Sunday, July 24, 2011

Middle Fork Willamette Float & Alpine Trail Riding

Kayaking the Middle Fork Willamette
This weekend I had an amazing time in Oakridge, OR first floating the Middle Fork of the Willamette River with Miwa, Holm and Emily and then riding the Crown Jewel of Oakridge, the Alpine Trail with Scott, BD, Emily and Miwa.  We camped out overnight with Mischa and Danielle and the doggies deep in the Hills Creek Reservoir Area and even stopped by the Local Brewers Union for some dinner and few very unique pints of home brews.  With beautiful weather and cold beers always in the cooler we had a truly spectacular weekend despite my bike completely shitting the bed on the descent down Alpine Trail on Sunday and Emily adding more wounds to her legs....  Click the title or the "read more" below to see the full post.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Movie Night & Surprise Birthday Party

Tonight I had my first surprise birthday party ever! Apparently Emily hijacked my movie night email list without me knowing to let everyone know she wanted to surprise me! And what I thought was book club night on Tuesday night was actually food cooking night and cupcake baking night for my party at Kris Fausti's!
I got a weird text from Kevin that he wanted to go mountain biking with me after work today which I thought was odd but didn't think to much about it as it was finally a nice day after a weekend of rain. I was clueless to the fact that I had caught Emily in their side of the apartment with Kevin when I got home on last night and she had simply stated she was talking to Kevin. I kind of new something might be up but didn't know what for sure. That was until Doug came up to me at work, leaned over, and casually apologized for not being able to make the birthday festivities. When I said, "huh"? he instantly got the dear in headlights look but I didn't notice that Cathy popped her head up over the computer to give me a dirty look too. So.. later in the day when I met Kevin at Dixon to pick up some rental kayaks for the weekend I told him Doug let loose something was up and Kev just shrugged.
After work when Kevin and I were in his truck with Jason, Kevin told me that Emily had tried to plan something but with everyone leaving on vacations soon and other stuff going on nobody could commit and I had gotten a bunch of legitimate sounding emails back from people saying they weren't going to make the movie night. He told me that Emily was cooking up a nice birthday dinner for me probably for the two of us which made sense because she didn't come with us biking, instead complaining of a stomache ache.
So... after a fun ride up uproute trail and down extendo in MacDunn we got back home and as I was walking in the door complaining of our stinky trash can outside I was startled to see 15-20 of my closest friends yelling surprise at me with balloons, streamers and happy birthday signs all over the apartment! The dining room table was also stacked with awesome food I love including wings, salmon dip, chips, red velvet cupcakes, etc. Kris had even spent 3 hours making her special batch of wings for me! It was the first time in a very long time that I've felt really loved by all my friends, not just Emily. I've spent many of the past 10 years of birthdays with just my girlfriend and maybe 3 or 4 friends casually getting a drink at a bar so this was truly amazing for me. We all ate till we were full and played washers outback listening to good music and Colin even made me a bacon-wrapped fillet mignon on the grill which was fantastic. Holm and later in the night Hartz also showed up to give me best wishes. We finished the night by watching Robin Hood: Men in tights with a few stragglers till about 11:30.
This past year since my birthday (besides being hired on by Watershed which was amazing) has been a particularly bad year for me, from being constantly broke sending a ridiculous amount of money home for Ellie and then shattering my knee and losing one of the best spring ski seasons the Northwest has seen in decades. I'm sure that this party kicking off my 32nd year of life ensures that this year will be spectacular! Thank you so much to all my friends for really making it an incredible day for me and a very special thanks to the love of my life for putting it all together!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Cassie & Garrett's Wet Wedding Weekend

Launching the drift boat
Getting on the river
Ok, let me first say that IT DOES NOT RAIN IN THE SUMMER IN OREGON. That being said, it has been pouring non-stop for 3 days now in the middle of July… yup… what the HELL IS GOING ON? Early in the week a few of us came up with the awesome idea of floating the Willamette River on Saturday from just north of Albany all the way to the Rogue Hop Farm for Cassie and Garretts wedding, camp overnight, and then float again Sunday morning to the take out in Independence. On Friday night Kevin and I shuttled my truck to Independence for the takeout and also dropped off a dance floor at the hop farm that was ultimately never used. On the way home I noticed some ominous looking clouds passing hugging the coast range but come on, it doesn’t rain in Oregon in the summer right!??

