Rafting White Salmon & Klickitat

July 9th, 2017

One year and eight days since the last post about rafting… and I’ve only managed one post in between. Oh well, such is life with a kid.

Anyway, last month marked another year of me organizing some sort of river-based dude weekend. This time around we rafted the White Salmon and Kickitat Rivers, just north of Hood River, Oregon. Two friends and I loaded up in the swagger wagon on Friday morning; meeting Mike and another friend late afternoon in Hood River. We ate vittles and essentially brewery hopped until it was dark – which is about 10:30 pm during the summer in this part of the country. Hood River is about what you expect of a PNW town where young families go to escape the city and work their tech jobs remote. I was surprised the breweries weren’t all HOPS HOPS HOPS and was able to find a good many beers that I liked. Given most of the breweries are walkable and there are so many great nature things to do in the area, I can definitely see vacationing around them parts when Dom is a bit older.

Saturday we did a half day on the White Salmon, which was a fairly quick river squeezing down a sheer cliff canyon. This river had bigger waves with lulls in between, but I really like the closed in feel with all the greenery seeming to reach in on us. I think we did pretty well that day and no one fell in the drink, which they’d drilled into us that morning due to the somewhat dangerous and inescapable nature of the canyon. The video below is 15 minutes of highlights from this day – hit up the full youtube link here if you want a more detailed description. Also, we jumped off a 20′ bridge into the water near the end of the day. I almost chickened out, because I was afraid of falling off the bridge while climbing up to stand on the side, but I managed. Unfortunately, my gopro battery died by then.

Saturday night we camped up on a mountain I can’t remember at a campsite I can’t remember. Not everyone was super excited about the campsite, but I thought it was super quiet and backed up to a small river. We found a great little deli in the tiny town of White Salmon and treated ourselves to a quality dinner and breakfast. I don’t think I’ve ever had shrimp while camping, which is surprising and something I plan to change in the future. The downside to one night of camping and rafting the next morning is you set it up for about 14 hours. It was actually pretty chilly up on the mountain, despite it being June. All in all, a good night.

Sunday was a full day rafting the Klickitat. This river was wider, the waves were a bit smaller, but it was nearly non-stop action. It was actually a bit like riding a horse at time, with the constant bobbing on the waves mimicking cantering on a horse. The Kickitat also had a lot more to look at given it was surrounded by basalt formations created by volcanic flows before humankind was even a thing. We liked our guide from Saturday and had requested him on Sunday, so we went into the day already meshing well as a group (we didn’t share a boat either day). This river is safer and our guide already knew we all could manage ourselves, so we spent a bit more time goofing off on the river and sightseeing. We actually dumped two swimmers in the middle of the tamest rapid; hitting a random lone rock in the river while our guide was trying to point out an osprey nest. Everyone was able to swim back to the back and re-embark without dying, so all’s well that ends well.

I’d totally raft both rivers again… and we just may do them next year. Oh wait, maybe not… I want to raft in Colorado again for the 40th birthday.

In the meantime, here’s the video and pics.

New Storytelling Camera

September 10th, 2016

20160903_003106 I bought a new camera; my third foray into the world of SLRs. My Nikon D90 has treated me well over the last few years, but I’ve been thinking about a new one for the better part of a year. I hadn’t been using my camera a ton, but I got back into it over the last year or two with the settling of our lives in Seattle. I’d always been interested in the difference between full frame (FX) cameras and cropped (DX) camera, but never had a good reason to upgrade to FX. Then, I took these pictures last May with my 50mm f/1.4 – a prime lens that has no zoom. I got lucky that the focal length worked amazingly well for these shots, but I realized I wanted more flexibility without having to replace all my lenses.

Enter the D610*.

I actually wasn’t sold that I was going to upgrade, but some passive shopping let me geek out about it. I’m generally pretty tight when it comes to buying myself things, so I mulled it over again and again and again for months. One thing led to another and I convinced myself that were there ever a time to upgrade, it was before I had a kid (more on that over at family.derecola… eventually). I have to admit that hearing a few people tell me I should do it helped. Like I said, I don’t really like spending money on tangible goods just for me. I ordered the camera late last week and, in an amazingly coincidental fashion, it came the day Dominic was born. I was actually paranoid about going into the long weekend without it. Turns out I was right, because Melissa’s water broke a mere six hours after it was delivered. Just long enough to charge the battery! After using it a bit during the birth, I have to admit that I’ll need to read the directions on this one.

I don’t think I’ll be taking concert photos any time soon, but I’m looking forward to taking pictures of family adventures. Cell phone and Facebook make a good combination, but there’s something archival about having a cluster of photos from a significant event in your life that you don’t immediately upload. I think, for me, photography has always been about telling a story. Hopefully I can tell some good stories about raising my son in a beautiful part of the country. I forsee a lot of shallow depth of field pictures of Dom with nature in the background. 😀

*If you want to know all the reasons I picked this model, other than it being FX, read this review. Ken Rockwell has helped me picked most of my gear over the years, so I trusted him to guide me through this purchase as well. I’m not sold on mirrorless… yes, I understand the benefits… so it was a cheaper FX Nikon dSLR for me.

Rafting North Umpqua

July 1st, 2016

Back in Virginia, I used to organize an annual canoeing and camping trips for me and friends. It was a long standing tradition (eight times in nine years) that served a good way for a bunch of us to get away from everything for a weekend, drink beer, and eat things that weren’t good for us… oh, and canoe. That tradition died when I moved to Seattle, but I was eager to start it anew.

After a few years of settling into our new city, and feeling the need to set up a new tradition before we had a kid, I decided to set up a rafting trip. Not only is canoeing uncommon in the icy mountain rivers of the Pacific NW, rafting opportunities abound. A bunch of emails later, there were four of us headed down the southern Oregon for two days on the North Umpqua River.

Day one was cold and rainy, but a fantastic representation of spring adventures into nature for this part of the country. The sun did break a few times to warm us up, despite the 50° water temp. Sunday was much warmer; warm enough that two of us tried out an inflatable kayak and I took a (short) swim in the river. Two days of quality, moderate white water and an evening of dry camping… including a wicked sweet turnaround of our campfire situation… made for a pretty good Father’s Day weekend that will be my last as a non-dad.

Here are some photos – a video or two will be posted next.