Gorge Report: Day 2
We pulled into Stevenson, WA Wednesday at noon to sustained 11-15 mhp winds and some good looking waves. Our first run of the day Kristen & I were in the double and had a fun fast run down to Home Valley with Pete and an OC paddler from Bend. After some beers and pizza at the Walking Man Brew pub in the warm summer evening, we planned for more surf the next day.
We woke up to whitecaps in Stevenson and knew we were in for a big day. The wind started off light in the morning, around 12 mph sustained and gusting to around 15-20, and forecast called for speeds to pick up in the afternoon. Since we were were waiting on the second wave the B-ham crew to roll into town, we jumped in boats for an hour and did laps in front of Bob’s Beach to fulfill the mandatory vacation double workout regime. Ralph & I were ready to be baptized in the Columbia River but the Club Double stayed upright and we caught some great surf. After was a post workout soak in the hot tub and waiting on the VW to roll into the parking lot.
As the crew pulled in from Bellingham around noon, the winds died down to 5-8 mph and there was some head scratching going on and wondering if we’d missed our window for surf. Then the switch was flicked and winds speeds picked right up to 15mph at 1pm. Boats were unloaded and shuttle was set.
As we put on at 2pm, the sustained winds were between 20-25mph and gusting 25-32mph. This was double the speed of the previous day’s paddle and with the current working against these winds, we were in for some steep, sloppy waves. The Mako XT proved to be the boat of the day. Kristen paddled the heavier glass XT on the first run and enjoyed a little more weight against the strong wind and waves. From Home Valley, there were two XT’s on the water, DJ in the carbon and Kirk in the glass.
A group of 6 did the Home Valley run. With the current being so strong, there were some big eddy lines which offered smaller conditions inside the eddy and 4- 5 footers outside of it from the moment we pulled out of Bob’s Beach. The surf down to the Skamania RV park proved to be smooth and surfable. After that things got choppy, big, and sloppy. This was not your typical Stevenson to Home Valley cake run, this was a full on washing machine on spin cycle. Waves were big, choppy, and coming in from all directions. After another mile or so, things died down slightly as the wave sets cleaned up enough to catch a ride, though still keeping us on our toes. This run generally takes around an hour to do in normal conditions and today we clocked in at around 1:30 as the current is a big factor this year.
In Home Valley there was a changing of the guards, two paddlers out, one paddler in, and a boat swap (to the glass XT) for the second leg of the run to Drano Lake. Four paddlers took on the run and paddled the 8 or so miles to Draino Lake in a record speed of 2 hours (where this run usually takes 1-1.25 hours) Like the previous leg, waves were steep and progress was slow. Watching from the shore when driving shuttle, Kristen and Scott were amazed to see how quickly the boats could move upwind/downstream when circling to regroup yet how slowly they seemed to be progressing downwind. From water level, this legs was a mixed bags as well. There were stretches of big rollers, sections of dicey mixed waves, sections of big steep waves, and stretches that included a washing machine of all of the above. Thinking about Don’s report on a trip here two weeks early of “It was big but not epic”, I started to wonder what constitutes epic conditions vs. big conditions. Morris put it well by saying he didn’t how big it was until looking back upstream and seeing what was coming. We Bellingham paddlers usually have a hard time agreeing on wave size and condition reports, but we all agreed at the take out that it was big enough, and that was before the beer and margaritas.
Two days down, three to go and more surfing to come. Stay tuned….