PNW day 1: White Salmon

This year some friends were going out to the Pacific Northwest to paddle. I dithered for a bit on if I’d go and ended up deciding almost last minute to join. For a bit leading up to the trip the big question was how I’d get a boat out there. A couple days before the trip I did some lurking on craigslist and managed to find a used RPM Max for a good price. The guy was nice and I ended up with a boat waiting for me when I got off the plane.

Flew in too late to get to paddle anything, or really see much on the drive out to the cabin. So I was very impressed the first day, getting to see all the scenery as we drove around to set shuttle for the run of the day. The cabin is on the White Salmon and shuttle was short. After dropping a car at the take out and heading to the putin to start, I realized that I had forgot my dry top at the cabin. People reported that it would be cold, and I decided to go back and get it. Luckily it was a short drive and I was very happy with the decision. The water was some of the coldest end of summer water I’ve been in. Additionally it was a clear aqua color I’ve never seen.

The White Salmon was a beautiful run mostly in the class III realm. This stretches for a few miles until you reach Husum Falls which is about three quarters of the way through the run. This was a nice drop that did not look like a great place to get worked. As I got out to scout, the backband of my boat broke. I hadn’t quite gotten the boat dialed in and had been feeling a little off all the way down to Husum Falls. This seemed like a bit of a bad omen. We had caught up to another group of boaters there and got to watch there lines. Their first member didn’t have a clean line and did a nice back ender, and the rest were clean.

Husum Falls

Todd, Joe, and I decided to run it and all had clean lines. Below Husum Falls things calm back down into the class III range. There was a small surf wave in one spot, and the stream remained mostly secluded until we drew near to the former dam site, where cabins started appearing. The cabins start to thin out and canyon wall start to appear. The rapids start to pick up and rock walls build up on the sides. In this area you eventually pass by the site of the old Condit Dam. Not much is left here. We could only find one cement slab. The canyon walls continue to grow and eventually you get to Steelhead rapid. We all portaged this and it did not look like a great place to be. I definitely did not have the boat to run it and there was decent potential for a nasty swim.

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