Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Goin Coastal

The Third Plane crew has been getting after it! Dave, Richard, Nick, and I have had some great sessions recently. Typically, we have trouble coordinating our schedules, but we had a great day at the coast last week! Check it out...

We watched the forecast for days. It called for lots of sun, light off-shore breezes, nice waves, and leisurely 13 second periods. PERFECT for the long boats!!

We get out for a pretty wide variety of paddling opportunities, but few things get us as pumped as a day of long boat surfing at the coast. The sea kayaks allow us to catch the waves soo far out and really shred the shore break if properly coaxed.

Dave White and I paddled out beyond the break while Richard rattled off some shots. It didn't take Dave long to drop onto one...

Dave drops into one way outside

Dave and I both drop in. He is nice enough to share.

The conditions were really nice, but with variable swell size. It would be near flat one second, then jack up for a huge set the next. The swell was rolling in from the west, so the haystacks out beyond the break would help protect us at times but others would wrap in off the point on occasion providing some entertainment for those on shore.

With a West or even a NW swell we really enjoy Oceanside. There is a bit of everything . Go a few hundred yards south of the parking lot and you get big beach break. Go out to the North and you can get some of the best rock gardening in the west. Head straight out and you will find some amazing arches, caves, and crazy cross reflected swell that side swipes the beach with big pockets of foam.

Big set outside

These boats look impressive on a wave, but when they go vertical it's unreal. It doesn't always work out as planned...

Dave takes his punishment as Nick looks on without envy

Amongst it all, there are moments of serenity that go unmatched. The feeling you get when paddling out into the open sea off the Oregon Coast is difficult to describe. Even on calm days, you can't escape the fact that we are very very small.

You can see the rock we used to shoot from for all the pictures of Dave at the end of this post. It's the one on the bottom right of this photo.

Nick heads West

Once back on the beach, we took a breather and ate a snack. We ducked through a tunnel in the cliffs and walked North to scout out the rock zone. It was gorgeous! Nick and Liz (Nick's Girlfriend) had to get home early so we all walked back to the truck to say bye and gear up for the late evening session. Dave suited up and I grabbed my camera. The tide was coming in, but there was an enormous rock right at the water line to shoot from. Here is what we saw...

Dave gets a feel for things amongst the rocks

Another big set rollin in

At some point Dave began to feel comfortable. Some big waves were sneaking through the rocks, but most were manageable. Some nice clean rides could be had, you just had to be careful about where you were. Dave was waiting for the right wave to come along...when this massive one came in out of nowhere.

Dave is cranking to get up to speed for this one...

He's on...!

He caught a nice floater at the lip...

The money shot. Once he came back down, the ride wasn't over yet...

He managed to stick the landing and keep er' upright on his way into the rocky beach

Satisfied with the shots we got, we eventually convinced Dave to come in so we could get back to town. He paddled in and Richard helped him get the boat back to the car through the tunnel.

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 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 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.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Back in Oregon...Just in Time for the rain

Sorry I've not made time to post in awhile. Been working hard to catch up with life in the big city. It's nice to be home, soaking in all the things that were missed the most during my travels, but I find myself gaining appreciation for the slower pace of life in the hills of Scotland. I think not having to work all month had something to do with that. Now I'm back in the grind of things coaching, planning, and working the floor at Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe.

I hit the ground running at work, but have made time for some fun along the way. We were out to the Oregon Coast for a short day of coastal paddling at Alder Creek's employee trip. The boys of the Third Plane Team and I were out for a day of creeking high in the hills of SW Washington, on a tributary of the NW fork of the Washougl named Hagen Gorge, first run in 2006. We even managed a couple runs on the "back yard" favorite Canyon Creek. For now, I will post on Canyon Creek in Washington. Look for the others soon...

I have really enjoyed all the interest and support from the paddling community, and It's a great feeling to know that I can keep friends and family up to date with my shenanigans. I'm inclined to maintain this blog for awhile with the hope that it will continue to drive others to get out there and find adventure and freedom in something that inspires them. Boating keeps me taking pictures and putting them to words, enjoying time with friends, experiencing new places. Thanks for checking in once and awhile. Now, for Canyon Creek...

The weather in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. is, if nothing else... reliable. The whitewater season generally runs well into September and begins almost every year just after Halloween. I timed my Scotland trip perfectly. The day after I arrived home, it began to rain!! Canyon Creek doesn't take much rain to come in. It was an obvious choice to kick the season off right. The close proximity to Portland and fun character of the run, makes this one of the most popular intermediate creeking runs in the NW. It's a stepping stone on the way to the all the classic class V runs the surround us here. Chris was about to be initiated. Nick and I also rallied out for a run on Canyon Creek yesterday with Greg. Some of those photos will be used below.

The view looking down into the canyon at the heart of the run

We took our time on the top and made sure to have a look at the important ones. Richard and Dave have only been on the run at higher water, and Chris was stepping it up for his hardest run to date.

