Undoubtedly the most action-packed winter of my life, I'm still trying to slow everything down and get a breath of fresh air. From tall drops and flooding rivers to fresh powder and big lines on the mountain, this has been on of the most memorable winters of my life.
On top of dealing with all the hard work and fun (or rather fun with some hard work) of college, our group of young paddlers representing Bellingham, Washington have managed to break away from the overwhelming scene of lecture halls, libraries and house parties and get back to our roots. Almost every weekend we have ventured on a mission to the hot spots for paddling in the Pacific Northwest- Skookumchuck Narrows, Dipper Creek, the Nooksack and Stillaguamish River drainages and of course back home to the Columbia River Gorge and surround areas.
An unexpected call from friends in British Columbia led to a quick decision to blow off a couple of days of school and head North. With such short notice, Todd Wells, Fred Norquist, Olin Wimberg, Eric Parker and I drove through the night and made it to a campsite near the put in of Dipper Creek, BC by 4:00a.m. Waking up early to magnificent glaciers, frozen ground and a fresh coat of snow we drank a cup of coffee, ate a quick breakfast and began our trek into the steep and deep canyon of Dipper Creek. We were treated to a near perfect water level, if only a couple inches on the low side. The lower section of Dipper Creek was one of the most mind-blowing places I’ve been. On either side of the narrow canyon rose sheer cliff walls for hundreds of feet with no route out. Low volume tea-cup drops and countless sweet boofs characterize this rarely run river. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. Thanks to Todd Wells for sharing these beautiful photos!
Weeks later another unexpected call came that immediately sparked a rush of adrenaline through my body when I heard that the Salem area, just south of Portland, Oregon was flooding. Abiqua Falls, the notorious beast that shattered Tyler Bradt’s back and punctured Jessie Coombs’ lung, was at prime flows. For years now I have stared at photos and imagined myself paddling over the lip of this nearly 100 foot tall waterfall. Finally, the opportunity was put in my lap and I had a chance to reach a goal that I have been dreaming about for years. Todd, Olin, Parker and I drove through the night, arriving to our destination at 5:00a.m. After a couple hour power nap we woke up and drove to Silver Falls State Park just outside of Salem, OR. Our team’s hopes of running Upper North Falls was shattered by at least four logs at the lip and bottom of the water fall. But our excitement was still high as the creek was at full-on flood stage. Next on the list, we drove straight to Abiqua Falls. The second I saw the drop I knew that my long-awaited goal of running it was going to be full-filled. Todd and I geared up and lowered our boats to the lip as Rush Sturges, Matt Baker and Jed Weingarten set up for photos and video, and Ben Marr, Erik Johnson and Eric Parker headed to the bottom to set safety.
The next thing I know, I’m peeling out of the eddy above the falls, looking at the biggest horizon line I’ve ever seen and falling, falling, falling until my body takes one of the biggest hits of my life. Skirt and body intact, I hand rolled up and paddled to the shore to take in the peace and beauty of the moment and enjoy the massive rush of adrenaline flooding my veins.