Class III – IV whitewater Category

Rogue River Staff Trip 2016 – a Wild & Scenic adventure

Rogue River Staff Trip 2016

Wild & Scenic Section:
Almeda Park to Foster Bar ~ 38 miles
October 25-27, 2016

This fall, as the flurry of summer faded, our staff took an opportunity for some R&R on the water.  It’s rare for the staff’s days-off to lineup for a single session, and a chance to go on a multi-day trip is exceptionally elusive.  So, despite a foreboding weather forecast (100% rain all week), we rallied two rigs, a trailer, and nine of us south to the Rogue River.

(Don’t forget to check out the three slide-shows at the end!)

Team Alder Creek

Back Row: Dave, Matt, Byron, Andrew, Paul. Front Row: Meloy, Alex, Ethan, Brent

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Kobuk River Alaska 2016

 

Walker Lake, Alaska

Kobuk River, Alaska

Put In: Walker Lake

Take Out:  Shugnak

Mileage on Kobuk River: 125

Rapids: class III for ½ mile in upper canyon and class II for ½ mile in lower canyon

Fishing: Arctic Grayling at Walker Lake outlet and Sheefish along the middle Kobuk.

Who: 12 old friends

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Advanced Creeking Clinic on Canyon Creek

Enjoy Dave Trageser’s recount of his Personal First Descent of Canyon Creek during an Advanced Creeking Clinic!
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“A successful descent of Washington’s Canyon Creek was on my bucket list for 2015.  This gem of a run located just outside of Amboy, WA, is a staple of the steep creeking community in Portland and a wintertime playground for whitewater boaters from all over the region due to its incredibly favorable fun to consequence ratio.  In my mind, I had pictured myself checking Canyon Creek off the list sometime in April or May once I had spent all winter preparing myself for such a steep, intimidating class IV run.  Part of this preparation was supposed to be participating in one of Alder Creek’s Advanced Creeking Clinics on a less committing run. However, the script got flipped on me when a sunny weekend dried up all of our options for the class and the call was made: Canyon Creek would be had on Sunday, January 25th.
“Canyon Creek starts with some benign rapids in a beautiful setting just downstream from the Fly Creek bridge before picking up pace and delivering several miles of fun and exciting drops that carry you through an immensely deep & steep gorge before crashing to a halt when the creek dumps into Lake Merwin.  Most of the rapids are ledges, with some bouldery jumbles interspersed to keep you on your toes.  The first named rapid on Canyon Creek is Swizzle Sticks, a series of sporty holes which marks the beginning of the upper gorge section that should most definitely be scouted for wood.  Fortunately for us the whole section was clean & clear. The upper gorge ends with Terminator, a funky 5 foot ledge that requires a move up high on the left to avoid a very nasty hole at the base of this drop on the right.  Miss a stroke like I did and you’ll definitely need to show off the old combat roll for your friends 🙂
“Below Terminator, several more ledges and bouldery drops carry you downstream to Prelude and Thrasher, two of the most fun drops on the whole creek.  Prelude requires a big boof off the very right side of this broken ledge and then some solid paddle strokes upon landing, as the hole at the base is sticky and carries a powerful upstream current.  Thrasher itself has a more straightforward line. The most important component to a successful run is to point your bow to the right when you land (a big old lefty boof off the rock in the middle of that ledge).  Thrasher also marks the start line for the Canyon Creek race every Spring, something I hope to be able to participate in this season!
“Below Thrasher, a long and complex boulder garden follows and climaxes with… you guessed it, another ledge and several sporty holes.  One of these absolutely crushed me, which was fine since I was feeling warm and needed to check out the scenery below river level anyhow 🙂  After more than my fair share of fun taking the tour of the boulder garden, the creek reaches a fairly large horizon line that is the lip of the Big Falls, or Big Kahuna.  Kahuna is 18 feet or so of sheer fun & excitement. The classic line is down the right and off a very obvious rock flake that auto-boofs you down into the aerated pool below.  Take note: you should keep your weight trimmed forwards as the water gets very swirly and dynamic at the base of this waterfall. I ended up in the back seat of my kayak and had to show off the combat roll again for the whole group.  Despite a pounding ice cream headache from the icy waters and more than a little fatigue, this drop is a classic that I would gladly lap again & again if it wasn’t such a pain to get back up to the top!
“After Kahuna there’s plenty of bouldery mank to keep you excited before you reach Champagne and the Hammering Spot, two picturesque waterfalls that are each 10 feet or so.  I gladly followed Paul off the middle of Champagne, and with a healthy boof stroke I stomped the landing and then immediately headed for the very right side of the Hammering Spot (go left and discover why that rapid got its name at your own peril) and repeated the process: giant stroke, knees up, stomp the landing, war cry of triumph in the eddy below.  The last major rapid is Toby’s, a very ugly, broken ledge that is backed up with all kinds of manky boulders that I chose to portage on the left.  Below Toby’s is lake Merwin and about a mile of flatwater paddling to the takeout. Make sure you keep some victory beers in your kayak or at the takeout, because they will be well deserved after that much hard boating.  I feel so fortunate to have had such an amazing opportunity to explore a truly magical place that is off limits to most people out there. Without the skills, confidence and a capable craft, there’s no other way to see it.  Next up on my bucket list for 2015 is another descent of Canyon Creek – maybe with less time spent probing the juiciest holes and more time spent airing out some massive boofs :)”
-Dave Trageser

