Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Hagen Gorge

There are many pleasant memories tucked in the recesses of my mind forged by days spent on the water. Often, they run together making it increasingly difficult to discern one trip from the next. Then there are those other days. Days you will always recall and often recount during gatherings with those whom you've shared the experience. Dave, Nick, Richard, and I wont soon forget the first time we ran Hagen Gorge together, a true NW classic.

Nick had been on parts of the run with Dave and Richard on different occasions, and could provide some beta, but we were cautious and gave the river it's deserved respect. We read up on the run at www.oregonkayaking.net and decided that the conditions were right, and I was good and ready for something new.

The run is a short drive Northeast of Portland, upstream of Washougal Wa. We were at the take-out in no time and all piled into Nick's Rig for the shuttle. The run requires a short hike into a clear-cut zone, over a ridge, and down into the gorge. There was plenty of new growth in the clear cut area. Lots of fresh little fir trees were soaking up the sun with outstretched bows. We lost the trail for a moment, but managed to bushwhack our way down the steep embankment to the river's edge.

When we arrived, the river looked inviting. It seemed like an ideal flow. The river bounced along under the shaded cover of low hanging branches and disappeared out of sight around a sharp left turn. We established a good rhythm and were enjoying the fun class III warm-up until we found the dam. What was left of an old wooden dam creates a log collecting strainer. I imagine this log jam is only getting larger, and looks like it will be here for a LONG time. It did make for an annoying portage, but would most likely save us from making too many more lumber portages downstream...so we didn't mind.

Dave makes his way over the log dam.

Once beyond the dam, our focus switched from watching out for logs to looking for the first waterfall of the day!! We knew it had to be around here somewhere. It was just moments later when we caught a glimpse of a horizon line. The unmistakable rumble filled the gorge. I rolled up to the misty lip and eddied out. "It's Hagen Daaz!" Nick shouted. I hopped out on the right bank to scout and set up. Nick couldn't wait to get after it, so he bounced over the chunky entrance ledge first and came crashing down into the foam cushion below. He found a good eddy on the left to set support for Dave and Richard who were scouting from the right bank.

Dave Contemplates the line

He flips, but rolls up quickly at the bottom

It was Richard's turn next...
Richard Styles Hagen Daaz Falls

Up next was Euphoria. It's a twisted thirty foot cascading slide that hurdles you towards a good size ledge drop with a must make boof. It looked amazing! We were eagerly slogging down the right side scouting along the way when we saw something that was cause for concern. Just beyond the last horizon line in the drop we could see a river wide log lurking in the pool below. Richard opted out, and set support down at the log. It looked like if you were in control, the log was no issue, but a flip at the boof ledge was less than appealing. Dave fired it up first...
...And pulled it out at the bottom to avoid the log

After Nick and I finished off Euphoria, we all continued down to the confluence with the NW Fork of the Washougal. Since Dave, Nick, and Richard had all run the NW fork before, we made our way to Double Falls in no time.

Double Falls is a tough drop with a demanding run-out into a nasty slot. Most of the water drops over the right side, but an ideal flaired boof flake invites those willing to run the rapid over to the left. We had a good long look at things from above. Richard and Dave made their way to the bottom seal launch spot almost immediately. Meanwhile, Nick and I contemplated the severity of our vertical addiction and decided that we hadn't gotten our fix for the day. I'd fire it up first.
Paul Boofing off the left flake at Double Falls

I stomped the top part and melted through the slot at the bottom. After a quick roll I was eddied out and waiting for Nick. He nailed his line, and was flushed through the bottom just the same. It's not pretty...but it goes.

Down after Double Falls we came to "the magic spot," As described to us by Dick Sisson. He was right, we knew what he meant when we saw it for ourselves. A HUGE wall of Basalt on the left is covered by neon green lycin, and the river rumbles over a bedrock rapid that is best portaged. We managed to find a sneak line on the left that works but required some commitment. We took off the river at the Mercantile down below the confluence with the main Washougal.


Anonymous said...

Bad boating week for me. Post something from the coast soon.


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