Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Silverton Hike & Huck (3.10.12)

With the weekend fast approaching and a dismal forecast for bringing any local runs into a fun runnable level, I was planning to spend it both days scouting out some new creeks in the area. I did try and get a crew together for a trip up to Canyon Creek (WA), but even that was a little low and didn’t generate much interest. Then I got a call from Jacob who invited me on a mini huckfest near the town of Silverton (OR), which I graciously accepted. The plan was to hike into a ½ mile stretch of Abiqua Creek to run a pair of falls in the 15’ to 20’ range, and then head over to Upper Butte Creek Falls to fire off a line or two. I was also able to round up Roman for the trip north, who seemed pretty enthusiastic about the idea.

Saturday morning we got out of town on time and headed for the meeting place, just off the highway at a Fred Myers in Salem. We rolled in at the exact time that Both Jacob and Andrew Bradley did, and after some greetings, Jacob informed me that we’d also have recruits coming from Corvallis and Portland. In addition to the four of us, we would have Brandon Bloomquist, Nate Merrill, Anna Herring, Joni Randall, and Michael Freeman.

Before heading to Abiqua Creek, we made a quick stop in Scotts Mills (OR) for a quick huck on Scotts Mills Falls, located right in town on Butte Creek. This waterfall drops about 20’ in total -- The first ~4’ drops over a cement diversion weir, followed by a rocky middle section, and finally over a semi vertical curtain of around 10’ tall (for more information on the falls, go here). At first glance I wasn’t really sure I wanted to run it, and to be honest it looked pretty trashy. Then I watched Nate Merrill have really a nice line, which had me hiking back up to get my boat.

Nate with a very convincing line on Scotts Mills Falls

By the time I had gotten geared up and ready to go, Nate and Brandon had run multiple laps, so it must have been pretty fun. After sliding into the duck pond above the falls, I paddled the short bit of flat water to the lip and dropped in. Having much more speed than anticipated I completely missed my boof and basically flopped over the last pitch into the boil below. Obviously not happy with that line, I hiked back up for another. This time I was much more prepared and hit my line just like I wanted to, feeling much better about walking away from this one. Roman also fired up a couple laps with us and had good lines as well. Probably the best line of the falls was Andrew's, who threw a nice freewheel off it -- unfortunately no cameras were out at the time.

Brandon finishes up nicely on one of his laps
(photo by Jacob Cruser)

The author takes his turn
(photo by Jacob Cruser)

Another view of the author running the falls, on a different trip
(photo by Alex Scott)

Once we had our fill in Scotts Mills, we headed up the road to our put-in on Abiqua Creek. Since I wasn’t driving I don’t really remember the route, although I do recall a long steep descent into the drainage on a fairly developed gravel road. Once the creek came into view, Jacob mentioned that this was where we would be hiking in from.

Since the takeout was only ~1/2 mile downstream, we decided to just jog up for the cars after the run, so with that we started the short/steep descent to the creek. The area had obviously gotten some weather, as the bushwhack trail was fairly wet and greasy with mud. For the last pitch we setup a rope and lowered boats down to mitigate the chance of a boat tumbling into the creek. This effort proved futile, as two of the water crafts found their way into the creek and running the falls without their pilot. The first boat that went into the water happened as I was still lowering myself down – I basically looked to my right (after hearing yells and crashing sounds) to see a speeding green torpedo hit the water and drop out of sight around the corner. Soon after, a couple figures could be seen giving chase, which included some cliff jumping near the falls. Nate, quick on the draw, jumped in his boat and headed downstream to help, while I hung out to ensure more weapons wouldn’t be deployed into the water. After the dust had settled a bit, I hiked down to the lip of the falls to see if the situation was under control. Although there was no sign of the green boat or its original owner, Jacob and Nate gave me the head-tap, indicating that things were good. As I turned to return back upstream another unmanned boat flew into the water. I quickly yelled to Jacob “Boat in the water!”, which was kind of ironic since it was actually his boat – apparently a victim of the domino effect. Since he was staged just below the first falls, he was able to quickly corral it once it dropped over and floated free of the veil. Luckily this would be the last of our put-in struggles, so we could now focus on what we had come to do, huck some really fun/clean waterfalls!

