liveonearth (liveonearth) wrote,

Trip Report: Klickitat

I was just on a lovely glistening rushing river, the Klickitat in south central Washington. It is a 75 mile long river that drains the east side of the Cascades, running across a plateau at the foot of Mount Adams. We ran 35 miles of it in four easy days. Putin: old gage just below Yakama Reservation. Takeout: shuttle driver's house in Klickitat. Whitewater: too easy to be a destination for today's up and coming boaters, this is a classic playful river run for those who simply love rivers, and wilderness. Obviously the fishermen know about it, though according the the locals it is much harder to catch a steelhead or a chinook salmon here than it used to be. My companions: D and K. D is a retired chemical engineer and beginning Buddhist. He's the one with the GPS and a list of river landmarks including possible camps from his google earth explorations. K is an accountant who I know from boating back in NC. Pictures taken by D are here.

Day 1: Meet at D's, load and drive to Klickitat (the town) and pick up our shuttle driver. Drive to putin (old gage) and load kayaks, launch. Go about 1 mile and make camp on river left. I made my camp back away from the group, at the foot of a medium ponderosa. We walked and crashed through brush downstream to the place where the columnar basalt comes down to river level, took a few pix and wandered back. I laid down in my little camp to read, and was reading when a yellowjacket stung me on the side of my right 4th toe. Hurt like the dickens. Ran down to the river to stick my foot in. I had forgotten my epi kit, though I have been told I should carry one. I usually do carry it, I was just on the phone with a girlfriend during my last hour before the trip, and that conversation caused me to forget a number of things that I normally would bring. But all my worry was for nothing, I had no systemic symptoms whatsoever. I never even took a benadryl. My toe hurt and swelled and got hot and itchy, that's it.

We sat down for dinner, three kayakers all completely independent, sitting together to eat a meal. It was nice. Then to bed at dark. Right about now is when we'd be headed for the sack. I crawled into my sleeping bag and was reading my book when some sort of bug started singing low in the tree just left of my head. I come from the south where there are cicadas in summer, so I imagined some kind of beetle looking for its love. I finished my chapter and turned my headlight into the branches, didn't see anything, and set back to reading. I finished another chapter and it was still making its sound. I looked more carefully, shining the light under the branch instead of through it, and saw a snake, coiled, looking at me. Rattling at me.

It had been quietly rattling at me for at least 10 minutes. Just sitting there.

I didn't argue. I crawled out of my sleeping bag, grabbed the four corners of the tarp that I made my camp on, picked it all up and walked away. The next day a fisherman would tell me that during the dog days of summer the rattlers are blind and apt to strike at anything that moves. They are about to shed their skins, and the eyes become opaque. I've heard also that snakes can get kinda cranky right before they shed. I can only imagine. I get cranky right before I shed a layer.

It took me a little while to go to sleep but I did, down on the beach, close to where Kathy had set up her shelter. It was a dewy night. I was glad to have a goretex covered bag.

Day 2 Awoke to a dew covered world, hunkered down in the bag until the sun got close. Had breakfast--handfulls of gluten-free granola from Trader Joe's, and some chocolate covered espresso beans. Packed up our kayaks and headed downstream about 13 miles. Great whitewater! Continuous class II with some III-ish moments. Not hard but the water was a little low so there were lots of sneaky rocks to avoid. And we were paddling loaded boats. Started seeing fishermen in the last few miles. Both wader/hiker and drift-boat based fishing. Camp 2 river right just after 1st basalt blob. Climbed up on steep glob of cubical black stone (astounding view! spent hours) and up to road. Took a bath in the river (glacier melt! brrrr!!!). Was not bitten or stung by anything. D shared his Jim Beam which made us stay up 2 minutes later than the night before. Still in my bag before the last of the last light dimmed.

Day 3 Awoke less dew covered but full of a dream that I had in which B spoke directly to me. He has never been in my dream before. I wrote down the dream, rolled over and went back to sleep. In the morning we had the customary breakfast huddle, D made delicious espressos. River has used most of its gradient at this point, many fishermen here, mostly in drift boats but also small cats. Channel is braided in places, it matters which channel you pick but there are no tricks, just follow the water and dodge wood when it's there. Again we covered some 13 miles without even having to try. Camp 3 on river left among mature ponderosas. We were there so early that I put out my things to dry and grabbed my daypack for a longer hike. There is a road down into this camp and I wanted to see what sort of road it was.

I followed the road back into the forest, and downstream along the river. I saw a bunch of turkeys, they weren't too afraid of me at first, but they know to avoid humans. The road is a narrow dirt track and it rises through the forest and emerges onto the grassy upper slopes, a shelf of basalt chunks perched on a blasted-out divet in the hillside. Surprisingly stable, the basalt bits looked as though they could break loose and flow down the mountain at any moment. Upward the road goes crossing the hot open grassland and circling around into a drainage where there are trees again. And shells in the road, hunters have been here, they have shot at everything. 12 gage and smaller. In the top drainage many many tracks in the dust of the road. No humans have been here for at least a couple weeks. Tracks are small canine, I think fox, squirrel, and small deer. I find a second deer jawbone. I found one at the last camp too. I have a collection of jawbones now, as I also have a coyote jawbone (I think) found at Jawbone rapid on the mother river. But aside from the asides. I hiked the road to the junction at the top with a larger dirt road, probably 5 miles each way. Spent some time at the top getting the lay of the land and watching for life. No humans. No deer. No cars on the road, no car noises. Nothing but crows and squirrels and hawks, alerting everyone when I passed by near them. The weather changed while I was up there. More wind, more clouds. No precip. I read for a while then galloped back down to dinner.

Day 4 We broke camp and headed downstream early. There was a tail wind in the first rapid which immediately became a head wind that increased all the way to the takeout, some 8ish miles. Finally we got our paddling workout. Not much whitewater down here but still pretty. Got back to town about 3pm.

Will definitely go to the Klick again. Will definitely paddle with D & K again. Next Saturday is slalom practice day on the Clackamas, I'm going. D says he'll bring a boat for me.

EDIT: Removed venting paragraph about despising indiscriminate/aggressive noisemaking and cigarette smoke of the city dwellers.
Tags: kayak, river, washington, whitewater, wilderness, wildlife

  • Interesting Times Indeed

    Being a doc and a dork too, I've been studying on COVID-19 since it first appeared. Still the magnitude of the crisis is shocking. This will be…

  • QotD: Adventure

    Adventure is worthwhile. ~~Aristotle

  • QotD: Travel Kills Bigotry

    Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome,…

  • Post a new comment


    Comments allowed for friends only

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded