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Little White

As our summer in the Northwest wound down to an end, we decided there would be no better way to finish it off than to spend a week running the Little White Salmon near Hood River. Little White is usually done by this time of year, but we found really nice flows between 3.1' and 2.9' for our week there.

Spirit Falls
Spirit Falls is one of the more legendary drops in the U.S., reknowned for its beauty and intensity. It's been run a ton of times by a lot of people, but it has also dished out many beatings, near drownings, and quite a few broken backs. Spirit currently has a log to slide over in the entrance, then a pretty fast lead in with some things going on, a curler at the lip on the left that wants to lift your bow and make you boof, a wall on the right at the bottom that people get worked against and carried behind the veil, and a veil on the left as well that you can end up behind. Besides all of those complications, there is a hole downstream called Chaos that you cannot paddle or swim out of without a rope. The ferry above Chaos is tricky - you have to be in control after Spirit to make the move.

I had never run Spirit before this summer, but always wanted to. Most of the people that I have seen run it are under 30, and none of them have had a history of back problems like mine (missing months at a time since a bad landing on Gluteal Mash in 5/97, and a dislocated SI joint that held me back a lot for 2 years in '04-'05). A lot of the younger guys who run it all the time boof it frequently. In the worst case of a boof into the green water at the bottom on the left, you can break your back. Best case is a boof right on the boil, which can be hard or soft depending on the surge. I don't have the option of rolling the dice on a hard landing, so I knew I needed to make sure of my angle of entry or risk having my paddling season be over.

Dave Fusilli shows the young guy style at Spirit, boofing onto the boil.
Photo by Andria.

After a boof on his first run, Kevin had this beautiful 45 degree line on his second one.
Photo by Andria.

Since I first saw this drop back in the summer of 2002, I've wanted to run it. I knew I didn't have the skills to do it right, though, so I would need some practice on smaller, less consequential falls. My first round of practice was in Mexico, at Luminosa on El Salto.

Starting to learn the moves on the Salto 12/06 - too flat!
Photo by Ben Edson.

A little bit steeper angle on the Callaghan, 8/07
Photo by Bo Wallace.

After practicing, I knew that I could get my bow at the right angle as long as it didn't get lifted by the curler on the left at the lip. Instead of taking the left line away from the wall and the trip behind the veil, I decided to run down the tongue of green water in the middle heading a bit right, to land next to the wall but far enough out to miss the beating. I also figured that a beating behind the falls would be better than a broken back.

Putting it all together at Spirit.
Photo by Andria.

The verdict? I got the landing angle I wanted, but due to how fast the lip comes up at you with the busy entrance, I didn't get my body as far forward as I would have liked. I didn't get hurt, but I was a bit sore from my body coming forward on landing. Next time I'll do better on the body position, but overall I was pleased to have dodged the back-injury demon with a soft landing on this one!

Heading for an eddy below Spirit and above the horrible hole at Chaos.
Photo by Jeff Robinson while he held rope - thanks!

After a great week at Little White, we decided we had been away from home long enough, and that we needed to get back home to our comfy bed, indoor plumbing, and oh yeah - catching up on work so that we can save up for another adventure.

We did get a bit of boating on the way home, but that's for the next report!