Washougal River Post-Holiday Paddle

Washougal River Post Xmas Paddle
What better way to shake off the post holiday hangover than a little bit of icy cold water in the face on a wintertime Washington classic?  This year, after consuming entirely too much food (and maybe too much alcohol) on Christmas, I begrudgingly rolled out of bed for an early morning lap on the Washougal River near Camas, WA.  The Washougal has been one of my favorite winter runs for years because of its easy access from Portland, lovely rapids that range from very benign to fairly exciting, and surprisingly pleasant scenery for a river that lies just 30 minutes east of downtown Portland.  After spending some time at the fisherman’s takeout about 3 miles up Washougal River Rd. shaking off the cobwebs and realizing that one of our crew forgot his drysuit (sorry, Pete), we dressed for the cold and piled into Scott’s Tacoma and headed up the road.  The Washougal has several good spots to access the river along the road depending on how much excitement you’re up for, you just have to be respectful of private property.
For the classic “Big Eddy” section that we had chosen for the day, a permit parking boat ramp pull off at milepost 8 is an ideal spot to put on as it gives you easy access to the river and a little bit of a warm up paddle to get your blood flowing before you reach Big Eddy, a steep, boulder garden that is foreshadowed by (you guessed it) a very, very large eddy above the biggest drop on this section.  Having scouted this drop on the way up (pull off the road on the right after milepost 7 and a green chain link fence that punctuates a large bend to the left in the road), we were all confident in our lines and dropped in, diving through holes and hopping from one eddy to another as we worked our way towards the bottom.  This was an exciting experience for me as I chose a new-to-me line down the left hand side of the river that climaxed with a fun little slot move between two fairly large boulders right at the crux of the drop.  I couldn’t help but let out a little “yip” of excitement after a solid line through this challenging rapid, and after sharing some stoke in the eddy at the bottom I no longer wished that I had stayed in bed.
Peeling out & heading downstream we were treated to some warm sunshine as well as the rest of the run rapids that the Washougal has to offer.  Immediately below Big Eddy is a fairly straightforward class III rapid that is punctuated by a nice hole toward the bottom (small at our flows but with the potential to be huge, frothy & mildly terrifying at high water) that is easily skirted by working left as you near the bottom of the drop.  Smooth lines were had by all as we navigated our way downstream through the boogie water and around a few holes that punctuate the next major rapid downstream (look for a bridge over the river as a good indicator).
We weren’t the only ones out enjoying some post Xmas sunshine, the banks were dotted with anglers and we even had the requisite “you’re crazy” response from one drift boat full of fisherman after they asked us where we had put on and whether or not we’d run through Big Eddy.  Chatting with the locals ate up some time during the meandering flatwater stretches between fun surf waves & boulder gardens that characterize the Washougal, and before too long we had navigated our way all the way down to another drop that makes the Washougal one of my favorite rivers, Cougar Creek rapids.
Cougar Creek starts with the river splitting into two channels around a small, gravelly island (both channels go just fine) and rejoins above a decent sized ledge hole and then crashes down through some surging waves that amplify midway through the rapid as Cougar Creek enters from the right.  This rapid offers incredible scenery near the bottom and features some very fun and challenging moves with a clean, flat run out, making it an ideal spot for working on skills.  After slicing this drop up by catching some nifty little eddies, we hustled downstream towards the takeout, catching the occasional wave on the fly and enjoying a short surf to break up the monotony of the boogie water between us and the takeout.
The river’s flow on this day (around 6 feet or 1,000 cfs) on the Hathaway gauge) was on the low side of medium and made for a great experience overall.  This section of river is a great intermediate run as it has great features for skill building (ample surf waves, a few circuits to run) and a challenging rapid or two dotted in along the way.  Toss in a great crew and some sunshine and I didn’t miss sleeping in at all.  Happy holidays!
-David Trageser

Rogue River Trip Report

Rogue River Trip Report:
Graves Creek to Foster Bar Self Support
5/3/14-5/5/14
3,800 cfs

Earlier in May I had the opportunity to check another classic multi-day river trip off of my list by heading down to Merlin, Oregon and putting onto the Rogue River for a fantastic adventure.  After working at the store for nearly 3 weeks straight, this 3-day trip on the river with a group of friends was a very welcome chance to decompress after a hectic spring sale.  The Rogue River trip is an absolute classic multi-day adventure that had always eluded me.  After completing the journey, I don’t think I could ever go so long without doing it again.  Although this trip was my first self support adventure on a river, I quickly found that years of multi-day sea kayaking adventures prepared me well for the challenge of properly loading all of my belongings into my creek boat (BTW I could not endorse the LG Karma enough for this type of trip; I could have easily packed twice as much stuff in there and still had room to spare) at the Graves Creek boat ramp just west of Galice.  The action starts right away with Graves Creek Rapids (class III) and then the river settles into its pool drop character and establishes a nice rhythm of features and flat water all combined with breathtaking scenery.  Fairly soon we came upon Rainie Falls, and after dodging poison oak down the hiking trail to scout it, I opted to run the fish ladder on the far right which was a fun, splashy ride into the eddy below.  Numerous wave trains and small drops dotted the next 15 or so miles until we reached our camp at Big Windy Creek on day 1.  Were it not for the bugs, I would have slept out underneath the dazzling array of stars, but the mosquitoes were biting so I settled for an obstructed view through the mesh of the tent (no rain fly, though!) and caught some much needed sleep for the mammoth day that lay ahead.  Day 2 of our Rogue River trip was an epic slog through most of the famous portions of the Rogue, we covered almost 25 miles that day of hair raising rapids and flat water stretches through river canyon walls that appear almost completely untouched by the modern world.  Most of the day was straightforward point & shoot river running through many fun class III drops which all provided a nice warm up for the crux of the whole run, Mule Creek Canyon and Blossom Bar.  Mule Creek was stunning: the river winds through sheer rock walls and has many small cascades tumbling into the narrow, swirly channel.  Mule Creek was in fact so beautiful that I felt compelled to check out the “fish perspective” for a second or two.  Fortunately I rolled up and didn’t have to test out the dryness of any of my bags or find out just what I hadn’t secured well enough into my kayak.  Directly after Mule Creek Canyon lies Blossom Bar, an ugly, bouldery jumble that looked significantly harder in a raft than it was in a kayak.  After some scouting and deliberation on river right, I saw my line and scrambled back down the bank (still dodging poison oak left and right) and climbed back into my kayak.  Everyone in the group styled the rapid and we rejoiced by paddling for another 7 miles through flat water to find an unoccupied campsite.  Sunday morning was a dreary and rainy paddle to Foster Bar boat ramp, which was mercifully short and sweet without many rapids of note.  Peeling off the wet paddling layers and warming up again with some hot cocoa while we waited for our shuttle rig to arrive hit the spot almost as much as cracking a couple of victory beers during the windy shuttle ride back to Merlin.

DT all smiles on the Rogue River trip!  Photo by Heath Barber

DT all smiles on the Rogue River trip! Photo by Heath Barber

I could not recommend this trip highly enough; the Rogue is a magical place with scenery and whitewater that stacks up against any trip anywhere.  If you’re going to go, here are a couple of recommendations: mind the poison oak, it is seriously everywhere and can ruin a trip (or the 2 weeks after) very quickly.  The early bird doesn’t have to paddle through the wind in the afternoon, get up and get moving so you can be off the river once it gets windy.  Bring a camera, I wish I had brought one to capture just a few of the sights and the natural beauty of this place.  Instead of paying someone to shuttle your car to the takeout, pay them less money to come pick you up and bring you back to the put in, this is so the way to go it’s not even a joke.  Think about it: you can have them use your gas and drive your car like it’s an off road rally and have it sit unattended at the boat ramp for who knows how long, or you can leave your car behind a locked gate for 3 days and have someone else with a trailer grab you and your gear and chauffeur you back, plus it is legal to drink in the shuttle rig as long as you don’t sit up front.  Stop making excuses and go do this Rogue River trip, you will only regret not having done it sooner!

-David Trageser

Check out some photos of the trip by Heath Barber HERE!

Northwest Creeking Competition 2014

The start line

The start line

What do you get when you combine 200 racers with equal parts spectators & volunteers to match, lots of sunshine, tasty beer, amazing raffle prizes and a dash of water?  You get the amazing 2014 Northwest Creeking Competition of course!  This year team Alder Creek was out in force at the NWCC and this year’s event was better than ever.  It was truly great to see so many smiling faces all over the race course and event grounds for what is becoming one of the West Coast’s premiere whitewater festivals.  Pros and locals (and many local pros) mingled throughout the weekend on and off the river as hundreds of people converged on Sunset Falls campground on the banks of the East Fork of the Lewis River for this two day, downriver race.  On Saturday the stoke from team Alder Creek was at an all time high as Andrew Romanelli celebrated his 30th birthday by participating in the race for the first time and Paul Kuthe took home the hardware for winning the K1 Long Pro race category and turning in the fastest time of the day in his super nifty P&H Hammer.  Ninkasi Brewing from Eugene, Oregon made sure that nobody went thirsty on Saturday night (although they may have also ensured a few hangovers the following morning, so it goes) and the good vibrations carried on well into the night.  Sunday’s race down Canyon Creek near Amboy, Washington was also a smashing success, this year we had more racers than ever and sunny weather with temperatures reaching 70+ degrees.  Despite some grumblings from the rubber pushers about low water I think everyone had a great time at this volunteer run & organized event, we could not have asked for more.  A big “thank you” goes out to all of the event sponsors and the volunteers for making it happen, until next year!
David Trageser

 

Paul Kuthe races to 1st place!

Paul Kuthe races to 1st place!

I’ve been hearing about this awesome event since moving to Portland in 2010.  Two of my co-workers, Paul Kuthe and David Trageser, volunteer a lot of time and effort each year for this mystical race.  Each year I get to hear how awesome the atmosphere is on the river while I’m working in the shop over the weekend.  At this point in April, we aren’t staffed very heavily which makes it difficult to get three of us the whole weekend off.  This year, however, I had something of a golden ticket: the Creek Comp was also my birthday weekend!  What better way to celebrate that past three decades than with friends along the river?!  It also provided some significant leverage to draw enough sympathy that my shifts got covered!  I got to Sunset Falls Campground a day before to lend a hand.  In exchange for a bit of yardwork, a nearby resident graciously allows all of these paddlers to take out at his property, the finish line.  What took 20 people little more than an hour would have taken him days, and I’m happy that we could help him out!  We could all use a little more river karma, right?  Practicing “race laps”, searching for the fastest line rather than catching as many eddies as possible, was a new thing for me.  Saturday, my birthday, would present the first paddling of being 30 years old as well as my first race ever!  Full of buzz Friday night, I sat by the campfire counting rocks, drops and turns in my mind.  Saturday came with the sun shining and a steady trail of colorful paddlers streaming towards Sunset Falls.  I was very pleased with my race that day!  Though I came nowhere close to the fastest times, I look forward to cleaning up my lines and working out my racing strategy.  The Saturday race on the East Fork of the Lewis River is a long, hard haul, paddling with sincere purpose and direction for almost 12 minutes (10.5 minutes for the winners).  I was exhausted by the time I slid into the eddy at the finish line.  Searching for a balance of rest and celebration that afternoon, I had a great time sitting by the falls with endless entertainment flying downstream.  Saturday night wrapped up with a great raffle and over 100 excited/exhausted racers.  I “birthday’d” about as hard as I raced that night, surrounded by amazing company and cheer, and Sunday came a bit sooner than I would have liked!  Slow around camp, my right shoulder was still feeling unstable from the day before, and I felt no guilt in relishing in all of the excellent moments that Saturday offered.  Passing on the Canyon Creek race that Sunday, it was nice to leisurely pack up camp and make my way home for a cheeseburger and a nap.  I had an amazing time with great people that weekend.  Our paddling community is rich (in spirit and smiles, that is) and supportive.  What an incredible venue with excellent safety for this stellar event.  Oh, and Paul Kuthe won his race for the first time after nearly a decade of volunteering and organizing this event!  Way to bring home that belt buckle, buddy!  With any luck, the weekend will line up again next year so I can return to this wonderful event.  I’m hoping to cut 30 seconds off my East Fork of the Lewis race lap next year, and I’m going to be DIALED for that Canyon Creek race on Sunday.  I’ll also be sure to get some more sleep. 😉
Andrew Romanelli

Andrew Romanelli with a birthday boof!

