Thursday, February 4, 2016

NF Alsea

Photo: Lucas Rietmann

The NF Alsea is one of those runs that is on a lot of Oregon boaters list of streams they want to paddle.  It is also one of those runs that stays there year after year as people put it off for something closer, logistically easier, or just a little more well known.

The trip is an odd combination of intermediate difficulty and mini-adventure.  In the past paddlers spent hours driving around logging roads on the shuttle, often coming out on a different road than they went in on.  This kind of adventure is usually not sought after by those honing in their skill set.  Then once boaters acquire an advanced skill set, they may feel the whitewater is not worth the effort.

It's a bit of a drive from Portland too.
Less than half an hour to the take out for those Corvallis boaters though.

 I would encourage both demographics to seek out this river, I feel confident both would find the experience rewarding.

I was one of those paddlers who had the run on my list, but never pulled the trigger before because I just couldn't justify a one hour each way shuttle for what I (incorrectly) interpreted as a class II run with a couple class III's and two decent rapids.  Plus, when this run has water, lots of other runs do too.

Lucas Reitmann has been in there a couple times and has had good things to say about it.  When he decided to plan his third trip in there, I figured it had to be good if he was returning yet again and for his second time this year.  Plus he had figured out how to cut the shuttle down to 30 minutes.

Typical shuttle view, with the NF Alsea being just before that final ridge.  Keep this proximity in mind if the question of hiking out presents itself.

There was potential for a large group, but by the time we met in the morning it was down to Lucas, Priscilla and I.  We drove the short distance from Corvallis to the Alsea Fish Hatchery take out and left a vehicle near the staff gauge (reading 2.25) at a parking lot complete with porta-potty.

We also had about 850 on the Pat Welch Gauge, on January 24th, 2016

Loading into Priscilla's vehicle we headed back the way we had come on HWY 34, turning left onto a gravel road in about 3.3 miles.  Staying on BLM Rd 10 for 9 miles brought us to the put in.   Lucas had only done this run low and high, so was pleased to see it at a nice flow, a little under medium.

The falls comes up quick.  As the river bends left stay right to give it a scout.  It had a log in it on this trip that created an awfully thin line on the right.  None of us were sure we would avoid the log so made the easy portage along the right.

Falls with the log

Vanhorten Falls from a park a huck session a couple summers ago.

We continued downstream through some interesting channels separated by tall grass islands and banks.  The whitewater wasn't eventful, but the islands were unique enough to keep us engaged as we moved downstream.  There was one log in this stretch, but we were able to get under on the right.

Eventually things picked up and before long we were running some genuinely fun class III rapids.  This portion of the run was better than I had anticipated.

These built towards class IV before a larger horizon presented itself.  We eddied out on the right to scout a large ledge.  At first glance it looked a little funky, but upon further inspection there were two lines that looked good.  We all chose the one furthest to the right, sliding through a small trough into  a bit of a pillow and off a short drop into a hydraulic.

                                                           Photo: Lucas Rietmann

Below here things tapered off and eventually we were floating past farms with grass again lining the bank.  A dam at the fish hatchery caused the water to go flat for the first time on the run.  We did the portage on the right, wondering where people had ever run this heinous drop in the past.

It was a short float below here to the take out, passing the staff gauge and a multitude of fisherman.  One of them indicated he would prefer we paddle as close to him as possible, as opposed to as far away as possible like we had been doing.

If you have this run on your list, I would recommend checking it off sooner than later.  I would say it like many others have said about the Grays; "The NF Alsea is one of those rivers you keep putting off, but once you do it you wonder why it took so long".

Logistics can be found on the AW page.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Outside the Box

There are a lot of things you won't find if you are not looking for them, here are some fun creeks found not far off of the proverbial beaten path and one that sits squarely in the middle of it.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

PDXkayaker Film Fest 2016

The 2016 PDXkayaker film fest was a great time yet again.  Events like this are a big part of why the PNW boating community is such a good one to be a part of.  And these events happen because of Next Adventure, thanks so much for making it happen year after year.

Priscilla and I entered a video in the film festival this year.  It is an extended version of an earlier video we put out portraying our trip to the Merced River down in Yosemite National Park.  The film-fest version has more of the back story that led up to that trip.  This extended version is embedded below.

Our American Whitewater Dream (PDX Film Fest Entry 2016) from PMacy on Vimeo.

Nick also got one in there.  His video better reflects the year we had here in the PNW.  Waaay too much fun!

Lily Dipping and Day Tripping from IKNick on Vimeo.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Molalla: Table Rock Fork

Photo: Lucas Rietmann

Aside from a trip through the lower gorge I had done many years ago, none of us had run the Table Rock Fork of the Molalla.   We decided it would make a good trip for the day so headed up to check it out with the Molalla gauge around 4,000 cfs, dropping to around 3,000 cfs by the end of the day.

Oregonkayaking mentions some larger rapids above the regular put in, so we drove up to the confluence with Lost Creek where a gate marked our roadside put in.