Dave, Chris, Richard all having a look at "Terminator"

Nick nails the top boof before Terminator on our run just yesterday (at a higher flow)

While Nick waits at the bottom of the outflow of Terminator, Dave and Richard stick the line...And then there was one.

I think many of us can relate to this feeling. Standing alone at the top of a rapid that has the potential to hurt more than your ego. Chris was out of his comfort zone, but handling it well. He had styled the entrance rapids above, and was ready for the challenge.

It was go time. Chris drew in one last deep breath as he eases into the eddy above the twisting drop.

The outcome seemed to be a big confidence booster for Chris. He continued to clean rapid after rapid despite this being his first time in a creek boat on anything but class III. It was a friendly level, and a great day to go for it. The photo below shows the same rapid at a better medium+ flow.

Nick making the turn at the crux.

There is lots of great rapids leading up to the drop zone, but "Big Kahuna" lets you know when your there. Mist billows up from a horizon line that looks out over the distant tree tops from across the fish bowl pool at the bottom. It's easy to scout, and is much less intimidating then it looks from the top. Everyone ran their own variation on the far right boof flake line.

Nick stomps it

Dave falls off the flake to the left, but flushes

Richard, makes it look easy

The next shots of the drop zone were taken on the Canyon Creek run Nick, Greg, and I took yesterday. It was at a perfect water level. The drop zone consists of Big Kahuna, a couple boulder gardens, and two beautiful ledge drops called Campaign and Hammering Spot. Below that the river cascades into Lake Merwin for a long flat water paddle out.
Nick at Hammering Spot

Greg comes into view above Champagne.
Another great day on a local favorite!

That's all for now. Check back in soon for Hagen Gorge and Oregon Coast beach shots. I will try to post about once a week for now.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Last day on the water in Scotland

It's been an amazing trip.  The people I've met and the places I've visited have far exceeded my expectations.  I've been on high mountain rivers and to the outer reaches of the rugged coast.  While there are many parts of Scotland I have yet to experience, each new hidden corner I visit, and the people I meet, only add to the wealth of pleasant memories I will cherish from this place.  I WILL be back for another visit.

Now, for the last day...

The Brown household and I awoke to a winter scene.  Those North winds yesterday had not stopped.  They brought with them a light dusting of snow.  The kids were VERY excited and couldn't wait to get outside.  While I enjoy snow, I can't say I shared their enthusiasm on this day.  We were onto rescues for the 5 star training session this afternoon.  There was REAL boat repairs in the field yesterday, and it looked as if we would have REAL hypothermia to treat today.

When the other two guys (both called different versions of Paul, one from Argentina and one from Greece) arrived for their assessment, they expressed interest in tidal planning and chart work for open crossings.  Since their assessment was going to start tonight and the fire was crackling away, we all agreed that we would much prefer to sit inside and plan journeys rather than go on one.  We would wait for it to warm up a little before we went for a short paddle in the bay to work on towing and rescues.

Pablo, Martin, Jonathan, and Pavlos work out a crossing to the Isle of Man

We enjoyed some lunch and got changed at Gordon's place.  All layered up in as much fleecy goodness as we could fit under our drysuits; we drove to the bay at Camas Barabhaig.  It had warmed up to a balmy 38 degrees Fahrenheit.  The sun was out for a few moments and offered some encouragement.  It wasn't the best temperature, but you couldn't ask for a better backdrop for some rescue and towing practice.  

Taken from the parking lot   

Camas Cross

Gordon and Jonathan take a boat down to the water

Once we got on the water It didn't take long to warm up.  Gordon had us all feel the difference between towing boats in a 'fan' shape vs. inline towing.  We also played with a version of a rafted tow that allows an easy quick release for the supporting boat using a bit of webbing and a biner.  Very handy.  It was not as windy as the forecast had indicated, but we went through the motions and the group learned quite a bit.  

Pablo pulls all of us in a 'fan' or multiple boat rafted tow

Gordon Brown 

The setting sun on the snow dusted hills coupled with an approaching squall made for some dramatic light.  I did my best to capture the scene, but these photos can't possibly convey what we saw today.  It was absolutely stunning.


The hills around the bay

The squall approaches

We finished up the day with some quick rescue work.  We went over the scoop rescue for an unconscious victim, assisted re-entries, and solo re-entries.  After we had cooled off, we headed for home to prepare for the beginning of the 5 star assessment later that night.  I sat in on the beginning of the assessment.  The group got through introductions, plans for the next few days, and went over the written exam in a Q&A format.  I am looking forward to my eventual assessment very much.  With what I have seen so far, I should be well prepared next year.  

Gordon gives the group a few pointers 

Tomorrow I catch a bus to back to Aberfeldy to say my good-byes to my new found friends.  I am going to miss so many people I have met here in Scotland.  It's amazing how boating with someone really brings you closer.  I will be boarding a plane for Portland, Oregon the next day and should be home in time for lunch on Thursday.