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 smashed...no...fuck...please let that be a
raccoon...fuck...oh Una...no. No...no 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
"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
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
We all ran right for about a mile to miss a sticky hole noted in the
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
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."