Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Syncline (4.18.10)

Once again I find myself waking up to the sound of the Hood River next to our camp, only this time I'm joined by Emily and our two dogs. I'm also a bit more tired, as I hadn't slept as well, and we'd had a long day on Panther Creek/Lower Wind the day before. This mood would soon be fixed with the help from some of Eric and Amanda's weapons grade coffee. Trust me, the stuff has some kick! Now awake, we all broke camp while Dan, Amanda, and Eric made breakfast, and a good one at that. Once everything was loaded, we said our goodbyes to Dan and Kristin, (who were headed to the Middle White Salmon to boat) and headed to Syncline for a day of mountain biking.

Syncline is a trail network that is located just across the the Columbia River from Hood River, and to the east about 5 miles. (~3 miles east of Bingen) Since the trails are unsanctioned, maps and trail guides are hard to find. I was able to piece one together by using tracks I had acquired with my GPS, as well as by searching for info online.
The trail system rides along ~500' shear basalt cliffs, down sloping grass fields full of wildflowers, and through oak savanna littered with poison oak. The views of Mount Hood from the top are nothing short of spectacular, and side streams with waterfalls only help complete this amazing place. The riding here is also top notch, everything from fast & flowy to tight & technical; in fact it contains some of the most technical stuff I've ridden in the Pacific Northwest.

On this day we did decide to cheat a little, and took advantage of Amanda's willingness to shuttle us. I must admit I was certainly feeling guilty, but at the same time I was really looking forward to knocking out a bunch of trail, especially on a day like we had in front of us (70 degrees and sunny).

Getting ready at the upper parking lot

The view from the upper lot (Mount Hood)

Lap one - Coyote Canyon:
From the lower parking lot (intersection of Courtney Road and Hwy 14) we drove to the upper lot via Courtney Road, which is about 80% paved. Once at the top, we took in the view of Mount Hood and changed into our riding gear. Eric had gotten some beta from some other riders who suggested we do Coyote Canyon first, so without hesitation that's where Emily, Eric, Evan, and I headed.
The trail for Coyote actually starts right across the road from the parking lot and heads west. You ride on the trail through a grass field and a gate which can be seen from the parking area. Be sure to close the gate after passing through. Once past the gate, we continued west for awhile longer as the trail changed from a grassy field to more of a forest setting. Soon the trail cuts back to the east and starts its descent. The trail continued along with a pretty good flow as it gradually got more technical. By about the halfway point, I found myself grinning ear to ear as the rocky section really started to take form. I also had a feeling of nostalgia as this is the type of terrain I had learned to ride on back in Flagstaff. The one thing that should be noted about this trail is the price of failure to stay on your bike will almost certainly result with a roll in the poison oak; this particular trail is littered with it. In fact, I still have poison oak sores a week and a half later, and this was from a very minor spill. Even with the pesky foliage at the bottom, I told the others that Coyote Canyon might have been the best trail I've ridden in the PNW, and dare I say ever...

Eric leads the charge down Coyote Canyon

Eric and Emily on the Coyote Canyon Trail

Evan threads some trees on the Coyote Canyon Trail

Lap two - Crybaby / Little Moab / Little Maui:
Once again, we all loaded into Eric's truck as Amanda graciously shuttled us back up to the top to the same parking lot we started the last ride from. This time however, we rode our bikes further up the road (taking rights at two junctions) until it turned to the Crybaby Trail. The first part of Crybaby is in a forest setting and is straight and wide which allows you to build quite a bit of speed--super fun stuff. This continues for about a mile before the trail makes a sharp turn to the right. This turn can be easy to miss especially with the speed you'll be carrying, so be on the lookout. If you do happen to miss it, don't worry, you have another opportunity--just stay right.
After the turn, the trail continues through the forest for a short time before it opens up and starts descending down grassy fields, and along the edge of the 500ft sheer Coyote Cliffs; this is what Syncline is known for. The view from here is simply amazing. Since we had clear sunny skies, Mount Hood was in full view completely capped with snow. The grass fields were bright green and and an abundance of wild flowers dotted them with an array of colors. Another thing the fields were full of was hikers who had made the journey up to admire the same views as us. It was good to see different user groups out and enjoying a place like this.

