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....