Category Archives: Fire

Did I mention I love my job?

Andrew suggests an explosion.


From Minneapolis to Hood River, everyone I know is safe. I emerged this evening from The Simpsons Movie to stinging eyes and the taste of smoke thick on the air. At 4:00 this afternoon a wildfire started in someone’s backyard up near Country Club Road and Frankton Road, on the west side of Hood River. Helped by the awesome winds that made my afternoon on the water so much fun, by 8:00 tonight the fire had burned to 50 acres and they’ve been evacuating homes in the area.

This fire is completely unrelated to the twelve acre fire that popped up on the east side of Hood River last week, which started when a trailer lost a wheel and threw sparks into the grass. That one struck as I was out kiteboarding last Friday, and it was a bit scary to have this huge kite in the air as all these low-flying planes and helicopters were swooping about. I know they only look close, and they’re still probably 500 feet or more in the air, but there’s just something about a crowded airspace that puts one’s nerves on edge.

My session that evening came to a graceless end as I was sitting on the beach packing up my kite. All I remember is my friend Jason yelling “Oh shit!” and diving for the ground, as I was suddenly enveloped in someone’s kite lines. I cursed like a sailor at the offending person as the lines raked across my skin, one of them wrapping itself around my ear. I freed myself from the lines as they ascended with the kite, but I was caught off-guard when they immediately swung back for a second round. We made contact again, and by the third passing I had finally rolled off to the side and out of harm’s way.

The next thing I saw was a gal being dragged head first on her stomach across the sandbar, and Jason running to grab the handle on the back of her harness. As it turns out, a complete moron was teaching her to kite, and he had opted to teach her directly upwind of Jason and I, upwind of the only two people on the fucking sandbar. She had lost control of the kite and had put it into “death spirals”, where the kite loops repeatedly in the same direction, crossing the lines and making control nearly impossible.

After watching me go toe-to-toe with the kite lines, the guy had the sense to see how I was doing once his girlfriend had been rescued from her kite. I asked him to look at my ear, and he told me it was scratched up but otherwise it looked fine. I pressed him, insisting that he tell me whether it was still attached to my head. He chuckled, and assured me it was still attached.

He chuckled. At the time I wasn’t in the mood for confrontation, but it made me realize something startling. The fact that he laughed at my question suggests that he totally did not understand the gravity of what he had just done. Those kite lines could very well have taken my ear off, possibly more. They use string to cut clay, and the spectra line used for kiting is good to 700 pounds before it will break.

This guy’s sheer stupidity could have killed two people. He should not have been teaching his girlfriend so close to land, he should not have been teaching her directly upwind of people, and most of all, he should not have been teaching her in the first place. This is the reason we have certified, professional kite instructors. Please use them, people.

As it is, I now have rope burns across the back of my ear, my forearm, and four long gashes under my arm. They didn’t look like much the night they happened, just grazes through the first layer of skin, but man have they ever scabbed impressively over the last few days. I look like I’ve been whipped.

As for the girl, she emerged from the fray considerably shaken, but otherwise unharmed. She told her boyfriend that she had had enough, that she was frightened, that she wanted to be done with kiting for the evening. It sounded like a reasonable and intelligent request. Instead, the guy relaunched her kite, took her back upwind, and made her keep practicing.

Jason and I made a quick exit from the beach.

Fire Season

The Ham Lake Fire is now 100% contained on the American side. It’s still got some elbow room on the Canadian side, but it has mellowed out considerably over the last few days. Today it even snowed up at camp, and so we all breathe a collective sigh of relief as we realize it won’t be burning to the ground this time.

Now that Charter has kindly yanked me from the Dark Ages and fixed mine internets, I’ve finally gotten around to uploading our photos from our backpacking trip to Zion this past March.

As for Hood River, the early summer season is definitely upon us. Cars now stop where there aren’t any stop signs and keep driving where there are, pedestrians randomly dart out into traffic without any sense of self-preservation, all the real estate signs are going up again, and kiters and windsurfers are sparring with one another regarding the proper use of the Event Site.

The weather, too, has been beautiful for the most part. Sadly today it rained all day and was a chilly 50 degrees, which came as a surprise as we’ve been enjoying sunny, 80-degree days in the recent weeks.

Yup, today was kind of a wash out day for Canadian May Long Weekend, but hopefully Monday holds some promise for better weather and better wind. Another round of fisticuffs at The Spit, while unfortunate, would certainly liven things up a bit. Now that the kiters spent all day Saturday piling debris, burning logs and cleaning up The Boneyard, there’s plenty more room to host a tussle.


My beer’s fermentation was slow to start on its first day, but now that the yeast has had a bit of time to get its bearings things are cookin’ right along. My closet currently smells like a blue ribbon at an Appalachia science fair. For future reference I know not to pitch my yeast too early, but the good news is that this batch need not suffer for my haste. “Relax. Don’t worry. Have a homebrew.”

Today I went on an awesome day hike to Tamanawas Falls, a really popular hike near Mount Hood that has become a bit less popular ever since all the bridges washed out in last year’s Glacial Outburst. I parked at the usual trailhead (it seems you can still reach it from the Polallie trailhead as well) and found a 12″ diameter tree that had fallen across the river, granting a 20-foot span over the raging torrent.

After that the hike was pure gravy, except that I was completely unprepared for the sheer scale of Tamanawas Falls. The cascade is fifty feet wide and 125 feet tall, and it roars over a sheer basaltic cliff. The water crashes with such force that it tosses up a thick mist that fills the valley like a cathedral. Thick coats of moss cover everything that the mist envelops, and with some scrambling you can get into a huge alcove that’s actually behind the waterfall.
All that, and I had the place completely to myself.

After hiking I jammed down to The Spit to do some kiting, and was subsequently nuked off the water. Damn, it was gusty today, even for the Gorge. Not even fifteen seconds into my reach I got slammed by a gust, and it was nowhere but downwind for me at that point. I bailed my kite with someone on the beach, and Boardin’ Bob was kind enough to drag my board back into the shallows where I could grab it. Seriously, I owe that guy a beer.

When I got back to the parking lot, I found Adrian nailing someone’s sandal to a post.

I suppose there are two approaches to lost gear.

This weekend I finally got a chance to catch up on what’s happening with the Ham Lake Fire, which is rapidly devouring one of my favorite places on the planet. This is by far the most current and detailed map that I’ve found for the fire, and it really drove home the locality for me. Like, the Gunflint Trail is my neighborhood. That’s where I lived for two summers. I paddled that border route at least a half-dozen times.

I don’t know what to say, except that Sue Prom’s photos already say it all. This one has its own eerie beauty that somehow gives me hope:

Ham Lake Fire Sunset

While this one breaks my heart:

Ham Lake Fire, Burned Canoes