The crew poses at a view point on the
Crybaby Trail
(Evan, Eric, Emily, and me)

Taking in the view from the Crybaby Trail

Since the trail does cut through wide open fields, you could still open it up without fear of running a hiker off the trail, or the cliff for that matter. This kept encounters pleasant, and we wished each other a good day as we passed by. There are also a couple of trails that head down, but we stayed on the one to the right along the cliffs. There were definitely a couple of spots on this section that induced vertigo, so I was riding pretty cautiously, especially with the breeze in the air. At one point we passed a plaque, which I believe marked the spot where a mountain biker tumbled to his death after falling off the cliffs some years back.

Emily and Evan descending the Crybaby Trail

The trail hugging the Coyote Wall on Crybaby

The crew enjoys another view from the edge of the Coyote Cliffs

Eric, Emily, and Evan ham it up on Crybaby

Riding through the grass fields on Crybaby

Eventually, the trail merges with a jeep trail marking the end of Crybaby. I was now in familiar territory; last year a group of us rode up to this point from the bottom and did a lap or two on the bottom trails of Little Moab and Little Maui. Since I had done them before, I was able to quickly navigate our group over to Little Moab, which like Crybaby descends along the edge of the Coyote wall. The distinct difference between this trail and the others is implied in its name, for it is essentially a series of rock stairs and drops for its entire length. Although it does ride along the cliff as mentioned above, it is a little further away than on Crybaby, and I never really noticed it; this may be due in part to the full concentration required for the highly technical lines. I love this style of riding, and once again found myself with a big grin at the bottom.

Eric navigating down Little Moab

Emily enjoying Little Moab

Evan cleans a section of Little Moab

Evan rides through one of the few calm stretches on Little Moab

From here, instead of riding down to the old highway road, we decided to make the quick 3/4 mile climb back up and to the top of Little Maui. Yes, believe it or not, we did do a little climbing...
Little Maui is not nearly as technical as Moab, but it does have a few tricky spots. It also has a cool little stream that runs beside a portion of it, and it is one of the more beautiful trails in the network. Essentially, Maui runs all the way down to the old highway with a nice technical series of rock slabs right near the bottom, where there were a couple of different line options. Eric opted for the black diamond line. I quickly hiked down to setup for a shot, and soon after Eric come down. cleaning the line without issue. After taking the shot, I headed back up to my bike and ran the blue line, which was still good fun.

Eric takes the hero line at the end of Little Maui

Once at the old highway, it's a short (~1 mile) ride back to the parking lot where Eric's truck was waiting for another round. The nice part about the old road is that a landslide has blocked the road and it is no longer maintained, so you don't have to worry about cars.

Lap Three - Crybaby / Little Moab:
Another drive to the top, only this time once we were there we broke out the cooler and made some sandwiches for lunch. Evan decided he was done for the day, so after lunch he drove one of the cars down while Eric, Emily and I did a repeat of the previous lap, excluding Little Maui. Not much more to tell here, everyone made it down without any incidences. Oh yeah, Eric also told me I wasn't allowed to take anymore photos...

Lap Four - Crybaby / Hidden Valley:
Like the previous two laps, we descended down the Crybaby Trail, only this time, soon after reaching the open grassy area, we broke left (east) over toward Hidden Valley. To be honest I didn't know what to expect from this trail since I hadn't heard that much about it. To my surprise, it may actually be my favorite trail of the whole network that I've ridden. The reason for this is that it's the whole package -- super techie stuff, flowy sections, cascading streams, wildflowers, you name it, it's there. My favorite part was when Eric stopped, turned to me, and said, "Dude, where's your camera?" The nerve of that guy...
Since I didn't have my camera, you'll need to experience it yourself, which should be done as soon as possible...it's that good. Like Little Maui, it drops down and ends at the old highway, just a little further east.

Once again we rode back to the lower parking lot, for good this time. After changing back into our street clothes, we headed to White Salmon and Everybody's Brewing. This place has great food and beer, and is highly recommended after a day on the water or the trail. After eating, each party headed back to their respected abodes, and another week of the rat race.

Angry E's new shuttle rig. The rack is still in the design phase.
(photo by Evan Durland)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Panther Creek (4.17.10)

The weekend before last, a group of us headed up to the Columbia River Gorge for some much needed playtime. The weather forecast called for 70 degree temps with a slight chance of showers on Saturday and sunny skies on Sunday. After getting a lot of rain lately the forecast encouraged us to stay for the entire weekend and camp out. Essentially the plan would be to boat on Saturday and bike on Sunday. This would give us better weather for biking, and also allow Emily to bike with us since she wasn't able to drive up (with the dogs) until Saturday evening, due to her work schedule.

We waited until Friday before firming up our boating destination since it was hard to tell what the water levels would end up being. When the time finally came, my push was for Panther Creek. I'd been wanting to do this creek for a couple of years, but for some reason it always fell through; levels too low, levels too high, couldn't drum-up interest, etc... It looked like (based on snowmelt) that it would be in at a medium/medium low level of ~300cfs. This was actually good news since no one in our group had run it before, and we knew that it would probably be pretty busy and blind due to a gradient of around 250fpm. After pitching the idea to the others we agreed that if the level held we'd give it a go.

Still in Eugene at this point (and just finishing up work), I scrambled to get my stuff packed to make it to the first meeting place on time, Eric's house in Corvallis. Once there (a few minutes late), Eric, Amanda, Evan and myself packed up and headed towards Tucker Park just outside of Hood River, and our campground for the weekend. On Saturday we would be joined by Dan, Kristin, and Emily, so luckily taking a second car for a shuttle wasn't necessary.

After ~3 hours of driving, talking politics, and describing how we would solve the world's problems, we pulled into the campground around 10pm. After setting up our bedding under stars and headlamps, we all turned in for a good night's sleep to the sound of water flowing down Hood River right beside our campsite.

The next morning I woke up first, took a small walk around the park, did some reading about Panther Creek, and waited for the others to wake up. About an hour later, Evan's tent started to rattle, and soon after that Eric and Amanda climbed out from their abode in the back of Eric's truck. After eating breakfast (eggs and sausage) and setting up the remainder of our camp, we called Dan and Kristin to establish a meeting place in Carson, the closest town to Panther Creek.

They had arrived about 15 minutes before us, so when we got there we quickly fueled up and grabbed some snacks before heading to the takeout. The takeout for Panther is actually the same one used for the "Lower" Wind River run, which you also end up paddling when you do Panther. Since Kristin and Amanda would not be boating, we only needed to show them where the takeout was so they could leave us a car. Once that was done we headed to the put-in. When we got there, I scrambled down to see what the stick gauge on the bridge support was reading, and it was right at 1.8'. (~21") For reference, the internet gauge was reading ~300cfs.

Gettin' geared up at the put-in

The stick gauge on the bridge support (reading 1.8' or ~21")

The internet gauge (reading ~300cfs)

We had decided to only put on for the last ~1.25 miles of Panther Creek since the top section is supposedly long and mellow with minimal action. After changing into our gear, we hauled our boats down to the the creek, jumped in, and headed downstream. Our buddy Shawn had told me that the first major rapid of the run (Raychel's) contained some wood and was a recommend portage, and a long one at that. From my recollection of the conversation, it was ~1/4 mile down from the put-in and the lead-in was also a recommended walk. With this in mind, we proceeded down using extra caution and boat scouting the first series of drops. Once we felt we had gone close to 1/4 mile we also started to incorporate some bank scouting to ensure we didn't drop into the rapid unintentionally, keeping in mind that none of us had done the run before.

The crew running the boogie water above Raychel's

One by one, we boated our way from eddy to eddy downstream wondering if it was the next one in front of us. This went on for certainly longer than our beta had suggested, but finally came to the drop know as "Raychel's", which we guessed was more like a 1/2 mile from the put-in. It should be noted that, at least at this level, we were able to run the lead-in drop and catch a generous eddy on the left at the lip of the drop without issue.

Raychel's actually consists of 3 parts; the first was a choice between three narrow slots, with the left seeming to be the best choice. All three poured into some highly aerated water before spilling over a short slide into a beefy hole, which you'd definitely want to hit straight on and with speed. Once past this hole, the creek forms a small moving pool before running down the final drop, a sliding ledge with some wood in the run-out. Although it appeared that the wood could be avoided (if you were upright and in control) the first two tricky drops, and no room for error, convinced all of us that the long portage was the best choice. The walk around Raychel's was pretty exhausting since you have to walk all 3 parts as well as some of the run-out, so I ate an energy bar and took a short rest before getting back in my boat.

Starting the portage around Raychel's.
These are the entrance slots to the drop.

The entrance slots mark the beginning of Raychel's.

The second tier of Raychel's drops into this large hole.
It should be noted that there is essentially no recovery

time between this and the slots above

Eric back in the water at the end of the portage around Raychel's

The creek below the portage keeps its busy nature and seemed to steepen a tad. With that, we continued our conservative boat and bank scouting where necessary. The next major drop had us run down the left side through some boulders, before forcing us to ferry across to river right to avoid some wood in the left channel and a sieve in the middle of the creek. Once on the right, we all got out to scout the exit drop through a narrow slot against the right wall. Eric also pointed out a good looking boof just to the left of the slot, and decided that would be his line. The rest of us went for the slot with everyone having good lines, including Eric.

The entrance to the slot drop against the right wall

Dan runs the slot drop against the right wall

Evan lines up the same slot

Eric opts for the boof to the left of the slot

Once again we collected in a large eddy below the drop, and then continued downstream through more busy class 3-4 boogie water.

Dan runs a small ledge somewhere on the second half of the run

Eric goes for the boof again

Dan runs some more boogie water on the second part of the run

Eric makes his way down some more boogie water

Soon we came to the longest major rapid of the run. It consisted of a 75 to 100 yard boulder garden that then turns swiftly to the right, before dropping over a ledge with a hole that supposedly gets pretty sticky at high flows. However, at this level the hole was pretty benign.

The lead-in to the long rapid described above

Eric receives beta from Evan for the single longest rapid of the run.
Just out of sight of this photo is where the river breaks hard right

over the ledge with the hole (described above)

Dan in the middle of the long boulder garden

After this long drop, we scouted a few more including one with a hole that fed into an undercut boulder (and some wood) on the right. At first I didn't like the look of it and began to portage, but as I was walking down I could hear the others discussing a boof in the middle of the ledge that would make a pretty good line. I hadn't even noticed it at first, (obviously getting tired at this point) and after watching Eric grease it, I decided to join the others and give it a go. We all ended up having good lines on this one and no one came close to the hazards on the right.

Eric lines up the boof at the drop with the undercut on the right

Not far after this, the Wind River came into view. We had reached the confluence! In contrast with the steep, low volume run we had just done, the Wind had significantly more water and it took a little bit to get used to the push and large hydraulics. After some fun warm-up we came to the first big drop, The Flume. I have run the Lower Wind at low summer flows and was used to The Flume being a steep, somewhat trashy boulder drop. Although still fun at that level, it had no resemblance to the drop that was now in front of us. Basically, the water funnels down into a large exploding wave-hole about halfway through. After a brief scout, we all charged through, each hitting the hole and busting through upright. It was a hell of a ride, and one of the most fun drops I've run in awhile.

