Friday, July 11, 2014

Meadow Camp - Deschutes River, OR (6.28.14)

Although I've been paddling in Oregon for some years now, I don't make many trips east of the Cascades and consequently I've not done much paddling around Bend. In fact, the only runs that I have done over there are the Lava Island stretch (on the Deschutes), and the Crooked, which is awesome but rarely at a good flow. One run that I have been wanting to do for awhile now is Meadow Camp, which is also on the Deschutes. It actually begins right where the Lava Island run ends, with good/reliable flows May through August, making it a great summer run when everything else is dried up. Perhaps one of the reasons it's eluded me for so long is that summer is when I transition over to mountain biking and boating becomes secondary. Whatever the case, I was pretty much looking for any excuse to finally head over and do it, so when the Meadow Camp Race was announced I decided to make it happen. In the end I was able to wrangle up Roman, Matt and Alex, with only Roman having done it before.

The day of the race we met-up just outside Eugene, consolidated cars and drove ~2.5 hours east, toward the event. Even though I knew that the run basically starts just a few miles upstream of Bend and actually ends in town, I was still taken aback by the location of both the put-in (at Rim River Park) and the take-out (just above the Bill Healy Bridge), since both river access points are hidden within a suburban labyrinth. Make sure you bring a map and/or GPS and know where you are supposed to go, since it's quite easy to get lost -- trust me...

Putting on at Rim River Park, we floated past a sign that warned us of dangerous falls and impending doom just downstream… I jest a little, but it’s actually good to warn the folks who made have put-in at Meadow Camp (a few miles upstream) and only intended to paddle some mellow flat water. Just downstream of the sign we reached the first drop of the run, “Playtime”. Since only Roman had done the run before, we decided to jump out and take a look, from river-left. What we found was a pretty straightforward rapid, with the run-out flowing quickly toward and over a rather large horizon line downstream. After verifying with Roman that there was good eddy service between the two drops, we hiked backed up to our boats and prepared to drop in. After a short entrance, Playtime held some juiced-up hydraulics that did their best to catch me off guard. Luckily, I was able to make my way through without too much trouble, before eddying out partway down the rapid on river left. From this eddy, it was read-n-run water leading into the final ledge of Playtime, with a boof on the left and a small wave hole down the center. Ahead in the distance / below the ledge, I could see that Roman had gotten dumped and was mid-roll. With that in mind, I made sure to chose my line wisely, opting for the easier middle pathway, which I came through without issue. It should be noted that below the final ledge in Playtime, the right side of the river diverts into a canal system -- although it’s not flowing hard into it, it could be quite hazardous if you found yourself out of your boat and unaware of it.

Fun hydraulics in Playtime

Taking the conservative center line at the bottom of Playtime.
Note the dam canal inlet downstream on the right, marking the start of Dammit.

Once the four of us were regrouped in the river-left eddy below Playtime, we got out to scout the biggest drop of the run, “Dammit”. If you’ve not done this run before, it’s probably worth a quick scout, as there are a few moves to make to ensure a smooth run through. The first is a 4’ ledge that is best boofed off one of the platforms toward the center of the river. From there, the river blasts down toward the next move, at “The Pipe”. There was a nice eddy on river-left just above The Pipe to better setup for the move, but you had to be deliberate about catching it our you’d blow right past. The Pipe is just that, a pipe that shoots a jet of water back into the river (at head level), from the canal. I knew from reading the various write-ups that you wanted to drive into the blast of water with some momentum and right angle, to avoid getting push/sucked into the recirculating eddy on river-left. The run-out below The Pipe flowed through a small canyon and appeared to be a relatively chill read-n-run affair. Each of the individual moves in Dammit looked pretty straightforward, but it was certainly a case of “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. Another notable feature of this rapid was the many people lining the banks, who were obviously here for the Meadow Camp Race, and I knew they would be hungry for some carnage, I just wanted to make sure it wasn't mine.

