The level at the high bridge putin was 5.32. That's medium, or maybe medium-high. It was just right. The group was 10 kayakers including Joey, Craig and Michael that I've paddled with before. Several of the group were men who'd been in the "fast group" on Opal yesterday, or were just plain old new. Ken, Ben who works at Nike, Bradley, etc. I rode with and followed Bruce. Joey instructed both Craig and I to follow him, and when I told him that on the ride up it got him going. He's a cell biologist at age 60 with an illustrious career that discovered (with others of course) kinesin which is this very cool little walking protein that goes up a track inside our neurons. Axonal transport. He was interesting to follow on the river, reminded me somewhat of Dick with the way he would give instructions and then set out to lead. He wasn't easy to follow, either. I could never tell what he was going to do next, and he would paddle really hard to make difficult moves. One thing is for sure, if you start your beginners out following him, they will get to be better boaters fast. After a while I learned to hang back and see generally what channel he was headed down, and then read the close up water for myself. I cut a lot of corners and took one tenth as many strokes, and enjoyed it more. Funny how different people's river styles can be. I guess I'm lazy.
Anyway, the river. 1/2 mile class II-III lead in, then "Initiation" starts with the "Goal Posts". We sneaked it down the right, after being warned that there was wood between the goal posts. I kept looking and didn't see any wood that was really in play. Initiation is a long section of class III-IV bouldery with some shelves. Good eddies both midstream and along the banks at this flow. Many many possible lines. A few holes worth avoiding. Then after a steeper section and a short pool was Ramshorn. At this flow you simply enter it on a center right tongue, float across a small flat spot, and then slope down a ramp with a huge wave on it, which you ride over and down the other side where you'd think there'd be a hole but there isn't, it is just a wave. Fast and fun. No moves to be made, no obvious hazard other than not wanting to flip over in the first drop. Then more boogie water down to Balls to the Wall. We ran right, and the crux is a narrow channel with three ledges. Or so I was told. It seemed to me that there were a series of waves and then a stopper, and then behind that a keeper, and then one more drop. The problem is that the stopper makes it hard to get through the keeper. It's splashy enough that I did not see even where the soft spot or boof would be, I just plowed right into that hole after having seen Bruce get backendered in it. I got stopped but not backendered, and had to paddle my ass off to get out of there because I knew there was another kayaker right on my tail. The bottom drop was not noteworthy. I'd like to see Balls to the Wall Left, or run some middle line that gives me a chance to eddy out near those holes and get a look at it. I didn't really get a good look at all the options there. We kept going through more nameless stuff and then were at the Grand Finale drop, I think that's what it's called. I ran a single drop off about a 10 foot ledge into a big fluffy hole that popped me right through. Lots of the group ran an elbow on the left that looked good. All these rapids were crunched together in the first 1/2 of the run. It seemed like the first 1/3 or even 1/4 to me, the rest of the run seemed so much longer. But that's because there's nothing more than a mild class III down there, and after the bigger rapids it's a let down.
Paddlers complain about "the runout" on the Lower Wind, but really it's a small price to pay, paddling a lovely section of class III water. Hell I don't even mind the mile of flatwater at the end of the Tilton. I didn't mind the 2 miles at the end of Section IV, either, most of the time. Sometimes it was hard to paddle across it more than one time in the day. But anyway. Back to the Wind.
There are robbers at the putin. One of the boaters was telling a story about coming downstream and seeing three high school age girls on the beach with a box and a wrench. Apparently it was obvious to him that they were about to break into some cars. They didn't see him coming (by river) until he was rather close, and when they did see him they high tailed it out of there. Twenty minutes later and the paddlers might have come off the river to broken windows and pilfered vehicles. The commentary was that "It's Hood River" as if Hood River were full of redneck vandal type criminals. I don't know that to be true, but I did feel good about having my wallet safely stashed in the leg of my drysuit. That is where I keep it now when I am on the river. If it's in the boat, you can lose the boat, like I did in France with my passport in the boat. I spent the afternoon in the Emergency Room trying to get seen for a bloody nose/lip and teeth knocked loose, but after 3 hours walked out not being seen. In small town triage I didn't rate. And by that time I had self-assessed enough to think that I didn't have any fractures, and wasn't going to lose the teeth.
It hadn't occurred to me until just now that that might have been a hard enough head hit to qualify as another TBI (traumatic brain injury). When I start really listing all the times I've been bonked, I can pretty much tell you it has been a lot. The knot on my head from up at the Chilliwack hasn't gone away completely. That wasn't a kayaking injury, that was from doing handstands in the hot pool and hitting a bench on the side. I really need to stop hitting my head.
The Wind and the Opal both make my favorites list for this region. Really fine whitewater in pretty scenery. Both are run on snowmelt and will probably be done by two weeks from now, the next time I get a chance to paddle in Oregon. Next weekend I'll be in Idaho.