Andrew Romanelli with a birthday boof!

Molalla River “3 Bears” for Creek Boating Basics

February 23, 2014
2,000cfs
by David Trageser

creek boating basics

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to explore a new section of river (for me, anyhow) as part of Alder Creek’s Creek Boating Basics class with Paul Kuthe. When it was all said and done, I was left to wonder how the heck it took me so long to explore the breathtakingly beautiful scenery and pristine whitewater of the Molalla River. Located just an hour or so southeast of Portland, the 3 Bears section of the Molalla is a fantastic alternative to some of the other commonly run rivers in the area and a great training ground for aspiring creek boaters. The Molalla is a roadside run which allows for very easy scouting of all the major rapids as you set shuttle at the beginning of the day, and it presents the perfect blend of commitment and access for the run (the road is never far away, but not always reachable due to the occasionally gorged out basalt walls during stretches). On this day, the river flow and conditions were right out of the Goldilocks tale; not too pushy, not too bony, just about perfect. We even had a bit of sunshine which helped boost everybody’s mood and set the tone for a fantastic day on the water.

creek boating basics

A short but sweet class II-III warm up section got the blood flowing and loosened everyone up for the first major rapid, known as “Papa Bear,” which is foreshadowed by an immense basalt formation on the river right wall that looks like a gigantic mushroom. After establishing a plan for support and navigation of the rapid, we were off one at a time to begin weaving our way through this long, exciting drop. Precise boat control and the ability to safely control descent through class III whitewater is a must for Papa Bear. I was very glad to have spent most of the first day of class on Bull Run working on those very skills, and it made our descent of the rapid pleasantly uneventful and fun.

creek boating basics

creek boating basics

Some smaller rapids and a few excellent play features kept us entertained until we came around a sharp right bend in the river that signals the crux of the run, the long, bouldery rapid known as Mama Bear. This class IV drop merits a solid plan and a support crew, which was a perfect opportunity for us to put into practice many of the skills we had worked on throughout the weekend. The crux move at Mama Bear is perhaps too fun to be legal; after navigating the bumpy entrance into the climax of Mama Bear (which wants to push you into a nasty, ominous looking house sized boulder) a flare boof with right momentum and angle between the two “goalpost” boulders gets you into a powerful eddy on river right that allows for easy navigation of the run out and merits a hearty war cry for successful completion (at least I thought so…). Once you’ve made this move, the fun is only half over as you still have to wind your way through and around a few boulders down into a dramatically deep gorge that at times is only a boat length or two wide. Watch out for a nasty penalty rock towards the center right of the entry to the gorge as the river makes a sharp left hand bend. Getting right of that thing and up against the river right wall is the best way to go (the left side of the run out below Mama Bear is shallow and manky, and that’s putting it nicely). As the river narrows below Mama Bear, you get some excellent standing waves as you crash downhill into a breathtakingly beautiful and dramatic basalt gorge, eventually coming to rest in moving flat water with the “Eye of the Molalla” (a spiraling basalt rock formation that looks very much like a gigantic eyeball) towering overhead on the river right wall. It’s worth noting that any swims at Mama Bear often result in navigating the run out of the rapid and the gorge without your kayak, as there are no eddies to stop in and sheer cliff walls on either side that leave you boxed in temporarily.

creek boating basics

creek boating basics

After Mama Bear, we found a good lunch spot and worked on eddy hopping and set ferries through some more fun class II-III rapids until we reached the takeout and the last named rapid, Baby Bear. Unlike the first two named rapids, baby Bear is concise and lacks a complex lead in, however it still merits a scout and support. At Baby Bear, most of the river flows over a chunky basalt ledge and spills off to the right into a large rock outcropping on the right. The hole that forms at the bottom is chaotic and trashy, and gets worse the further right you are, however it flushes fairly cleanly into a short pool before the river continues on downstream over another series of manky ledges that would not be very much fun to navigate without a kayak. Our group took turns dropping into Baby Bear after setting support on the rocks and in the river left eddy at the base of the rapid which turned out to be great fun. At the water level we experienced, I opted to drive to the left, punching the top wave with a big right sweep stroke and following it immediately with another powerful right boof stroke which propelled me into the eddy below and left me grinning from ear to ear. At lower flows this may not be the best option, as the base of the ledge is very rocky and shallow on the left side. Another option would be to drop in just left of center with a strong right sweep stroke and then to skirt through the hole (be ready to brace on your right hip!) and ride it out. After everyone stuck the line at Baby Bear, we practiced some seal launching techniques on the rocks above before calling it a day.

creek boating basics

creek boating basics

Steve is in New Zealand; Part 1

It’s the first week of my family’s vacation in New Zealand. In a month we’ll be covering most of both islands. This last week while visiting family friends on the North Island, I got the chance to tag along on a whitewater rafting trip down the Rangitikei River. There were over 30 other young people piled into 6 rafts and myself in an inflatable kayak as well as the safety boaters/photographers. Before loading up, I learned that the water had been exceptionally low but rising quickly because of heavy rainfall the night before. By the time we were on the water the levels had raised to a great flow.