Since there was a great perch at the lip of “Momma Duke’s”, the first waterfall, I setup with my fisheye lens to take some shots of the first few boaters running the falls. One of the first things I noticed was that the right line was almost identical to Big Kahuna (Canyon Creek, WA), in both height and style. Nate Merrill was first and lined up the main line on the right, taking a delayed boof halfway down and landing nicely on the boil below. Anna was next and went for the high point a little further left, which looked like a fun line as well, although it didn't produce as big of a boof as I had expected it to.

Nate drops the main line at Momma Duke's Laundry Chute

Nate, mid flight

Anna fires up the line just to the left

Now chomping at the bit, I went up to take my turn. The lead-in was very straightforward, but did push a little more to the left than I had expected. With a correction stroke or two, I lined it up and threw in a boof about a quarter of the way down, landing pretty flat. Although soft, it was still enough of an impact to tilt my head-cam down. I quickly paddled over to the rocks on the other side of the pool to set up for some photos, this time from below. We each ended up running another lap or two on Momma Duke's before continuing downstream.

Michael lines it up at Momma Duke's

Joni throws in a nice delayed boof

Nate on another lap over Momma Duke's

The author droppin' down the Laundry Chute -- taken on another trip
(photo by Alex Scott)

Just a couple hundred feet below Momma Duke's was the second large horizon line, known as Peony Falls. I had headed down before the others to find a good place to set up for photos and give it a quick scout. This drop was more vertical and a bit taller, it looked all of 20' tall. It also appeared unbelievably clean and I couldn't wait to run it. There really wasn't a great place to setup for photos from above, so when the other showed up I asked if they'd hold up so I could setup from down below. After confirming the line with Jacob, who had run it before, I got in my boat and peeled out of the eddy. The line I had planned to hit had a delayed boof ~5' down from the lip. As I dropped over I held my stroke until I saw the sweet spot, then pulled, landing at the base with nice angle. I quickly paddled to a rock outcropping, climbed out, readied my camera, and gave the rest of the crew the thumbs up.

One by one our crew dropped over the falls, using a variety of lines -- some boofs, some plugs, but all ending with a big smile. The hike back up to run it again was definitely harder than the one for Momma Duke's, but also more rewarding. We each ran a couple of laps, and with more time I would have hiked it a few more times. I actually over-boofed it on my second lap, but luckily I was bent far enough forward to protect my back. I had charged the drop from further up and hit the more pronounced flake just to the right of where I had run it the last time. As I went airborne, my bow lifted above my stern, and I basically landed stern first. Although it was pretty damn fun and the landing didn't really hurt, I still felt pretty foolish for showboatin' at the risk of a back injury -- oh well, live and learn I guess...

Anna drops over Peony Falls

Brandon fires up Peony Falls while Anna and Michael look on

Nate plants a nice stroke at the lip...

...and flattens it out nicely

Roman at Peony Falls


Andrew, with a very similar takeoff to Nate's...

...and landing

Brandon sits front row for the show

Jacob looking smooth at Peony

Michael with a great line

The author droppin' in -- taken on another trip
(photo by Alex Scott)

The author gettin' the nose up -- taken on another trip
(photo by Alex Scott)

Now that we were burning daylight and pretty worn-out from all the trips up and down the falls, we headed downstream to the takeout at the lip of the big boy, Abiqua Falls. After dropping over a couple of fun smallish drops, the creek entered an ever tightening gorge that was very reminiscent of the geology on Eagle Creek in the Columbia River Gorge. Jacob recommended leading from this point since he was the only one that knew the run, coupled with the fact that we would need to portage around a section that was not completely obvious from above. As we continued down cautiously, we finally came to the spot, The Cattle Ramp. Basically the creek narrowed down to an 8' wide chute that ran about the length of a football field before taking the final plunge over the 100' tall Abiqua Falls. There was a slow moving pool above the falls that allowed for us to take out, however, a couple pieces of unfortunately placed wood blocked passage in the chute itself. The portage wasn't that bad, but I could see it getting pretty sketchy as water levels increased. After the portage, you put back on in the pool above the falls, cross it, and take-out on the other side. Using a two part rope system, we towed the boats up to a section of trail that was conducive to shouldering them. A short hike later and we were back at the road, just down from where the vehicles were parked. Once they were retrieved and gear was loaded, we headed off to our next destination, Upper Butte Creek Falls.

