Flashback: Champoeg to North Canby Ferry

new zealand, sup touring

The following couple posts are flashback posts inspired by paddle trips and water adventures taken in Oregon this fall just before the New Zealand departure. Bringing it back…

Starting a paddle trip super early in the morning is favorable for a few reasons. The first, is that when you have a paddle planned for the morning, if your like me, its kind of like Christmas, its hard to sleep, you’ll be up early from excitement anyhow. Additionally, if you are a morning person like me, you will paddle harder early in the day. Over the seasons I have noticed there is a direct relationship between my paddle strength and the lateness of day.

One reason why early paddles in the Willamette Valley can be cumbersome is fog. Not only does it effect visibility but it makes for a frigid first few miles. Many extra layers are crucial even though it seems silly because they always end up in a dry bag after a few hours.

The section between Champoeg and the Canby Ferry was challenging for it’s low flow and thus slow discharge. For a paddle boarder, this makes for essentially a lake paddle. This is great when your new to the sport as well. It feels comfortable to have complete control over speed.

In contrast, two days ago, paddling the largest discharge river in New Zealand (NZ), the Clutha, I realized the wonders and joys of none ranking rapids and moving at upwards of 12 k’s an hour while standing on an inflatable, something I would have been terrified of in Oregon. But more about that in future posts.

Before NZ, flat water had its draw: training, fighting for every mile of progress, and the ability to enjoy the scenery.

 

long distance training on the willamette

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Paddling below an old railroad bridge and then Interstate 5 crossing near Wilsonville

Paddling below an old railroad bridge and then Interstate 5 crossing near Wilsonville

Yesterday I finally had an opportunity to simulate conditions I am likely to encounter in New Zealand! I ventured on a 12 mile paddle on the Willamette, from Champoeg State Park to Molalla State Park, or just east of it to the Canby Ferry. The weather was a match: splitting between over cast and sunny, the water was a match: mixed wake and flat water with a gentle down stream current, though, still requiring much physical effort to make forward progress. The whole mission took approximately 4 hours and gave a solid idea of what can be reasonably accomplished in a day on a massive water way moving almost one mile an hour.

Some say flat water paddling is boring. Many say it can’t be done well on an inflatable. I disagree with both of these assertions. Yesterday was the biggest milage day on the flattest water I have ever done and the Hala-Nass performed like a champ. Here is a summary of the touring qualities where the Nass excels:

Loss of air: Maybe because of air/water temperature differentials, maybe for other reasons, over the course of a big day paddling, it is possible for an inflatable to lose air pressure. This has never happened on the Nass and I have always been satisfied with the rigidity it demonstrates at 15 psi. In fact, at take outs, many times, passer-bys have stopped me and express their surprise as I deflate the craft. People have no idea it is an inflatable.

Ability to hold weight: I must acknowledge, as a female, I have a bit of an advantage in this category as I weigh less than a male, but lately I have loaded the board up with weight- 20+ lbs and it hasn’t lost air or much buoyancy.

Keeping up with kayaks: I paddled the Willamette stretch with a male kayaker with about equal water experience and a mediocre kayaka. I was blown out of the water to see after 3+ miles that I had a significant lead on him. This could be due to some new strokes I have been experimenting with but I think the Nass has to be the most all around, speedy, efficient, durable board I have ever ridden. Every day it surprises me with a new advantage…

blue herons

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Tualatin River

Over the course of two days, starting at Tualatin Community Park,  I paddled upstream 99W Bridge and then down stream to Shipley Bridge (indicated by the lightened portions of the river). During this time I saw three Herons, one black faced and light blue/grey bird that I have yet to identify, and many Mallards.

One of the most visceral components of paddling on the Tualatin (and in the Portland Metro area, in general) is the many underpasses. Of course in Bend there are underpasses, however they aren’t as tall and as intimidating. I know it sounds silly but when you float under a bridge, the shift to industrial ambiance seems towering and never ending. It’s dark, echoing, and enclosed. Such a stark contrast to the usual feel of a float, wide, open, and sun baked. This can really snap the navigator to attention.

