Thursday, June 23, 2011

If In Need of Inspiration....

Following an exhausting month of paddling and fundraising for the Eddyflower Total Vertical Challenge (Girls of the Gorge finished with 81,209 feet and $3,170) I was in need of some inspiration. Lucky for me it ended just in time for my favorite week of the year....First Descents camp!!
I was fortunate enough to return as Camp Photographer for another Hood River camp this year. It is amazing to see what the campers can accomplish in only a week!! Fears are crushed, skills are learned, and amazing friendships are created.
The most fascinating thing for me, though, is how often the campers say they are inspired by the camp staff and instructors, when they are the real inspiration. Their stories, what they have accomplished, and their ongoing courage and determination stays with me long past camp. It is a good reminder to not sweat the small stuff.
I love being able to share the river and all it's healing qualities with others, even if it is just for a week. They can take the flow of the river back to their lives, and I can take their smiles.
Thanks to all the campers and staff for another amazing week!! <3 Pixel

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Just One of the Perks of a High Water Year...Sheep Creek!!

I started getting excited emails from my friend Chris Dawkins a couple months ago talking about a little creek that is difficult to catch, but that he was determined to get on again with the high water year. With the big snow pack and crazy weather this spring has brought us, this little creek that flows for something like 2 days a year decided to stick around long enough for us to have an amazing adventure.

I jumped at the opportunity to join the trip, feeling that this may be my only chance to paddle this little creek in Idaho, Sheep Creek.
Driving through eastern Oregon
Still Driving...

We put in on what looked like a drainage ditch at a local ranch. The run begins with gentle winding through willows. Already we are off to a unique start. The willows, unfortunately, have begun to take over the creek bed of about the first third of the run. It adds a whole new level of difficulty when you have to battle willows while running rapids!
Getting Packed
Put In
Winding through the Willows
Chris Making the Move in the Willows

Unsure about camping downstream with the canyon walls closing in a bit, we set up right around mile 11 or 12 the first night. We had a great camp and kept ourselves entertained with a hilarious game of telephone charades.
Getting into the Canyon
Camp Night One
Laura Acting out a Trolley Car

We continued downstream in the morning through mostly class III fun and a longer IV-ish rapid to a known sieve, Redwall rapid. We all took one look, threw our boats over our shoulders, and walked. There was some chatter about the possibility of running it if it were a day trip rather than a self support in a tiny canyon, but we were all happy playing it safe.
Scouting Redwall Rapid
The View Upstream
And Downstream...Tiny Little Canyon

The canyon was amazing! I couldn't believe how narrow and deep it was. I think we all had sore necks from looking up and around the whole time.
Willie Can't Stop Smiling

The excitement picks up a bit with some fun class IV rapids at the end of the run until the confluence with the Bruneau River.

The Bruneau River felt huge at 2700 cfs after coming off Sheep Creek at around 1,000 cfs. We were all excited to get a nice combination of low volume creeking and big water fun!

We set up our second camp about 6 miles above Five Mile Rapids on the Bruneau, excited for the three and a half mile stretch of continuous class IV fun we would get to paddle in the morning.
Bruneau Canyon

Before we could get there, however, we were attacked from the sky! An eagle and a couple of kestrels were having it out over a snake when they sent a couple of large rocks over the edge of the canyon. Both landed very close to Nick. Yikes! Already scared, we all looked around trying to figure out what was going on, only to see a snake falling through the sky heading straight for Laura!! She sped off, leaving it to fall in the water. Moments later it resurfaced and found it's way to shore. Who needs whitewater for excitement?!?
Exiting Bruneau Canyon

Five Mile Rapids were big and fun, leaving huge smiles on all of our faces. What an awesome trip!! Now I, like Chris, will be watching levels like a hawk anxiously awaiting my next trip down Sheep Creek.
Farewell Sheep Creek and Bruneau!!
Back to the Gorge

Thanks to Chris Dawkins, Laura Sol, Michael Williams, Willie Illingworth, Nick Jacob, and Tom Butler for a great trip!!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Cultus/Upper Trout Lake Creek

Last Saturday I joined Drew Eastman, Chuck Taylor and Shawn Lonin on a great adventure into Upper Trout Lake Creek, WA. This creek is the largest tributary of the White Salmon River and this particular section is above Trout Lake. After reading a description of the run on Oregon Kayaking, it sounded like the canyon is remote and a lot of work to access, but worth the trouble.

We opted to access Upper Trout Lake Creek via Cultus Creek and run down 6 miles to the bridge at the Trout Lake Creek Campground. The road was still snowed in about a mile before the put-in (where FR 88 crosses Cultus Creek) so we hiked our boats in.

Made it to the put-in

Chuck and Shawn running the culvert at the put-in

Cultus is a low volume creek that drops about 320 fpm. The first half mile is pretty manky. The gauge on the White Salmon River at Husum was around 4.5 ft. that day and the water seemed low at the put-in, but the river gorges up after 40 ft. Cultus Falls and it turned out to be a great flow.

Cultus Falls might be worth considering with more water,
but there was a log jam right downstream.

Below the falls there it is a mile of continuous slides and ledge drops to the confluence of Trout Lake Creek.

Entrance rapid to the gorge

Scouting the gorge

There were some great rapids, but it was slow going with a considerable amount of mandatory portages due to wood. We were relieved to reach the confluence with Trout Lake Creek.

Upper Trout Lake Creek is continuous class IV-V boulder gardens. The description on Oregon Kayaking compares it to the Upper Wind River and they were right on. There is just one big boulder garden after another. Unfortunately, a few of the rapids had river wide logs so we had to do some more portaging.

Overall, there was some great whitewater in there, but it was definitely a lot of work getting around the logs in between. I don't think I'll be going back there any time soon, but it was a great way to spend a Saturday.