The entrance to The Flume on the Lower Wind (Photo by Evan Durland)

The author somewhere in The Flume (Photo by Evan Durland)

Only one rapid separates The Flume from the next big daddy, Beyond Limits. At lower water I've run the main line on river right with little effort. However, this level presented a whole new beast, and neither Evan or I wanted any part of it. Eric, however, gave me the double thumbs up to signal he was gonna give 'er. Dan was still contemplating, but I knew that as long as Eric didn't get destroyed he'd also give it a go. Eric walked upsteam and got into his boat to prepare for takeoff. He ferried into the main current and as he approached the lip he quickly turned and eddied out about 10 yards above the drop to get a closer look at the massive hole. After a few minutes of scouting he was back in his boat, took a couple of deep breaths (which I could see from the opposite shore), and dropped in. Due to the steepness of the ledge, he was able to build up quite a bit of speed and busted through without even slowing down. Elated, he paddled over to the left hand eddy below the drop. Now it was Dan's turn. He entered the drop in a similar fashion, but flew down the tongue with a little more of a left angle. This small adjustment allowed the hole to grab his bow and and pull him in toward the left and stickiest part of the hole. After getting surfed for a quick moment, it launched him into the air into a complete 360 before letting him go upside down. After snapping off a roll he joined Eric in the eddy below. Although he was glad to rodeo out of the hole, he also voiced frustrations with his line.

Eric blasts through the hole at Beyond Limits

Video of Eric's Line

Video of Dan's Line

Soon after leaving Beyond Limits, Shipherds Falls came into view. Basically, it is a series of four ledges with the first two tiers waterfalls, the third a slide, and the last a lowhead dam. At anything other than low summer flows these become unrunnable, and would be a suicide mission, with the terminal hole formed by the dam being the nail in the coffin. Wisely, we shouldered our boats and made the long portage around them. All excitement is not lost however, for to shorten the portage, a 25 to 30 foot throw & go allows you to do a little cliff jumpin' after throwing your gear off.

The author contemplates the jump below Shipherds Falls
(Photo by Evan Durland)

Once we had all jumped and collected our gear, we headed down the last mile or so of class 2 water before reaching the takeout. We had actually planned to meet Kristin and Amanda at 4pm at BZ Corner for a quick run down the Middle White Salmon, but unfortunately it was already 5pm, and by the time we loaded up and headed over there it probably would've been a little late for putting on. With that, we called the girls to cancel the plans, and instead all headed back to camp for the evening.

I must say, Panther Creek is definitely one of my favorite runs in the Columbia River Gorge, I only wish it ran more often. It reminds me a lot of the Miracle Mile (on the NFMF Willamette) and Upper Brice Creek--steep, tight, continuous boulder gardens. We'll surely be making a trip back.

Once back at camp, and soon after starting a fire and eating dinner, Emily showed up with the dogs. After time spent chatting around the fire, we once again climbed into our bed rolls and prepared for some mountain biking at Syncline the following day.

To be continued...

Some head-cam footy of a more recent trip at higher flow (~500cfs) and snowing:

Friday, April 9, 2010

Opal Creek (4.4.10)

The Sunday before last, a group of us headed over to Opal Creek to do some paddling. After weeks of drought the rains finally made a return and we were glad to see that one of the more faithful creeks in the area actually appeared to have enough water. (according to the internet gauge) However, since the gauge is so far downstream it's not an exact predictor, and it can vary quite a bit between winter and spring, with the latter usually having more water with the same gauge reading. Most people run Opal when it is reading between 1000cfs and 2000cfs. (from medium low to medium high) On this day we had ~1150, so we expected it to be a little low but still fun.

The gauge used for Opal Creek

After picking up Bob and meeting Jim at the Best Buy parking lot in Springfield, we headed towards the creek to meet the rest of the crew, which consisted of Eric, his brother Jason (who was visiting from out of state), and Brandon. After approximately an hour and a half of driving we pulled into the Three Pools parking lot, the take-out for lower Opal. Since we were the first ones to arrive I grabbed my camera and decided to take some photos of the Three Pools rapid, or as it's known to the kayaking community "Thor's Playroom". The first thing I noticed as I walked down the stairs toward the bottom drop of the rapid was how low the level was. In fact I was pretty sure that this was the lowest I had ever seen it. I'd paddled it down to ~1000 cfs in the past (on the internet gauge), but this seemed more equivalent to say 800cfs or so. Whatever the case we were here, and would be paddling it regardless. After pondering the flow, I walked upstream to take some more photos and just enjoy being outside, as this is one of the most beautiful places in Oregon.

Birds-eye view of the takeout at Three Pools

Looking upstream at the upper section of Thor's Playroom.
The rock column in the center-right of the photo is his hammer.

After the others had shown up, we quickly changed and headed to the put-in. Reaching the put-in of the Lower Opal run actually requires about a half-mile hike in from the parking lot via a dirt road; this is due to the road being gated off which leads to Jawbone Flat, an abandoned mining town and headquarters of the Friends of Opal Creek conservation group. It should be noted that you must take a side trail down from the dirt road to reach the put-in. This can be easily missed, but essentially it is the first trail to the right (double track) soon after crossing Gold Creek, the first bridge on the dirt road. If this is your first time to Opal Creek, make sure to check out the old mine that marks the put-in. Another thing that should be appreciated is how clear the water is, which only adds to the whole Opal experience.

Jim leading the charge to the put-in

Bridge crossing at Gold Creek

A view of the mine entrance at the put-in for Lower Opal

Jim and Brandon get geared up at the put-in

Once at the put-in, I rushed to get ready so I could get downstream before the others and set-up for some pictures. On my way down, I had a hard time not stopping at every corner due to the sheer beauty of the place that would have made a good photo even without some whitewater; however I stayed focused and set-up just below the first sizable drop in the first stretch. Soon after, boats started appearing one by one, eddying out just above the drop. Since the water was low I wasn't able to send them over a nice boof that's there at higher flows, so instead I pointed everyone down a sliding ledge to the right of it.

Jason runs the bottom ledge of the first sizable rapid on the lower run

Once everyone had passed, I loaded up my gear and started heading downriver, and once again jumped out ahead to set-up. The next location was just after a class 3 rapid that exited through vertical rock walls on either side. Just after these walls the water pools up before dropping over a ledge with a powerful hydraulic, which usually dishes out a couple of good stern squirts.

Looking upstream through the vertical cliff walls.
Notice the clarity of the water!

Jim runs the ledge below the vertical rock walls.

After a few bends in the creek we were sitting in the eddy just above Big Ugly. I've run this drop using just about every line imaginable, and with a variety of results. Typically however, I tend to run the right-side sneak which sends you bashing down and through a couple of boulders. On this day, the water happened to be too low for that, and created a high likelihood for pinning. Although the left side slot had enough water to run, horror stories from the past of underwater pins in the slot at low water convinced me that the easy portage on the river right was the best option. Everyone in the group decided the same, except the Emerson brothers who decided to give 'er. Eric went first, and after making the move from right to left he lined up the slot, shot through, and was pushed into the left wall at the bottom, but was still able to make it through without flipping. Next, Jason followed the same line but hit a nice little rock boof in the bottom slot; after landing on edge in the seam he was flipped, but he followed it up nicely with a quick roll and a smile.

Eric in the bottom right slot of Big Ugly.

Jason in the bottom right slot of Big Ugly.

Not far downstream from here lies Big Fluffy, a 15' waterfall and the largest single drop of the run. The general rule is that the hole at the base is pretty sticky above 1000cfs, and only gets worse with more water. Since the level was fairly low (and I had run it at higher) I was pretty sure I would give it a go. I left my boat next to shore, and quickly scrambled over the rock cliffs to give it a quick scout. While looking at the drop from the cliff above, I started to have second thoughts about running it. The problem was not the hole (which looked pretty benign at this level) but rather the lead-in which had a guard rock just above the lip blocking the right side. Essentially what this does is funnel the water toward the left hand wall, which is definitely not the preferred line. I believed that if I could catch the small eddy just above the lip on river left, I could ferry across the current and sneak in behind the rock making the line to the right; however after a couple of minutes of staring at the drop, I decided to shoulder my boat around the falls and use the seal launch to enter the gorge below. (which is exciting in its own right!)
Everyone else had pretty much made the same decision except for Eric and Jason (once again...) who were giving it a longer (and closer) look. After some discussion between the two of them, they both decided to fire it off. Wanting to make sure they had safety down below, I launched in from the portage rock, eddied out, and waited for the signal that they were coming down. Eric was first, and after running the entrance he peeled into the eddy that I had planned to catch, just above the lip of the falls. Next, he pulled out of the eddy but quickly turned back as he didn't feel he had lined up the falls correctly. On the next attempt he hit it perfectly, and sailed off the right side of the drop before paddling away with a few loud words of satisfaction. Now it was Jason's turn, and just like his brother he caught the eddy at the top of the falls. In similar fashion he went for the right line and nailed it, catching his breath below.

A view from the gorge below Big Fluffy.
Truly an amazing place only seen by boaters.

Eric and Jason recap their ride over Big Fluffy with Jim

Bob using the seal launch approach around Big Fluffy

Once everyone was around the falls, we headed downriver once again. Eric and Jason, excited from their lines at Big Fluffy, jumped out ahead and led the charge. After a couple of quick rapids, we entered a class 3 boulder drop that has had wood in the past. Eric, seeing a clear line down the center, headed down with his boat angled at approximately one o'clock, and dropped between the first set of boulders. What he did not see was a rock just under the surface of the water; it quickly turned his boat perpendicular to the current and pinned him with his cockpit upstream. Both Jason and I were close behind and saw it unfold. We both knew immediately that it was a serious situation, since his head was just above water and the current was pushing hard against him. Jason called out to the others while I looked for a place to get out. Getting to him proved to be difficult, but luckily, as his boat started to collapse in on him, he was able to pull his skirt and self-rescue to a small gravel bar next to where he was pinned. Watching your buddy in a life threatening situation, and not being able to to them quickly is a sickening feeling; I can't even imagine what his brother was feeling at the time.
After he was safe on shore, Eric gave me the signal that the chute to the left was clear, so I dropped though and quickly ferried over to where his boat was pinned. Soon after this, the others also made their way to the small gravel bar, and we analyzed the situation trying to determine the best approach to get his boat unstuck. In the end we decided to try and get it off without setting up a Z-drag, and after a few attempts with five of us on the line, we were able to work it free. Now that the boat was on shore, you could really see how bad the situation could have been; basically his boat was completely crushed in, and easily could have trapped him had he not gotten out so quickly. You hear of similar stories from time to time, and know that these types of situations can occur in class 2/3 water even to experienced boaters, but it's still a surprise when it does. After some crude reshaping techniques, Eric was able to bring his boat back to its original form, and we were off again, perhaps with a little more caution.

Eric analyzing the situation and happy to be out of the boat.

A quick survey of the damage

After paddling some more class 2/3 water for a mile or so, we were sitting above the grand finale, "Thor's Playroom". To enter the playroom you have a choice between 4 or so doors; I won't go into detail on each one but they all have their own character, and allow you to change things up each time you run it. My preference is typically door #2, which consists of a narrow slot where the water pours through and over a double ledge. The holes aren't too sticky, but I've seen the first one flip boaters in the past.

Bob enters door #2 at Thor's

Jim busts through the first ledge in door #2

Once through this entrance, the water turns around a sharp left-hand corner and over a small slide. After a small pool the creek then heads down what I feel is the trickiest rapid in Thor's, right above his hammer. Basically, it's a steep pitch with some laterals and small holes, so be prepared to do some quick bracing on your way through.
Only a small diagonal hole/eddy line separates you from the eddy above the final drop, and the exit from the Playroom. If you run the main line on the right, this drop provides a wild ride down a steep slide before banking to the right and through a hole (with a seam) that allows you to show off your best mystery move to your buddies. This drop is always a crowd pleaser, and cheers can be heard from the many hikers and swimmers that crowd the area on warm spring days. Everyone had a great time at Thor's, however we did have one swimmer over the last drop. Since there is a large pool below it wasn't much of an issue and he self rescued in the left eddy at the bottom of the drop.

Bob runs the final drop (and exit) in Thor's

A boat solos the bottom drop in Thor's

From here it is just a quick walk up some stairs to the awaiting cars. (thanks girls!) At this point the rain really started coming down, so we all changed as quickly as we could, pretty much skipped the goodbyes, and headed home.