Thanksgiving break 2011: Old Man Anderson and the kids

With Natalie out of the country doing geologic mapping for a few months, I found myself without my favorite boating partner for thanksgiving break. I really didn't feel like driving out to the northwest and paddling alone, so I started thumbing through my rolodex. Most of my B list paddling buddies have jobs, so I moved down the list to the C team. At the top of that list was Chase Nobles. I called him up a month or so ahead of time and got the trip all lined up. Pretty close to the departure date, Chase recruited a third paddler for our expedition, young Eddy Honea. I was happy to have a third person to share the gas costs and driving load. The three of us had an excellent trip, but I realized that, like most people, I'm getting old. Those kids were stoked ALL the time.
Since I was so excited about the trip, I wanted to leave at the earliest possible moment, and that was right after I finished teaching a lab at 8:00 thursday night. However, I had a busy week, and wasn't able to start packing at all until that night. Plus, we borrowed Natalie's car, and one of the conditions for its use was that we rebuild the roof racks before leaving, since they were tearing through the sheet metal of the roof.
I innovate while Eddy uses a circular saw and cellphone simultaneously. Thanksgiving 2011
After a couple pretty brilliant innovations involving an old broken boat, we packed up and had a nice timely 1:00 AM departure from Fort Collins. Just a short 24 hours later, we finished the snowy drive to Dan Rubado's house in Portland, ready to paddle. Of course, it was night time, but we waited until morning, and then headed over to Opal creek.
Now, I like to think that I had some fun back in my undergraduate days, but let me tell you: these guys were more stoked than anything I had ever seen. Lucky for us, the stoke regulations are a little more relaxed in Oregon, because in some states we probably would have been arrested.

