Friday, March 25, 2011

Eagle Creek, Oregon (3.19.11)

Chris at Punchbowl

One of the first things that Emily and I did after moving to Oregon was go backpacking up Eagle Creek, in the Columbia River Gorge. I remember being completely blown away by the massive waterfalls and moss covered cliff walls and trees. It was a stark contrast from Arizona, where we had moved from. The trail that parallels Eagle Creek and allows access to hikers was built using dynamite by Italian engineers in the 1910s. Also, the area above the 800’ mark was officially designated as Wilderness in 1984.

Fast forward ~10 years to 2011. Although I’ve grown accustomed to my new environment, I'm still awed when I visit places like Eagle Creek. Now being a kayaker (I wasn’t back then) I wondered what it would be like from the water level in my boat, as opposed to high up along the cliff walls. I’d seen many pictures and a few videos of fellow kayakers entering the canyon, and I knew it was only a matter of time before I made the journey myself.

Eagle Creek is not for the faint of heart, and the standard run (from Skoonichuck Falls) requires a four mile hike in, albeit on the well maintained hiking trail. Furthermore, one of the main reasons for hiking in is to run some big drops, and big they are. The first, Skoonichuck Falls, is a two-tiered monster that starts with a 40’er before almost immediately dropping over another 15’er. The next big boy is Punchbowl Falls, a 35’ drop into a deep pool with a notoriously hard landing. Not far below here lies the crown jewel, Metlako, 20’ of slope into 80’ of freefall, for a total of a 10 story drop!

For the last couple of weeks, Eagle Creek had entered my mind a few times, and when my buddy Chris threw the idea out in an email thread, I pounced. Now all we needed to do was round up a crew and find out how to determine flows (there's no real information out there on the internet for this). Chris worked on rounding up people up north, while I targeted the Eugene area. I also got in contact with Jacob Cruser, to see if he was interested in joining us. Jacob has done the run a few times and he’s always a good person to have along, as well as get beta from. Unfortunately he had already made plans, but he was able to direct us to the best gauge to use for determining flow. Basically, he stated that 400cfs on the Bull Run near Multnomah was a great medium flow. Further, he knew of people that had run Eagle Creek when this gauge was reading 600’. At that level Skoonichuck was too big to run (in their opinion) but the rest was good to go. He also stated that going in there over 700cfs would probably feel pretty full on. After looking at the gauge, it appeared that flows would be between 400 and 500cfs for Saturday. Perfect, right in the sweet spot, the plan was set.

The correlation gauge. We had
just over 400cfs on 3/19/10.

After many phone calls we were only able to wrangle up one more person into joining us, Eric Arlington, one of our dependable kayaking buddies from the Portland area. Luckily, Roman was planning to come up to Portland with me so he could run the slalom gates with Stephen Cameron. Having company would make the drive a little more enjoyable as well as help with the cost of fuel. We had also planned to all boat together on Sunday, so everything was starting to come together. Saturday morning rolled around, and after driving up to Portland and dropping Roman off at Stephen’s house, I headed over to Lewis & Clark State Park to meet up with Chris and Eric. Once we had all loaded up, we set our course for the parking area at the start of the famous Eagle Creek Trail.

When we entered the parking lot we saw that there were a couple groups of kayakers already there, packing up and preparing for the hike in. Obviously the word had gotten out about the water level. Upon talking to them we also discovered that these were not local crews, but rather from the southwest, specifically Colorado and Utah. After chatting for a bit they started the hike while we got our stuff packed up.

After some last minute preparations and some final adjustments to my kayak pack, I started up the trail, with my crew up ahead and almost out of sight. The hike in was long, but scenic. We stopped a few times along the way to rest and readjust. Eric, who didn’t have a pack, was shouldering his boat and doing everything he could do to prevent rubbing his shoulder raw. Chris, who was using the same NRS pack as me, managed to break it about a mile into the trip, and therefore was also forced to shoulder his boat up the trail. Luckily mine stayed intact, but with the boat’s high profile it was a little sketchy on some of the exposed/overhung portions of the trail. Our first major stop was at the overlook to Punchbowl, bigger than any waterfall I had run before, at 35’. From high up it didn’t look that big, but I knew this would be a different story from our perch at the lip once we were there in our kayaks.

