Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Swiftwater has now been RESCUED!!!!

,however, the wild things were tragically lost downstream in the confusion that followed.

In other recent news, 8 of us witties just got back from a great swiftwater rescue course with Sam Drevo from NW River Guides in Portland. Sam's been a great help to jump starting the Whitman whitewater program, running both this course an an ACA instructor course that 5 of us took almost two years ago. Also ASWC gave us a lovely little lump of money from the contingency fund to subsidize this expensive, but absolutely delightful, course. thank you ASWC- you rock.

Now to the nitty gritty, scroll down if you just want to look at pictures.

We started out friday evening with a harrowing drive the 4 hours to Portland. We made it to the thai truck in Hood River about 2 minutes before they close, and for the first time ever, I was tragically underwhelmed by the curry I got, ick. The next morning we rose early and made it (somehow) to the new classroom at the Next Adventure paddlesports center. We spent the morning with an introduction to swiftwater rescue prevention, leadership, overall philosophy, and some knots.
Following some delectable burritos, we sped on out to Dodge Park, at the confluence of Bull Run and the Sandy River. Due to the cold water, we were able to do a foot-entrapment drill and some throwbag practice in the parking lot before putting on our gear and hopping into the water. If you want to know about how cold the water was, you should ask anyone who was on the course. We did a variety of swimming and wading and bagging, and pretend drowning and shivering and smiling and hugging and then changed back into street clothes and blasted the heat (and Britney Speers) in the truck on the drive home. Pam Hayes had made some wonderful chile for dinner along with a pie! We holed up for some homework in the evening, while Nathan and Simon rolled down to Durham to buy a trampoline.
Sunday dawned with some nice fog and light rain, perfect conditions for going paddling. We met up again at Next Adventure and spent the morning focused on rope use and pinned-boat situations. Before heading out to the river a few members of the group decided to lighten their wallets on a PFD and some helmets that look like they belong in Star Trek, at least they protect those precious brains so necessary for kayaking (or unnecessary depending on how you look at it). By the time we got to the park we sure were ready for some paddling, and since the gate at Dodge was closed, we decided to shuttle up to Bull Run and do all of our training for the day in the course of the mile and a half run. The level was pretty low (800cfs), but no where near as bad as the 350cfs of two weeks before. We put on and headed down a ways to practice getting a stabilization line on a "victim" who was pinned on the upstream side of a river-center boulder. The group improved vastly in the course of the drill and we're definitely going to keep on practicing in the next couple of months. A bit further downstream and we worked on some pig-rigs and technical rope systems, but it was getting dark and by the time we finally made it to the cars you could barely see the rock that the bow of your boat was about to collide with.

Overall we had an absolutely delightful weekend and learned a whole bunch of really necessary skills. This course helped to open up a bunch of folks to leading trips for the WW club, and hopefully we'll see that taken advantage this spring once the rivers are up and the weather warms a bit. Most of all, it's great that Kate, Nathan, Fiona, Drew, Adam, Lish and Simon were willing to shell out some money and commit a weekend to learning this stuff. Yippeee, now lets go paddling.

By the way, no wild things were harmed in the process of writing this post, or rescuing Adam from the parking lot, or most of all, in rescuing the swiftwater.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Some White Salmon and Bull Run Adventuring

Early on Halloween morning, costumes in tow, a group of 16 paddlers from Whitman loaded up 4 cars and a whole bunch of boats for a day down on the White Salmon. Three hours of driving, 47 pee stops, 2 coffee stops, one roof rack checking stop, one toll bridge stop, and one stoplight later and we found ourselves at Husum! After two runs of Husum and one wonderful boat retrieval from a mid-river rock under the bridge we headed off downstream split into a group for first time river runners and another group for folks hoping to hone their skills. The river had come up quite a bit and we had an absolutely fabulous day on and in and occasionally under the water.

Later in the afternoon, once we had changed into dry clothes and returned to the superior state for some Thai Truck in Hood River, a group of us very spontaniously decided that we wanted to go to Portland, go tricker-treating, and then maybe padddle the next day. The group split, with two vehicles returning to Walla Walla and Oliver, Kendra, Adam, Claire, Fiona, Sophie and myself following the Columbia through the Gorge to the City of Roses. Somewhere between Hood River and Portland, maybe during our stop at Multnomah Falls, we decided that our best tactic for the evening would be to pretend that we were Max and the Wild Things from Where the Wild Things Are. This pretty much meant howling and shrieking and hugging and cartwheels and causing a terrific ruckus, and having a whole lot of fun, especially when the folks at Trader Joe's started howling back at us.

Up early the next morning we caught some breakfast before heading out to see if there was enough water for us to float down Bull Run, a short run that both feeds the City of Portland's municipal water system and has in the past had year-round water due to two penstocks that ran from the Marmot Dam on the Sandy to the Bull Run powerhouse, the put in for the run and the site of a lovely slalom course. Since the dam was removed the penstocks and powerhouse are now inactive and a lot of the water is taken out of Bull Run for Portland. Unfortunately there wasn't really enough water, but we decided to run it anyways!

There really wasn't much water and Sophie and Kendra had only spent one day in a kayak before (on the White Salmon the day before), but everyone blew my expectations out of the water (no pun intended). We spent a lot of time learning how to hug rocks, protect our pretty faces from rocks, paddle around rocks, slide down rocks, walk our boats around rocks, scout routes through rocks, and pick up big bones that we found on the rocks. Everyone ran the big class III rapid towards the end of the run and had great runs through it. We made it to the cars by 12 and were back in the Library at Whitman by 5:30 still pretending that we were WILD THINGS- what a wonderful and spontaneous weekend. I've never been so impressed by a group of paddlers that learned so much so quickly. All the first-timers had bomber eddy turns and were trying out some surfing and playing! It's going to be a great year for the Whitman Whitewater Club!!! pictures are below to prove it...


Blow up those float bags- you wouldn't want to pin a boat would you!!! Consensus was that the van in the background is exactly what the Whitewater Club needs.

Some costumeish helmet decorations.

Adam with a perfect line on Husum.

Allie with another great line. Unfortunately, if you look closely, her spray skirt isn't actually on. As a result she swam and her boat got a bit pinned. Oh well, good practice.

Maggie runs the rattlesnake.

Fierce, Muruge, Fierce!!!

Surfin it up on the CAVE WAVE- the sort of place WILD THINGS might live.

Yeehawww- some of up and coming talent!!!

Surfs up!!!

The group at Northwestern Lake, our takeout. Within a year Condit Dam, which makes Northwestern Lake, should be removed, exposing a few more miles of fun intermediate kayaking.

The next day the sun came out at the put-in for Bull Run.

And we even found a little surf-able wave.

Sophie getting in a practice eddy-turn at a perfect spot right at the put-in.

Oliver, looking intense, like a WILD THING>

I get to be the sacraficial lamb / guinea pig running the rocky little class III drop near the end.

Woops, missed the eddy, running the whole backward, trying to backwards boof.

Fiona slips down the boat-wide slot on the right side on a very smooth run.

Oliver, somewhere after putting in and before tipping over, and between smiles.

It's hard to tell if Sophie is smiling, or grimacing, or both, like a WILD THING.

One last WILD THING HOWL (you should try it right now), before heading back to Walla Walla. From left to right the crew is Kendra, Oliver, Adam, me, Claire, Fiona, and Sophie. A Wild Thing came and held the camera for us.