The section of river ran was about 6 miles of steep canyon walls with large smooth boulders to navigate around. It reminded me of a more scenic version of the Lower Wind River with endless technical moves and ledges to drop. The upper section was a relatively mild warm up of forgiving class III moves. The lower was a bit spicier with a good drop and speedy chutes. I had plenty of boat to move by solo piloting a tandem IK! I would have preferred to be in a hard shell kayak but It was good to error on the side of caution considering it was a river I had never paddled with people I had just met.

Over all it was an absolute blast. New Zealand is an endless haven for whitewater paddlers, and this river left me just as awe-struck as ever. I caught a little footage on the way down and spliced it together, so please have a look considering my words can’t do this place justice. I’m looking forward to another run down this river with some new friends when I’m on the North Island again in a couple weeks.

In the meantime, as one of the guides said, “I’ll be back paddling”.

-Steve

The Alsek River: A “Top 10” River Trip

The Alsek River: A “Top 10” River Trip

By: Dave Slover, Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe

Dates of Trip: Aug 21 to Sept 3, 2013

Photo by Dave Slover

Every once in a while you get a chance to do something out on the edge, a trip that is remarkable, beautiful, memorable; in other words a “Trip of a Lifetime”. When these opportunities come up there can be only one answer,  “Sure – I’m in”.  Then reality sets in about what you just committed to – time off work, time away from family, significant financial expenses and a whole host of other conflicting feelings. As I prepare for the trip, I know it will be worth it.

We are going to Alaska and British Columbia and the Yukon. What about Bears, mosquitoes, wind and rain? Will spending two weeks with a bunch of other 40 and 50 year old men/boys be worth the experience? Can we pull this off in our Aire Lynx II or Aire Outfitter II inflatable kayaks? Will the Liquor store in Haines Jct. have enough Patron to get our group through the trip?

Two years earlier it was easy to say yes to this trip. We are a strong group full of “type A” adventurer’s, Jon C. is a great organizer and we have done trips together in the past. We get along great. A week off during my busy season would not be that tough… But as the time grew near, a few realities set in. The trip was long; 185 miles on the river, the logistics are challenging; Day 1: Drive to Seattle, Day 2: fly to Juneau on Alaska Air, then take Wings of Alaska to Haines, Day 3: drive to Haines Junction in the Yukon Territory and launch, Days 3 to 13: run the river, Day 13: Yakutat Coastal Air from Dry Bay to Yakutat and Alaska Air back to Seattle, Day 14: Drive from Seattle to Portland. Oops, it is not a 1 week trip but actually 2 weeks. How about that for adding a bit of stress to the work scene and family life?

One of the things that make a trip like this work is spreading out all the planning and organizing duties. One person cannot do it all and still enjoy the trip plus we all have strengths and weaknesses.  In other words, put a cop on lead for border crossings, have the geologist in charge of maps, the engineering geeks deal with batteries and electronics, the old hippies in charge of music, an ex-river guide in charge on the water and everyone putting in their two cents on the bear fence. Food is broken out into 3 person teams for each day so you only have to work like a dog twice while on the river. Most importantly give your expedition mates the benefit of the doubt. We all have good days and sometimes we have a bad one. I was happy to fill the role of ex-river guide as it meant that I had very little pre-planning work to do. As a leader on the river all I had to do was coordinate with the GPS and map team to make sure we got to the right camps, lined up with the correct braided channels, found the helicopter portage spot above Turnback Canyon and most importantly got to the Dry Bay air strip at the correct time. By having team meetings every morning it is pretty easy to get the group all on the same page, most of the time.

Here is how the original duties were set up for our trip:

Jon                         Bank, Logistics
Geof                      Kitchen, GPS, Bear Fence
John                      Barge, Kitchen
William                 Food Lead, Music
Gary                     Customs, Bears
Peter                     Maps, GPS, Bear Fence
David                     Bear Fence
David                     River Leader, Toilet
Kevin                     Fire Box, Fire, Tarps
John                      Live Music
Thomas                Live Music
Michael                First Aid, Barge, Gas
Eugene                  Live Music
Jim                         Repair Kit, Kitchen
Craig                      Water 

 

 

Highlights of the trip included but were not limited to the following short stories:

Man Down… Haines Alaska. Recipe for personal disaster – stay up all night on the east coast packing; fly all day, get dehydrated, join the group at happy hour, take 3 shots of Patron’, stand up, get dizzy, fall down and pass out in the hallway at the restaurant.  The cook finds you and calls 911. Three hours later you have missed dinner, racked up a big ER bill and are the only sober member left on the team.

Photo by Dave Slover

Launch to Serpentine. It was 3:00 pm when we hit the water of the Dezadeasch River. The boats are all loaded and pretty heavy but there is plenty of current and the weather, so far, is holding. We have heard about groups taking 3 days to travel this first 11 miles, but we seem to be getting lucky. The water on this stretch gets shallow, braids out and the wind can really blow. By 4 pm we understand what the guide in the bar last night was talking about. We have big wind, driving rain and most of the time we are walking in front of the kayak pulling it along. By 7 pm we are at camp (light until 9:30 pm) setting up the tarps and getting our traditional 1st night dinner of lamb BBQ prepared. Heavy SE Alaska rain with wind battered us most of the night. I am already regretting bringing a small 1 man tent as I try to get in without bringing the rain in with me.

