On top of dealing with all the hard work and fun (or rather fun with some hard work) of college, our group of young paddlers representing Bellingham, Washington have managed to break away from the overwhelming scene of lecture halls, libraries and house parties and get back to our roots. Almost every weekend we have ventured on a mission to the hot spots for paddling in the Pacific Northwest- Skookumchuck Narrows, Dipper Creek, the Nooksack and Stillaguamish River drainages and of course back home to the Columbia River Gorge.
An unexpected call from friends in British Columbia led to a quick decision to blow off a couple of days of school and head North. With such short notice, Todd Wells, Fred Norquist, Olin Wimberg, Eric Parker and I drove through the night and made it to a campsite near the put in of Dipper Creek, BC by 4:00a.m. Waking up early to magnificent glaciers, frozen ground and a fresh coat of snow we drank a cup of coffee, ate a quick breakfast and began our trek into the steep and deep canyon of Dipper Creek. We were treated to a near perfect water level, if only a couple inches on the low side. The lower section of Dipper Creek was one of the most mind-blowing places I’ve been. On either side of the narrow canyon rose sheer cliff walls for hundreds of feet with no route out. Low volume tea-cup drops and countless sweet boofs characterize this rarely run river. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. Thanks to Todd Wells for sharing these beautiful photos!
Waking up to a magnificent view in beautiful British Columbia
A narrow slot drop
Looking down at the final 40 footer of Dipper canyon
Eric Parker about to escape the narrow canyon
Weeks later another unexpected call came that immediately sparked a rush of adrenaline through my body when I heard that the Salem area, just south of Portland, Oregon was flooding and Abiqua Falls, the notorious beast that shattered Tyler Bradt’s back and punctured Jessie Coombs’ lung, was at prime flows. For years now I have stared at photos and imagined myself paddling over the lip of this nearly 100 foot tall waterfall. Finally, the opportunity was put in my lap and I had a chance to reach a goal that I have been dreaming about for years. Todd, Olin, Parker and I drove through the night, arriving to our destination at 5:00a.m. After a couple hour power nap we woke up and drove to Silver Falls State Park just outside of Salem, OR. Our team’s hopes of running Upper North Falls was shattered by at least four logs at the lip and bottom of the water fall. But our excitement was still high as the creek was at full-on flood stage. Next on the list, we drove straight to Abiqua Falls. The second I saw the drop I knew that my long-awaited goal of running it was going to be full-filled. Todd and I geared up and lowered our boats to the lip as Rush Sturges, Matt Baker and Jed Weingarten set up for photos and video, and Ben Marr, Erik Johnson and Eric Parker headed to the bottom to set safety.
The next thing I know, I’m peeling out of the eddy above the falls, looking at the biggest horizon line I’ve ever seen and falling, falling, falling until my body takes one of the biggest hits of my life. Skirt and body intact, I hand rolled up and paddled to the shore to take in the peace and beauty of the moment and enjoy the massive rush of adrenaline flooding my veins.
A few minutes later my brother Todd rolled over the lip with what appeared to be a near perfect line until he began to rotate “over the bars,” landing on his head. After a whole twenty seconds of down time, he finally popped up about forty feet from the bottom of the falls. After regaining his breath and overcoming a bit of shock, we sat down and embraced one of the most powerful moments two brothers could ever share.
Eric Parker captures Todd freefalling nearly 100ft.
Check out my edit of Abiqua Falls and other shenanigans in the Gorge--
Here’s Rush’s epic video of the day--
The very next weekend we were back in the Gorge and hiking up to the now well known Eagle Creek. Eric, Olin, Austin Rathman and I made our way to the top of Punchbowl Falls- a sweet thirty-footer with a unique lead-in. Following Eric and Olin down, I attempted to switch it up a bit and through a free-wheel off of the lip. As I rolled over the lip I planted my paddle and snapped my hips, throwing my boat a full rotation around me to land up-right but painfully flat. Just below Punchbowl Falls was one of my favorite drops in the world- Metlako Falls. My fourth time running the perfect 85 footer I had the same classic line as usual, landing softly in the pool below. Just after me came Olin and Parker, both having sick lines and big smiles on their faces. Check out some more great photos by Todd Wells!