After one such moment, emerging from an underpass, I realized a Heron was 50 feet in front of me enjoying the early fall temperatures. I stopped paddling and the river gently pulled me closer. At our closest proximity we were separated only 10 feet. He, sitting on one foot atop a snap, and me cross legged on my board. Mesmerized by his lightly stripped beard of flowing feathers, at one point he collected one of his two legs, retracted it into the beard and began to nap on the on the one remaining. Shortly there after, he began a series of calisthenics that could only be described as Heron Yoga. When it was time to shove off and continue the paddle, I frightened him with a paddle dunk and he flew off to the low lying Doug Fir branch.

The least visceral component of the Tualatin is low flow. One seems to work just as hard paddling up stream as down, although, I have found this a blessing when photographing wild life. With turbid water sweeping you down stream, it can be hard to spot wildlife in time to stall on the shoreline. By the time you see the tall tail signs of wildlife, feather preening, a turning head or opened beak, you’d cause a big ruckus to stable yourself for the shot. I count my blessings my father lives so close to a great training location!

 

Navigable?

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At it’s greatest width, the Canal running through Chris’s property in NE Bend, OR is only 5 feet or so across. But that hasn’t stopped me from fantasizing about the possibility the canal might just be big enough for my inflatable… After all my Hala Nass board is just under 3 feet rail to rail. Months of contemplating, what if, led to a trial. Sometimes you just have to know.

When I tried to float the canal, two things happened. I confirmed that no, the irrigation canal is not navigable and I met one of the neighbors, visible in the upper right corner of photo 2. He said he was just as disappointed.

drive by highlining

sup touring

Paul Clark (Black and Red Photography and SUP Paul) was kind enough to stop in to my going away party! He set up 3 slack lines in 10 minutes or less. It was definitely the highlight of the get together.

Clark has been entirely instrumental in my upcoming journey to New Zealand by giving me great ideas on gear to acquire, guiding my first white water sup-lesson, and being one of a few people who would even understand why a person might want to buy a one-way ticket to New Zealand just to ISUP (Inflatable SUP). Thanks Paul!

open water and distance training

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Waldo Lake

Ok, so I realize paddling 6 miles can’t really be considered “long” distance, however, I haven’t been paddling the stretches I should be, so at this stage in my endurance, the half dozen mile loop I completed on the north end of Waldo Lake off 58 was a challenge and much was learned.

The first half of the paddle was along the shore line, which was a good reminder of how circuitous a paddle can be if you duck into every cove. Paddling to the furthest head land on the western shore line, I wanted to see how difficult it would be to navigate to the cove we left from, back on the eastern shore. This was a useful exercise for several reasons. It is more difficult to recognize landforms on a shoreline 2 miles away than I anticipated. Turning around and looking to the mountains or skyline 100 yards after disembarking is far more useful for approximating direction for return, than trying to determine the desired point from 1 or miles away . In the future, the most favorable solution will be to take a barring. Realizing how difficult navigation can be at a distance of two miles even in the clearest conditions made me wonder how hard it could be in mist, choppy water, or worse.

It is likely I will encounter fog on my upcoming southern hemisphere excursion. Paddling in the morning with a receding tide is favorable with the typical advantage of low winds, however, it is likely to be foggy, especially in my first destination, Marlborogh Sound, the tip of the South Island, New Zealand. Next step: a six mile paddle with 40+ lbs of gear.

Approximate route paddled

Approximate route paddled, Waldo Lake.

I was again, hugely impressed by the handling of the Hala Nass with high frequency paddle strokes. It was probably the fastest I have attempted to operate a board over the greatest distance. Having spent most of my paddle hours on a rigid board prior to the Nass, I was really impressed. Of coarse there is a slight difference on an inflatable, but compared to other inflatables I have ridden, the Nass has the least noticeable difference compared with a rigid board.

clear lake on 126

gear review, sup touring

Photographing wild life has been a favorite reason for paddling since I started 1.5 years ago. Mostly capturing birds, one must be quick to grab the camera and have much faith in their vessel, that it will keep stable. The Hala Nass does both of these tasks well. With the quick access tie downs on the front of the board, I can slide my dry camera bag upfront and be ready to grab the SLR Canon 60D as soon as I hear a wing flap. The 31′ rail to rail, 12’6 length, and amazing buoyancy means I am never nervous the board will spill and my camera will submerge. It’s definitely the ideal board for photography.