The start of the hike

Chris readjusts

Slow and steady

There are some exposed sections on the hike in,
which were a little sketchy when you're top heavy.

Our first look at Punchbowl (from the the trail)

We now had about 1 ½ miles to our put-in, and since I was fairly warmed up it didn’t seem too bad. The scenery from this stretch of trail is pretty spectacular, including a narrow slot canyon that I was quite excited about floating through. Before long, Skoonichuck came into view, and although it was far away it looked massive and I was already questioning whether I’d be running it or not.

More hiking (and exposure)

The cool slot canyon, from the trail.

We made it! Finally.

Scouting Skoonichuck Falls

At this point we had ran into the crew of three from Colorado, Leif, Natalie, and David. After offloading our boats we hiked down to the lip of the falls to give it a look. I believe, “Wow, that’s big!” were the first words out of my mouth. Chris gave a chuckle and replied “Yup”. I was now about 50/50 on running this beast. The concern was that there was essentially no time between the first 40’er and the bottom 15’er. As Chris noted, “It’s basically a giant version of Double Drop on The Green Truss!”. At this point Eric had joined us and was also looking at the falls. His decision was almost immediate, “Yeah, I’ll be putting in below”. After some deliberation, Chris and I both walked away and decided not to run it. We were a little bummed about this, but at the same time happy in knowing that wisdom (more than fear) was what was guiding our better judgment. There was a line but it kinda seemed like a roll of the dice.

Leif Anderson drops into Skoonichuck Falls
(photo by Natalie Kramer)

David Schmitt runs the first tier of Skoonichuck...
(photo by Natalie Kramer)

...then the second.
(photo by Natalie Kramer)

The side trail that led to the base of the falls was back down the trail a bit. This off shoot was pretty steep but also short, so before long we were gearing up at the edge of the creek. Right below us was a ledge that I decided to take a look at before getting in my boat. This was good, since it allowed me to see that the right slot was pretty much a no-go, based on a piece of wood as well as a nasty hole. With that I directed the others to scrape down the far left side, where I followed soon after.

Our put-in, below Skoonichuck Falls.

Good to be on the water (at the put-in)

Looking back up at Skoonichuck

The first drop. We ran it hard left to
avoid wood and the hole in the right slot.

Just below was another horizon line, which Chris was already scouting. He motioned that it was good to go and then told us that it was an S-Turn drop which should be entered hard left. He also said it would be a good one for photos, so I jumped out to setup. Eric went first and had a super clean line. Chris was thrown around a bit, but finished it up clean. Now my turn, I ferried over to river left to drop in. I came down the tongue and was immediately flipped by the offset diagonals. After running almost the entirety of the drop on my head, I quickly rolled up in the pool below. In hindsight, I think the fact that Chris and I had to ferry over from the river right eddy complicated the line a bit, and didn’t allow us to enter cleanly. If I had it to do over again I would have put-in higher up or not eddied out at all and just stayed left.

Chris setups for the first good drop

Chris, mid S-Turn.

Below here were a couple more fun ledge drops before High Bridge came into view, signaling the entrance to the slot canyon. Since it did have a drop leading into it, I decided it would be a good time to jump out, have a look, and take some photos. The line ended up being pretty straightforward along the hard left side, and it reminded me a lot of Upper Trestle on Brice Creek. The canyon below did not disappoint, and was just as impressive as I had imagined it being. After taking a couple shots, I quickly packed up my belongings so I could boat down and join the others between the moss covered vertical walls below.

Chris runs the entrance drop to the slot canyon

Bustin' through

Eric takes his turn...

...and also gets a little squirt

The slot canyon. Amazing place!

We soon exited the slot and came to a pair of ledges, still in a gorge-type setting. The first drop had a narrow slot against the right wall that fed into a crack with a hole. It had a line, but it didn’t look that good to me or the others, so we all opted for the fun seal-launch into the eddy below on river left. From here a ferry back to river right lined us up for the next drop, with a tongue on that side to avoid a hole in the center.

