In the whole West I keep noticing that there aren’t as many highly skilled paddlers as there are back in the southeast. At least, I don’t run into as many. I joined The Lower Columbia Canoe Club, and it is an old school paddling club with a core who actually still do paddle canoes! But as with most clubs, there aren’t a lot of “hot boaters” and I guess that’s the crowd I used to run around with. So I just settled down and started enjoying the class II-III stuff in the area. Sometimes groups come together that feel good enough to take it up a notch.
Last weekend we (some of the kayakers of the LCCC) paddled a local classic that only runs during rainy season. It is the Hood River, which flows out of the orchards on the north shoulder of Mount Hood, down into the Columbia River. There are several runs in the drainage, but I have only done two: the “usual” class III-IV Dee to Tucker run, and the Tucker to the Marina lower run, which is a class II-III run with great small play at higher levels. The level on the bridge was 6.1 and the internet said it was 2,100 cfs and rising. That’s high but nowhere near flood. Somebody in our group had heard a report that the flow was supposed to double and everybody was sketched about it. But it didn’t look that high, and we launched anyway. From the sand at the putin it looked to me like it had peaked already but was near peak.
Our group was 5, 2 who are known to me (Denny & Patrick) and two new people (Patty and David). I boat with lots of new people every time I go. Seems like there are so many occasional paddlers here, and few avid ones. The avid ones I’m getting to know. People in Oregon are nice. A little too nice by my standards, but gradually I find the ones with a sense of humor.
Anyway, the Hood last Sunday was lovely, a good strong level but nothing our group couldn’t handle. Most everybody rolled at least once, but nobody swam. The rapids are mostly converging channels with hole dodging and waves with a few big rocks in the way, a few nice eddies to hit, a few glassy and frothy surfing waves. Lots of waves to catch on the fly, hardly any with eddy service. Some small gorges and wall shots. Basalt doesn’t really make ledge type drops like Cumberland Plateau boaters know, it’s more jumbly and the boulders get channelized by some really high flows.
I was trying out a new boat---a Fluid Detox, a design by Celliers Kruger of South Africa, and it was an interesting ride. As far as I can tell the hull is taken in concept from a freestyle boat, with big flat sidewalls that would make it cartwheel well. The hard rails are continuous from bow to stern. The deck of the boat is plumped up so that they can call it a creeker. It punches holes just fine. It has very little primary stability but is relatively fast and highly rockered, boofs well, surfs well but sometimes spins out if you lean it too hard. I was sometimes surprised by it carving to the outside when I landed it on a lean from a boof. Basically you can paddle the boat with it planing on the sidewall, and I'm not used to that. I didn’t buy it, but I might try it again. I think the design is good, I'm just not that good a paddler. Patrick is trying to sell it and not having a lot of luck. I might take it off his hands eventually. I was kind of hoping for more predictable creeker that would make me feel heroically solid.