SOUL BOATING ~ Part II by Ryan Waterhouse


This past year was a year for me to remember in terms of following my passion for whitewater. My adventures took me to all corners of our country-NE, SE, NW, SW, and a couple locations in between. I saw the most amazing landscapes I had ever placed my eyes upon, rafted the best rivers of my life thus far, and made some new friends along the way. I am very grateful to have had the opportunities that brought me so many great experiences, memories, adrenaline rushes, and new friends, and I am grateful to share these experiences with you. The following is the second of 4 installments on the whitewater adventures I was lucky enough to be a part of in 2014, this one is the prequel to last month’s installment, starting the year off right in Colorado and the PNW. 
I arrived to Silverthorne, Colorado mid-January 2014 and this was going to be my first winter spent out west. I was excited to ski some new mountains that were much bigger and diverse than the mountains that I was used to back in the northeast. Although I had plenty of new mountains to ski, I had just got back from a 25 day, life-changing, expedition down the Grand Canyon stretch of the Colorado and the boating fever was still in me big time. This was new to me because by the time guiding season was over in October I would usually be ready for a break and ready to get into ski mode. But the whitewater fever was starting to consume me year-round.                              
My room mate in Colorado happened to have just purchased a Tributary tandem ducky and we had it’s maiden voyage on the upper and lower Blue river right near our house in Silverthorne. It was March 31 and we had quite the maneuver to make in order to get the boat and ourselves down to the riverbank which was about 60 down this vertical slope that was covered in deep snow. We went side-by-side and dug our feet into the snowbanks on the way down the slope and ended up sliding the last 15-20 feet. We put in and ran a couple fun sections of class 3 whitewater with some face-numbing splashes the entire time. Even managed to flip the thing a time or two which was completely fine with us.
We ended up taking that tandem ducky down many stretches including, Browns Canyon, The Numbers, and the Royal gorge. Browns Canyon and the Numbers are like boulder gardens with tight technical moves to make but they are a lot of fun. The Royal gorge was slightly different. A little deeper and more open but with some pretty significant spots that can be consequential. I remember a rapid called “Wall-Slammer” or something like that and we hit this small hole at the top of the rapid and it surfed us right into this huge, undercut cliff and we flipped out of the ducky and it sucked the boat under. I laid on my back with my feet towards the wall and kicked off and did a spin out as far into the current as I could make it and it just continued to suck me back into the wall time after time for about 3 or 4 cycles until I was to the end of the section. I was happy to be swimming back out in the middle, away from that undercut wall, and then I look to my left and see a couple jagged pieces of rebar sticking up out of these concrete slabs that must have been there for an old bridge that was demolished. My buddy Preston described the same “kicking off the wall to stay alive and then noticing rebar sticking out of the river” experience once we made it back to shore and recovered the boat.
Toni, a friend I met through the Dirtbag Paddlers network had just moved out to Colorado the same winter and brought her Shredder. We fired that thing up on Pine creek, Numbers, Blue, and she brought it along on the Royal gorge adventure. I was impressed at how “on the same page” we were when we were R2’ing these stretches. It got to the point where we barely even had to say anything the whole time and would make pretty much every move flawlessly. We took the shredder to the whitewater park in Buena Vista and did some fun surfing as well.

