Friday, July 23, 2010

Backyard huckfest

I leave to World Class Kayak Academy in 3 days, so here’s a good story for you to enjoy until my next post at WCKA...

My last week of school as a high school sophomore…

It's tough when you're 16 years old and trying to do well on your finals during your last week of school; not to mention the group of paddlers crashing at your house while you are trying to study for the Washington State history exam; or looking out the school window watching cars drive by with their roof racks full of boats on their way to find the stouts. That's what it was like for my last week of school until the long anticipated final bell rang and I was free for the summer.

Upper Falls on the Lewis River

As soon as I completed my sophomore year of high school, the group of paddlers that had been crashing at my house rallied to Upper Falls on the Lewis River taking me with them. I said, “good bye school and hello to the next year full of kayaking”. Upper falls consists of a scrappy 20+ footer landing in a pool with enough room for about one stroke before you turn 90 degrees and boof off of the next 30 footer that has a nasty pocket behind the veil.

A look at the falls from the bottom

I was first to fire up the drop with my brother, Todd Wells, and friend Evan Garcia just behind me. Sitting in your kayak about 200ft. upstream of the drop, the river seams to drop off of a fairly uniform and extremely wide horizon line. The one thing that you can aim for is a giant rock in the middle of the horizon, and from there try to find your way off of the manky lip of the 20 footer -- hoping that you will land somewhat set up for the next 30 foot drop. I came off of the drop just a little bit left of where I wanted to be, but still in a pretty good position. As soon as I came off of the first drop I was already melting the second drop, and although I was planning to get a big boof stroke in, I was far enough left that I went super deep and popped up far below trouble.

The first drop, looking at the next 30 footer...

Photo: Lucas Gilman

Next up was Evan who lined up perfect on the first drop, and got another big boof of the second landing softly in the giant boils below.

Evan, finding the right spot-

Todd was next and didn't have quite the line he was hoping for. With a little too much angle off of the first drop and nearly plugging the thing, he flipped over in the boils just below the first drop and rolled up on the lip of the second drop. With no chance of a boof and too far right to be plugging the drop, he went deep and popped up somewhere behind the veil of the falls. At this point no one could see where he was and it wasn't until about 20-30 seconds later that he finally popped up a good thirty feet downstream without his boat. We were glad everyone was safe and all gear was retrieved, then we paddled the rest of the run and headed home.

After having a good time paddling local runs around the Columbia River Gorge such as the White Salmon and Little White Salmon rivers, a week later I found myself once again at Upper Falls to do some more hucking. This time we added fellow Dagger Team paddler, Pat Keller, and photographers Lucas Gilman and Candace Sanders to the crew. Flows were a little lower but the drop was still good to go. Everyone watched in anticipation as Pat probed a new line down the falls. He made bouncing of a rock, dropping 20ft. to land on the next 30 footer look easy, but ended up in a cave behind the veil of the 70 footer that came off the left side of the river. After a few minutes of a little panic and fear, Pat finally popped out downstream safe but without a boat.

Pat's epic line-

Photo: Lucas Gilman

Close after Pat, Evan Garcia fired up the drop once again with a sick line. Next up was my brother Todd, who was determined to redeem himself after last week’s not so ideal line. This time his stern hit a flake on the first drop, sending him upside down and ejecting him from his boat and leaving him to swim over the following 30ft. drop, but he popped out of the boils safely. I was last and ran the falls with a big boof and satisfying line. Todd was determined to clean the drop, so he rallied Evan and I and we hiked back up for another lap. This time the whole group threw down steezy lines and Todd finally stomped it.

With a relaxing day break after our Lewis river excursion, we were back on another mission. We were headed to Metlako falls with our same crew plus Jesse Coombs. We woke up to another beautiful day and after a relaxing breakfast we made our way up to Metlako. The flows were definitely lower than the last time I ran the drop, but the lip was still as perfect as can be. Evan was first to fall off the drop and he did it with almost complete style as he got quite the hit to the face on impact. As soon as Evan was set up with a camera at the bottom, Pat rolled over the lip and popped up in the pool below with everything intact and a huge smile.

I was next up and after about 15 minutes of waiting in my boat "for the sun to get right" the photographers finally gave me the OK. I paddled to the lip slowly and got turned sideways but corrected with a big sweep stroke to get straightened out just before free falling 85 feet. I took a fairly soft hit but my skirt imploded and my boat filled with water. I was able to paddle to shore. As soon as I got my boat emptied out I glanced up just in time to see a streak of yellow melting into the veil of the waterfall as Jesse Coombs styled his way down to meet us in the pool below. Looking back up at the falls and then getting to paddle the beautiful gorge out was one of the most memorable experiences of my life and I can't wait to be in that spot again.

I don't have any pictures of me running it that day, but here's the beautiful waterfall...