endanger the trip, I did want Thomas along. After a little, a text came through. He was running late, but on his way. In the parking lot the real dithering began. Loading up provided some time, but not enough. We started our drive up I-270 with about 20-30 minutes to Frederic, where we had to have a decision made as the routes diverged. The discussion went on and no real choices were being made. The race organizer had put up a video about the levels. It was looking beefy, but the race was still on. Squirreling continued up to the fork in the road at Frederic. I made an executive decision and took the road north, starting our seven hour drive to Old Forge. Eventually I choose that I’d power through and make it all the way and a hotel room was acquired.

The wake up call

Woke up to snow flurries and a message from Alex that there might be a rowdy first D to be had. We drove down the road to grab some breakfast and discuss. Unfortunately my usual stop, Keyes’ Pancake House, was closed. We ended up eating at Walt’s Diner. The food was good and the pancakes were huge. There was still some remorse for Cuyahoga and a little nervousness for the day’s runs. Once satisfied we headed off to meet up with Alex and see what he had in mind. We were greeted with a stout waterfall coming off the side of a hill as we drove in. Found Alex, made introductions, and hiked in to scout things while waiting for others to get there. The location we saw was a tight committed gorge with a series of complex drops, ending with a ~15ft waterfall. The main event was a drop with a shelf and wall 45 degrees to the flow. You had to ride the down the shelf as far as you could and do a sideways boof to place yourself in the flow without hitting into the impending wall. Some nervousness was brewing in my crew, and people weren’t sure they were interested in that particular section.

With that scouting out of the way it was downstream to say hello to the landowners of the downstream section and get permission to run it. Permission granted, we walked over to look at the next section. It was also a tight gorge, mostly committed, with a series of 5 drops. Starting off you had a slot leading to a small spoutish drop that looked a little retentive. Next up was another slot with a zig-zag move in it. Under some trees and you were at the first of the big drops, a 8-10 foot sideways spout that lands in a cauldron at the bottom of a gorge. After this was a slide that ended in another 10 footer followed shortly by the final 5 foot flake drop.

We suited up carried our boats in for the run. Some nervousness was present. Alex took the first run and showed us what the first drop would look like. The line was clean and we started getting ready for our runs. Thomas decided to go first and I headed down to the cauldron to grab photos.

When he got to the cauldron, it looked like he had made it, but went over quickly after landing in the eddy. Two roll attempts and he was sucked into the curtain for a beating. After a couple more, Thomas pulled and collected himself in the eddy. Unfortunately, his paddle washed downstream. I ran down to grab another paddle for Thomas, and when I got to the bridge where the creek went under the road I saw it floating into the distance. When I got up I found I had missed Peter’s run. Got the paddle down to Thomas, and after some looking around at the canyon walls, he started down. Thomas finished up with some nice lines on the lower drops and it was now my turn.

I walked up and got ready, a bit nervous about the cauldron. Paddled down to the first drop, entered the notch, and got through clean. I paused for a second here before continuing down to the zig-zag move in the next part of the canyon. I entered, taking my time and lined up for the rock that made the move. The pillow pushed started pushing me left and I got a nice sliding boof off the rock placing me right where I wanted to be to exit the squeeze. Caught the eddy after it and took a breather before starting on the cauldron. I peeled out and lined up for the drop, cut through the hole at the top of the drop and put in a lefty right as I was going off the lip. Landed clean in the eddy lined up perfectly to go under the trees. Kept up my momentum and headed to the slide that leads into the next drop. I liked the center/left line Thomas had taken, so I dodged some holes and worked in that direction. Took a boof at the drop and landed clean. All that was left was the final shelf and it went off without a problem.

Mill Creek

We collected ourselves and headed for the town drop on Mill Creek. In town we stopped at a parking lot on river right that looked down on the last part of the drop to scout. It was running but levels were towards the lower side. A friendly local came and chatted with us while we stood in the flurries staring down the drop. Finally people bowed to the cold, and it was off to run the drop. We put in on a small tributary by Stewart’s, paddled down a tunnel under town, and set up for the bridge drop. Looking downstream to set up for it was really cool having a gorge lined with buildings, then a horizon line. Took the river right line off the flake and then regrouped before the main event. You set up to punch a curler in the center, and try to keep to the center the whole way down. There’s a ramp to a nice auto boof. Afterwards, there’s some lead out with some sieved out rocks to keep you on your toes.

Independence

Having finished up in town it was off to the final run for the day. We headed over to the take out for the Independence. It was apparently too cold and too low, so we were just going to run the last couple drops at the end. The final set are Fat Lady, Bridge Boof, and The Wall, an impressive stretch of class IV-V rapids. This run is an area classic, and many run it for these drops. We walked up to the top and scouted all the drops on our way up. Thomas wasn’t feeling it so he was going to take photos and set safety. Alex ran it first so we could see the line. He hit the hole river left when dropping in and got spun around before the divider. He made it to the left and continued down without issue. Now it was my turn to run the drop, so I got in my boat and started towards the entrance.

When I got to the hole that spun Alex, I got flipped and very quickly was getting beat. I knew I had flushed to the right by the multitude of rocks I was banging against. I tried a roll and got nothing but a second hit to the head. At this point I decided it was best to bail as I was taking the brunt of the abuse. I came up as I was entering the second slide and it took a bit for me to get spun around. Thomas threw a rope and had a spot on throw, but as I got it, it started going near my head and I abandoned it. Finally I came to a stop at the drop above the Bridge Boof eddy. I watched my boat flush downstream and slowly made my way to shore. When I got there I found one of my dry suit’s legs full of water. I made my way downstream and saw Alex with my boat at the take out bridge so I walked over to the bridge. My boat had got a beating too, just not as much as myself.

After that I was done for the day and proceeded to change. I discovered that I had torn a hole in the knee of my dry suit. This explained all the water I had inside it. We then made our way back to Old Forge to clean up and get dinner. Along the way we stopped off at the different rapids of the Bottom Moose to check them out. While American Whitewater may say it’s running at 6ft, it isn’t for most mortal paddlers. Note that according to NY Exposed and LiquidLore the max is 6ft and the Inland Surfing Association places it at 5ft. There were numerous huge holes and places one just never would want to go. Along the way to take a look at Fowlerville Falls, we came across a porcupine. Not interested in making the day worse, we gave it space and tentatively made our way down.

Dinner ended up being at Tony Harpers. Overall the mood was good and jovial. My head wasn’t feeling great from the beat down and I was hoping some food would help. I tried some pizza but that just made me feel worse. There was pain radiating down my jaw from my ear and now the food made me feel a little nauseous. I switched to just water, but was definitely wearing my discomfort on my face. After some time we came up with the meeting time for tomorrow and parted ways. Back at the hotel room I took some Advil, and after a short time started feeling much better.

Woodhull Creek

The putin for the Woodhull

When I woke up I felt much better than the night before, though still sore. We packed everything up and headed to Walt’s again for some breakfast, then afterwards to Mountain Man for some quick browsing. Then it was off to Woodhull Creek to meet the Local Boater crew for the days run. The night before Pat had described the run as a “kayaker skate park”. This description had gone over well and the crew was looking forward to the run, with significantly less nervousness. When we got to the putin, it was a good deal higher than I had done it in the past. The whole run divides around islands in multiple places, giving you options. I wasn’t feeling the left line at the putin because it looked stout. I quickly went down the right to try to get photos. Unfortunately, my camera died just as I got set up. Alex made it look awesome and Peter sealed the deal. I had to go back up and do the left line. The curlers ended up being much easier to punch and the line went well.

We moved on to the next drop and Alex went down the center left and worked left. Some got out to scout. I was still feeling a little off from the previous day and bounced between both sides trying to boat scout. Eventually I went down without issue, followed by Peter. When Thomas came down I took both of them to the next rapid to scout it. The river left gorge had plenty of water, though it did look like one hole may be retentive. We watched a few people run it then when up and ran it ourselves. Peter caught the eddy and got held up. I bumped into him leaving when I got there. Thomas also got spun around in the eddy. While more came down I again took Thomas and Peter to scout Brick in the Wall, the center channel rapid. This is an impressive slide with a couple river right rock bumps that form holes or waves. It ends in a beefy hole that can easily work a boater (or swimmer).

A few went and ran it while we watched. I had grabbed my rope in case someone needed a hand, and Thomas went up for his run. He got far left, much further than you’d want and skittered down the rock to the hole. He managed to skip out without any issue. Peter went up and ran it, also punching through without problem. This meant it was my turn, I was feeling a bit iffy about how it would treat the RPM. I entered and had no problem up top, but when I got to the diagonal I did not punch it high enough. Thus I was pushed left and ended up with exactly the line I didn’t want, sliding down the rock into the hole. As soon as I hit, I stopped and got eaten by the hole. I setup and waited, but the expected chundering didn’t come. Feeling the calm, I pulled my roll and came up already flushed past the hole.