When my job at the mountain was done at the end of April, I flew out to Portland, Oregon and met up with some fellow paddlers Dan McCain, Josh Sheldon, and Robert Delgado. I was amazed at how accommodating they were right off the bat. They picked me up from the airport, gave me a place to stay and provided the boats and transportation to the runs that we would be doing. Levels were being looked at hour by hour but we were hoping to get on Canyon creek, Green Truss section of the White Salmon, and the Little White Salmon. I was looking forward to all three runs but the Little White Salmon was one that I had literally been dreaming about for a few years at that point. The morning after I arrived, Dan had school and Josh had work but Robert came by and picked me up for our R2 run on Canyon creek. It was a beautiful day and he brought a Super Puma which was of course my favorite boat! We met up with a group of kaykers from all over the world and we decided to all run together. I took pictures of them and all they set up safety in most of the spots where we might need it. Canyon Creek was an absolutely beautiful stretch of river and it was very narrow with many 10-20+ foot waterfall drops. We had a bad angle going over Terminator and wound up endo flipping at the bottom. Again, I didn’t mind at all and I thoroughly enjoyed the adrenaline rush it gave me. We went over many other drops including Thrasher, Champagne, and Hammering Spot, but the one that stood out most to me was Kahuna. A waterfall drop of about 23 feet or so, it was super fun and dropped right into a calm pool at the bottom which was perfect for recovery (if you needed it) or for hanging out and enjoying the view. All in all, it was an amazing day on a fun river that I will never forget.
The next day Dan and I went with Robert and Reilly Baxter to the upper Wind river and did a run. Our plan was to do the Green Truss but the flow was a little high and they decided it probably wasn’t the best idea. The Wind River was fun and Rams Horn was a fun but short rapid. Other than the beauty of the river and the forests around us, there wasn’t too much that stood out to me about the run. It was the first time Dan and I R2’d together and we were glad it went well because the next day would be an R2 descent of the Little White! When we got to the take-out for the Wind, we decided to drive to the put-in for the Little White and check the gauge to see if it was likely we would get a manageable flow the next day. The gauge read 3.7 ft and with rain on the way that night, I started to get nervous that the run may not take place. I went out for dinner and drinks with Josh, Dan, and their girls that night and tried not to worry about the flow going up too much. Josh and Dan also tried not to let their girlfriends know the plan for the next day because the girls knew it was a dangerous run and the guys were bound to catch some flak for it. We got a good nights sleep and headed out early the next morning for the Little White Salmon. Along the way we met up with Jeff Compton and Willie Dinsdale who were coming along for the run. We had 2 R2 boats and Willie in the kayak. When we showed up to the put-in Willie wasted no time, he hopped in his kayak and flung himself into the river. He knew that us rafter had some logistic to go through and pumping/rigging the boats. By the time we ran the shuttle vehicle to the take-out, Willie had just finished his run and caught a ride back to the top with us. We finally had the boats set up and ready to go but still weren’t moving fast enough and Willie decided to help jump start things by dragging one of our boats down to the river. Upon doing so, he slipped and the boat starting flying down the hill and right into the river. Jeff ran and jumped in to grab the boat and pull it to shore. The water is not calm at the put-in either, you are putting your boat into the river with class 3 whitewater rushing past you pretty swiftly. We gathered ourselves and started our trip down river. About 500 yards downstream through some boogie water, we come out to a river-wide log jam. This was going to be our first portage of the day and luckily there was a small little eddy off the left shore so we could pull in and get out to drag our boats over the huge tree that was barricading the run. When we were putting our boats into the water on the other side of the tree, we were putting the boat right in at a class 5 rapid called “Getting Busy”. It was our first class 5 of the day and very technical and continuous. Dan’s nerves were shot running this rapid with a paddler that was pretty unfamiliar to him still and a few times he was yelling commands almost in a panicked scream! When we finally got to the bottom of the rapid he apologized for yelling and I said no need because I know how stressful it can be to be in very dangerous whitewater and have to depend on someone else to make moves or else it is your ass too. We went on and then came out to a big class 5 rapid called Boulder Sluice. We got out to scout this one and the initial plan was to portage it since the water was running 3.8 at the put-in and only going up because it was raining pretty continuously all day. Dan said he would let me scout it and if I wanted to run it then we would, otherwise we were going to portage it. As I was scouting, the other boat was already in the process of portaging and Willie was running the rapid and carrying his kayak up to run it again and again. It took me about 10 mins of scouting but I finally said “let’s run it”. I saw the reason for portaging which was a very tight move that you had to make perfectly or else it could me absolute disaster and possibly death. The move also happened to be in a part where the river was choked and the current was at it’s fastest. I thought we could make the move and we did. I was a little nervous before the run but when we made it through I was instantly so glad we went for it. The Little White was easily the most challenging and continuous run I had ever done and I loved it. Some of the rapids that really stood out to me were S-turn, Wishbone, Island, Double drop, and Stovepipe. When we made it to Spirit Falls, we hung out for a while on both sides and I got a really sick picture of Willie sending it over the 33 foot waterfall. The portage was quite a process involving ropes, trees, and steep slippery cliffs. We finished the run and celebrated with some beers and dinner. The Little White Salmon instantly became my favorite river that I had ever been down and probably the most memorable run of my life even though it was my first run down that river.

{editor’s note: Ryan Waterhouse is an original DBP Admin for the Dirt Bag Paddlers Facebook page. This is Ryan’s second installment of a four part series of his amazing adventures across America in 2014. Tune in next month when he takes us with on his dirtbag missions to Wisconsin on his way home to Maine, and a fast forward to Fall and re-upping with the whole Dirtbag crew in Maryland & West By God..Cheers!}

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