 

white water round 1, the nass and atcha

gear review, sup touring

White water safety SUP guide. Great outfits right?

While reviewing the pages of Stand Up Paddling, Flatwater to Surf and Rivers by Rob Casey, I found the International Scale of River Difficulty description for Class 1 and 2:

Class 1- Easy. Light Current with a few riffles and small rapids, and few or no obstructions. Easy self rescue.
Class 2- Novice. Easy waves, wide open channels, little difficulty, and rocks that can be avoided with some skill. Some scouting from shore.

This finding promptly deflated the ego I had grown after having took a few white water runs just below Big Eddy on the Upper Deschutes last week… “Easy”? Really? While I was pleasantly surprised at my capabilities in the white caps, I definitely wouldn’t have called it “Easy”. Not to mention the laceration friendly snags lining the western shore on both runs and the wealth of lava rock on river bottom just waiting to grat you like cheese. Just remember, I grew up in the city, pretty terrified of water most of my life. My white water experience amounted to 2 rafting trips, one over Big Eddy (Class 3), and the Mckenzie (Class 2). I had zero kayaking experience and the same number of reasons to think I would be successful at this sport. Volunteering for white water was a shot in the dark at best.

However, when Paul Clark, photographer, slacklinner, and, more pertinently, white water paddler extraordinaire, offered to take me for my first white water run, I jumped at the chance. Dressing for the part was the most time consuming phase of the whole endeavor. Luckily, I’d purchased a second hand (circa 1990) wet suit in mint condition for the epic, which kept me at a totally comfortable temperature during the 2+ hour session and took approximately the same amount of time to squeeze into. Cheers to Gear Fix for supplying the suit.

Clark also supplied safety gear: helmet, shin guards, PFD (chesty style), leash, and strongly encouraged me to wear boardies over my wet suit, claiming it was the “industry standard”. Obviously I opted not to cover the glorious neoprene 8th layer of skin, it cost me $18.00, no way was covering it. I know what your thinking, where are the prints? Unfortunately, there are no photos to document as we Simul-SUPed and there was no one on shore to keep record.

Take away STATS:

  • Stoked after one try I made it down the Class 1 standing, although I prefer the Class 5 definition for this run as we did an excessive scout from shore … just saying. Mad props to the Hala Nass which gracefully floated me down the rapids. For such a long board it handled quite remarkably and it would be my number one choice on a multi-day float. The hard tipped nose was great when hitting lava rock and the stability was hardy when pulling my fallen self back on the board.
  • Riding down the Class 2 (arguably +, maybe?) after a 30 minute paddle upstream in some rapidly moving water, hopping eddy to eddy, Clark recommended I stick to my knees and lent me the Hala-Atcha. Significantly wider, 36 inches rail-to-rail, and 9’6 feet, I rode the Atcha majic carpet style down 4 huge waves over 40 feet river distance. Though I was super tiered and my balance was off after the several sessions on the Class 1 and the paddle upstream, I barely worked for my kneeling victory. Balance came easy on a shorter, wider board and it was truly boat knows best rolling over the waves.
  • It was really hard carrying the boards. Just remember, I weigh 120 lbs. If you think committing to the perceived danger of rapids is the hardest part, your wrong.

going coastal

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Although I am a sucker for a good paddle, I must admit, dawn at Yaquina Head was a real treat, despite not being on the water. The tide pools, rainbow horizon, sea lions, and friendly/knowledgable staff at the BLM Outstanding Natural Area where really remarkable. I am so jealous my best friend, Allison Ginn, who normally oversees recreation management in NE Wyoming, has the opportunity for a short detail as Site Manager at Yaquina Head. What a job!

Some of the highlights also included:

– Volunteering as an usher in order to see the Shifty Sailors performance at the Newport Community Theauter

– Feeling the prickly tentacles of a Sea Anemone

– The lush greenery of the valley which enveloped the banks of our paddle excursions

– Being there for Ally’s first SUP tour, may there be many more to come…

prineville reservoir

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Sporting my favorite paddling gear, farm overalls!

Sporting my favorite paddling gear, farm overalls!