Peter and I then went up to do the river right channel. I had never even seen the run with enough water for this to be an option. I was still a bit nervous about it, but ended up taking the lead. The drops ended up being cleaner than I expected and provided some good fun. We waited a bit and them a few of us moved on the the final drop. This one is a nasty river wide hole that is more or less inescapable without a rope. The line is to boof into an eddy on far river left. The group of us ran it and were hanging out when we saw a boat drifting to the river left lip upside down. Luckily it flushed through and we saw it was empty. No swimmer followed which was good. Gear and people were collected and we made our way to the takeout. After chatting for a while, we determined that it was best that we head back to the DC area. We said our goodbyes and started on our long drive home. I made sure to stop at a Stewarts before we left New York so Peter and Thomas could have the full Northeast experience. The seed for more trips to the quality New York whitewater had been planted.

Trip Videos


Over the Mountain and Through the Woods to a Drainage Ditch

RunPiney (The Big Piney)
Date12.15.19
Level8in on bridge, ~850cfs on USGS 02027500

Due to some significantly better thought and planning on Todd’s part a trip down south into Virginia was organized. With my car in the shop for a leaking roof, I wasn’t paying much attention to the weather. But he was watching the key storm that was brewing, with lots of rain planned. The trip started of being me leading the group down Johns. Rain started on Friday and by the time we were driving down the gauge for Johns was heading up quickly. I started working on the alternate plan, and getting everyone on the same page. The primary option would be the Maury,  but there were also other creeks in the area that would definitely be running. While looking I stumbled upon the Piney River, one basin down from the Tye. After some dithering in a rest stop parking lot I had the group convinced to do a lap on the Maury and head to Piney to check it out.

When we arrived at the Maury things were big, looking potentially the highest I have run it. Todd estimated it being at around 3000cfs, later to be proven correct. From my previous high level experience there I knew things would be big and any rock gardens would be no more. Took my new preferred line, that I learned from some locals that previous run, through Devil’s Kitchen. The diagonal  across the rapid starting at the top left eddy was nice and smooth and I had one of my best lines through. Overall everyone had good runs, albeit with some minor carnage. A new personal highest level for everyone, and we thoroughly enjoyed the run.

My kind of drainage ditch

With a good first run for the day we started off to check out the Piney. As we made our way over the mountain the snow on the ground increased and it got foggy. We crossed the ridge that the Blue Ridge Parkway runs on, started down, and turned onto a slightly snowy dirt road. A drainage ditch soon appeared along side the road. It quickly picked up gradient and wood, lots of wood. Almost every other rapid had a log in the crux move about at chest or face height. While the water seemed low, almost everything would have been passable if not for the wood. All of a sudden there was some banging, and I saw Ken’s boat in the window. It apparently was very much in a hurry to get to the river. Luckily it skidded down into an eddy and I was able to quickly grab it before it got away. Talking to everyone while Ken reattached his boat, it was determined that people didn’t share his boats enthusiasm for the section. It seems I was the outlier with my reaction, “this is my kind of drainage ditch.” The gradient and wood continued, but eventually it let up and we started seeing a couple small houses and plenty of Posted signs.  As we continued down we passed some other boaters, confirming that this was the place to be today.

We put on at the standard spot at the national forest boundary and turn around. The fun started quickly and the rapids continued to build. Near the start were a couple low head type features that were a bit sketchy, and definitely would be dangerous at higher levels. They had hazards on both sides. Front causing siphons/strainers, the back being inescapable holes. The rapids throughout the run are boulder gardens all in the class 3 – 4 range. They were all decently complex, and lengthy. Toward the end of one a rock ended up calling to Noah. For some reason he could not break free of its spell and drifted into a nice pin. He was stuck good, but eventually Todd got him free.

About a third of the way down we came to one of the bigger drops that was visible from the road. While it looked nasty from the road this was more due to distance. It had a nice staging eddy river left set you up well to run it down the tongue that formed. The rapid ended up being much more friendly than it looked form the road. While the run is mostly road scoutable, this was one area it strayed away from the road. Below was a nice pool.

Things picked up as the run moved back towards the road. In a couple places it splits and is worth paying attention during to shuttle to see which side has more water or is tree free. The boulder gardens build and it gets to a nice class IV level with a swift pace. I’d describe it as a similar style to the Savage but a class up in difficulty. One of the more complicated drops had some trees piled up in them. The proper move was to boof off the entrance with left hand angle. That would set you up to continue down with the main flow. Unfortunately most of the group didn’t follow and went straight and caught the eddy that went to the right. They had to then scrape down some mank to get back to the main flow. The run comes to an end at a bridge with take out on the left.

