Columbia River Gorge: Rain, Rivers, and Demshitz

I found no shortage of any of these things on a recent trip to the gorge. After a long drought in California and a few days of good work I had a little money in my pocket and no reason to hang around home so I decided a quick trip up to the PNW was a good first adventure for the year. I was there for only four days of paddling and I was able to get 5 personal first decents and personal record high decent on the little white. I decided to start off with a little warm up since it had been a good two months since I had been able to paddle any “real” water. We paddled the Green Truss section of the white salmon my first day in town. I had never done the truss before and found it to be a little different than I thought. I was expecting big drops with stout holes but instead found  more continuous rapids. There were stout holes and some quality boofs but at least for the flows we had it seemed pretty forgiving in nature. None of the holes really felt like they wanted to punish you. There were definitely some rowdy rapids that were super fun. I went flying all over the place in double drop and came stern squirting out of a few others, but I never felt like I was gonna get beat down. Everything seemed to flush pretty good. Overall the run is just good fun. The only nerve racking part is the wood. I wouldn’t want to be swimming on this run, but I don’t really want to swim any run for that matter. Below is a picture of Dave Fusilli flying off big brother in the new 9R.

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 11.38.58 AMAfter a good day out on the river there is nothing better than getting together with friends for food and beer. We rallied back at Demshitz Palace to make home made pierogies.  Here is shot of the crew hard at work. Don’t worry no kitchens were destroyed in the making of this outstanding meal.

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One rog all cut, stuffed, and rolled. Now we boil them. Then we fry them. Then we eats them.

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After a good run on the truss, a good meal, and few beers I was feeling pretty stoked to fired up the little white the next day. It was a good foot higher than I had ever done it before which didn’t sound like anything the night before when we were discussing it over beers but the next morning when we were at the put in and I could see with my own eyes how much higher it was than when I had been there a few years earlier, I had to look deep inside to find that stoke from the night before. People say kayaking is really a mental sport and I agree. I have been losing the mental game for the past two years. I took a couple scary swims and I have been struggling to get my head back in the game since. I’ll admit, there was a point when we were at the put in when I thought about backing out. Looking at the river I knew it was higher than I had ever done by quite a bit and I had a moment of doubt. I’m not really sure what prompted it but somehow in that moment I knew it was just time to get back on the horse so to speak. My knees literally shaking from nerves I carried my boat down to the river and got in. I was a little shaky right off the bat and flipped in the landing at boulder sluice. I got pushed up against some rocks and had a hard time getting back up but manage after a couple attempts. At this point I was pretty fluster and wondered if I made the right call. I looked around and realized that I was committed now. There was no easy way out. I took a few breathes in the eddy to slow my breathing and regain my focus. I find it really helps sometimes to just remind yourself to breath and relax. Refocused I took on the rest of the run and as I started flying off drops that stoke from the night before found it’s way back to me. I am really glad to have had my Shiva on this run though. The rocker in the bow and the boats forgiving nature definitely contributed to having a successful run. It’s funny to me how by the end of the run I thought I must have been out of my mind to consider not going. Below is Rob Fusilli falling off S turn on the LW.

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After a second awesome day on the river we did a little Demshitz wine tasting. Yes you read that right. Demshitz is sophisticated.

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On my third day in the gorge we decided to travel a whole 30 minutes away to check out the west fork of the Hood River. There really is so much white water in such a small area that 30 minutes is a long way by comparison. It’s not all class V either. I know that is what you hear about from that area all the time but there really is something for everyone. There are plenty of class III and IV runs and some scenic class II runs too. Paddlers of all skill levels can have a good time in the Columbia River Gorge area. The west hood was super fun continuous class IV read and run. It is the kind of river that I really like. There are enough rocks and river features that you can make up interesting and challenging moves as you go down stream but there is really nothing that you have to make. You could just float everything pretty much right down the middle if you prefer. It had some really pretty mini gorges and the occasional surf wave. I’d be stoked to go back to the west hood for sure. I think this would be a perfect run for a boat like the Nano. It would be great for doing the little creeky moves and that flat hull would be perfect for the surf waves. We were having too much fun on the west hood and forgot to take pictures so I guess you’ll have to go see this one for yourself.

My last day in the gorge we got a sweet trifecta. We did upper Trout Creek into Trout Creek into Upper Wind. I think if you do Upper Trout the others are kind of a package deal but since I’ve never done any of them before I’m counting them as three personal firsts. Upper Trout was probably the most continuous thing I have ever paddled. We watched the gopro footage after and it really was just boof after boof for a solid 7 minutes. The water was screaming fast which was a little unsettling a first but really fun once you got into the rhythm. This first picture is from Dave’s helmet cam looking at the three boats in front of him with a boof between each boat in the shot. The camera really doesn’t do justice to the gradient here.

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Looking back upstream you get a better idea of the gradient. It was like this from start to finish. This was another time I was super grateful for the shivas rocker and forgiving edges. You could barely blink the water out of your eyes before you were going off the next ledge and needed to boof again. Below Rob is chasing me into one of the very few eddies where you could stop for a sec and catch your breath. rob and MEat upper trout

After we got to the Trout Creek section it got a little less continuous and the gradient eased up some but the general character stayed about the same. There were still plenty of sweet boofs to be had in this section though. There was one kinda sketchy log we had to negotiate. Doing most of my kayaking in California, I’m not really accustomed to seeing trees in every rapid on every river but in the PNW I seems to just be part of the experience. Once we got down to the confluence with the upper Wind the character of the river changed dramatically. The rapids on the Wind reminded me a lot of the rapids in the Grand Canyon except, they went on and on and on. This stretch was super fun although I think the edges on the Burn may have been more ideal for this last section of our trip. The river was still flowing really fast. There were plenty of big holes lurking in here too. When you got in the trough between waves you really couldn’t see beyond the wall of water in front of you. When you got up to the peaks you had to do a quick scan and look for warning signs of giant holes in your path. Overall it was really fun and I can’t wait to go back and see what other awesome runs the area has to offer. I know I’ve barely scratched the surface of what is there for sure.

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