Chris seal launches in between the pair of ledges

Chris lines up the bottom of the two ledges

Below these ledges the creek pooled in front of a logjam that was damming it up. We made the easy portage over the large log spanning the width of the creek at water level. Below here were a couple of class II/III rapids before we reached another obvious horizon line. What would be a fun ledge was all but ruined by a log that had fallen into the drop. There was a very narrow line on the far right side where the water spilled over it, but the water was pushing into the right overhung wall and it would have been difficult to stay off of it. Chris, who was scouting, quickly gave us the signal to portage. As I looked downstream from the rock shelf (that we were using to portage), it looked like Punchbowl Falls was right around the corner and we had reached a point of no return (based on the cliffed out walls). At this point Chris had already made the seal-launch back into the water and was headed downstream to check things out. Eric and I quickly made the portage as well and moved downstream to join him.

Exit to the tight gorge

Eric runs some class II, which allowed us to take in the view.

The drop a little way up from Punchbowl.
Unfortunately the log complicates the line
a bit, and most of the water plows into the right.

Eric contemplates the point of no return

Sure enough we had reached Punchbowl, and the entrance drop that guarded it. After eddying out, I hiked across the sloping cliff wall and met up with Chris who was scouting the drop. As predicted, the drop looked bigger than it had from high up during the hike in. After a short discussion on who should go first and where we should setup for pictures, I volunteered to be the probe so I could setup for them from down below. I did ask Chris to take photos from above and then toss the camera (in a drybox) to me once I had run the waterfall. After a quick study of the entrance drop I headed upstream to jump in my boat. I had planned to ferry over to river right to run the entrance drop on that side, which was really the only clean line. Once I was setup in the eddy, I paddled toward the lead-in ledge. I came down the drop with a nice little boof near the bottom which deposited me in the boiling pool below, and ready for the plunge that laid in front of me.

The author runs the entrance drop.
(photo by Chris Arnold)

The author catches his breath before dropping over Punchbowl
(photo by Chris Arnold)

I’d seen video from above of people running Punchbowl. One of the lines that looked really good to me was done by entering the pile as high up as possible and then riding it over the drop with a nice tuck. This would be my line, and we often refer to this recon as “video scouting”, usually in a joking manner. “Don’t worry man, it goes, I video scouted it!”After rehearsing the line in my head, I paddled toward my target. I was a bit surprised at the power of the boil which was actually pushing against me, and I had to put in some power strokes to make forward progress. As planned, I entered the pile high and drove through the seam with one last paddle stroke and a hip thrust. This is where thing started to go a little wrong. What happened next I didn’t expect (and therefore didn’t prepare for). I stalled out on the pile for an uncomfortable amount of time. Not only that but it was trying to spin me around and send me over backwards or upside down. Luckily I was able to keep it straight and upright, but unfortunately I had lost most of my speed and also wasn’t able to get in the tuck, which was probably the most important part (based on the infamous hard hit at the base). As I dropped through the air and toward the pool and the inevitable hit, I thought to myself, “This is gonna hurt”. Upon impact, which I landed completely flat, the jolt ripped the paddle from my hands, blew my skirt, readjusted my helmet cam, and flipped me. Without a sealed boat and paddle (I don’t have a hand roll), I was forced to swim. As I reached the surface I was glad that I was able to move all four limbs and had complete mobility. At this point I was pretty convinced that I hadn’t broken my back. I quickly swam for my paddle and grabbed it before climbing to shore and waiting for my boat, which was slowly floating toward me. A little shaken, I emptied my boat and asked the two gals (who were in their kayaks below the drop), if they could catch my camera as Chris threw it down. They graciously helped while I recomposed myself to prepare for my role as camera man.

Just out of view, the author goes over Punchbowl Falls
(photo by Chris Arnold)

After Chris was convinced that I was okay (through hand signals), he prepared for his turn. Although, I could not see the entrance ledge or boily pool above Punchbowl, I knew that Chris was coming based on the hooting and hollering from the others that were scouting the drop from the lip. He soon appeared on the pile with a deep blade in the draw position. As he transitioned the draw into a power boof stroke, he sailed off the curtain in perfect form. On the way down he was able to pitch the bow down and stuck the landing with an equally impressive angle. Happy with his line, he paddled over and joined the others in the right side of the pool.