The first mile down to the next bridge was busy class III with one log duck that some chose to portage.  This bridge would also be a decent put in.

Some boogie.
Photo: Michael Freeman

Bi-passing the log duck.
Photo: Michael Freeman

Getting back in the water after a short break at the alternate put in bridge a mile below Lost Creek.
Photo: Michael Freeman

Below here was some more busy water leading to a long rapid near a quarry.

The entry to this rapid was a short flume/slide into a hydraulic before an eddy on the right where we were able to scout the next part of the rapid, which was long and bouldery.

Priscilla in the top half of the quarry rapid, with the flume visible in the background.
Photo: Michael Freeman

Anna boofing away.
Photo: Michael Freeman

 The lower part paddled smooth, despite a dubious looking boulder pile in the middle.

Priscilla about halfway through the quarry rapid.
                                                                     Photo: Lucas Rietmann

                                         Anna finishes off the bouldery part of the quarry rapid.
Photo: Michael Freeman

More boogie water led to the standard put in, below which the splashy rapids continued.  A large landslide on the left a short ways into the standard run deposited many logs on the right bank, these were scattered along the shore for the next hundred yards and have the potential to become mobile with the next high water event.

This landslide, along with the largest boulders seen yet mark the largest rapid of the standard run called The Pinch.  The Pinch, which is about 100 yards below the landslide, has collected a couple of logs that came down during the mass wasting event. 

The logs in The Pinch did not complicate the line at all, but made the consequences for a mistake a little higher.  The scout and/or portage is easiest from the left.  We ran center to left in the first part of the rapid, then right to center in the second.  The write-up on Oregonkayaking refers to a mandatory side surf in the bottom part of this rapid at higher flows.  The level we had was not high enough for the last hole to be sticky and we all came through easily.

Anna cruising through the top portion of The Pinch.
Photo: Lucas Rietmann

Below the Pinch the stream rolls along for almost 4 miles of continuous splashy water.  It was all easy to read and run, with two wood hazards.  Both of these wood hazards were roadside, neither a mandatory portage. 

More continuous and fun whitewater continued below here for a mile or two down to the take out.  There was never a dull moment on this run, yet once below the Pinch, neither was there any point that required strong concentration.  I was surprised by the quality of this run, and would not hesitate to do it again.  We all agreed that even though the whitewater was easier than the Miracle Mile (a similar distance for us), it was decidedly more enjoyable.

Lucas did some kayaking too.

Logistical information and additional insight can be found at Oregon KayakingAmerican Whitewater, or Oregon Paddling.

Anna showing her stoke about the run with her patented lamma-claw.


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Upper Upper Washougal

All photos by Jarred Jackman

The Upper Upper Washougal is a run that exists in a state of lore amongst the community.  While it has a write-up in the Bennett guidebook and on OregonKayaking, not many people seem to have done the run.  Those that have say it's good, but that it has an un/un (unscoutable/unportageable) class V rapid.  This is always a bit unnerving on obscure runs, so this along with a road that is often snowed in by winter has kept me and many others from making the trip.

Jarred lives close by and last weekend decided he was ready to see what the run was all about, so he assembled Brandon Lake, John Edwards, Priscilla Macy and myself in Washougal on Sunday Dec 20. We left a vehicle at Dougan Falls in case we decided to continue down through the waterfall section, which looked to be a a friendly flow.  We left a second car at the confluence with Stebbins Creek in case time did not allow for further paddling.

The road to the put in got snowy pretty quickly, bottoming out Jarred's CRV.  Though Priscilla's Exterra did not have this same problem.  We all made it to the put in, but with more snow coming down we were worried about getting the vehicles out at the end of the day.  Priscilla decided she was not comfortable dealing with an un/un and committing gorge in the snow so decided to drive one of the vehicles back to the take out.  I decided I would drive the other one out and the two of us could go run the NWF Washougal while Brandon, Jarred, and John could collect the beta for the Upper Upper Washougal.  With the added comfort of not having to retrieve vehicles at the end of the day.

The shuttle road is blocked 1/4 mile short of river level, next to a compelling, but dangerous falls on Prospector Creek.  The walk along the decommissioned road to the put in went quickly and we watched the team paddle off on what looked to be a perfect water level.

The drive out went well and Priscilla and I had a good day on the NWF, but this report is to get the beta out about the Upper Upper. From what I heard from Jarred and John, it is very much worth doing and the un/un is neither un, nor un.  They report that while the gorge is committing, scouting options are abound.

I'll turn it over here to Jarred here for an on the water report:

Jarred's Report:  The Bennett Guide mentioned a class II warm up but we put on and were immediately met by a III+ ledge that dropped into a narrow landing.  Many of the drops on the run had some good lines and some not so good lines.  With various rocks still showing and sub-surface boulders it was easy to get bumped offline.  This section seemed reminiscent of Trout Creek near the Wind.  This isn't a surprise when you look at the map and realize they are VERY close in proximity.

