Category Archives: Oregon


Friday I traded some hours with Mark at the shop, scoring myself a three-hour lunch break that I split between eating and kiteboarding. The eating was good and the kiteboarding was okay… the wind was really light, and I only managed a few reaches before deciding it was best to come back in, and avoid getting stuck out in the middle of the river if the wind decided to die completely. It was the kind of session that we typically describe with a shrug and the line, “At least I got wet.”

Fortunately the wind had picked up by the time Bea and I closed the shop for the night, so we jammed down to the beach for an evening kite session. Bea tinkered in the shallows while I spent my time upwind playing in the swell, working on my toeside carves. After the session Topher gave me a ride to the parking lot in the back of his truck, and I headed back home for the late night that was to be.

Before they left, Jake and his gang of crag rats got me a growler as a “thanks for letting us turn your living room into a base camp, sleep on your floor, use your shower, and keep really weird hours” gift, sixty-four delicious ounces of Full Sail’s Son of Spot IPA. That night I invited some friends over, and before I knew it my house had filled up with ten people or so, many whom I did not know. I put everyone on a strict regimen of Full Sail and homebrew, and when that dried up we switched to Rainier and cigarettes.

While checking out my digs Jeff discovered I had a Wii, so the closing hours of the night were dedicated to some serious Wii Bowling. I could hardly keep my balance and lost to all my opponents by a scant handful of points, even losing the game where Wyatt and I bowled straight spares on all but one frame. Our party dissolved its little self at around 2:00 in the morning.

Saturday I was hung over. All day. I went to the Sandbar in the afternoon, hoping that the wind and sun would pull me out of my spinning fog and I could get myself in a mood to go kiting. No deal. I stood at the edge of the parking lot for fifteen minutes watching the action from the hill, and all I felt were pangs of jealousy for all the people who were out on the water and didn’t have headaches. I went home and slept some more.

Feeling much better on Sunday I went back to the Sandbar, hiked out to the launch spot and started pumping up my nine meter kite. In the time it took me to do that the wind had picked up, and before long I was hiking back to my car to trade the nine for my seven. By the time I got back to the launch spot the wind had calmed down again, all the way back to solid nine meter conditions, but I said fuck it and rigged my seven anyway.

I went out for half an hour until deciding that it was too light to risk going any longer, and on my way back in I got caught in a lull and dropped my kite. After a bit of swimming I made it back to my launch spot, and spent some time just hanging out with other kiters, shooting the shit and helping launch and land people. All the while we were watching a band of clouds and rain make their way up the Gorge, and we wondered what sort of wind they would bring with them.

And then we knew. Almost instantly the river turned into a surly, boiling cauldron of whitecaps. In the distance we could see the dust from the Hook being whipped from the ground, a devouring orange cloud that consumed our view. Gear went pin-wheeling when the wind finally hit the Sandbar, and everyone scrambled to protect their kites from the squall.

I piled all my stuff on my kite to keep it in place, and shoveled so much sand onto it I nearly buried it from view. The wind did the rest. Before long we were in a full-on sandstorm, and I had to pull my wetsuit back on to temper its rage against my flesh. So much sand was blowing that when you looked downwind across the Delta, all you could see was a solid grey cloud.

However, whatever we were experiencing on the Sandbar was nothing compared to what was happening out on the water. There were about ten or fifteen kiters out, and they were all fighting the wind and trying to limp back to the beach. We helped people with landing their kites as soon as they got in range, and while many seemed a bit brow-beaten it didn’t look like anyone had actually gotten injured out there.

Gear did not fair quite so well, and there were many tales of ripped kites and lost boards. One kite actually abandoned its owner, flying overhead along the far side of the sandbar with surprising beauty and danger.

The storm eventually subsided and it seemed that everyone had made it back to shore, so I excavated my kite, packed up my belongings and headed back to my car. Calm had returned to the Sandbar, but most of us were too gun-shy to get back on the water again. Sirens blaring in the distance suggested that there were other stories to this day.

June 24, 2007 Wind Graph for the Event Site


Jake and his dudes (and dudette) made it to the summit of Mount Hood. I’ve been hosting them here at my abode, and visiting upon them massive amounts of homebrew. All is appreciated. Tomorrow they set forth for the summit of Rainier.

Meanwhile, ever since getting back to Hood River I’ve been working way too late at the shop. Tonight I patched a small hole in my kite that’s had me grounded for a spell, so tomorrow it’s time to hit the water again with so much vigor.


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

Bumper Cars (and Cannibalism)

This is just. Too. Awesome.

Portland rules!

Moisture is the Essence of Wetness

UPDATE: We’ve got pictures of the carnage!

It has been raining here for the last two weeks straight. In case you haven’t heard, Oregon is pretty much fucked.

The Hood River was a raging muddy torrent when I went down to check it out yesterday. The river was running so high and so fast that it was producing seven-foot standing waves, which would make for some epic kayaking if it wasn’t for all the detritus coming down from the mountains. Along with the slurry of mud and water there was an endless barrage of logs, brush and sticks, and the occasional tree that was 20 feet long and a foot in diameter.

Needless to say, for the last couple days the Hood River has been belching a constant stream of junk into the Columbia River, and as a result our waterfront looks like mayhem. There’s a debris field that extends downstream from the mouth of the Hood River past the Event Site, a distance of nearly a mile, and it is packed so tightly with logs that in places it looks like you could walk across it. As for the mud, sand and rocks that have been washed down, all that stuff has been settling just outside the mouth of the Hood River.

At the moment, Kite Beach has grown to the point that it pretty much constitutes the entire Hood River waterfront, and all the half-buried logs and trees make it look like a bone yard.

Things don’t get any better as you move upstream. I’ve heard that the Hood River crested at 14 feet above flood stage, and given what I’ve seen (which includes a picture of a railroad trestle mere inches from being underwater) it’s not too hard to believe. Highway 35 is closed between Hood River and Government Camp, as the road is totally fucked up. A section of the highway that parallels the river near Robin Hood Campground was under six feet of water, and in other places the road is chilling out beneath huge mudslides. The bridge over the White River is gone. Gone.

This past weekend Joe and I went on a hike to Burnt Lake, near Zigzag on the southwest side of Mount Hood. To reach the trailhead we took the Subaru on the rugged path around the west side of the mountain, which in many places is just a single-lane gravel washboard.

Even then, the road was nearly impassable because of all the downed trees from the windstorm we had two weekends ago (kindly recall my ghostly night at Smoky Campground). That road, part of which is the popular route to Lost Lake, is hosed as well. Not to mention Zigzag, where swollen rivers there have forced the evacuation of many of the homes that Joe and I drove by last weekend, remarking, “Man, just look at these awesome houses on the river! I would love to have something like this!”

Things aren’t much better elsewhere. The Oregon Coast got pounded, and one person died in Gleneden Beach. Tillamook, the small coastal town of cheese and ice cream fame, got hammered especially hard, with road closures and evacuations and the whole gambit. Record rainfalls have been shattered in places all over the state, with anywhere from 3 inches to 13 inches of rain in a 24-hour period.

That’s the view from here. Monday it was 65 degrees here in Hood River, and so humid it was tropical. Yesterday as I was watching the river do its wild thing, the wind suddenly picked up to 25 mph or so, pelting my face with rain that fell sideways. This morning I woke up to an incredible rainbow over the Columbia River. Across all of these episodes, the one thing that I remember is that it was always raining.

Or maybe it was never raining.