Monday, October 27, 2008

Trip Report: The Orletta section of the White Salmon

This last Sunday, October 26, my brother Skip and I decided to put our new 10' Avon to the test. With no recent rain, most of the steep creek and epic raft runs of the Pacific Northwest are still dried up and waiting for the first big storm. When this is the case, the Middle White Salmon (MWS) is a great back-up run. It is fed mainly by spring water so it always has a decent flow.

A great addition to the MWS is the two-mile stretch above the typical put-in at BZ Corner. This is known as the Orletta section because access is via the hike down Orletta Creek. When there is more run-off, the Green Truss (class V / V+) offers an exhilerating run for rafts and a slightly easier put-in. For this Sunday, however, Orletta was the way to go.

It took roughly half an hour to get our boat from the road to the actual river. This was due in part to our lack of insight into the Orletta Creek drainage. In hindsight, it is heinous to carry an inflated raft down the drainage. However, we thought that to save time we would, 1) not bother to "scout out" the hike-in, and 2) carry everything down in one trip. So, we blew up the boat and threw all of our gear inside the inflated raft. Thus, we made it as heavy as possible.

Here we are going underneath the highway, not realizing what was ahead (courtesy of Ryan Morgan):

Here we are, realizing that we are boneheads for not scouting Orletta Creek (courtesy of Ryan Morgan):

After finally reaching the river, we realized that we had left our water bottles in my truck. After sweating prefusely to reach the river, this made each of us fairly disappointed in our poor planning. Nevertheless, we pushed off and headed downstream.

The Orletta stretch offers some great class IV whitewater. At this low flow, it was fairly technical but in our nimble boat we made it through everything just fine. After two quick miles of continuous whitewater, we reached BZ Falls. We scouted it briefly but the decision was easy: neither of us wanted to swim and explore the nasty-looking undercuts at the base of the falls. We ghost-boated. Skip pushed the raft off as I waited downstream. The raft had a great line, I jumped in the river, climbed inside the raft, and paddled the boat to shore.

Rosie, the Little Boat that Could, about to run her first waterfall:

Below BZ Falls is the typical MWS run. It offers mainly class II riffles with a few class IIIish drops. Until Husum Falls, which is a very clean 8' drop at the take-out. We styled it and paddled to shore where our take-out rig was.

Going over Husum Falls (courtesy of Ryan Morgan):
We had a great time paddling the White Salmon and we are looking forward to taking this boat on more of the classic runs of the Pacific Northwest.

-Will V.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Kayaking and Rafting with kids…a progression

First off, rafting. I’ll cover kayaking in the next post.
I was reading in the paper the other day what a battle it is to keep kids fit and expand their interests beyond video games and sedentary pursuits. While I can’t speak for what other parents are doing, I can relate what my family has done to keep our child engaged in healthy outdoor activities (because I’m one of the owners of a rafting and kayaking store, I’ll stick to those activities. But we are also avid hikers and bikers). We’ve discovered that starting them young (before they can walk even !) was a key. Of course there are considerations that will make it enjoyable for the young ones, i.e, plenty of snacks and appropriate clothing, games to play etc. It’s not a good idea to start out on a 20 mile paddle in rough water either. Or a multi-day rafting trip. I remember when our daughter was two and a half we thought she was ready for a 4 day Rogue river trip. In the first Class 2 riffle she got splashed and said…”I want to go home !” . My heart dropped, but it only got better after that.

Equipment keys: A good lifevest (yes, I know they will outgrow it very quickly, but you can always pass it on). I am amazed how some parents that come in the shop are reluctant to buy a comfortable and safe vest because “they just outgrow it”, yet they’ll buy the best vest for themselves and the family dog. Don’t wait until the morning of put-in to have your child wear the vest for the first time, only to have it turn into “I don’t wanna wear it!”. Avoid that battle by wearing them around the house…everyone, Mom, Dad, Siblings, the Dog. That way your child gets used to it. They associate the vest with something fun. And when they outgrow that vest, pass it on to another sibling, or friend. Or give it to a community group, or sailing club or a thrift shop. Someone else’s child will be safe on the water.

Invest in good thermal clothing, and splash gear. Admittedly, I have access to pretty good pricing for kids gear, but my daughters’ Kokatat splash jacket and pants have really made the difference. She also uses Mysterioso fleece for layering. You can use also paddling clothing for skiing, cycling etc.

What kind of trips can you start with ? Well, if you’re fortunate enough to have your own gear, there’s a variety of options for you. But I would start on something relatively easy, like a day trip with good access. You may be a solid Class 5 boater, but you’ll be amazed at how gripped you’ll get on Class 3 if your family is sitting in the boat. A day trip is good so your kids can get used to the rhythm of a river trip. A good friend of mine used to organize a get together on the Trinity river in N. California for river guides and their kids. It featured Class 2-3 water, car camping and general mayhem for kids and parents. If someone wanted to stay at camp, or make the day little shorter, it was no problem. Since then, we’ve graduated to longer trips. But the kids always look forward to seeing their river buddies every year. (drop us a line if you want the details on this run)

That’s enough for now. But I’ll be sharing more rafting stuff later. I think I’ll post some stuff on kayaking next.