Serpentine to Marble Creek. We have a slow morning as we develop the group rhythm of the daily duties and what this trip is going to take to accomplish. Once on the river we move slowly in the frog water. The wind and rain has let up and we even see the sun begin to peek through. After 5 miles of hard paddling we reach the confluence of the Dezadeash and the Kaskawulsh Rivers which together form the Alsek River. The current picks up as we work our way through 5 miles of braided channels. We have lunch at Lava creek and then back on the water to Marble creek. The main river is very silty and so are most of the side streams. When we see a clear creek we stop and fill all our water storage. Our group of 15 is going through about 10 – 12 gallons per day of clear water. Plus lots of beer, wine and Patron. So far we have seen tracks for wolf, bear, moose but no sightings of actual animals. We have seen Tundra swans, Mountain goats, ducks and a couple hawks.

Photo by Dave Slover

Marble Creek to Lowell Lake. The whitewater picked up a bit on this stretch. The water is not difficult but it does require paying attention. There are fairly big poor over’s with large recirculating holes backing them up. These features are hard to see in the silty water and in our IK’s the result of going into one is not very desirable. Super G has one dump and self rescue in this section. We get to our camp at Lowell Lake and the majestic view is awe inspiring. Things are big here, we have a 2 -3 mile lake between us and Lowell Glacier, Goatherd Mountain is right behind camp and is 2700 feet above us. Lowell Glacier runs for 30 + miles down the valley from the mountains. When the sun is out team spirits are high and everyone is looking forward to the layover day coming up. In the afternoon we paddle across the lake to the base of the glacier. It takes a full hour to get across the lake but paddling around icebergs and below a 200 ft glacier wall is worth it. The Bandits pull off a perfect Sockeye Salmon with pasta salad dinner.

Lay over at Lowell Lake. We sleep late and wake up to a sunny morning. Most of the group decides to hike up to Goatherd Mountain. It is a steep 6 mile hike up 2700 feet. Well worth it as the alpine terrain is incredible and the views spectacular. We had T-shirt weather and sunshine all day. When we get back to camp we play cards, take baths and I call home on the satellite phone. It is always a weird feeling to be in the middle of nowhere and connect with the daily routine back home. We have a light night of partying as we all know we have to get by Sam’s and Lava North tomorrow. I don’t usually like layover days but today was a real “10”.

Lowell Lake to Fisher Glacier outlet. Today is the whitewater day on the Alsek River. We start off paddling out of Lowell Lake. Paddling around and in between the icebergs makes for a very beautiful start to the day. Once we hit the current the gradient picks up and off we go. We are paddling class 1 and 2 water with ice chunks all around. These ice chunks are an interesting way to add difficulty to a rapid. At Sam’s rapid we take the right channel and skip the big class IV – V waves and holes. While sneaking along we surprise a grizzly bear on the right bank. Once again we get to see the butt of a grizzly; I love it when they run. Next we come to Lava North. We look at three options, run the gut, sneak on the left of the gut or boulder hop down the small channel along the shoreline. Out here in the middle of nowhere we choose the easiest option. It is funny to be 53 years old and cautious. We still see some action today; Craig flips and swims and self rescues 3 times (twice right below Lava North) and Dave W hits a big hole, surfs and dumps then Super G gets caught in a swirly headwall and dumps too. Unless you are right next to the upset kayak (which is usually the cause for the dump in the first place) there is very little we can do for each other. This river is big, Big, BIG! As with all high adventure days we end with a boisterous celebration. This evening I was hiking behind camp and a peregrine falcon flew around and landed on a rock only 20 feet away. A Super awesome day…another “10”. Weather is clear and sunny.

Fisher Glacier to Range Creek. Today we have very busy water all day. Super G, Dave W and Craig all practice their last capsize drills for the trip. The rapids are fun rollers with occasional holes to miss. The reflex waves are powerful and the headwall turns are no place to screw around. We cover 15 miles in 3 hours and camp on river right just below the first island. While hiking I find a huge sandy beach ½ mile down on the right that would have made an even better camp. Folks are tuckered out and we have a mellow evening; everyone is in bed by 9 pm. Today was another dry day but windy and cloudy.

Range Creek to Blackadar Camp. Today was another “10” (yes that makes 3 so far…) Sunny weather, numerous wave trains and rolling waves. The vistas are unbelievable – Mt Blackadar, Tweedsmuir Glacier and the entrance to Turnback Canyon. The yin/yang of this trip is coming up tomorrow. We are in the middle of nowhere but we get a helicopter ride around the 6 mile portage of Turnback Canyon. Since we have the satellite phone and we are low on beverages, we arrange for a resupply. The world is a lot smaller than it used to be and team spirits rise with the arrival of more beer, wine and Patron.

Helicopter portage of Turnback Canyon then Tweedsmuir to Confluence. Dion from Trans North Helicopters arrived right on schedule (with our resupply!), the day is sunny again and we get a beautiful series of three human flights and three gear flights around Turnback Canyon. The morning is smooth and before we know it we are alone again. We gear up and head downstream 20 miles towards Confluence camp. We hit speeds of 8+ miles per hour as we work our way through the braids. The highlight on this stretch is a big grizzly sighting; the bear stands up and contemplates eating Jon C. Luckily he decides against it and heads off into the brush. The scenery here is much more lush and the trees are green. This side of the Tweedsmuir is more SE coastal and less of the alpine zone we were in upstream. The day has a bit of excitement as Craig tries to exit a boiling eddy with trees and whirlpools in it. That’s right flip # 5 for Craig and the team hits double digits as Super G is holding with three and Dave W two. Another “10 day”!

Photo by Dave Slover

Layover at Confluence. How many glaciers can you count? We count close to 30 from this camp. Another scenery overload at this awesome layover day campsite. The funny story today happens as we repack and organize our food. As we review our menu and compare it to the food we have left and then days left on the river, it becomes clear that we are short three planned meals. Nobody can quite figure out how Jon planned 11 days on the river but Bill only coordinated 10 days. Luckily there are plenty of leftovers and there is no issue at all. We made up an extra dinner, breakfast and lunch out of existing leftovers and nobody went hungry! The weather finally breaks and we get back to clouds and rain.