Solo Boating

Over the past year or so I’ve heard a lot of talk about solo boating. Some have referred to it as their guilty pleasure. I will admit to going out truly alone a couple times myself, though I can count that number on one hand. When you get to the nitty gritty of things, I keep coming back to a saying one of my friends has, I might be paraphrasing a bit.

One person is a missing persons report

Two people is a reported drowning

Three people is a successful rescue

This gets me to what has bothered me most about all the talk about solo boating. “Three people is a successful rescue.” That day we had more than three people. Everyone acted to the best of their ability and did the best they could, yet we still lost someone. I have been at near misses, again when there were more than three people.

Just think about that and let it sink in. A group of experienced paddlers had the worst possible outcome when things went sideways. Contemplate the risk of the unknown unknown the next time you decide to go out by yourself. I love kayaking and the outdoors, but is the risk when alone truly worth it?

Teter and Laurel Creek, Tygart Arden

As the weekend neared, it looked like there was a chance for some good boating. I had missed all the fun the previous weekend when there was some good rain, but it left the area primed. Watching the snow that came on Thursday, I more and more felt like it would be good for a mission. There was a decent amount of precipitation, all frozen, and it would be warming up. I had a decent amount of interest as well. As Friday progressed I started focusing in on the Tygart and Buckhannon basin. Both were high, at the very top of the runable level. Closer runs were still trending downward and didn’t look like this would change by Saturday morning. Eventually I focused in on Teter Creek and announced the call. With a decision made people started dropping out, due to the distance. A number decided to head to the Top Yough. The evening rolled around and it looked like it would just be Bob, Ken, and myself. After some calls around I determined that everyone was ok with the small group size and the mission was on.

Teter Creek

The chosen run was Teter Creek. From what I could tell, this was the one that would fall out first. We met up at the Gaithersburg park and  ride to start the journey and I volunteered to be the driver of the alone car. When we got to the river, the water looked low but enough to scrape down. We decided it was a go. The shuttle down through Moatsville to the Tygart was short, maybe 10 minutes to run the whole thing and gave a decent overview of the run. Where we put in the gradient was low and the dogs many. About 10 dogs followed us for a short distance, barking all the way. The first few miles were twisting and mostly flat. It made its way through some farms and the quality of the scenery was not great. There was lots trash in the trees.

There were a couple smaller rapids, class 1-2ish stuff and things didn’t pick up until we came to Moatsville. The water was low thus there was only one route through the rapid there. As we got towards the edge of the village the rapids picked up. It constricted a bit, and in places there was only a boat width between the rocks. In one place there was a log in the main flow that may have been more problematic if the water was moving a bit faster. Eventually we got to the main event of the run, Suck Pop. This was a cool little rapid that ended with boof opportunity. Unfortunately I missed it, got flipped, and did a little underwater surveying. Next up was a slide. After a little we came to the Tygart.

Laurel Creek

We finished up relatively early and had to choose what to do next. There was plenty of time for a second lap and we decided to head over to Laurel Creek and leave the car at the bottom of Teter and get in some high level Tygart in as well. The drive up to put in Laurel was pretty short, maybe 15 minutes. Laurel starts off similar to Teter, relatively flat for a while and then drops off once it gets to the Tygart Valley. The scenery was however much better and was more remote. When we got to the rapids we found them to be more difficult than Teter. There was plenty of gradient and the closer to the Tygart we got to the tygart the more difficult things became.

In the meat of the descent is one of the nastiest undercuts I have seen. A big boulder is just hanging out in the middle of the flow and you can see water flowing out the other side. We ended up walking this one as not everyone wanted to run it and it did not seem prudent with such a small group. There was plenty of stout rapid below so this was not an issue. At the bottom of one drop there were a couple of nice flat holes that would make for good spins. Bob ended up in one of them for a bit before spinning his way out. Up next was a decent slide with some maneuvering to be done on the way down. We then came to a horizon line, not remembering any beta for it, I decided to follow the flow. Unfortunately this was not a good line and as soon as I got to the lip I saw some shallow boulders extending towards the landing zone. I tried to signal to Bob and Ken to go further right, but I was too far below the horizon for them to see. I now remembered the name, Ten Foot Falls, and the line. You’re supposed to try to aim for the right hand side and go off by the peak of the horizon. The left/center was not a great place at higher water either, but the rocks were not in play. Bob added a second dent to his bow here. All that was left was the last rapid down to the river. The steepness kept up and it was still decently complex. Unfortunately, Ken swam here and hurt himself.