While we were out scouting, the race actually began, which meant we would need to be careful to not get in the way of any of the racers, who were being sent down one at a time with a delay in between them. I let the others know that I wanted to get some photos of the drop and a few of the racers...oh, and them of course. With that, they hiked back up to their boats, while I unpacked my camera gear and got ready for a small photo shoot. My perch ended up being a nice location for taking in the show. Although I could have setup somewhere else for more creative shots, it allowed me a view of the entire rapid. As the racers cruised past, I shot many photos, but I also studied how folks were lining up the individual moves. Of course, since the racers were going for a good race time, none of them were eddying out above The Pipe, which I had planned to do. Before long, Roman, Alex and Matt came down, all with good lines off the first ledge and eddying out above The Pipe. After watching Roman and Matt grease the line at The Pipe and float through the boogie water below, I hiked up for my turn.

Marlow Stanton, one of the first racers to enter Dammit

Jake Zywicke carries speed into The Pipe

Kevin Collins, going ol' school at Dammit

Roman takes the left side of the boof ledge at the top of Dammit

Alex goes for the right side

Roman drives right at The Pipe

Matt follows suit

Matt in the run-out below Dammit

Once I got in my boat and slid into the eddy, it became apparent that the line I had picked out, for the top ledge, was not obvious from above and at water level. Luckily, all I had to do was wait for another racer to come down and see where they entered! After watching him (or her) go over, I peeled out and set my trajectory. As I approached the lip and prepared to take a stroke, I saw the line of a throw-rope shoot from river-left to river-right, just downstream. A little bit distracted, I was only able to get in a halfhearted attempt at a boof, but was able to land fairly flat and in control. Now looking downstream at the rope stretched across the river, I drove for the eddy where one side of the rope was being held up for me to duck underneath. I'm probably not in a position to complain too much, since this was a race and I wasn’t a participant, but at the same time, I’m not sure this was the best place to rope someone across the river… Oh well, chalk it up to a little extra excitement/challenge.

Entering Dammit

Hmm... That wasn't there during the scout!

Now in the eddy above The Pipe (with Alex), we waited for another racer to speed past before we dropped in. As I had planned, and the eddy allowed for, I peeled out and set right angle, just a few feet off the end of the pipe. As I blasted through, the current grabbed my boat and pushed me to the left, which I had expected. Skimming the edge of the recirculating eddy, I got pushed up onto the large rock on the outside corner and had to throw in a deep brace to prevent a flip in the squirrelly current, which got some cheers from the crowd. Just below, I met up with the rest of my crew, who were anxious to head downstream to find some more action.

Making the move at The Pipe

Below Dammit was more boogie water, with some fun eddy catching and boulder dodging. Before long the river made a hard turn to the right and dropped out of sight. Roman let us know that we had reached “Amazing” and that it was a pretty straightforward rapid, but to stay away from hard river-left. Since it seemed reasonable to run it sight unseen, we dropped in like lemmings and decided to take it as it came. It was pretty easy to read-n-run, but there were a couple of small ledge holes toward the bottom that provided some excitement and deep bracing. I pretty much ran this one right down the middle, and although it went fine, there might be some smoother line choices. At the bottom we found the finish line to the race, where we decided to hang out for a bit and watch a few racers come through.

A boater gets a face shot in the middle of Amazing

Finishing up the crux of Amazing

Roman watches as Michael Freeman crosses the finish line, during the Meadow Camp Race

About ¼ mile or so below Amazing, wood started to dot the river, creating a slack water slalom. Knowing that this was Mario Land, we made our way toward the right side of the river, which is supposedly where the standard entrance was. After confirming with Roman that the rapid didn't really need to be scouted, I headed down in front of the others so that I could take photos from down below. Sure enough, it ended up being a pretty low-key rapid, that was a bit trashy in spots. If I had to give it a rating, I’d say it’s a class III affair. From the bottom I clambered onto a rock and broke out my camera gear. Unfortunately I was now shooting into the sun, so the photos are a little washed out.