Chris at Punchbowl, from the lip.
(photo by Leif Anderson)

Chris drives onto the pile

Chris gets over the front of the boat mid-air

Waiting for the others to take their turn on Punchbowl

We watched a couple of other paddlers go over (with good lines) before it was Eric’s turn. Eric was not super excited about the potential impact (especially after seeing my line), and had voiced his desire for me to get a good photo to make it worth it. Anyone who paddles with me can attest that this is not usually an issue, since I typically take an annoying amount of photos, especially on a personal first descent. One thing is for sure, I wasn’t going to let him down. As he came over the pile he immediately went into the ol’ “Oregon Tuck” to reduce the force from landing. I could tell while he was mid-air that he had nailed it, and he soon floated away from the base of the falls with a big smile on his face -- nice!

Eric and Natalie discuss their line
(photo by Leif Anderson)

Eric elbow deep in the pile

Eric gives 'er the ol' Oregon Tuck

It was apparent that we were all pretty tired at this point...we usually don’t have to work this hard for a kayak run. Since we wouldn’t be running Metlako, our portage route was starting just downstream. As we paddled away from Punchbowl we all turned around to take in one last view. It really is a stunning waterfall and there’s no wonder that it’s one of the most photographed in Oregon, if not the United States. Just around the corner I caught a glimpse of Roman and Stephen who had been watching from the trail. The first thing they asked me was if I was okay. “Yeah, I'm a little sore, but still good to go.”.

There was one more drop to run, Lower Punchbowl Falls, a ~10 to 12 foot boof ledge. The problem with running this drop is that it requires a more difficult hike up to the trail, but after my botched line on Upper Punchbowl, taking out above it was not an option. Chris also thought it was worth running so we both got back in our boats. The lead-in and lip were a little shallow so it required you to build up speed from further upstream. As I came over the lip, I got in a nice stroke and had a much better landing. Much happier with this line, I felt like I could finish the day feeling just a little bit better.

The author digs in at Lower Punchbowl Falls
(photo by Chris Arnold)

Feeling a little better about this line
(photo by Chris Arnold)

Chris grabs for the boof at Lower Punchbowl

The hike out was tougher than I had imagined. I was pretty drained and it must have shown, as both Stephen and Roman offered (and provided) assistance in getting my boat up to the trail. From here we had a little bit more than a mile of hiking before the gorge walls gave way, allowing us passage to the river. It wasn’t really worth setting up the kayak pack, so I just shouldered the boat. We watched as most of the other two crews paddled down to run Metlako. Since there were a couple of viewing platforms from the hiking trail, we quickly hurried down to watch the show. It was now starting to get dark, so we knew that we couldn’t watch for long before we needed to make our way out of the canyon. We also worried for the other boaters and hoped that they would not have to paddle out under dark skies. Soon enough, like lemmings, they dropped over one by one. It appeared that there were a couple of swims but most of them looked like they’d had good lines. The second to last boat had the most exciting line, as he was pitched forward and landed on his head. I can’t even imagine what that felt like after dropping almost 10 stories!

Metlako Falls

The Southwestern guys (and gals)
prepare for some air-time at Metlako
(photo by Roman Androsov)

Dropping in at Metlako Falls
(photo by Roman Androsov)

Once we were done watching, we quickly headed down the trail until we found the spur that would lead us down to the creek. Once we were back on the water it was a mile float out through class II/II+ rapids, and definitely helped relieve the energy it would have taken to hike all the way out. Once back at the car we loaded up and headed into Portland for some much needed Indian food and a good night’s sleep. The next day we paddled the ultra classic Canyon Creek run in Washington. We had ~800cfs, and good medium flow. We all had great lines and it was a good way to end the weekend.

In conclusion, I would say that Eagle Creek is at least a one-time “must do” if you live in the area, although it is a bit of a novelty run. The scenery is jaw dropping and there are some fun drops. That said, I probably won’t hike all the way into Skoonichuck unless for some reason I get a wild hair to run it. However, I could probably be convinced to hike into Punchbowl a few times as a simple “hike & huck”— right now I’m really feeling the need for some redemption…

The head-cam footage of our journey into Eagle Creek:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Upper Canyon Creek, Oregon (3.12.11)

Upper Canyon Creek (Oregon) has been on my radar for quite some time. I had heard mixed reviews, from a great class V run to a scary class V run (and everything in-between). One thing that most people agreed with was that it was one of the hardest runs in the mid-Willamette Valley with lots of consequence for missed lines or a swim. I had done the lower run multiple times, and based on its geology and character, I assumed it would be filled with a nice supply of undercuts and sieves. I guess it was time to find out first hand.

We had five people rounded up for the trip: Shawn would be coming from Roseburg, Chris and Eric from the Portland area, and Roman and I from Eugene. Everyone but the Eugene duo had done the run, but since this creek can change dramatically after a high water event (due to its unstable geology), we would still need to proceed with caution. Since we had gotten a late start, and we wanted to take our time and relax, we decided to just do the Upper run. After meeting Chris and Eric in Sweet Home, we headed to the put-in.

It looked like we would have between 400cfs and 450cfs, based on the calculation on Pat Welch’s page (here). According to Shawn this would be a good medium flow. He also mentioned that when it gets much above 500cfs it can get pretty pushy and below 350cfs was fairly trashy, so it appeared we'd be right in this fairly small window.

We had just over 400cfs on this day (3/12/11)

On the way up, we stopped to look at the last series of drops on the Upper run, Terminator and Day of Judgment. These two back-to-back boulder gardens are the climax of the run. Unfortunately, Day of Judgment is, for all intents and purposes, unrunnable. This is due to a massive boulder that peeled off the cliff and fell into the entrance, creating a junk pile of epic proportions; it really must be seen to be believed. Although there is a line, it’s a hard one, and the price of failure is much higher than I’d gamble with. After we were done gawking at the massive boulder field, we headed up to put on.

Terminator, as seen from the road to the put-in.

Day of Judgment, as seen from the road to the put-in.
Note the massive boulder that fell into the creek a few
years back, making it a highly consequential drop.

A closer look of the boulder mess in Day of Judgment,
as seen from the road to the put-in.

The put-in for Upper Canyon is a small bridge over the creek, and its slow-moving nature gives no indication of what lies downstream. After paddling for about a mile down the meandering stream, around downed logs and over shallow gravel bars, the walls closed in. We quickly eddied out and hiked down to scout the first drop of the run, Chocolate Chips. This two-part drop reminds me of a chunkier version of Laura's on Lower Brice Creek. After running a small ledge and making a left-hand bend, the creek funnels down through a violent 6' wide crack into the pool below. After hearing stories and seeing the drop, the biggest concern I had was pitoning the left wall in the slot, other than that it looked good to go.

Looking downstream from the put-in bridge.
Don't be fooled by the calmness...

Looking into the first drop of the run, "Chocolate Chips".

After a quick inspection, Chris said he was ready to fire it up first. I setup for photos while the others looked on and set safety. After running the initial drop Chris worked over to river-left to line up for the slot with left to right angle, which was exactly what I was planning to do. As he entered the slot he drove right into the curler at the top and dropped in. As he came through he was kicked sideways and chalked end to end in the slot for a split second, before shooting out like a watermelon seed and going deep. As he resurfaced his boat came completely out of the water while doing a 180 degree aerial, which he stuck the landing on! Unfortunately, during his extremely brief pin, his boat had folded across the middle. Luckily, Chris was not injured, and eddied out below to inspect the damage. After some persuasion from his foot, he was able to push it back into shape allowing him to at least finish the run.

Chris lines up the slot with right angle...

Chris in the split second pin that folded his boat

The dramatic resurface, which he landed!

Shawn and Eric were next, and both had excellent lines. After watching them and packing up my gear I headed upstream for my turn. After seeing what had happened to Chris, I decided to change up my line, and instead enter the slot more right. The entrance drop went well and I stayed right based on the newly planned line. As I dropped through the slot my nose was pushed slightly left and straight toward the left wall. Not wanting to piton, I leaned away from it and flipped as I hit the base of the drop. I was able to snap off a quick roll and join the others in the eddy below. Roman was next, and basically had the same line/outcome as me.

Shawn lines up between tiers while the others look on.

Shawn halfway through the slot

Eric runs the first ledge of Chocolate Chips...

...and the second

Eric waits below the drop

Roman dropping in

Just below Chocolate Chips was a fun little boulder garden before we eddied out once again to scout the next major rapid, Chicken Little. The first thing I noticed about this drop is how big it is! After a fairly trashy lead-in, the creek bends to the right dropping over a broken ledge/pile of boulders. This is the meat of Chicken Little, and it's filled with a couple of holes, wood, and undercut boulders. There was certainly a line, but I wasn't confident I could run it cleanly, so I decided to portage. I soon got the signal from the rest of the crew that no one was going to run it, so we all walked back upstream to gather our boats.

Looking downstream from Chocolate Chips

The small boulder garden just above Chicken Little

Looking down into the entrance of Chicken Little

The first part of Chicken Little

The crux second part of Chicken Little

Putting in just below Chicken Little, we needed to make a ferry over to river right to run the next drop. I was the last one in the water, and after making the ferry I dropped into a trashy shoot, planning to join the others in the river right eddy. On my way down I got bumped by a couple of rocks and was deflected left, where you didn’t want to be. A couple of frantic strokes in the shallow water allowed me to pull myself into a small eddy just before dropping over backwards down a sieved-out mess. Feeling a little humbled by my goof, I recollected myself and made it over to the river-right eddy where Shawn was still waiting.

Shawn gave me the verbal, but the line sounded a little complex, so I decided to get out and take a quick look. What lay below was yet another boulder garden that looked similar to the stuff on the Miracle Mile section of the NFMF Willamette (here). Since there was a log in play center-left, the plan was to work down the right side through a trashy little section, until it opened up where you could then work over to river left and eddy out below. My line was certainly not the cleanest, as I was tossed around a little bit at the top. Luckily I was able to get'er back in control and finish up the drop without too much trouble.

Scouting from the top of the boulder garden
that's directly below Chicken Little

Looking back upstream at the boulder garden

Immediately below was another fun rapid that was nice and clean. The right side walled up and was covered in a blanket of deep green moss, it was a pretty cool setting. Basically you wanted to start right from the top and just work your way down. The only real obstacle was a small ledge hole that needed to be run left of center, due to a rock that was backing-up the hole.

Chris eddies out about halfway down the drop.
The ledge just below him contains the ledge hole that is
backed up by the midstream boulder.

Roman enters the drop...

...and makes the move at the ledge hole

We had now entered the gorge section of the run, where it became a little more pool drop. The first drop we came to was pretty straightforward, but it did have a piece of wood coming in from the left that deserved some attention. We all ran it without issue, although I did get flipped by the top curler, but followed it up with a quick roll. Just below this was another fun boulder drop, which also had a couple small pieces of wood, but they weren't really in play.

Chris busts through the top curler. Note the wood just to his left.

Shawn in the boulder garden just below
the drop in the previous picture

At the next horizon line, Shawn said that we should probably get out and take a quick look at this one. Upon inspection, we had a small entrance drop that was followed by a nice sloping boof ledge. To me, it looked like the hole was fairly sticky, but Shawn assured me that it goes just fine and you'll end up sailing right over it. Since I was already out of my boat, I decided to take a couple shots while the others came down one-by-one, all with nice lines. Finally it was my turn, and I had a similar one to the others.

Shawn enters the lead-in drop

Shawn digs in at the boof ledge

Eric follows in similar fashion

Just around the corner the creek dropped over another horizon line, and once again we climbed down the rocks to give it a look. This was obviously the one that I had heard referred to as a mini version of the famous BZ falls on The Green Truss. My buddy Jacob told me later he believes that it's called Demon Seed. Not sure if that is its name, but since I don't know of another I'll go with it. None of us but Chris really gave it much consideration, since the line was quite thin and missing it could result in a face-plant into the right wall, which it fed into. After further thought Chris reluctantly decided to shoulder his boat as well.

Chris scouts the drop referred to as Demon Seed

Next we came to a fun double ledge that was not too difficult but still entertaining. Chris held up between the drops so I could get below and snap a couple of quick pics. After giving me a chance to setup he came down with a nice boof off the bottom ledge.

Chris runs the first ledge

Roman waits his turn as Chris eddies out between ledges

Chris with a nice boof on the bottom ledge

A little ways down the creek, the road came into view high on river right, so I knew we had arrived at the big daddies, Terminator and Day of Judgment. The last time the guys were here they were unable to run Terminator due to an unfortunately placed piece of wood. It was now clear, so we hiked down to give it a scout. This boulder garden was definitely bigger than it looked from a couple hundred feet up at the road, which was shocking. There were a couple of key moves that needed to be made as you threaded your way down. The first, near the top of the drop, was a small hole that should be punched with some speed or a well placed power stroke. Next, was a small boof that lined you up for the last and most important move, an airplane turn off the right side of a midstream boulder. Going left of this boulder would be bad since it ends in a sieve against the left bank. However, if you drop in too low on the right side you'll most likely be deposited in a terminal eddy against that bank, which would be difficult to paddle out of. Based on these hazards, we made sure to set safety in a couple of key spots.

Looking up at Terminator

Shawn and Chris volunteered to go first, and came down one after the other. I staged myself down below with a nice view looking upstream into the bottom part of the drop. Shawn was the first to appear and was right on line. As he made the last move at the midstream boulder, he was shot hard right landing on a hard brace. He was able to avoid the pull of the eddy on the right and paddled away safely with a big smile on his face.

Shawn in the middle of Terminator

Shawn lines up the bottom move at Terminator

Almost done!

Next came Chris, lined up in similar fashion. He was able to come off the boulder with a nice boof and landed cleanly, also paddling away happy with his line. He quickly stated that the drop paddled much bigger than it looked, and that the top hole had more pull than he was expecting. That said, I decided to re-look at the entrance while Eric prepared for his turn.

Chris boofs the midstream boulder...

...and digs in for the finish

I now had an upstream view of the drop as I watched Eric drop in. He had managed to build enough speed in the lead-in to cruise right through the top hole and setup for the remainder of the drop. Even from my vantage point I could see that he was able to make the move off the boulder and join the crew safely below.

Eric halfway through Terminator

As I headed upstream to take my turn, a good nervous energy came over me, which always seems to happen when I’m about to run a bigger drop. I retraced the line in my mind and slid into the water. As I dropped down the lead-in I set my eyes on the hole and dug in hard, easily clearing its back flow. A few more quick strokes had me sailing over the small boof and lined up for the bottom move. Seeing the other guys get really close to the right eddy, I decided to drive higher up on the boulder, which I did, and nearly landed directly behind it. The seam/boil was pretty impressive and my boat momentarily sucked below the surface before I was deposited downstream. Wow, that drop was worth the price of admission on its own!

The author at the entrance to Terminator
(photo by Chris Arnold)

The author drives high on the bottom boulder move
(photo by Chris Arnold)

I got out to setup safety for Roman, who was the last to drop in. Once again, since I was downstream I couldn’t see his line through the top part of the drop, but he finished off with a sweet line off the bottom boulder and eddied out right below me.

Roman takes his turn...
(photo by Chris Arnold)

...and finishes nicely
(photo by Chris Arnold)

Since we didn’t plan to run the Lower section, our takeout was just around the corner and we were all planning to portage Day of Judgment, we decided that we might as well takeout above it. We did have one more fun drop to run, which used to be the lead-in ledge to D of J, prior to the rockslide jamming it up. It’s basically a ~10’ sliding ledge, which we ran down the left side, to avoid a large undercut boulder on the right. We all had great lines and pulled out beside the massive boulder that formed the new entrance to D of J.

Chris runs the final ledge above "our" takeout

Chris eddies out just below the 10' ledge drop.
Roman awaits above the eddy we took out from.

Looking back upstream at the 10' ledge

After a quick but steep scramble up the scree slope, we reminisced about our day’s adventure and all the great lines we’d had. We decided that the best way to finish off the day was with some Mexican food at Los Dos Amigos, in Sweet Home, where Shawn treated the wait staff with the utmost respect... After that, we parted ways and headed back to our respective abodes.

The climb out

Eric waits his turn to avoid getting smashed by falling boulders

One more look into Terminator. Nope, still looks nasty.

In conclusion, I would say we had a perfect medium flow at a little over 400cfs. I would definitely go back, and would probably even do it a couple times a year, if there was interest. The negative publicity I had gotten about this run may have been due to an older version of the creek, since things are prone to shift around a lot on this run. Also, it was pretty clear of wood--there were a couple of pieces in play, but nothing that couldn’t be avoided. I’m sure that as I do the run a couple more times, I will find cleaner routes through some of the boulder gardens. Also, I may eventually run a couple ones that we portaged, like Chicken Little and Demon Seed, but I’ll probably never run Day of Judgment in its current state. Hopefully this provided some up-to-date, and much needed information about this run. We just don’t have many road-accessible class V runs in the Mid-Willamette valley, and this might just be one of the best, depending on your flavor.

Here is the head-cam footage from our run. Unfortunately I forgot to turn on the camera for Terminator.