Dan and I were catching up on old times during the hike in when the kids came literally running past us through the snow, one of them sitting in a boat while the other one towed him with his tow tether. Dan and I got a little stoked just from the fumes.
From Thanksgiving 2011
From Thanksgiving 2011
From Thanksgiving 2011
Opal creek was a pretty fun run. The levels were a little too low for the upper section, and there was a little too much snow on the banks for the sketchy portage in the lower gorge, so we only ran the easier middle section, but we still had a great time. Of particular note was the hilarious line that Dan had off of one of the rapids - Big Fluffy or something was the name.
From Thanksgiving 2011
After Opal creek, we continued to hit a series of more and more classic runs. Every day, the kids would call home and say that they had just run the best creek yet, and then the next morning we would go run something even better. All this stoke had the effect of making me feel ever older and more cantankerous. I don't know how it worked.
We progressed from Opal creek to Canyon creek, then the Green Truss, Hagen creek, to the Washougal, and then the Little White on Thanksgiving day.
Chase on Salmon falls below Opal creek. Thanksgiving 2011
Dan on the falls in Canyon creek. Thanksgiving 2011
Chase on the center boof of the Canyon creek falls. Thanksgiving 2011
Eddy approaches the falls. Thanksgiving 2011
Chase boofs the hell out of Big Brother on the Truss. Thanksgiving 2011
Eddy slightly off balance on Big Brother. Thanksgiving 2011
Eddy... STOKED! Thanksgiving 2011
On friday, we topped off the trip with a descent of Eagle creek. We had scouted it out earlier in the week, but it had been too high then. I used to think that Eagle creek was basically better and better as the water levels rose, but I was wrong. On our scouting mission, Punchbowl falls had a really strong current pushing into the undercut wall on river left below the drop, and everything was just super intense. When we came back on friday, the level was still high (3 times the recommended level according to the barometer gauge in the next drainage over) but was way more reasonable.
"Wow" levels"Reasonably high" levels. Thanksgiving 2011
We hiked up to Skoonichuck; a 40 footer to 10 footer combo drop. I was excited to try out the stern mount for the GoPro, but it took me a long time to get everything ready, so I ended up last in line to run the drop. Chase went first and dropped his paddle between the waterfalls, swimming in the bottom pool. Eddy still wanted to fire it up. As he peeled out of the eddy right above the drop, he got spun out in a small hole. He managed to get it turned back around and had what looked like a great line, catching a little bit of the boof flake on the left, like I had planned to. However, he did not resurface after running the first drop. He was just totally gone - probably behind the curtain of the 40 footer. Chase and I exchanged some gestures, and I ran back up to my boat to grab my throwbag, in hopes of throwing it through the curtain. I had some pretty grim flashbacks, but I was really relieved to hear some yelling when I was on my way back to the river. I figured that yelling meant that something had changed, which had to be good news.
Sure enough, Eddy reappeared while I was gone, and swam over the 10 footer, mostly okay. His boat soon followed. Watching the video footage later, he was only gone for about 30 seconds, but that's still way too long. I was still really excited about the drop, but I decided to rein it in, just to stay on the safe side. I walked around and put in below the waterfall. Here is Chase's footage from below the falls. I found it pretty intense to watch, but knowing that Eddy was ok made it not so bad. It's easy to miss if you zone out, but Eddy comes off the first falls right around 0:27.
The inbetween rapids were a lot cleaner than I remembered from my other trip down this creek, with Dave Schmitt. When we got to punchbowl, Eddy got out, still a little rattled from his close call at Skoonichuck, leaving just Chase and I.
I had a pretty awesome line off Punchbowl, if I do say so myself. Nobody got a photo, but it was okay, since I had the stern mount GoPro getting a sick shot of it. From the huge pool below, I snapped a hella artsy photo of Chase, although his line wasn't as amazing as mine.
Yeah, sure, it's good... but mine was probably even better. Thanksgiving 2011
After some cheering and celebrating, we paddled down to the decision point for Metlako. I was feeling it big time, because I really wanted to get some GoPro footage of it. Plus I figured the landing would be even softer than usual with the high water. You might even say I was a little stoked. Chase was on the fence, because Punchbowl was one of the largest drops he had yet run, and it was about 30 feet. Metlako is over 3 times taller than that. I managed to convince him with some strong logic. Our conversation was a lot like this:
"I don't know if I want to run Metlako."
"Let's just do it."
"Ok."
I had a less than optimal line. I went over the bars and landed on my face. My theory is that the water level was high enough that the ramp that normally sets your angle was sort of washed out, making it more of a sharp lip. Whatever the reasons, I pancaked a little and autoejected. I got to the eddy just in time to see Chase go over the bars by exactly the same amount, for a perfect double auto-eject. (So intense... what does it mean?) Unfortunately, when I ejected, my boat went sort of behind the waterfall a little, and got savagely beaten against the rocks. I rock climbed over to a tiny cave very close to the base of the falls to recover the boat. The stern mount had worked great, flexing enough to not break anything. However, during the beating, the GoPro case had broken open, and the camera had fallen out into the river, taking with it the sick footage of my awesome line off Punchbowl. I was slightly bummed, but stoked enough that I didn't really feel it.
Chase begins to go over-vert. Thanksgiving 2011
During my pancake landing, I cracked a blade in half on my paddle, and I made the mistake of tossing it into an eddy instead of up onto the bank. While I was rescuing my boat, the paddle slowly filled with water and sank. It was an expensive waterfall that day. Chase had tossed his paddle to avoid exactly what happened to me, and it had floated away downstream. This left us in an amusing position because we only had one breakdown paddle, but two paddlers. Our solution was to split the breakdown in half and share it. That was a really exciting way to run rapids. It worked great, and we ended up finding Chase's paddle about a mile downstream. We met up with Eddy and paddled back to the car just before dark. It was a pretty good way to finish the trip.
And Chase's paddle flew off into the sunset and had many adventures. Thanksgiving 2011
Part of the reason that I was so cantankerous was that there was nobody to take photos of me. Normally Natalie and I take photos of each other, and it works out pretty well, but I realized during this trip that that's because I trust Natalie with the camera. These kids were just so stoked out of their minds that I didn't really feel comfortable giving them the camera very often. As a result, most of the runs I was the personal media team for the kids. In fact, there were only 4 rapids through the whole trip where anyone took photos of me. In rapid succession, here they all are:
Reverse spawning at Salmon falls. Thanksgiving 2011
Orion set safety and got this shot of me on Spirit falls. Thanks Orion. Thanksgiving 2011
A random drop on Hagen creek (actually we were on the Washougal at this point) with a tight exit. Thanksgiving 2011
Returning to Metlako. Thanksgiving 2011
I lost the GoPro footage from Eagle creek, but I still have the footage from the rest of the trip, so I might put together a short video. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, here is a slideshow, with a couple extra photos from that I didn't include in the post:

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