Mischa's a boat captain!
Seeking shelter from the rain
Yeah, 6am the next morning I got a text from Danielle waking me out of my sleep who said she was out… and then I heard the rain… not a soft rain, but a pelting “God is dumping a bucket on the house” type of rain. After some quick texting and radar checking on my phone we (Kev, Lex, Danny, Scooter, Em and I) decided to go for the backup plan and float the 2 hour trip from Beuna Vista to the hop farm later in the day hoping for better weather. And I went back to sleep.

Upon waking up at 10am and looking outside at the clouds above that appeared to breaking up everything seemed fine… It must have just been a sun shower right!?? We all piled into the cars and headed to the put in to meet up with BD, Carrie, Mischa, Erin and Cathy in Brians Drift Boat. Scott and Danielle and I and Em were in a 12 foot non-self-bailing raft while Alexa and Kevin were in a double inflatable kayak. We put in the slow moving river under some puffy clouds but only got about 30 minutes in before the rain started… again, not a soft rain but an absolute downpour that lasted for nearly an hour. We all took out at a small beach and ran into the woods where it was a bit drier and found ourselves on an old farm road next to a field enclosed by a fence of railroad tie-thick logs. None of us could figure out why there needed to be a fence that thick! I was eating cherries that Scott and Danielle brought and was wondering if we came back to the same spot in 10 years if we would see a row of cherry trees? While we were waiting for the rain to pass Bridget, Aaron Thiel, Jay and a few others showed up to join us out of the rain.

Group beach huddle
Cathy attack!
Eventually we decided we needed to get back on the river to make it to the hop farm and change in time for the wedding and thankfully the rain had stopped. Unfortunately, I had been drinking quite a bit on the float and for a split second when we took out at the beach thought I had actually dropped my phone into the river but thankfully I found it at the bottom of a dry bag. From there it was off to Colin’s van where we had stashed our clothes and camping stuff the night before. We all changed quickly thinking we were late but then heard the wedding was delayed by at least an hour (a forgotten mom we heard…). During that time we decided to go for a very cool stroll through the huge hop vine field to check them out and noticed that Emily’s dress with hop vines on it was perfectly appropriate for the occasion.

Near the end of the float
Em and I at the wedding
The wedding was beautiful and believe it or not the weather held for the full 4-5 hours of the wedding and dance party afterward. I had fun hanging out with Elise as usual and as usual had a long convo with Russ (don’t know why I get into such long chats with Russ while I’m drunk…but he only had nice things to say about me which was great – side note: I really like Russ as my boss, I think he’s a great guy). Anyway, the night after the wedding was a bit fuzzy. I know there was amazing food and the smoked salmon that Doug had made for Cassie was outstanding as was the BBQ chicken we had for dinner. The dance party on the deck of the hop farm didn’t last very long and unfortunately none of the dance music playlist songs I had made for them got played before the official wedding ended and people moved down to the beach for a bonfire. Not surprisingly with Garrett’s friends there was a lot of drunk nudity and skinny dipping in the river with several people spending a bit more time than was probably appropriate standing in their birthday suits by the fire. I was definitely pretty drunk by this point and Emily decided it was time to make our way back to the tent in the big field next to the parking lot. When we got back we heard a whole ton of fireworks being lit off and hoped that nobody would get in trouble for it. Not surprisingly with the state I was in, I had a pretty rough night as was evident in the field around the tent the next morning… L

Dress matches background
Smothered in hops!
Big surprise… we woke up to a friggin’ pouring rainstorm upon us. There is nothing I hate more than packing up a tent and sleeping bags in the pouring rain! Thankfully Colin was still around to take our bags back in his van while we were forced to float the last few hours in the rain to the take out in Independence. Emily and I have been in far, far worse weather conditions, with less clothes, and under much more exhaustion than this but we could tell from other people’s faces that they were going through hell, particularly Alexa. The rain did not stop for the next two hours of our float as we followed Brian in his drift boat down the river, which seemed to be barely moving. It definitely wasn’t fun and if it had been 5 degrees colder we would have been hypothermic by chance… And for Alexa who is part Cuban, it was nearly hypothermic.. so she was not having a good time and admitted at the end that it may have been the worst experience of her life. On the upside the rain did eventually stop but only with about 30 minutes left of the float and we did get to see some bald eagles and ospreys on the trip diving for fish in the river. Our boat, not being self-bailing actually had a couple of inches of freakin’ rain water in the bottom of it.

Mmmm... food & Doug's Salmon
Elise dancing at the reception
After a quick shuttle to the other cars in Beuna Vista and a drive home we all gathered at our place to watch the Women’s world cup final between the U.S. and Japan. Unfortunately when I turned on the tv to find the recording I actually saw the end of the game and who won so I had to keep my mouth shut for the whole game. Although the U.S. did lose I feel that they totally outplayed Japan who seemed to have someone looking over them as all our shots seemed to bounce off the goal posts. But, for a country that just lost 25,000+ people to an earthquake and tsunami I’m glad they got the win. It was a great weekend and a hell of a rainy journey down the slow moving Willamette and boy were we happy to be in a dry bed and apartment on Sunday night. Believe it or not, we actually started a fire in the wood stove in the middle of July!!!!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Garrett's 3rd Bachelor Party at Miwa's

Tonight Kevin and I went over to Miwa's for another bachelor party for Garrett.  This time Garrett had all of his friends from around the world with him and family members too so it was a bit bigger.  To really make it a legit sausage fest we actually had a "sausage fest" because everyone brought different types from chicken sausage to really spicy ones.  As usual Colin brought washers but this time he also brought a big stump of wood and nails to play the game "stump".  We started playing but Mischa had a hard time understanding the rules so the game sort of ended quickly...  :).

From there on the night progressed to sheer drunkenness.  I really didn't feel like drinking much so I took it easy and just watched as the guys found a pvc pipe and stuck it in one of the washer holes as a launcher for some firework mortors... yeah, the kind you need to drive to an Indian Reservation to get in this state... Anyway, I thought that would work just fine so got out my phone to record the fireworks... and well... just watch the videos in this blog post to see what happened.

Almost nearly being blown up I decided it was time for me to leave while Kevin, Colin and the rest stayed and then went out to the bars in town.  I felt great the next day but some of my other guy friends looked a bit tore-up for work on Friday morning... :)  Can't wait for the wedding!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Oakridge Mountain Biking

Emily on a stream crossing near the start
This Saturday was one of those days in the summer that I hadn’t planned out very well in advance. Instead I woke up and was frantically trying to find a place to go biking that would be new and interesting. After some searching I decided we should go investigate Oakridge, OR, but we should do it with both vehicles to shuttle our lazy butts up the mountain first. We ended up getting a late start out of town and didn’t get to Oakridge until about 1pm. We first drove the Prius to the bottom of Larrison Creek trail near the Hills Creek Reservoir and then took the truck up the 10 mile fire service road to the drop in for the trail. This road was rugged and was overgrown with branches and large boulders in the road that on occasion we had to roll away to get the truck by. There were branches that hit the truck but I didn’t think much about it and certainly wasn’t thinking about how the Prius would fare… We hit the 6.5 mile descent at about 1:45 in the afternoon and it took us a couple hours to descend. Near the top the trail was super steep and technical with many switchbacks but near the bottom it leveled out a bit and became easier. It was a challenge for Emily in her new clipless pedals but she made it just fine. The bottom of the trail around the reservoir was particularly beautiful. Overall the trail was rated difficult in the guidebook and I could see why with all the rocks and roots we had to go over, certainly not for a hard tail.
We popped the bikes in the Prius and then headed up the road to get the truck. 5 minutes along the road at 15mph I hit a rock that almost lifted the Prius off the ground. From there on Emily and I had to get out about 10 times to roll small rocks off the road that the clearance on the Prius wouldn’t make. Unfortunately we couldn’t move all the branches and the side of the car got a bitch scratched up. Nothing too serious but we may need to take a buffer to it to get some of the bigger ones sometime soon. The last ¾ miles of the road that the truck got up were just too gnarly so I got out and ran it while Em turned around and headed back down the road. She actually was moving at good pace because I was hauling ass down the road once I got to my truck to catch up with her.
When we got back to the paved road it was decision time. Try to make it back for the Philomath Rodeo with Cassie and Garrett or take advantage of the two vehicles and shuttle one more descent down the intermediate Larrison Rock Trail. We opted for the latter and were totally happy with our choice as the drive to the top was all paved road and fast and the descent was super smooth without any rocks or roots to negotiate. The trail was literally cut into the side of a steep slope the whole 5 miles down with some descent exposure on the side but it was soooo clean. We only stopped 3 or 4 times because our arms hurt and hands hurt from gripping the brakes that we were practically melting on the way down. I think it only took us maybe 15 minutes of riding total! Definitely one of the best descents I’ve had in Oregon. The shuttle to the top, the ride, and the shuttle back only took about an extra hour and half. We didn’t make it back in time for the rodeo but man did we have good time biking in Oakridge… now to buff both our cars…

Monday, July 4, 2011

Disc Golf and 4th of July BBQ at our place

Today was a leisurely day of disc golf for the boys of Watershed and real golf for the ladies which is ironic given the original meaning of the word GOLF.. I ended up drinking a 6-pack of Blimey’s at Willamette Park and was buzzed by the afternoon when Kev and I invited everyone over for a BBQ. Aaron had asked if we could have it at our place and I agreed but apparently Anna and John had also planned one with some people that weren’t into socializing with new people so we ended up having separate ones.. oh well. Ours didn’t last long and was pretty casual and we didn’t even work up the energy to go downtown to see the fireworks. Instead Emily and I crashed watching a movie and Chris stopped by to hang out for a bit on his way back home from Anna’s. I know I say it a lot but it sure would be nice to see Tiffany every once in a while too. Anyway, the bbq and a relaxing night on the 4th was the perfect finish to a fantastic three day weekend.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Colin's Annual 4th of July Party

After a really fun weekend in the woods Emily and I were able to make it back to Corvallis by 8pm and after a couple super quick showers we made it to Colin & Amanda’s by 9pm for their annual 4th of July party. Everyone we knew was there it seemed and Mischa had apparently told everyone we may be dead because he thought we were alone in plastic kayaks, not realizing we were with pros and in inflatable kayaks. So… everyone it seemed was relieved to see us and we were relieved to see everyone… and all the food as we were friggin’ starving. As usual all of our friends had brought a ton of delicious food and people were in the street playing 4-square. The garage as usual again seemed to be the place to hang out with ring toss and the super-rad original Nintendo with Dr. Mario that seems to never die. Em and I were tired but we waited around for many of the fireworks to be set off before we headed out just before midnight. It was a great party as it is every year.

Umpqua River Weekend

Emily I had just had a really awesome weekend of kayaking and mountain biking in the North Umpqua River region of Oregon. With my knee still unable to handle skiing safely I’ve turned my outdoor focus towards mountain biking and water sports for the summer. Dennis Feeney and a bunch of other friends were planning on heading to the North Umpqua for some kayaking so Emily, Chris and I jumped on the plans as well. Throughout the week though it seemed like the plans started to fall apart and by Friday it had turned out that it would be just Emily and I in a double IK and Chris in a single. The river was running at nearly 3x the normal CFS (flow rate) and there was concern among Feeney and some of the others about the safety of the trip. But, after talking to my buddy Ben about it and some other rafters with experience we decided to give it a go anyway.

We were able to meet up with another group of rafters on Saturday morning at the Bogus Creek takeout. We had somehow squished all of our gear and bikes into and on top of Chris’ Subaru for the trip down. We met up with a bachelor party group of guys and a couple friends of mine who were guiding them down the river on a raft. The guys had actually arrived into the campsite the night before in a friggin’ limo because one of their cars had broken down. We jumped into my buddies vehicle and headed upstream to the Horseshoe Bend put-in. After blowing up 3 rafts and our kayaks along with another kayak belonging to a local river guide named Jake who was friends with the rafting crew we were able to get on the water around 10:15am. I could tell the rafting trip was going to be fun for the bachelor party as they all loaded containers of booze into the rafts. The plan was to float down past Gravel Bin take out 7 miles down the river where we would lose one of the rafts and then float another 5 miles to Bogus Creek for a total 12 mile float.

This section of the river is deemed wild and scenic even though it stays pretty close to a major highway for the majority of its length. The first 7 mile segment consisted of a bunch of class III rapids and one class IV rapid called Pinball which I was a little concerned about seeing that it was up to me to steer a longer IK with Emily and I both in it on a river that was running much higher than usual. To make it even more nerve wracking about 10 minutes after getting on the river Emily and I pinned our kayak against a rock and took our first swim in the cold water which knocked the air out of my lungs it was so frigid. Thankfully all three of us had wetsuits on (Farmer Johns for Em an I). Turns out the spill wasn’t bad at all and we just jumped back in the kayak. After taking the first spill and realizing it wasn’t a big deal I regained my confidence and steering ability and we cruised down the fast running river with Jake in the lead guiding us through the approaches to the rapids. Some of the class III rapids had huge holes on the downstream side which Em and I dove into and popped out of. We literally found ourselves sailing into holes that had a 6-8 foot wall of water it seemed that we had to plunge into, up and then over with Emily taking it head first on each one and loving every minute of it. We passed by beautiful Eagle Rock on towering above us on the right side of the river above the highway and many other beautiful rock formations along the river on our trip.

Our second flip was a little more nerve wracking as Emily got stuck in an eddy behind a rock upstream while I got thrown free into the main current . As I was floating down the river trying to hop back into the kayak with my paddle in hand Jake told me I should get in quickly. When I failed 3 times because my back was downstream with the kayak on top of me and my feet slipping his voice suddenly got a bit more urgent telling me to get my ass into the f’n kayak… Upon hearing this I turned around and saw I was being pulled directly into another large rapid with huge boulders in the middle of the river! I immediately found the strength to get into the kayak, quickly grabbed the paddle and maneuvered through the rapids with ease. Jake told me that I probably would have been fine but a little beat up from the rocks if I had to swim that section. It was a good thing Emily got stuck in the eddy as Chris simply pulled her into his single IK in front and easily negotiated the rapid to meet up with us again in a pool below. I think the rapid was either called Rollout or it was part of African Queen (Eiffle Tower). In any case Emily joined up with me again and we headed down river to the class IV rapid, Pinball…

As we approached Pinball I followed Jake lead and shouted commands to Emily in front. It turned out that the high water level was an advantage here as the class IV felt easier than the one we had just dumped on. I felt bad because Emily and I bumped into __ in the middle of the rapid and almost through him into a bad part of it. It took a lot of strength to steer the back end of the boat head on into a few of the waves and a little yelling at Emily to make sure she paddled hard so we wouldn’t get sucked back into the holes but we made it just fine. Having gained confidence nailing the Class IV the rest of the float to Gravel Bin felt easier and I was more relaxed.

One of the rafts took out and left at Gravel Bin along with Jake who we thanked for helping guide us safely down the river. I know that we probably wouldn’t have gone on the river it wasn’t for some knowledgeable people being with us. We relaxed in the sun at Gravel Bin for a bit, filled out a ridiculous 10 page survey on the river and recreation some volunteer gave to us and said goodbye to our friends and thanked Jake before jumping on the river for the next section to Bogus Creek Takeout where the Subaru was, following the now very drunk bachelor party guys down the last 5 miles of mostly class II easy rapids with the exception of Class III Steamboat which was easy in the high water. We came around a bend when I was finally able to take out our camera out of the Pelican Case for some photos and after snapping a few shots I realized there were topless girls on the rocky bend in the river… whoops! I didn’t actually end up getting them in the shots though. The bachelor party was certainly amused though.