Early On

A couple of these bouldery ledge drops led us to the lip of the first falls (10'+) which is very marginally runnable on the right but the safe line is scraping over the middle into a deep pool.  Scout right.  The Washougal is plagued by shallow landings and this section is no different, scout carefully.  

Typical Rapid on the Upper Upper Washougal

We ran a few more boulder garden style drops and found ourselves at the start of the Gorge.  I was expecting an UN UN akin to the gorge on the Carbon.  This was nothing like that.  I don't think levels would affect this scout or portage. 

Beginning of the Un/Un

 We scrambled over large boulders and grovelled through devil's club, all on the left bank.  Water levels would never negate this option.  That said, the portage isn't for the faint of heart and the small spot to gain access to the river could prove difficult to find.  We portaged due to difficult WW, tight must make slots, and a bad piece of wood.  We put back in after the ledge drop after the Gorge.  At portage level you should look for a large fin of rock that seems to block your progress and drop in just upriver of that fin.  There should be a ramp that leads down to the river and will offer good seal launch options.  We used  15' of rope and the ordeal took us 1.5 hours.  If this portage becomes standard, I could see it being similar to Elbow Room on the Ohane (but longer), 30 minutes at most.

Shot from the fin rock area, indicating where a return to river level is feasible.

Once back on the water the river turned left and out of sight, we boat scouted as aggressively as was prudent and I think we bank-scouted two drops.  One of these ended in a 10' drop in which the right side will mangle you and the left side goes well.  Both look good from upstream, so beware.  It's easy to eddy hop too far on this run and get into trouble.  

The nature of the drops were mostly ledges and boulders with small 2' - 4' drops stacked up.  There was a fair bit of mank but normally clean lines could be found without much trouble.  The river geology in the harder WW reminded us of the Ohane or UUC.  If you know the lines, you're good, if you don't, it could get confusing. 

Portage options were usually available if a drop was not to ones liking.

 Once we were out of the class IV the river valley opened up a bit, we saw some eagles, stumbled upon some nice surf waves (the Washougal always delivers with surf) and the run returned to the description in the Bennet guide.  

John getting in some bonus surf action.

We ran a 10-15' drop river left that was near some houses, then we made our way to Doc's Drop.  

Clean waterfall near the end of the run.

We scouted and ran this left and it was a classic way to end the trip.  It consists of a couple smaller drops and a slide culminating in an upturned lip that launches you (think Boulder Sluice without as much speed.)

So there you have it.  No UN-UNs but plenty of challenges and must make moves in a difficult to access river canyon.  You'll like this run if it's not at your peak skill level.  If it is, well, I hope you don't get injured.  Get an early start as you should treat every descent of this canyon as a first.  Too many options for changing rapids or dangerous wood.


Flows:  On Dec 15, 2015 Jarred, John and Brandon reported an ideal/medium first time flow with the Washougal reading 1,800 cfs and dropping @ Washougal and 3,500 and dropping @ Hathaway.

Shuttle:  The road peaks out just under 2,000'.  There was more snow on the north side of the shuttle than locations at the same elevation on the south side, the difference was significant enough I felt it was worth mentioning.

From the Stebbins Creek confluence (conventional take out for this run) continue upriver 4.3 miles (staying right at 1.9 miles) to a point where a number of roads split off from the main one (the 4-way intersection mentioned in the Bennett Book).  There are two roads that veer off from the main road to the right at this intersection, you want to take the right turn that goes downhill.   After turning right, you will continue downhill 1.5 miles to a bridge over Prospector Creek.  Immediately after crossing this creek turn left and continue just shy of 2.5 miles to where this road ends.  There is a small pullout adjacent to Prospector Falls less than 50 yards before the road ends that makes a good spot to leave vehicles.  From here just continue down the roadbed on foot until it is easy to get down to the Washougal and put in.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Bridal Veil

We hope you all find a way to get a little bit of white during your holiday season.

Priscilla Macy dropping the bottom tier of Bridal Veil Falls.
~1,200 cfs on the Bull Run nr Multnomah gauge.
Photo: Andy Ploon

Bridal Veil gauge beta:

  This drop is commonly run when it has been raining a lot in the Portland area.  If you are willing to take a hit, it has been run pretty darn low.  If you want medium flows, with a nicely aerated pool, shoot for about 1,000 cfs or more on the Bull Run near Multnomah gauge.   You can expect around 15% of the flow on that gauge in Bridal Veil Creek.  I have never seen (in person or photos) this drop with too much water in it to run.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Class V Mentality

I often find myself thinking I'd be happier if I chose to run class III-IV from here out, to let go of the stress both on and off the water that comes with paddling class V.  Yet while the reward is for the most part both intangible and ineffable, for many of us it is paramount.  The challenge of descending a new, difficult river will continue calling us back week after week and year after year.

Jeff Compton gives his two cents on the class V mentality.

As Matt has said, "sometimes when you push the limits, the limits push back".
Jeff in a pushing match (he and Dan both stayed in the boat on this descent of Sarlac in Kenobi Gorge).