Tuesday, February 12, 2008

TR: Washougal River: Big Eddy Section

After our Grand Canyon trip, my wife Danielle has been more open to the idea of rafting. She just told me that she has to have a good dry suit and a guarantee that she will stay in the boat. I figure that's a fair deal, after all, we managed to make it through 25 days on the Colorado in a 13' 9" raft with a rookie rafter at the helm. It also helped having Will Volpert and Dan Thurber in town to help. These guys were on the Colorado with us and were essential in getting Danielle to give it another try. Will had brought up a 12' raft with him from Ashland and Dan was again with his Huka. We were still fighting low snow levels this weekend, however the Washougal suddenly shot up with warmer weather and localized rain giving us a great option to get Danielle on the water. Will had been hoping for a run down the Upper Wind, but I wasn't sure how Danielle was going to do and I wasn't too keen on getting her out on such a demanding run. After a brief discussion, we settled on the Big Eddy section of the Washougal. The gauge was reading right at 6,000 cfs or 8.77' and slowly falling. Not the highest I've done it, but a pretty stout level for the run. After meeting up at the Burger King in Camas we headed on up to the take out. We quickly formulated a plan to skip the normal put in and head on up to the bridge on the North Fork. This would add an extra mile or so to the run and provide an opportunity to catch a couple extra play waves. (I had brought my EZ for the run) Will decided that they would run it as a paddle raft which meant Danielle would get the chance to really RAFT rather than be the professional passenger that she claims to be.

Will is pumped to get on the water.
Danielle doesn't look so excited.After some rope work, the guys managed to get the raft lowered down to the river and with some quick instructions for Danielle, we were off.

Lowering the boat at the put-in on the NF Washougal.
Things went well until we approached Big Eddy rapid. Today it was a solid class IV drop complicated by a tree that had fallen across the exit of the rapid blocking off the entire right side and presenting a serious hazard. I charged in first and was suddenly faced with a monster hole in front of me. I managed a quick move to the left just skirting the hole and following a seam through the rapid. I grabbed a surging eddy on the left bank just in time to look back up and see the bottom of Dan's blue Huka rising out of the hole. As he drifted by I was really hoping he was going to hit his role as a second large rapid waited around the corner and a swim could easily result in a lost boat not to mention the strainer on river right. Fortunately, he snapped of a roll a few moments later and paddled to an eddy. I climbed out of my boat and set up to take pictures of Will and Danielle. They entered dead center and judging by Wills response, the huge hole in the middle of the river was a surprise. The raft dropped into the hole a little sideways, spun around and got quickly spit out. What a ride!

Danielle and Will at the top of Big Eddy.
Discovering that there really is a hole in this rapid. Hold on Danielle.
"That was one smokin' hole."If you look closely you can see the strainer downstream on the right.
You can also see the big smile on Danielle's face.

With the largest rapid behind us, I knew Danielle would be fine. As we rounded the corner and dropped through the next rapid I could see what looked like a kayaker on the left bank. Dan and I paddled over to him to see if he needed any help. It turns out that he had taken a swim along with his buddy in Big Eddy. They were paddling an inflatable two-person kayak and were caught off guard by the size of the rapid, swam and got separated. We signaled the raft over and offered to give him a ride back to the road side which he gladly accepted. I took off downstream in search of his buddy. I eventually found him about half a mile later looking upstream. I explained that we had found his friend and that everyone was ok. I also mentioned that there were a couple other spots that they may need to be careful at, namely around Cougar Creek. A few minutes later Dan came down followed by Will and Danielle. Apparently they had dropped the stranded kayaker off back around the corner. We headed on downstream and enjoyed the rest of the run. Will and Danielle even got in on the surfing action with the raft. It turned out to be a great day and another step to getting my wife to join me on some of my adventures. It also helps that Will is an incredibly skilled rafter as we would discover the next day and Dan would get a chance to use his Huka on water it was designed for. But that's another story.

You can also read Dan's write up at Team Kettle Chips or The Water Cycle.



1 comment:

Let's go rafting! said...

Ryan,

It was a great pleasure to boat with you and Danielle this last weekend. Great shots and write up. That hole is BIG! I'm glad we didn't have any carnage...

Will