Alex in the middle of Mario Land

Roman plays slalom in Mario Land

After about a half mile of shallow slack water, we reached the final rapid of the run, "100 Percent". Since we knew there was a large hole toward the bottom on river-right, we decided to give it a scout, which was easy to do by hiking down the Deschutes River Trail, conveniently located on that side. Just as the other write-ups had described, there was a decent sized hole, which could be avoided by going left, or boofed on the right. If you choose the latter option, you want to make your boof count, since there is supposedly a underwater rock that would be unpleasant if you were upside down; furthermore, there was also an overhung rock just below the hole, which looked like it could dish out a headshot, even if you were upright but out of control. After we had picked out our lines, we hiked back up to run the rapid.

With better lighting from above, the others would run the rapid while I took photos form the top of 100%. All three of them entered the drop down the tongue and through a couple of small diagonal/offset holes. From there, both Roman and Alex drove left of the bottom hole, while Matt went for a more centered approach, clipping the left side of the hole and busting through without too much effort. Once they had all finished up, I packed up my gear so that I could take my turn. While doing so, a large flotilla of brightly colored boats came through without slowing down. Almost all of them went for the left side entrance boof (of the right channel), which looked like a more entertaining way to enter the rapid -- I mean come on, who doesn't like a good boof?!

Roman enters 100%

Alex lines up the bottom half of 100%

Matt, about to clip the left side of the 100% hole.
Note the overhung rock, just below on the right.

Bobby Brown enters center

Anna Herring opts for the entrance boof

Since the entire left side of the river just above 100% is ankle deep, I had to hike my boat upstream a ways to be able to make it over to the entrance boof -- I actually braced my boat against a midstream rock, where the water was only a few inches deep. From this position I was able to make it to the ledge, but just barely. After landing from the boof, I immediately crashed into the offset hydraulics, which created whiteout conditions and forced me to throw down a few braces. Once through the entrance holes, I drove to the left to avoid the larger bottom hole, which ended up being a much easier move than anticipated. Past the hole, the rapid petered out into the slack water below, where I once again joined back up with the others.

Between 100% and the take-out was a scrappy ledge, fallowed by ~1/2 mile of flat water. From the water's edge, it was just a short hike up to the parking area, where a shuttle van was ready to take us to the top for another lap, courteous of Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe! For our second lap, we really didn't stop and I didn't take any photos (shocking, I know). At this pace, the whole run took under a half-hour, and felt much shorter because of it. Consulting one of my map programs I found that the run was a tad over 2 miles, shorter than I had thought it was. It's always fun to blast down a run once you know where the lines are -- this run was no exception!

It was great to finally get on Meadow Camp, especially with the beautiful weather! I would say that I enjoyed this stretch more than the Lava Island run, but it's worth noting that I've only done that one at about 1/2 the flow. Certainly as a bang for your buck, this run offers it, with a relatively minimal amount of flat water combined with easy/in-town river access. The rapids themselves are super fun, providing a more juiced up feel than we typically deal with on the west side of the Oregon Cascades, where low-volume steep creeking is more the rule. It may be lack of experience with these high desert runs, but the water feels a bit more chaotic with water & features that are a bit harder to read -- I certainly found myself bracing more than usual.

As for flow, we had ~1,850cfs. Unfortunately, they had scaled back the release from Wickiup Reservoir by a couple hundred cfs from the day before. Supposedly, Meadow Camp only gets better with more water (>2K), so I'm certainly looking forward to getting on it with a bit more juice.

I must say, the boaters in Bend are very fortunate to have this run right out their doorstep and have it all summer long. Living in Eugene, we have to drive about an hour before we reach the closet class IV run. Actually, the only real class IV summer run we have is the Concussion Run on the Middle Santiam River, and even that isn't as good or as long. I'll certainly be making more runs down Meadow Camp, especially if I happen to be in Bend when its running.

Some footage from our run(s) down Meadow Camp: