Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Gorge Strike Mission

The flight path into Portland takes us right over the Columbia River Gorge - this is the right hand side of the plane view - that is Mt Adams (Washington state) in the distance and the town of Hood River (center right just below the river).  On the left side of the plane, you could see Mt Hood very close up.  In fact, the summit was above the plane.

My family and I had planned for a week in Hood River this summer, but some conflicts came up and we had to change up our summer vacation plans (hence Montana & Wyoming back in June).  But I couldn't let summer 2014 go by without getting out to Hood River again.  So I did another "strike mission" - a quick in & out for 4 days of wind, waves, and trails.  

Rob and I perfected it last year.  We fly into Portland, Oregon on a Friday night after work, stay at an airport hotel, get up early the next morning and get our rental car at the airport, then drive the 1 hr east to Hood River and do whatever the conditions permit for 4 whole days, then take the red-eye flight back Tuesday evening, then we're back home and at work Wednesday morning.  Only miss 2 days of work and minimal time away from the family.  The red-eye flight is always uncomfortable and I'm tired on Wednesday but then recovered by Thursday - still totally worth it and I'd do it again.

Got to sail a new spot - Viento, about 8 miles west of Hood River.  Beautiful spot.

My rental gear from Big Winds - Starboard Kode 94 liter freestyle wave board & Naish Force 4.7

the drive over the Hood River/Washington bridge back into Hood River, OR.   Mt Hood in the distance.

Rob couldn't make it this year but I was able to hook up with 3 other local Charlotte windsurfers - Alan, Donald, & Demetri who were staying out there all week.  The 4 days I was there consisted of 2 days of marginal 6.0 windsurfing (at Doug's Beach & The Hatchery), a day of killer mountain biking on the Syncline Trails, a nice hike up Starvation Ridge Loop for some great views, and the last day was busy - started with 2 hours of 4.7 windsurfing (~25mph wind for my non-windsurfing friends) at Viento, then did an 8 mile SUP downwinder, followed by another 1/2 hour of 4.7 windsurfing at the Event Site before calling it a day.

As always, the Columbia River Gorge area always provides opportunities for just about any outdoor recreation possibility....wind or no wind.   In fact, the weather forecast wasn't looking so good for wind before we left NC, so Donald and I were pursuing the idea of climbing Mt Adams for a couple days, including a backpacking overnighter.  I was also going to go to Timberline to do some summer snow skiing.  But you never know about the weather - the wind did show eventually.  

Syncline mountain bike trail map (Washington side)

The following pics are from the Syncline Trails...great views overlooking the Columbia River towards Oregon...Demetri (in red), Donald (long sleeve blue), and I...

We rented Santa Cruz demo bikes at Hood River Bicycles - this one is 27.5" wheels, a fun ride.

This is the hike up Starvation Ridge Loop, near Viento State Park on the Oregon side.  It's a 3-4 mile loop and strenuous hike up many switchbacks to get to the view at the top...then a beautiful waterfall at the bottom....

biggest anthill I've ever seen - as big as a small car (Smart car size) - millions of ants crawling all over every single square millimeter of it.

Demetri and Donald at Viento

This is at the Hood River Event Site - check out the foil kiteboarder - saw a few of them out there.

After missing out last year, I had a goal to finally do a SUP downwinder on the Columbia River.  Finally achieved that goal thanks to the Big Winds shuttle.  They take you from the Hood River Event Site to Viento and drop you off for the 8 mile paddle back.  The van and trailer was packed with 14 fun and stoked paddlers with their boards.  As I anticipated, this now makes my choices that much harder on windy days.  This!

Launching at Viento

I was on the Imagine 14' Kalama Downwind board - 29" width for great stability and tons of rocker for the big swells...this was a fun ride and easy to maneuver on the swells.

If you've ever done a Dave Kalama paddle technique clinic, you know these are two of his biggest words to remember - Reach & Breathe!

You get a good idea of the swell size in this pic.  They were bigger in other sections of the river and get much bigger when the wind blows 30-40mph+.  The wind was blowing 25mph+ this day.  They won't run the shuttle unless it's blowing at least 20-25mph.   For those of you that don't know, the predominant wind direction here is westerly.  The river flows east.  The opposing wind and river current creates the big swells.  If the wind isn't blowing hard, this same paddle route would be a real tough up river & against the current paddle. 

Here are my favorite restaurants from my last 3 visits:
Bettes Place - get the smoked salmon breakfast burrito to fuel up for the day
Double Mountain - best local beer & pizza
Full Sail Brewing - great beer & burger, salmon fish & chips also very good.
Kaze - sushi
Everybodys Brewing - (across the river in White Salmon WA), also great local beer & food, get the pulled pork nachos.
Hood River Taqueria - best Mexican (located in the Heights district)
Everyone loves these 2 food trucks but they never seem to be open when I go by there so check their hours: Four & Twenty Blackbirds (burritos) & Lampoei's (Thai)
More upscale: 3 Rivers Grill, Celilo, Brians Pourhouse
Several good coffee shops downtown

Here is a short video I made from the 2013 trip....

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Montana & Wyoming - Part 3 Grand Tetons National Park & Jackson WY

It snowed 4-5 inches that morning as we drove out of Yellowstone National Park and into Grand Tetons National Park for our remaining final three days.   After that day, the sun came out and we finally enjoyed temps in the 70s and 80s.  We would spend those first two days hiking in Grand Tetons National Park.  The 3rd and final day of our whole trip, we would play at Jackson Hole Resort, all the while staying each night in the town of Jackson, WY.  

Jackson, WY was another cool mountain town with lots to do.  Compared to Bozeman MT, it was more of a cowboy atmosphere, complete with a staged gunfight in the town square that I thought was a little cheesy but the kids loved it.  The town calls itself "The Last Of The Old West".  Tons of good food there, with lots of other fun things to do, and I also managed to sniff my way to Snake River Brewing.

The Grand Tetons were....well...they were grand.  When we first rounded the corner and saw those peaks, it was BAM!  So big and constantly right in your face.  We did some fun family hikes, including another 9 miler off the beaten path to Trapper and Bear Claw Lakes.  I'd like to return one day and tackle the more challenging 40 mile Teton Crest Trail. 

More commentary below in the pics, but overall, what a great family trip.  Like I said in Part 1, you should go if you ever thought about seeing Montana and Wyoming.  So much open land out there and so beautiful.  And so much to do.  And the weather changes quickly and often.  You could spend a month in each place we visited and still not get to everything.  Message me here in comments section if you want more info on our itinerary and/or have any questions or want recommendations.

Here is another short video along with pics and commentary afterwards (click on any pic to see in large format and scroll through).  Enjoy!

Our first view of the Tetons as we rounded the corner on a cloudy, rainy, snowy day.  We stopped at the Jenny Lake Lodge and had a nice lunch (the host was from Charlotte and had just been to Lake Norman to visit a friend - small world).  Then we boarded a boat (while it was still snowing) and crossed Jenny Lake to a trailhead that would take us to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point.  

Hidden Falls

The hike up to Inspiration Point

Inspiration Point

Each of the 3 Tetons

Hiking from Inspiration Point down to the backside of Jenny Lake (we bypassed the boat ride back and hiked around the lake)

Snowing on our hike!

SUP is becoming more popular in the area.

We did a hike around Leigh Lake and on to Bearclaw and Trapper Lakes.  The sun came out for us.

more of our hike around Leigh Lake

Evidence of forest fires, we saw a lot of this at Yellowstone too.

Our hike on to Bearclaw and Trapper Lakes

a big fat Marmot

At Trapper Lake, having a scenic picnic lunch before turning around.  That swath behind us without trees was where an avalanche came down and took a bunch of trees and debris with it, apparently earlier in the spring.  It pushed debris all the way to the other side of the lake (below).

beautiful clear water

The Tetons

We took the tram to the top of Rendezvous Mountain at Jackson Hole Resort.  I was checking out the bare ski slopes and could tell why this is one of the most advanced ski terrains in the country.

The views from the top - we could see the Snake River, Teton Village, Jackson, National Elk Refuge, the Tetons, and many other peaks and valleys.

The Snake River

The back bowls of Jackson Hole - you can still ski them in the summer if you hike to the top of them.

in the town of Jackson, WY

While the kids played on trampolines and ropes courses, I took to the downhill mountain bike trails at Jackson Hole Resort.  Ride the lift up, ride the bike down.

You could go into the high banked berms/turns at top speed without braking.

Serious stuff with the full face helmet and pads - lots of high banked berms, jumps....and man made stuff on the trails like this much fun!  Each time down was more fun than the last.

Pretty cool stuff for the kids to do.

Our final day was our sunniest & warmest.

Lots of beautiful open ranch land all around