Awesome video shot by Joey. I'm in the yellow boat with red helmet that's often in view.
What a sweet run! This is my new favorite Oregon creek. Six miles of 155 foot per mile creekin' with no large drops. Every bit is read and run, meaning that by the time you get to the horizon line, you can see where to go. It's steep enough that you may not see until rather late, but you will see in time to make the move. The top 3 miles are the steepest and most congested. The largest rapid is within 1/2 mile of the putin. There is a way to portage it by boating down a left channel that gradually dries up, then carrying your boat just a few feet over the final boulder pile. The rapids do not let up for the entire journey, but they are more intense in the first half. There's some wood but no portages if you take out where we did---but our takeout was specifically chosen to avoid a log portage that is above the bridge where people would normally takeout. There is more brush in the second half, and the rapids become less technical. We're running it at low flows, getting toward minimal, and the rating is still class IV+. With higher flows it is said to be class V with serious holes, and don't expect to ever see your boat again if you swim. Definitely don't put your keys and wallet in your boat. And it's good manners to have floatation in your boat if you swim.
The takeout is about 20 minutes off the interstate from Hood River, up high 35. It's a pretty drive because on the way up you're going toward Mt Hood, and on the way down you're looking at views of Mt Adams. To locate the takeout above the log, park at the first pullout on the right upstream from the bridge as you are going up the hill. Drop into the woods across the road and find a trail, beat through a thicket, cross a stream, follow the dry side channel upstream to the creek. Look well here and at the cliff over where you parked your car. If you miss this takeout and go around the corner, it is possible to stop above the log but not easy, and I have had several people tell me that the portage around the log is such a pain in the ass that it's better to just take out above it.
The putin is at a trailhead and picnic area just past where there is currently a one way section on highway 35 with a control light. A dirt road goes really close to the water. The other group put in at the bridge above, and had portaged one log before they got down to us. Using the putin and takeout that I got to see, you don't have to portage anything. If you stop at the light at the bottom end of the one way, you can scout the first steep section, which may well be the steepest section on the whole run.
Flow guesstimation from dreamflows for today:
W. Fk Hood: Above East Fork (est); 400, 420, 480, 88% confidence actual flow is between 320 and 470 cfs
Hood: At Tucker Bridge; 825, 900, 1,000
So estimate for the East Fork today: 425, 480, 520cfs
It is said that the East Fork runs more from snowmelt, and the West Fork from rainfall.
West fork estimated flow: http://www.dreamflows.com/graphs/mon.226.php
Some people use a rock visible from the bridge near the takeout as their gage. If the water is right around the peak of the rock it is good. Today the flow was a good 6" below the peak of the rock. If the water is well over the rock, get ready for seriousness.
Some people use the foot gauge at Tucker. It reads 4.15 today. Kate said she usually runs it when the Tucker gage says 6 feet. American Whitewater says it's good when Tucker is from 5-8 feet. Seems like when Tucker is at 5 feet pretty much anything in the drainage goes. But it is possible for the entire flow to be in either fork, so the Tucker gage gives you the sum of the two forks and does not really tell you where the water is. The snowmelt pattern at Tucker right now shows the rise beginning before midnight, and the peak occurring around 6am. So up on the east fork the rise begins earlier, like probably around dusk, and the peak probably happens at 2-4am.
The flow today was about the same yesterday. Usually doesn't run this late in the season but we had a decent snowpack and it stayed cool for a long time. It's hot today. This is probably the end of the season. I might be able to go run it again tomorrow, if I could find someone who'd go with me. I don't think I'll solo it, though it seems possible to me.
The company was good. Tom, Kate, Nick and Joey. We had no problems. I discovered that I had met Kate before that day I boated the Klick with First Descents, and I had met Nick at the Roaring River slalom, so no new faces. It turns out Nick spent years (98-2004?) working on the Upper Yough so we know some places and people in common. He has a shed with a whole lot of boats in it. I met Tom paddling with Bruce on the Wind, and paddled with him yesterday too. He wants to get on the Farmlands and so do I.
Another group of 3 kayakers caught up with us at the putin and would have liked to have joined us, but they had a swimmer early in the run and a broken paddle, so we lost them. We did help them get their boat stopped and out of the river. Thanks to a good push by Tom and some luck, it stalled on a gravel bar and I was able to jump out of my boat and grab it before it washed downstream again. A Ukranian guy showed up and emptied it, and Joey roped it to shore and pulled it up on the boulders.
It was Joey's first time, and he considered the UEFH a big step up in in difficulty from what he's run before. He has run a lot of stuff that I haven't got to see yet. He likened the UEFH most to Initiation rapid on the Upper Wind. Not that any one move was all that hard, but it is totally continuous and you must be prepared to make all kinds of moves in quick succession. There is no time for slow recoveries from botched moves. You may blow a move but you still have to make the next one; the river is hauling ass toward the next hole or boulder. You have to keep after it. Or take out. There is no in between.
Joey shot video from his headcam and will post it on youtube. We both agreed that the video we'd seen before did not represent the steepness or complexity of the whitewater.
I enjoy this kind of boating because it puts me in the moment. There is no time for worry about anything else. I needed that. My mind has been aswirl lately and boating is a welcome respite. I feel calmer now after a day on the water, though I got a bit sunburned on the tip of my nose. Small price to pay. We stopped for a beer and some chow in Hood River, to simmer down and relax a little bit. It was a fine way to celebrate independence day.