Tygart, Arden section

The Tygart was booming and Bob and I had to paddle down to retrieve the car. The road ran along the Tygart and we were going to bring it up to Ken. The waves were huge as were the rapids. Neither of us had paddled the section and the only info we had was that at Moats Falls you want to be on the right, but far right was manky. When we got there I pulled the side to take a look, but Bob was just going. So I followed him down the far right side. It was definitely not manky, not a rock could be seen. There’s a chute you go down to the eddy on the right. Then you have to surf a wave back to the center to avoid going into a hole. Unfortunately I did not go far enough and got caught by the hole. According to Bob I was doing cartwheels in it before I pulled my freedom cord. Luckily the cleanup was quick and I was deposited in an eddy. While collecting, Ken came down to us. He had found a ride downriver. I handed over the key to him since it seems he would get to his car first. There was another big rapid after this, I couldn’t see down it and quickly walked around it. Bob ran down the center on a huge wave train. Saw Ken driving up to get his boat and we soon came to the takeout.

The Big Shoe Halloween at Keegan Ales

Made one of my pilgrimages back up to New York for one of the rare Big Shoe shows. As usual they did not disappoint and put on a great show and the venue is excellent as usual. Keegan Ales opens up the brewery floor for this event and its a pretty cool experience. After a bit of just enjoying the music I finally gave in. The lighting was really good and I could not sit by and not take photos. I had left my camera home, but my backup was in the car. Had a bit of trouble with the 50mm on an APC sensor. It was a bit more cropped than I would have liked, but it’s the best for the low light. I took advantage of my camera to sneak to the front and access areas the general crowd couldn’t.

The choice of song is always good and conducive to dancing. There good crowd on hand, but it was not as packed as other times. A little out of form The Shoe was not in their superhero regalia, much to Rich’s chagrin. At one point in the night the keg of Joe Mama’s Milk was kicked, luckily the side bar still had some. After finishing up the first set, Lara Hope and the Ark-tones took to the stage. Great local rockabilly group that I’m very happy to see playing with The Shoe again. First came across them when they opened for Tri-State Conspiracy at a car show in Wappingers Falls. They looked awesome dressed as the cast of Family Guy. Once done Santa came out to announce the winner of the costume contest. Then back into the brewery for The Big Shoe’s second set.

Fall Moosefest 2018

The weekend after Columbus day is host one of the best kayaking gatherings out there, Moosefest. A week or two before I was watching the levels and it looked like it would be a nice and mellow level, similar to what I had run it before. However, about Wednesday they got a bunch of rain, and by Friday the Moose was at beefy levels. I sat at work, watching level, looking forward to being in New York, but not the drive there. All the time I was wishing I had realized this was happening on Thursday. Had I, I would have called in sick so I could go paddle some of the runs that were in. The end of work rolled around and when I went to unload the cans of soup I had bought for lunch. Much to my dismay I discovered I had forgot my GoPro and would have to drive home to get it. With the added delay I arrived up at Fowlerville around 1am.

With less sleep than I would have liked I headed into Old Forge to grab some breakfast. I’m a fan of Keyes’ Pancake House, so that was the stop. The food is good and service quick. Then it was off to Mountain Man to chat with everyone I have yet to see, which was basically everyone since I arrived so late. The other goal was to grab some beta on the Independence. It was one of the things I had been watching, and there was still water. After a little I determined there were probably some people there. Managed to get Graham to lead me as he was looking for some redemption and knew some people headed there. So it was off to the Indy.

Independence River

The Indy has been on my watch list since I made my first trip to the Adirondacks for whitewater kayaking last year with Kevin. I was excited to catch it and it definitely delivered. When we put on it was about 485cfs, which ended up being slightly scrapey in some places. The run starts of with a nice stretch of class 3 boogie water. In a couple places a bit more padding would have been desirable. As you continue the rapids slowly build and become more complex. The first bigger one you come to is powerline, a ledge with an about five foot drop. It has an undercut on the left. Next is one where the river divides around some boulders. There’s a nice eddy in the middle where you can boat scout. Eventually you start getting towards the end and come to Fat Lady, a series of slides. Graham and I decided we were running it after taking a quick look. I messed up the entrance drop, but just managed to brace through it and make the line upright. I had decided to run the middle line and entered a bit off. At the bottom the hole grabbed me and I had to work a little to get out. We regrouped at the bottom and headed down to the bridge boof and The Wall.

The first bigger one you come to is powerline, a ledge with an about five foot drop. It has an undercut on the left. Next is one where the river divides around some boulders. There’s a nice eddy in the middle where you can boat scout. Eventually you start getting towards the end and come to Fat Lady, a series of slides. Graham and I decided we were running it after taking a quick look. I messed up the entrance drop, but just managed to brace through it and make the line upright. I had decided to run the middle line and entered a bit off. At the bottom the hole grabbed me and I had to work a little to get out. We regrouped at the bottom and headed down to the bridge boof and The Wall.

Left with one rapid before the takeout we got out to take a look. Stared it down and watched a couple other run it. Lines were not always clean, but all came out unscathed and we decided on our line. I started my run, and dropped in, staying to the left at the top. Once down to the half way point, just above the last drop I started to drive to the right. Unfortunately, I came in too hot and dried out. Got spun around, tried to drive across the flow and turn to punch the hole. Just managed to get all the way across, but didn’t get the boat straightened out. Landed in the pocket hole on the far left and started to get a working. Rode it for a little while and eventually managed to get my boat turned and worked my way out. Now that it was clear, Graham was up. As he entered the final drop, he was too far to the center. He hit a rock hard and got thrown to the right. It didn’t look like a painless ride, but he came through quick.

We finished up with enough time to get back to the Moose to see the race. Went to Crystal to spectate and help out with the finish line. This year’s race had a small turn out, probably due to the higher water. I was now feeling cold and decided to call it a day and changed into drys. Then it was off to Mountain Man for the festivities and to find out who won the Emperor’s Cup.

Lower Moose

Hung out for a little in the morning at Mountain Man, people were moving slowly. Jumped in with Alex on his run down the Lower Moose. I was advised to bring the long boat, and it was definitely the correct move. There’s a lot of pool in between the drops. The scenery is nice, with some color still on the trees. Most of the drops were not too complicated, but they were all good class 3 at least. At Mixmaster I blew my line, slammed into the rock shelf,  and ended up getting sucked back in. I rolled up and got windowshaded hard. But it was enough for me to determine that the boat wasn’t coming out easily. Pulled the freedom cord and got some good downtime. I then had a nice bit of exercise after to warm me back up. Greenboats hold a good deal of water. The theme of the weekend seemed to be not to get too much speed.

PNW day 5: McKenzie

We woke up nice and early at Baker Bay and discovered it was a very nice campground. It has good potential for a base camp of another trip. We only rose early because I set an alarm, but it was good I did. Todd had to get to the airport this day as his flight was in the evening. We quickly broke down camp and got on the road, probably before anyone in the campground had even noticed that we were there. We continued north on I-5 and searched for food. David selected Joe’s Diner in Creswell. Everything was tasty and it was a great place to start our day. After much deliberation (this had been going on since yesterday) we decided to paddle the McKenzie. Our original plan had been to be in White Salmon already and paddle the White Salmon again.

The McKenzie offered us a trip that could get Todd to the airport as well as be something new for all of us. Once we got to Eugene we got off the highway and started following the McKenzie upstream. This is another river like the North Umpqua that has many sections for a paddler to choose from. Its a class II-III run, which is what caused some of the reservation for paddling it. While looking at the run we found it would pass another hot spring. However, we weren’t going to have the time to stop and enjoy it. Also it was a commercial hot spring, so there would be some cost associated with it. As we headed to the take out I lost service, which increased my nervousness, since I had to check into my flight on Southwest.

We ended up splitting the run into two about 4 mile sections. For the first, Todd would be with us, then Matt would take him back to his car at the put in so he could go to the airport. David and I would continue downstream. The run ended up being more relaxed than the others and definitely was one you do for the scenery. There was not much flat and there were continuous riffles with some rapids mixed in. We came saw some people from the government out there with special boats counting the different fish.

Once we had finished the run we headed back to White Salmon to collect the rest of our gear and get ready for our flights home the next day. On our way home we went via Government Camp (yes, really creative name) so we would pass by Mount Hood. Unfortunately it was cloudy for us and we were not afforded a good view. It was still interesting to see the base of it and the mostly dry riverbed that came off it.


PNW day 4: North Umpqua

On our forth day after breaking down camp and grabbing breakfast at Black Bear again, we headed north via a different route. Our first stop along the way was at Crater Lake, which worked well as it was on the way to our paddling destination for the day. Since our plans had changed we had not had a chance to see it. The climb up to it was nice and was thoroughly wood with conifers. Once in the park we were shortly greeted with a very impressive view as we joined the rim section of the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway. It is a beautiful sight to behold and definitely worth the trip if you are in the area.

Crater Lake

After taking our time and grabbing some photos we continued on into the Umpqua National Forest. Eventually our road came to the North Umpqua and continued alongside until we got to the takeout. The entire run is semi roadside and there are many access points. You can easily choose how much of the river you’d like to do and AW lists it as 25 miles. We ended up doing a little above Horseshoe Bend to Gravel Bin. The run is a good class III section through a pretty canyon. The rapids are nice and the flats between them are moving. This run was definitely a little more relaxed than what we had been paddling up until now. Even though it might not be the most difficult, it makes up for it in beauty. It easily could be something that you paddle just for the view.

There were a couple interesting rapids that definitely would have been more fun with some extra water. We had 833cfs, which seemed to be standard for this time of year. Though all the signage at the takeout talked of flows of 1500-2000 cfs. The real draw of the run is the hot springs afterwards. When we got there we discovered it was very popular even thought it was a weekday evening. The pot we started out in was just luke warm and we had to wait a bit to go to a warmer one. The next to free up was the very top one. The was the hottest and where the water first entered into the system. It was difficult to stay in this one for long. Eventually we were able to sit in the covered pool which was the perfect temperature.

Umpqua Hot Springs

We ended up spending a good amount of time at the hot springs. Because of this we left significantly later than we had wanted to. Our plan had been to drive the 3-4 hours back to White Salmon that evening. However, as time moved on we realized this probably was not realistic. As we left too late to really find food many places, we diverted to Roseburg to find some dinner. Ended up stopping at Elmers Restaurant. Chose it mostly because it would still be open. They stayed open til 10, most closed at 9, and we were getting into Roseburg at about 8:40. The food was good, so things worked out well. We then headed north on I-5 towards Eugene in search of a place to stay the night. Baker Bay Campground and Marina ended up being the location. We set up in the dark and hoped we didn’t make too much noise for the other people there

PNW day 3: Klamath [Hell’s Corner]

On our third day we started out with breakfast at the Black Bear diner in Klamath Falls. Didn’t know it was a chain when choosing it, but the food was good and a decent price. Afterwards we started our driver down to the boarder of Oregon and California to paddle the Klamath. The trip down to the access points was definitely an adventure. As you get closer the road gets progressively more difficult and eventually you’re slowly making the descent from the canyon rim down to the river. Anyone who thinks the road to the Cheat is bad needs to reconsider. The trek is truly to the next level. I would not want to try to drive down this road during the muddy season.

We put in at Frain Ranch to cut off the first 5 miles, and about two hours of total shuttle time. This also puts you in immediately above the first rapid, Caldera. It’s an impressive rapid, quite long, and busy the whole way down. There was a stoppage up top to scout and I decided to bounce down and find a good spot to take photos from. Even though I went a decent length, it was still only half way down the rapid. There were two nice big rocks that made pour overs for you to thread through and big holes to dodge. Thus we were right into the meat of the run, with plenty of excitement to be had. All of us decided to dodge the rocks except Matt, who thought boofing the top one was a good idea. I wish I had, but I was still off put by the sharp rocks on this coast.

As we headed down, the beautiful canyon and difficult rapids continued. All were fun and the excitement kept up. We eventually got to Hells Corner, a nice large multi-stage class IV rapid. From the top where it drops off you are unable to see down the rapid as it’s blocked by a large boulder/pourover on the left and a smaller one to the right. I eddy hopped down as far as I could without entering to see if I could see a line from my boat. The lower position allowed me to see a between the boulders from right to left, that I could chain with what I saw slightly higher. I dropped in and threaded through the boulders to see a nice line to an eddy river right. Made my way over to it and jumped out to grab some photos.

Upon getting out of my boat I found that the rapid continued for quite some time, and I was probably only about a third of the way down at most. The river turned to the left at the bottom of this segment, with the busy water continuing until it turned back to the right and out of sight. No where in this did it seem like the rapid was beginning to let up. Matt came down after I had set up to grab photos and joined me on the shore to set safety. Once David had finished scouting, Todd came down to join us. Then David ran the rapid and blew right past us. We had no idea what the rest of the rapid looked like, and Todd continued on with David as Matt and I jumped into our boats.

Around the next corner was some nice 3/4ish run out and a nice eddy or two before the next rapid. The good class 3+ rapids continued as we went further down the river. In one of the rapids I ended up finding the FU rock. The river gave me the finger. I hit a nice pointy rock why rocketing down a rapid, giving my boat a little extra rocker. Eventually we came to the end of a very awesome run, thoroughly enjoying it. Before fetching the car from the put in we went further downstream to hunt for a hot spring we saw on the map. We eventually found it, but all that was there was a bunch of tall grass, and a concrete cap.

While the hot spring was a bust, there were plenty of blackberry bushes in the area. We also learned that taking out at access point 5 or 6 would probably be better. You get to paddle a couple more good rapids and there is no drive off the “road” to the river. We then made the trek back up out of the canyon and to Klamath Falls. On the way back we did some searching and discovered that the falls the town got its namesake from had been flooded under a dam. When back in town we stopped at Klamath Basin Brewing Company, which had a nice selection of beers on tap.

PNW Day 2: Deschutes [Meadowcamp]

Woke up for day two and packed up for a couple days down through Oregon. The night before we had decided that the best option was to head south to follow the water as it was generally dry where we were. The eventual destination chose was the Klamath with a stop along the was to boat in Bend, Oregon. We were drawn in by the Deschutes which runs through downtown Bend. We had mostly finished up packing and Todd and I headed over to the Outdoorplay warehouse to see if I could find a replacement backband for my boat. They luckily had one in stock and were willing to help me out and sell me one direct from their warehouse. While acquiring the needed supplies a double rainbow appeared over the Columbia River, signs it would be a good day.

Deschutes River south of Warm Springs on US-26

That being done we headed back to the highway to meet back up with Dave and Matt. Once we had gathered them we proceeded to route 97 to head south, through nothingness and on to Bend. We passed through a small town in the desert that was at the upper reaches of the Deschutes. Around this time Todd and I realized we were running low on gas and this was probably the last gas station for a while (about 47 miles). We conferred and Dave though we could make it and the gas would be cheaper so we continued on. As the gauge decreased our apprehension increased.  Relief came when we neared the town but is was short lived as the engine cut out about two miles outside of town. After a short wait Dave and Matt had a gas can and we were mobile again and heading to Bend.

We pulled into Bend and shortly after leaving the highway we got to the take out. The water was flat and there were a multitude of people on SUPs. Upon getting to the put in, we discovered our chosen access point (a park, for the shortcamp variant) had been paved over to build a development along the river. After some deliberation we decided to follow a fence at the edge of the development down to the river. The hike was a bit of a painful traipse through bushes and brambles. Once on the river we were greeted by signs warning of dangerous falls and a trail on the other side of the fence that looked like a proper access point.

The river narrowed to a nice gorge and we came to the entrance rapid which was a series of drops with nice size holes that one could eddy hop down. Our initial impression was that it seemed a little bigger than class IV. After a short bit of moving flat we came to an intake structure and drop. After a bit we decided to go down the left side. I felt it was good to go this route as I could see down it from my boat. I ended up drying out on a rock as I cut my way back to the center. As soon as I hit the main flow I got rocketed forward at full speed. Missed the eddy I wanted to catch below a little tree on a rock and had to run the second half of the rapid. Todd’s line was even less clean. He got hung up on a rock, then flipped by another in the second half.

After this rapid came a fairly busy and difficult boulder garden. Dodged down and the second half was particularly busy. It had a number of holes one after another to weave through. David got flipped towards the end, and during one role attempt got knocked back down by a hole just as he was coming up. After a swim and recovery it was discovered that his paddle had broken. While not in two, it was still less than ideal to use. Todd decided to use it and in the next rapid it broke and he started to C1. At the next rapid it was decided that we should break out the break down. It turned out to be a one of the friendlier rapids, though still probably more than one would want with one blade.

That turned out to be the last rapid and we made our way to the take out where we were once again greeted by a gaggle of SUPers. David ran quickly to get a new paddle at the kayak shop in town. Once we had collected everything, we headed there as well. We asked one of the guys there about the rapids and learned that the line we had take in the second rapid, which we now know is Dammit, was not the standard line. The drop in the middle is clean and people typically boof down the first part and the rest is clean. With this new knowledge we headed to take a peek at the whitewater park. Had a series of waves, one nice and glassy with a number of surfers. A lone kayaker was having fun on the bottom wave.

Whitewater park, lone kayaker in the distance

After grabbing dinner at Zydeco, we continued to head south on US-97. During dinner we decided that it was best to modify our plan and head to Klamath Falls instead of Crater Lake to camp as it would be 10 degrees warmer at night. After some time we rolled into the KOA, set up camp, and headed to sleep.