Looking down the Cattle Ramp

Joni, Jacob, and Anna on the portage route around the Cattle Ramp

This picture shows some of the bothersome wood

The portage ends right below the two sticks in the
water, and just above the lip of Abiqua Falls, where
the creek drops out of view at the top of the photo.

Looking back up at the Cattle Ramp
from the lip of Abiqua Falls -- Stunning!

Andrew scouts the line, possibly for another day...

A view of Abiqua Falls, from the lookout downstream

Conveniently, Butte Creek was just on the other side of the ridge that we had driven up; however, just as inconvenient was the unexpected road gate that would necessitate a couple miles of hiking just to reach the falls. The group quickly agreed that it wasn't really worth it, and decided instead to head over for a lap or two on the Silverton Speedway.

The section of Silver Creek between the reservoir and the town of Silverton was basically class II, with a nasty 10' drop about halfway through. By the time I had pulled up, much of the group was already out scouting this ledge; in fact, the other Nate was already headed back to his boat to take a run at it. The main line over the ledge didn't look bad on its own, in fact it looked like a fun little boof; however, the landing didn't look nearly as good, and there was a near vertical log in the run-out just to the left of it. With the group looking on and staged with safety, Nate peeled out of the eddy and lined up for the drop. As he rounded over, he hit a nice delayed boof, but even this wasn't enough to keep his bow from smashing into a hidden underwater ledge, which none of us had seen. To me it actually appeared that he pinned for just a split second before getting pushed left into the log. Since there was room behind the log, it didn't end up being much of an issue, and probably acted more as and insult to injury. Now that this hidden hazard was discovered, no one else gave serious consideration to repeating the line, and instead opted for either a right side line (which pushed quite quickly into another log), a midstream shallow slide, or nice seal-launch on river-left (which is what I chose).

Nate drops over the 10'er. The ledge he pitoned is pretty
obvious in this photo, but wasn't in person. Be very careful
if you choose to runs this drop, which I would advise against...

Below this ledge the river continued its class II nature, so Roman, Brandon, and I pulled over and ran up to retrieve the cars while the rest of the crew continued down to a take out at a park in Silverton. From there we parted ways, heading back home in different directions.

I thought this was a fantastic day of running waterfalls – nothing huge, but really clean and fun. Although a shuttle car wasn’t needed, I would consider this more of a Hike & Huck, as opposed to Park & Huck, at least for Abiqua Creek where you have to work a little for it. That said, Abiqua is also a very special place that would be worth dropping into for the scenery alone. The Cattle Ramp into the 100’ Falls is one the most beautiful sections of water that I’ve seen anywhere, making the 2 runnable waterfalls upstream just the icing on the cake. I was a little bummed that we got shut down at Upper Butte Creek Falls, where I was looking forward to getting in some “Oregon Tuck” practice. I still don’t know why they feel the need to gate it off, especially since it cuts off access to hikers as well, which will now have to put-in a lot more work to view the falls. Regardless, I would certainly do a return visit to run the drops on Abiqua, which would be really great on a warm day with time to do multiple laps.

As for flow, we had ~260cfs on the Butte Creek calculation gauge, which can be found here (thanks again Pat!). This flow was just fine for the falls, but I would agree with Jacob that 300 – 400cfs might be a bit better, and that much over this might make it a little sketchy for the portage at the Cattle Ramp.

For Jacob's trip report of the first descent down Upper Abiqua Creek, which includes this section and how the falls were named, go here.

Some footage from our huckfest:

Some addition footage of my second time, at a similar flow:

Huckfest - Butte/Abiqua Creek from Nate Pfeifer on Vimeo.

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