 

 

Say what you will about Prineville Reservoir... you can't beat the Basalt outcrops.

Say what you will about Prineville Reservoir… you can’t beat the Basalt outcrops.

Listen, I know what people think about reservoirs and paddling… like gym climbing verses cranking on actual rock. BUT, I like reservoirs and its all paddling right? Training is training. A couple days ago I headed out East to get my first strokes in weeks. Less than two months from my impending departure to New Zealend for an undetermined number of months exploring inflatable SUPing, going for weeks with no paddling is inexcusable!

Reservoirs… Who cares if there are tons of motorized water crafts making waves? That just means staying cued into the obstacles and a wilder ride. Who cares if you can hear wake-board-want-to-be-gangster but actually hick Top 40 tunes blaring on over prices boater sub-woofers? That just means if feels like you are in a music video.

Probably my favorite part of reservoirs, wide open scenery. Some of collinsrocks media readers might know I was a professional geologist (now I am a professional unprofessional geologist!) in a past life. Rivers can be narrow and visual perspective can be limited. Like paroosing the halls of a cathedral, the Basalt outcrops in Prineville are some of the most spectacular examples of the mantel flooding event ending 17 million years ago. Some like murals, some like towering rocks- I like both. It makes one feel mighty appreciative to be on the water no matter the vessel, no matter the hydrologic terrain…

westward paddle exploration: clear lake, willamette river, yaquina bay, and siuslaw river

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As a paddler, sometimes it is super easy to stay in Bend. There are tons of epic lakes and river runs within 45 minutes drive, let alone a great couple routes right in town. However, with the many hydrologic terrains I expect to encounter in New Zealand, I am ready to train on some water ways outside of the High Desert.

Next weekend, I plan to head west! Clear Lake (on 126), The Willamette River (out of Corvallis), Yaquina Bay (in Newport), and The Siuslaw River (possibly as far as Mapleton, all the way back into Florence) are some of the anticipated paddles. Stay tuned for photos and reviews!

preparation via deschutes county library and local paddle community

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DSC_5522

A big thank you goes to Paul Clark of Black and Red Photography for the awesome images he has been taking of me, his help getting some pro deals lined up, and his answering my seemingly endless strings of questions about touring. Clark has the bata on SUP touring and is a wealth of knowledge post his 200+ mile paddle of the Sea of Cortez.

Another sweet resource has been Deschutes County Library. In the many travel, paddle, and southern hemisphere focused publications I have been pouring over, perhaps the most helpful has been Sea Kayaking: A Manual for Long-Distance Touring. I know what you are thinking, ‘but Krystal, you Paddle Board, not Kayak?’ I know. But there are precious few literary options as SUP is such a new sport… The most interesting passages on sea touring have been cautions in regards to choosing a bears’ favorite fishing spot for camp, looking out for falling coconuts when in the tropics, and a comprehensive list of safety equipment. One of my favorite segments on the importance of navigation skills:

Don’t be intimidated by reports of currents that run at terrible speeds. Don’t dismiss them either… The best you can do when planning a major crossing is to combine all you have heard and read with what your eyes tell you from the cliff top. Judge each source of information critically against your own experience, then make your decision. Don’t let anyone do it for you unless you are listening to a sea canoeist more experienced than you are, or to someone whose credibility you know to be utterly beyond doubt

I feel this advise might be suitable as a moto for the trip… Shortened it would look like this:

Don’t be intimidated, but dismiss nothing. Combine all you have heard and read with what you see. Judge critically against your own experience and then make a decision. Don’t let anyone do it for you.

 

river report: demoing the hala-nass

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In response to a facebook comment my dad posted on a recent paddle picture… “Explain”, I thought I would detail how I came to obtain such rad photos of myself paddling! Normally I am taking the pictures and thus, there aren’t many taken of me.

It started at my house (by house I mean tinny gypsy shack in a friends drive way I am occupying until I head to New Zealand this fall) a week ago when J.D. Platt (Ex Pro Snowboarder, amazing dog trainer and owner of K9 Kings Entertainment, and great paddling buddy) mentioned this sick inflatable company, Hala. We had arranged to demo Stand On Liquid (SOL) boards in the coming weeks, which we were amped about, but there were no Oregon retailers that distributed Hala…J.D. was on a mission to obtain a narrow inflatable that could potentially be used for racing, while I was interested in a bomber touring board for my upcoming New Zealand trip. How could we get our hands on these Hala boards?