Confluence to Fireweed. Today is one of those days when getting old sucks. I wake up with a super stiff back. I’m sure dragging kayaks around and using poor posture to lift stuff has contributed to my pain. Thanks to the Bandits I get my gear packed and flop into my boat. We have very foggy weather this morning which makes for a surreal scene. Lunch is a beautiful spot at Fisher glacier where we see the biggest bear print of the trip. I work on my stretching all afternoon at camp and seem to be getting better.

Fireweed to Gateway Knob. I wake up with itchy ankles, actually kankles. Fireweed is a lowland camp and happens to be full of no-see-ums. This is the only camp on the river trip with bugs that were a bother. The trip to Gateway Knob is uneventful, we choose door # 3 which has slow current and is not clogged with icebergs. We had heard of a trip which spent 3 days stuck in door #2 which is still clogged up with ice. This is once again scenery overload; ice bergs, glaciers and Mt. Fairweather. Beautiful.  We enjoy our last beer. We spend a couple of hours messing around on the banks of Gateway Knob before heading off to our last camp. The weather and scenery combine to make one final “10”. Number five on this incredible river adventure.

Gateway Knob to Dry Bay air strip. Day 12 on the river. We get up at 4:20 am just to make sure where all the kids are, launch before full daylight, run our last couple easy rapids and then paddle like dogs up the slough to the air strip. Hans from Yakutat Coastal arrives and we take three loads to get up to the Alaska Air flight out of Yakutat. We spend the afternoon repacking our gear and making 40 loads (35 of 49 lbs and 5 of 74 lbs – total baggage cost of $950) to fly home to Seattle. We go from absolute wilderness to a bush plane ride to Yakutat then on to Seattle in a stretch of about 18 hours. Not a “10”.

Seattle to Portland. TK and I try to avoid responsibility as long as possible. We crank the Grateful Dead on the Satellite radio and avoid our phones until just north of Portland. Even though we have been gone two weeks the realities of life grab us quickly and the memories of the Alsek River fade as the responsibilities of life and work return.

A grand journey with good friends, breath taking scenery, memories to last a lifetime and the wheels already set in motion planning the next great adventure up north.

Thank you to the people that made this trip possible:

Suzi and Joey – my special family!

Jon Corriveau – our administrator, extraordinary planner and great friend!

Yakutat Coastal Airways – Hans & Tanya

www.flyyca.com  (907)784-3831

Trans North Helicopters – Dion

(867)634-2242

AlaskaRiverOutfitters – Stan and Kate

(907) 766-3307

TheAlsekRiverGuidebook: By Russ Lyman 2004

http://www.cloudburstproductions.net

Links to good maps:

http://www.cloudburstproductions.net/tatshenshini-and-alsek-maps

Link to the river hydrograph:

http://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=pajk&gage=alea2

 

Paddle with the Pros; a Demshitz clinic

The Demshitz crew rallied on the White Salmon River this summer with the public to give tips on kayaking technique and shooting video!

This free clinic was held on the Middle section of the White Salmon, from BZ Corner to Husum Falls.  Paddlers got the opportunity to work on their boating skills along the way, and the Demshitz boaters gave tips about frame, angle, and content when making kayaking videos.  Check out a short video from their clinic HERE!

Steve Pilch paddles Husum Falls. Photo by Andrew Romanelli

ACA Instructor Development Workshop for River Kayaking

Feb 28-Mar 4, 2013

Alder Creek hosted this ACA IDW for River Kayaking; Photo: Andrew Romanelli

Recently, Malcolm Kelly, Steve Pilch, and myself participated in an American Canoe Association IDW to certify as whitewater instructors. There were seven candidates in all, and the course was lead by Instructor Trainer Ben Morton while assisted by Paul Kuthe and Heather Herbeck. Thanks to our excellent instructors, I learned far more than I had anticipated, bettering myself as a paddler and instructor. Ben, Paul, and Heather ran a focused yet fun course!

Instructor Trainer Ben Morton; Photo: John Whittenberger

If you find an opportunity to receive any instruction from Ben, Paul, or Heather, you shouldn’t pass it up. Ben Morton is enthusiastic, friendly, and has excellent group skills, teaching to everyone’s individual needs. I think each candidate received not only the instruction they needed but also a clear progression to continue learning and elevate our performance. Though I work with Paul Kuthe at Alder Creek, our schedules don’t allow much opportunity to receive instruction from him. It was great to experience Paul’s teaching from the position of a student! If you live in the Portland area, I strongly encourage you to pursue coaching from Paul. Check out some programs through Alder Creek and local paddling clubs! This weekend was also my first time meeting Heather Herbeck. Full of smiles and encouragement, I found Heather’s teaching style to be very informative and supportive. Based out of the Columbia Gorge, keep your ears peeled for instructional opportunities from Heather “All Smiles” Herbeck!

Instructors Heather Herbeck and Paul Kuthe; Photo: John Whittenberger

I cannot express just how much value I got out of this course, and I highly recommend this course for anyone looking to improve their river skills, especially if you aspire to lead or instruct friends, clubs, or clients!  This four and a half day course was spent mostly on the water.  Day 1 was spent covering Level 1 flatwater skills, followed by an evening pool session.  Day 2 introduced class I/II moving water on the Clackamas River.  Day 3 was spent on a class II/III stretch of the Washougal River, and the final day wrapped up Level 4 curriculum on Bull Run.  I was exhausted by the final day!  Between four, full days of paddling and working in the evenings, I had to turn lunchtime into some naptime!  Thankfully, the weather was incredible through the entire course.

