Sunshine and sadness
Paddling away the tears on the West Fork Hood River

After weeks of pouring rain I was elated to wake up to a clear blue crisp June morning.   My feet barely touched the ground as I flew out the door and across the street to my shop.   Boat, paddle, drysuit, pads, helmet, skirt, check!   Wait, I need coffee...   Food is optional, coffee is not.    Crossing back to the house I happened to glance up the street to see a let that be a raccoon...fuck...oh no no no no.

I walked back in the door with twenty pound rock in my chest.   Why her?  why not my other useless cat instead?    I loved that cat,  I admired her.   Half bengal, one quarter burmese,  I knew she was special when she killed and ate a rabbit,  she was a kitten.   I had to stop her from taking the chickens.    Not only was Una drop dead gorgeous,  she was a remorseless murderer that single handedly slaughtered and devoured the breeding populations of rabbits,  rats, voles and other creatures that can quickly devatate crops you were counting on to pay the mortgage.   A heart didn't beat on our 5 acre organic farm without her permission.  Una was a priceless asset.   She barely let me touch her,  in fact, I'm pretty sure she hated me,  but I adored her and I told her so every time I walked past her for the last 3 years.

We dug a grave and I cried a class 5 waterfall.  

"Go boating."  I told myself.  "Just do it,  get in the truck,  turn the key and go boating."   I got in the car and crossed the coast range in bright beautiful sunshine,  feeling anything but stoked.

I met Mike and Koushik at Lewis and Clark and we jammed out to Hood River.    I was hoping to hit the East Fork today,  but the flow dropped out and I could only find takers for a West Fork run,  which is hardly a bad consolation prize.   Driving past the Dee to Tucker run Mike comments:

"It's looking pretty turgid."

"Um,  you're talking about the river?"  I asked with a raised eyebrow,  never having heard that word describe anything other than an engorged bit of one's anatomy, 
I did a quick mental dictionary check:  Turgid- swollen with fluid. 
"Sure, I guess it's turgid."  I accepted.

"You know,"  Mike said,  "all silty and brown."

"Ah,"  I exclaimed,  "you mean turbid!"    We all had a good laugh.

First the obligatory stop for what can only loosely be defined as food.

At the put in I leaned over and my not yet opened beer fell out of my PFD and blew a hole near the bottom of the can and started spraying.    To my eyes, there was only one way to save the situation.   Mike grabbed my camera and caught the moment.

Checking the gauge.

I wandered down to the put in to find my Nemisis,  the Screw Trap.    These alien space ships mysteriously appear and dissapear in our rivers from time to time.   Fish and Wildlife cables them in place which can make for exciting moments when say,  you come over a class 4 horizon line and find one tethered where there was nothing a week ago.    There is another one of these in a class 2 rapid on the right just downstream.   Where will it appear next?

The put in for the West Fork is a beautiful place,  you launch right into a class 3 rapid at the confluence of the Upper West Fork and the Lake Branch Fork.

The river cruises pleasantly downhill with continuous class 2-3 rapids in the open sections.  

Mostly it was just nice to be in the sunshine.

After about a mile the river enters a series of fun, twisty, tight basalt gorges.   Nothing harder than a class 3 at this flow, and very pretty.

The rapids in this early part are entertaining, a good warm up.

In a few miles we came to a horizon line and pulled out on the left to portage the beautiful yet horrifying 8 tiered fish ladder.

Each tier is a perfectly formed drowning machine.   Sure you could run it with a hard drive and a late boof,  but each drive and boof has to be perfect.   No thanks.   I've heard it flushes a bit more at higher water.

After the fish ladder I was feeling a little whiney, wondering when the class 4 was going to start?   Soon enough though, the river gets steeper and starts dropping through long boulder gardens.  

We all ran right for about a mile to miss a sticky hole noted in the guidebook.

This is fun class 4,  rated for it's continuousness,  not scary class 4,  like the must-make-move drops in the Sandy Gorge.    It was easy for me to take photos,  which for me is the dividing line between class 4 and 4+.    That said, it is still class 4,  not swimmer friendly,  and you do need to be able to control your boat, boof little stuff, and land the occasional surprise brace.

Soon the river gorges up again and drops through a series of fun,  tightly spaced class 3, 3+, and class 4 rapids.  

After a creek comes in on the left we ran hard right to miss another sticky hole noted in the guidbook.   There were some fun powerful drops in this section.   Including one burly hole a drop or two past the last sticky hole noted in the guidebook.    I gutted it down the center just for fun,  but it definately had some strong traction.   Run right or left at higher water.

This bridge signals the last rapid before the takeout.

I just sort of drifted into this drop behind Mike,  snapping shots all the way into the lead in.   It wasn't until I was about a third of the way down against the right wall that I realized that I was actually in a pushy class 4 rapid.   I dropped the camera and sort of struggled through,  throwing braces and scraping the rocks as I flushed/paddled down through a series of decent holes and laterals against the right wall.

This flat pool drops into punchbowl falls,  so make sure to take out on the right!

As usual,  noone bothered to mention the punishing climb out of the canyon to me.

At the top of the ridge is a good view of the falls,  and this super cool 'class 5' wooden staircase down to it on the opposite shore.

From 200 feet up,  you look down into the bowl.

One has to wonder if this sign is really neccesary?   Dude,  it's two hundred feet down into a green pool!   If that seems like a good idea to you then maybe your genetics shouldn't be passed on to future generations?

Even the hike out was good though,  the edges of the trail were dotted with these beautiful little lupines.

Back at the parking lot my gear takes some well deserved R&R,  actually drying out completely for the first time in 9 months.    I layed in the shade and sucked down a couple brews while the guys ran the shuttle.   

Although I might not have been in the best headspace to rate it,  I think the West Fork Hood is good.    Nice scenery,  100 fpm continuous action,  and high quality,  class 3 and class 4 drops.   I never had to pull really hard and it didn't throw me around like the Upper Wind at 5.7,  or the Farmlands at 3.5,   but those are both class 4+ runs at those flows and this was a lower flow for the Hood.   I think at 6 or above this would start getting pleasantly pushier.    Absolutely reccomended for the Class 4 boater,  class 5 dudes might get a little bored.

This entire trip report is dedicated to my darling cat Una.    I love you.   I'll always miss you.

Back to Class IV whitewater blog

Bonus photo:

Me:  "What do you mean you don't know where we are, how can we get lost coming FROM the run?"

Koushik:   "This better not go on your blog,  seriously,  really I'm serious."