Putting it to the test
BZ section on the White Salmon and my first run on the Upper Wind

Sunday afternoon I arrived at the White Salmon River as the last kayaker in the Northwest who hasn't run the BZ section.   Basically I'm a surf kayaker and I live right on the beach so the gorge is a bit of a haul for me, but hey, I was in Portland, so what the heck.  I ran into some guys who just got off the Truss and marveled at the willful disregard of life and limb common to people under the age of 25.  That stuff scares the pants off me!  I hiked down to Top Drop, planning to solo the run, and took a moment to just enjoy the place.   Top drop is a long and twisty class 3 that you just have to drop right into with no warm up.  No big deal though.   It was a fun way to get started. 

On the river I ran into a couple guys and followed them down.

This is Bruce, he's just getting back into his kayak after healing from breaking his foot.   He missed his line by just a little bit on the 30ft Big Brother waterfall on the Truss,  and melted through the curtain and pitoned at the base of the falls.   Ouch.

On the river I got to practice one of my favorite sports, photographing other paddlers WHILE running class 3 behind them.   It's a great way to get amazing shots, and knocks the difficulty up a bit.

Class 2+ never looked so exciting!

Soon enough we arrived at Husum falls and got out on the right.

Option number one,  this very attractive stone stairway.....

Option number two,  the boiling cauldron of certain death (not really, but when you're a wuss, everything looks like doom.)    Bruce showed me the line, "All you have to do is get onto that flume next to the rock and it'll spit you out."   Which translates into:  "Why don't you try to get onto the flume and I'll watch to see if it spits you out so I can decide if I want to run it."    Nice try Bruce! 

How about option number three?  I found a nice technical line over a left side sneak route.  Mission accomplished.    Back at the parking lot while petting a huge white fluffy dog,  Bruce and I hatched a plan to run the upper Wind river the next morning.   I was feeling pretty good about my boating and a heard good things about the wind, and of course, I was in the neighborhood.   

The next morning I got up early and drove a boat to the airport to be shipped to a customer.  While unloading the kayak and looking at my truck I suddenly realized that I am a completely self contained kayak economy.   I build boats and sell them, and then I use the money I earn to buy different types of boats (surf kayaks, whitewater kayaks, and surfskis).    Hmmmm.....

Next I drove to pick up Michele.   Late the night before I decided that Bruce and I needed some backup,  so I emailed Michele whom I met at the Creeking Competiton a week earlier.    The email said:  Michele, do you want to run the Upper Wind tomorrow.    Translation:  Michele,  will you lead me down the Upper Wind tomorrow and rescue me when I need it.   

Before the run Michele and Bruce exchange Upper Wind Swim Stories.

Then I see Michele waxing her paddle....  wait a minute,  I don't have wax,  I didn't know we needed wax!

It's about this time that I decide to have a beer,  not so much to deal with the anxiety,  (I strongly believe you should never boat anything you are afraid of)  but just to loosen my body up a bit (and I just like beer).   One thing you absolutely don't want is to be tight and stiff when you are getting ready to bomb a 2 mile long class 4 boulder slalom.    This photo is not an endorsement for drinking and boating, use your own judgement.

Our adventure begins!

I'm so jealous of Michele's boat,  it's Green!   I bought a brown Jefe but it had a factory defect so I had to bring it back and settle for an orange one.

Checking the gauge,  5.7 feet today.

Bruce is ready for takeoff.

Our fearless leader drops into the first class 3 warm up rapid.   

Soon we're on top of Initiation and Michele eddies out to give us some beta.   "whats the line?"  I ask,  "left of center on this first part"  she says.   I thought that was pretty short beta for a rapid that doesn't stop for 2 miles!  but really that's about all you can say. Initiation is all about bombing down and adjusting as you go.   Michele peeled out and dropped over a horizon line.   I said to myself, I WILL NOT SWIM, and followed her down.

Initiation was AMAZING for me,  this was my first experience with continuous read-and-run class 4,  I didn't know what to expect.   I was relaxed and confident and actually having a lot of fun the whole way down.  Sweet!  Michele in one of the many rapids in or below initiation.    

I think Michele was pretty stoked on it too.  

Typical Upper Wind rapids,  there was miles of this stuff!   Super fun if you are a solid class 4 boater.  
The action was pretty continuous but there were lots of little eddies to catch.    The rapids were just amazing, but I didn't get many photos,  I sorta needed to focus on boating.

An eddy too late,  we pulled in behind this rock to discover that there was no way we were going to get on line for the next rapid.   "Go for it!"  I say to Michele,  "You'll be fine."   Translation:  "Go for it, so me and Bruce can see if you are fine."   