Chris goofing off
Emily on the river
The last 5 miles was super easy and we were able to mess around and try new stuff in the kayaks without a worry of flipping. We made it back to Bogus Creek by about 3:30 and Chris shuttled the drivers while Em and I deflated the kayaks and packed our gear up. When Chris returned to us we took a drive past the unrunnable Deadline Class V falls to Idleyld Park to check out the Narrows section of the Umpqua river and find reception to call Dennis Feeney and find out where they all were for our shuttle bike ride the next day. Unfortunately, all I got was a voicemail and we spend the next two hours driving up to the Umpqua Hot Springs area and several other campgrounds looking for them before ending up high up in the pass at Lemolo Lake at the Poole Creek Campground where we paid for a spot. THANK GOD WE BROUGHT BUG REPELLENT. I’m not exaggerating when I say that when we pulled in there were swarms of hundred of the little buggers waiting for us to exit the car! I actually hid in the car until bags were taken out so I could jump into my puffy pants and jacket to avoid them. It didn’t work and I still had to douse myself in DEET to keep them away. Thankfully, we had taken the extra ice from the bachelor party and combined it with our coronas in a dry bag so we had nice cold beer to drink and Chris got a fire started pretty quick. We finally were able to get a hold of Kelly Rice thanks to calling Hartz for her number and we arranged to meet up at the start of the bike trail in the morning at 10am allowing us to have a relaxing evening by the fire and sleep in a bit in the morning. Eventually the squitoes left us alone after we smoked our clothes out and they lost interest.

Lemolo Falls
The group above Lemolo Falls
On Sunday Morning we met up with Dennis, Jill, Betsy, Kelly, and a guy named Dan and his girlfriend at the Lemolo Lake end of the “Dread & Terror” Section of the North Umpqua Bike Trail. After greasing up our chains and me gearing up with my phone, Bluetooth headphones, and helmet cam we took off down the trail. At first I let everyone lead the way but then I got all fired up with my music and after we stopped for a beautiful view of Lemolo Falls I took 2nd place behind Dennis on his 29er. Lemolo Falls was gorgeous and everyone got a kick out of the fact that as usual I skipped past everyone to the very edge to take a few photos.

Beautiful falls across river
On the "Dread & Terror"
I had forgotten how absolutely beautiful the trail was on the steep canyon walls above the river. Last time I had been here it was during the fall but now in the late spring/summer there were rhododendrons all along the trail in bloom and everything was just super green and overgrown. The trail was technical in some places which posed a challenge for Emily and I didn’t notice until I got home and watched the helmet cam video how steep and exposed certain parts of the trail were above the river. We passed several large waterfalls on the opposite side of the rivers and a couple smaller ones on our side including a few weeping walls. There were beautiful bridges we crossed and I was shown were Jill had fallen 20’ down a crack in the side of the trail to nearly the river below. How she didn’t break both her legs I don’t know but because she was bruised up and shaken she was not riding the trail again with us today (they had ridden part of the trail yesterday while we kayaked). A few of us took some spills but thankfully nobody got too hurt. I was super impressed by both Feeney’s riding ability in front of me as well as his 29er…

Lunch break along river
Fixing tire break
When we got to the end of the ride near the Umpqua hot springs after a long mile long stretch of really wet trail and mud I realized that they hadn’t left a car at the bottom and we would have to bike uphill to their campsite. Feeney had told me it was easy and just a couple miles but Betsy guessed it at 5 miles and immediately when we started going uphill it was steep… and with my right quad completely bonking from supporting my weaker left leg (new knee) I was at first pissed that nobody thought to leave a car at the bottom (worst thing after a wicked fun descent is to have to kill yourself biking uphill on a hot, sweaty forest road in the sun). But… Emily called me out for being a diva and the three of us quickly realized that the road leveled out and was only about 3 miles of not bad riding. I think if it had been 5 and the same steepness that it started out as I would have been pissed but in the end it was super easy and a non-issue.
We hung out at their super awesome campsite with the dogs and Jill who cut us fresh watermelon while Chris got a shuttle back up to the Subaru at Lemolo Lake. From there it was just a casual ride home with Emily sleeping in the back and Chris and I discussing ideas of how to make a lightweight shuttling contraption for kayaking and bike trail descents…. We are still pondering about it.. It was a fantastic weekend of excitement that I haven’t had in months! Sweet!