Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The year so far...

Straight to the point: The last few months have been busy and exciting.

While a variety of easier Class 3-4 rivers made up the first month or two, in March I found myself once again at the lip of Celestial Falls. It's about as clean as any 45 foot waterfall can be, and Harrison made a second lap look super appealing. 

The next day I rallied ahead of the racers at the Upper Wind Festival with Benny Small to get a couple shots. The Upper Wind is a great class 4+ race course with continuous waves, holes, and rocks to dodge. We posted up just below Ram's Horn, one of the steepest rapids on the run, although definitely not the hardest.
Dropping into the meat
Kim Becker charging hard to stay ahead of the Nicole Mansfield/Katrina Van Wijk Duo
The lead-in to Ram's Horn, note the gnar gash on Paddler #1!
As much fun as paddling is, it doesn't pay the bills. So I spent the majority of my time working at the Portland Aquarium.

That is an octopus arm.
Lurking hard...
Meanwhile, my car was breaking down. Time to find a new grand investment. And by that I mean a car that won't breakdown within a year for under about a grand. As always, the internet provided, and I got hooked up with this sweet rig!
Mazda B2000 Pickup, better known as Maria. It was at this moment I fell in love...
A photo mission out to the coast the first night I got her seemed like the perfect test. Besides a brief interruption of my sleep by a very friendly police officer ("No camping in city limits...but you can drive a mile that way and nobody will give you problems") and an apparently murderous forest, the mission was a great success.

Now if you look carefully, you might see an issue. The bottom photo was taken about 30 minutes after the one to the left.

As it turns out, I still don't have an answer as to whether a tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear it does or does not make a noise. I do, however, know that a tree falling in the forest will obliterate a trail whether there's anyone around to hear it or not.

Also, trees are really big.

After dodging that (wooden) bullet, Harrison Rea called me about running Punchbowl Falls on Eagle Creek. It's one of the most visually appealing waterfalls I've ever seen, so that answer was a no-brainer. There were 2 other questions that required a bit more contemplation: How to get out of work on Easter Sunday, and whether or not I'd run Metlako, the 80+ foot spout shortly below Punchbowl.

A slow day at the Aquarium and some begging answered the first question, but I was still unsure about the second. I had done it once before, but only with people who could offer some guidance and safety. The mental pressure had me pretty maxed out without even considering running a 35 footer just before. I decided to decide at the overlook, after getting an idea of how much water would be in the creek, and to decide again after seeing how Punchbowl worked out.

Harrison had a sweet line, but busted his face a bit.
Dan Phillips Photo
I thought I was having a sweet line, but got rotated and busted my shoulder a little (more than I thought)
Dan Phillips Photo 
Unwilling to take another hit to his face, Harrison opted out of Metlako, despite perfect flows. I was left with a tough choice, but opted to paddle down into the quiet gorge alone. Harrison and Dan would be unable to do anything to help except run down trail in the fading light and call for a rescue, but I was confident I would nail the line.
Dropping Metlako for the second time.
Harrison Rea Photo
And with a couple hand strokes midway down, I did just that. It was a great feeling to paddle over such a huge horizon again, and an even better feeling to find my paddle wedged at the lip of the portage rapid just downstream.

Unfortunately, the hit I took at punchbowl had done far more damage to my left shoulder than I had thought. I spent the next day in a sling, and the next 3 weeks trying to recover in time for the Northwest Creeking Competition. (<-- By Eric Adsit, hey, I know that guy!) I also published Issue 5 of The Dirtbag's Guide to Whitewater.

When I finally got back in a boat, things felt good. Really good.

To the left, John Edwards on Sunset Falls

To the right, Benny Small planting a solid one on Champagne

Everything went as smoothly as I could have asked. 3 laps down the East Fork, a rowdy night amongst new friends, and a solid lap down Canyon Creek at a great flow had me stoked on boating and boating culture. Since then, I've been taking as many photos as possible on the familiar runs.

Nate Merrel taking headed into Swizzle Sticks

John Edwards on Big Kahuna

Tony on the same

Stacked action for Gus Kilgore and Eli Nicholson on Champagne/Hammering Spot

The 'Illusive' Gnarsper on the same
When I can't paddle, I've been going on some stout hikes with Mike "I'm serious, it's an ass-kicker" Braun, who likes trails that go up and down a lot.


and down

For hazy vistas and really tasty peanut butter honey burritos...
To top it all off, I bought a camera. A real one! To celebrate I'm starting the classic Project 365. A photo a day, every day for a year. Probably easiest to follow along here.

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I am a freelance writer and photographer, collector of experiences, adventure lover, and outdoor goer.