Michele cleans the less desirable side of this short drop,  no worries!

Packed into an eddy above Ram's Horn Michele explains the line.  I really want to get out to look at it but the last eddy is flushing.   "Boof on the left or punch the hole, then drive hard left to avoid a huge hole at the bottom."    Ok,  here we go!

Bruce makes the move.   I wasn't really sure how far left the top boof was so I missed it and punched the hole.  Driving hard left I just kissed the left side of the main hole.   It's not really a big deal, not retentive, totally flushing, but still, as I sailed by I thought to myself "thats a BIG f***ing hole!"

Bruce below Rams Horn.  

Michele looks back at Rams Horn.  

  The look that says:  "Are you coming or what Brian?"

Next up was Balls to the Wall Right,  Michele says:  "stay on the right."  which is the good line,  but wait,  didn't I see something on the internet about a big hole on the right halfway down the drop...

...forty five seconds later...  OH SH*T!   At the very top of the drop I got pushed a little off line by a small lateral wave,  lost my angle and speed,  and gutted the hole.   My invincible new Jefe threw it's very first cartwheel and as I came around I was actually pretty calm, then I cartwheeled again, and thought, "this sucks,"  flipped again, and settled into a bouncy sidesurf for .3 seconds before flipping again, my paddle caught a bit of the outflow and I pulled myself out of the hole.   Normally it might take me a second or two to get oriented and roll up in this much turbulent water,  but it's amazing what you can do when you know you NEED to.   I knew there were two more drops and a bunch of rocks under the water and wasn't about to wait around for first contact.   I popped up like the energizer bunny just in time to drop sideways into the next hole where once again I flipped.   This time I caught the outflow right away and pulled through, rolled up again, squared the boat up and punched the final small drop.  I blasted past Michele in the eddy with wide eyes and a holy crap look on my face.

Bruce, on the other hand, wasn't so lucky.   While I was throwing creekwheels in the top hole,  Bruce tried as hard as he could to back off and not land on top of me (thanks Bruce!)  which of course caused him to lose all hope of punching the hole,  and just as I pulled through he dropped in for a somewhat worse experience.  Michele and I watched Bruce try to roll but the river gods did not smile upon him and he would get pushed into a hole at just the wrong moment,  hitting rocks underwater all the way down the drop.    I could get all cocky and say it was skill that caused me to do better, but the reality is I could have just as easily had Bruce's line.

Whew!  Bruce and I take a short break below the Balls to the Wall, and recover our nerves.   Below BTW Right,   I started boating a little sloppy and got flipped in a smaller hole at the top of Balls to the Wall Left,  maybe I needed the symmetry.   I windowshaded and then surfed out of it and bam, made brief contact with the right wall before getting the boat straightened out.  I talk to myself when I boat (one of the first signs of mental illness)  and as I came out of the hole I said, "Breathe, relax, paddle!"  as I spun the boat around and bombed the rest of the rapid. 

Next up was Climax,  a bouldery ledge into a hole that looked pretty meaty to me but Michele and Bruce said it was good to go.

Michele guts the Climax hole.  I thought for sure she was going to get endered...

...nope!   Michele and Bruce both cruised right through.   I was pretty nervous dropping into Climax, and I got a big tail stand, but nothing worse.

Big smiles all around in the eddy below climax.

Climax is considered the end of the harder part of the run,  but below it there was some pretty solid class 3+  action before the river mellowed out to class 2 for the run out.   I let my guard down and got flipped in yet another hole below climax,  bringing my total of real river rolls to four for this trip.   

For me, running the Upper Wind was an amazing trip,  the rapids were fun, a little pushy, and pretty non-stop.   I've boated scarier class 4 with easier moves but worse consequences, but this was my first experience with continuous harder water and I really didn't know how I would react when things went wrong.   I'm totally stoked that I managed to pull out of some sketchy situations and keep a cool head,  not to be cocky though,  it seems like sooner or later everyone swims on the Wind.   The Wind was a good test of my boating skills and it definitely let me know whenever I was off-line or boating sloppy.    I don't think I'll be boating the Little White any time soon,  (or ever),  for now the Upper Wind is all the excitement I need.

Michele and Bruce at the take out.   Thank you guys so much for showing me the lines, and special thanks and kudos to Michele for taking the lead.  

Heading back to the coast I stop in Portland at Naomis Garden Center, to visit my friends Naomi and Neil and pick up supplies for my farm.   If you are a gardener or small farmer in Portland be sure to check out Naomis right off 99E in sellwood.   They sell supplies and baby chicks and they have adorable Pygmy goats!

My final stop was Saburo in Sellwood where I ravenously replaced the calories I burned on the Wind.   Today was a good day.

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