Soakin up the sun! Photo: John Whittenberger

As a paddler, this course greatly improved my self awareness, cleaning up my lazy strokes and self-taught bad habits. Video assessment is not only humbling, it helped me make a connection between what I perceive myself as doing and what I’m actually doing!

Rescue practice on the Washougal River; Photo: Andrew Romanelli

As an instructor and guide, this course involved a great deal of discussion about learning styles and teaching methods. These discussions helped me assess my own learning style and understand other learning styles. Group management and rescues were other invaluable modules during the training and certification course.

Day 1; Photo: John Whittenberger

Day 2; Photo: John Whittenberger

Day 3; Photo: John Whittenberger

Day 4; Photo: John Whittenberger

This course was highly beneficial as a skill assessment and training program, and it leaves you with a clear progression for skill refinement and advancement!  Working from Level 1 to Level 4, you get a clear understanding of a paddler’s foundations on flatwater that encourage success in more dynamic environments.  Rather than having to certify in each level individually, as with the BCU, the ACA allows you to certify along the leveled progression where your abilities stand.  Afterwards, Instructor Candidates get to discuss what comes next as both an instructor and a paddler.

Beautiful weather and scenery! Photo: Andrew Romanelli

I whole-heartedly encourage paddlers so seek instruction from Ben Morton, Paul Kuthe, and Heather Herbeck, and keep your ears open for assessment and training courses from the ACA!

A huge thanks to my bosses and coworkers for helping make this opportunity possible for me!  See you on the water.

-Andrew Romanelli

ACA IDW Instructors and Candidates; Photo: Andrew Romanelli

East Fork of the Lewis River: Sunset Falls to Horseshoe Falls

Sunset Falls- Photo: Andrew Romanelli

East Fork of the Lewis River.

December 14th.  Cold, drizzly, and gray.  ~1200 cfs.  A Park-N-Huck at Sunset Falls fell into place two days earlier, introducing me to this beautiful river, but with a second vehicle for shuttle, I was finally able to run it!  We scraped $5 together for the day fee at Sunset Falls Park and put in just above the falls.  Upstream of the falls is a nice pool to warm up in and get acclimated to the brisk water.

 

Sunset Falls- Photo: Andrew Romanelli; Paddler: Chris Bensch

All three of us ran the center line over Sunset. What a cool lip! At 1200 cfs, water piles up on the center rock and banks left, dropping slightly before sending off a flake.  The first time I ran that line, I was surprised how much that flake kicked my bow up!  After lapping those falls a few times (hiking back up is straight-forward and a nice way to keep your legs warm), I preferred entering with a little speed to ride high on that center rock.

 

Photo: Andrew Romanelli; Paddler: Chris Bensch

After Sunset, there is some class III-ish boulder garden action. Quite a few opportunities for rock spins there! The first rapids are “Hippie John’s Boulder” and “Sky Pilot.” After these, the walls close in for a short gorge section.  First is “Screaming Left.”  Easy to scout, we caught the eddy and portaged this one on the left.  There is a tree slowly falling into the river from the right bank, and its branches hang immediately in the lead-in on river right.  Getting raked in the face by a curtain of one-inch branches at the top of a rapid sounds unpleasant to me.  So we seal launched just below it and ran “Dragon’s Back”, boofing off the right side into an awesome picture-taking eddy!

 

Dragon's Back- Photo: Andrew Romanelli; Paddler: Chris Bensch

The gorge section opens back up after “John’s Swimming Hole”, a fun and splashy rapid that leads to boogie water before Horseshoe Falls.  Hooray for Horseshoe!  There are four entrances, or “doors”, that create natural lines. We ran doors 2 and 3 (counting from right to left).  I have no intentions to ever run door #1 on river right, but I look forward to running door #4 on the left!

 

Horseshoe Falls- Photo: Andrew Romanelli; Paddler: Chris Bensch

All in all, the EFL was excellent: beautiful and lots of fun.  I can’t wait to go back and play!  And hopefully I can check out Copper Creek soon as well!

-Andrew Romanelli

Bull Run Powerhouse to Dodge Park: Nov 15, 2012- 650 cfs

Photo: Andrew Romanelli
 

Oregon has no shortage of beautiful rivers and quality whitewater, but few if any compare to Bull Run, a short section of fabulous whitewater that flows into the Sandy River just above Dodge Park.  Recently, several of us were lucky enough to catch a sunny November day and enjoyed some of the finest class III paddling the Pacific Northwest has to offer.  Although the stretch of Bull Run that is open to the public is quite short, the run is action packed from start to finish with great quality rapids and beautiful, pristine scenery.

Photo: Andrew Romanelli
 

Small waterfalls pour into the river from both sides, while overhanging moss and vegetation punctuate all kinds of caves, nooks and crannies that dot Bull Run along with gigantic boulders and rock formations, giving paddlers the feeling that they are in a magical, secluded and special place.  Most of the rapids are complex boulder gardens with seemingly infinite moves and lines through them, making this short but sweet classic a great spot for skill development and play, two particularly enticing qualities for an aspiring river paddler like myself.  Our crew of four worked every feature we could for as long as possible, soaking in the sun which filtered down through the trees and lush vegetation into the riverbed below, and we completed a day of hard paddling with some delicious Northwest take-out beers at the end of our run.

Photo: Andrew Romanelli
 

Bull Run is a truly magical place that is more than worth the effort to go enjoy, despite a windy shuttle road and a steep walk down to the river.  I’ll be back whenever I can to soak up more of what I consider to be the best class III paddling in the state.

-Dave Trageser

WW Symposium

Staff Trip and Rafting in Central Oregon!

We had a wonderful staff trip on the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon. The days were sunny and we had a wonderful time. Check out this short video of the canoe, kayak, and rafting trip. Wish you all could have gone with us!