After a quick check of the water levels on Saturday morning, I decided the best bet was to join the crew that was headed to Lake Creek for some playboatin'. Typically, it's difficult to get me to head there, but the level was good (~10 foot on the gauge) and creeking options were slim; plus I've started coming to the realization that although playboating is not my forte, it's good practice for hole rides, edge control, and rolling while on the creeks.
On this day our group gathered at the Shell station, just west of Eugene on the main road to the coast. From here, I jumped in with Pete, Arthur, and Brad and we headed to the put-in just above the Grassy Lawn play hole. Once there, I quickly changed and was the first one in the water. I headed downstream to a nice glassy wave on river left about a hundred yards or so from the put-in. Soon after, Brad came down and also got in a couple of surfs before we both headed to Grassy Lawn.
My favorite level for Grassy is actually between 10 and 11 feet, so I was hoping for a good day. Basically, when it starts to get into the 14 foot range it gets pretty bouncy, (and sticky) and it really just turns into out-of-control survival boating for me. That said, I know many people that love it at those higher flows, but they are also much better playboaters than myself.
Both Brad and I were able to get in quite a few rides at Grassy before the next batch of boaters showed up. In fact, from this point on they just kept coming, and after awhile the eddy started to get pretty crowded. It's a funny thing, you can go almost a full season without seeing any other groups on the river, but when Lake Creek comes in people travel from far and wide. I believe that this is mostly attributed to the fact that on the whole, the playboating in the PNW is not all that great (just what I've heard), so when Lake Creek is in, it's the place to be. Once the eddy does get full at Grassy it can be hard to keep your place in line, as well as not accidentally cut someone else, which is due to the swift upstream current it creates. Luckily, it's always a friendly atmosphere and exact line order is of minimal concern. On this day our group was fairly large (~8 peeps), but there also two other groups sharing the hole which included a playboating clinic of sorts.
I'm certainly not one to get extensive rides, but for some reason in large groups they tend to be really short and I seem to flush-out every time I try a spin. This can be quite frustrating, especially since you won't see another turn for about 10 minutes or so. Luckily for me, our group started heading down river to Mill Wave one by one, and soon enough I was the only one left from our group. Since this cleared the eddy quite a bit, I was able to get rides more frequently and soon enough I started to find my edges and get into more of a flow. It was also good to mingle with some of the others with whom I had never met before or hadn't seen in awhile.
After about 3 hours of playing at Grassy, Bob and Dan showed up after getting a later start out of Eugene. Unfortunately, I was too tired to hang out with them so I climbed up the steep muddy riverbank to the road above and walked back to Pete's car. In hindsight, it's really best to paddle down to the bridge just downstream, since it probably takes less time and is certainly better from an erosion standpoint. Once back at the car I quickly loaded up my boat, and drove to the takeout to meet the others. As I pulled in, I could see everyone else just starting to get changed. It turned out that we had all gotten tired around the same time, which made for perfect timing. The word from the rest of the crew was that Mill Wave was super good, and Red Hill was just a tad too high.
After we all changed and loaded up, we drove to Mapleton for some coffee and then headed home. All and all a great day of surf had by everyone!