Thats were the cold call comes in. I sent a blind email to Peter Hall, the owner of Hala, detailing my trip itinerary and previous experience in the paddle industry (which only amounts to 1.5 years total paddle experience, a half season instructing, writing for SOL, and a massive amount of passion for touring). To my surprise and excitement, Peter emailed me back almost immediately and put me in touch with ambassador Paul Clark (owner/operator of Black and Red Photography) who lives in Bend, OR and has one of every Hala board (lucky devil).

So the short answer to my Dad’s facebook comment: “Explain” is that I got a bunch of sweet photos of myself demoing the Hala-Nass board from Paul because terns out he is a photographer too.

Thoughts on the Hala-Nass:

Likes:

The length of the board is great. I have been on inflatable less than 12’6 and found them useful for exploring small streams and high water in the spring time, however, for the large water ways I plan to visit in New Zealand (Fjord Lands, Able Tazman peninsula, ect.) and multi-day tours, the length is an absolute necessity.

The rocker in the board. I haven’t seen rocker in a board since last winter when I was up to my waist in pow-pow. Rad. I dug it. I think the less surface area on the water when holding gear, the better. Although I only weighted the front of the Nass, the rocker helped keep the board high on the water and buoyant. Loved it.

The flexy fin seemed useful for rocky water, or unforeseeable obstacles that one is likely to encounter on a tour.

Most importantly, the mounted D rings mean real durability for strapping down gear. I have used boards in the past that had malfunctions regarding the tie-down mechanisms and the D rings are essentially bomb proof. I like that they skipped the plastic here.

Stay tuned for reviews on the SOL inflatables. Demo going down this Monday!

wildlife: wolves and coyotes

oregon, outdoor, sup touring
Coyote spotted at Hosmer Lake

Coyote spotted at Hosmer Lake

I am a massive fan of local publications and public radio. This week, The Source and Snap Judgment crossed over in subject matter. However you feel about wolves, whatever you think their purpose, either side, listening to male scientists detail the anthology of the 06 Female pack in Yellowstone National Park brought shivers to my eyes and tears to my spine. I recommend listening to the pod cast. I have never been so blessed as to see a wolf in the wild, however, I did see a coyote last week at Hosmer Lake, and it was every bit as special.

In many Kalispel/Idaho Native American stories coyote is married to the wolf. Coyote is also responsible for mischief and solving many problems… When I saw a coyote at Hosmer Lake, it reminded me of the following story, and that coyote is always watching…

Coyote as the Moon

In the beginning there was no moon. People were very unhappy that they had to always be in the dark.They asked Yellow Fox to be the Moon. He was thrilled but he shone so brightly in the sky that at night everything became hot. The people decided to take him down and they asked Coyote to take his place. Well, Coyote was ecstatic because he would be able to see everything that was going on down on Earth. For a while, everyone was happy, especially the nosey Coyote. But Coyote would always yell out when someone was doing something wrong and everyone would hear him. He would tell when people were stealing meat from the drying racks or cheating at cards. Finally, all the people who wanted to do things secretly got together and decided to take Coyote out of the Sky. Someone else became the Moon. So far, the Moon is doing what the Moon should do: shine brightly. And everyone is happy.

 

river report: elk lake

commuting chronicles, oregon, outdoor, photo essay, sup touring

After a gorgeous paddling weekend at Little Fawn, I am amped for The 2nd Hand Soldiers to  play at Elk Lodge at the beginning of June. For me, staying on the far south side of the lake and then paddling to the lodge for music or a coke is the essence of poor woman’s paradise. Best of all is the hidden in let at Little Fawn. At first, when we looked at the water, we thought it was an isolated pond previously connected to Elk Lake, but it was the vantage that made it look singular. Walking the perimeter we realized it did indeed connect to the larger water way. I could imagine this protected cove would be a fantastic place to bring novice water enthusiasts as the wind is negligible and the water calm. Mossies (mosquitoes) were out in full force and I am hoping the gun shot spattering of red dots across my back will soon fade.