Thursday, November 21, 2013

A morning paddle on the Tualatin

The Tualatin seems to be a little known gem in the Portland area. With miles and miles of slow moving water, an abundance of wild life and scenic wilderness like areas around it, it's a great place to paddle.

While there are many places to put in in between Tigard and West Linn, I like starting from the Tualatin Community Park. It offers the best and easiest boat ramp for loading and unloading, and there are numerous nice restaurants close by to grab a bite to eat after your adventure.

The Tualatin does allow motorized boats. But with a no wake restriction, it leaves few to be seen except for the occasional fisherman. Most all you will find on your visit will be canoes and kayaks, out for a leisurely paddle, trying to escape city life. Even if just for a short while.

For photography, the river offers lots of great shots. There are many old docks along the banks and the mornings often bring a beautiful mist that likes to hang over the water.

Beware though, having a spendy camera in your kayak is risky. There are lots of dead heads and branches just under the surface, and can easily tip you over if you're not careful. And each year, the winter rain and heavy flow of water changes where they are, so always stay sharp and paddle with a friend.
Also, try to go on a day with little or no wind. It makes shooting photos really hard when your kayak or canoe is being blown around messing up your composition. Patience is key to get the shot just right.

If you get really adventurous, park a second car at Willamette Park where the Tualatin meets the Willamette River. From the Tualatin, Park it will take about 2 to 3 hours of nice easy paddling and you'll cover about 7 miles.
Along the way you will pass under I5 and I205 and cross over a small dam. Once over the dam you will find some fun on and off again white water that is super easy and just big enough to get you a little wet and keep you on you toes.
Once at Willamette park, you can load up and head back, or play around a little on the big river before heading out. Either way, you'r sure to have a good time and be amazed that you had never paddled there before.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

6 Days in the Wa backcountry


Vacations come few and far between when you work freelance.
Add to that, being a parent to two busy little boys, and free time becomes a precious commodity.

So, it was quite the stroke of luck when my production schedule changed, pushing my next shoot up a few weeks, thus leaving me a week free while my boys were away on vacation with their mom.

Oh, what to do?
As the ideas bounced around in my head, the thought of a long adventure ride kept pushing itself to the forefront of my mind. Thoughts of heading out with friends, bikes loaded down with camping gear, off to roads and trails unknown, consumed my mind. So after a few calls were made to confirm schedules, I contacted some friends with the idea of taking off on the bikes for a week or so to adventure around the backcountry of the NW.
As luck would have it, two friends were free that week and wanted in on the adventure. So after a little research and discussions about places we would like to go, we decided on riding the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route (WABDR).

This looked like the perfect trip, offering lots of great scenery, and just long enough to fill in all our free time without having to rush to much.
I've been a dirt bike guy most of my life but adventure riding is a bit new to me, so first thing to do was to get my bike set up for the trip.
I felt my Husky 610 would be the perfect bike for the adventure, it just needed a few easy mods to make it ready for camping and the long days on the trail. So first and foremost was a new seat. The stock seat sucks for anything other than short day trail rides and needed to go. I opted for a seat concepts seat and it worked out great. Very comfy and by far the cheapest option I could find. Next up was a gas tank. The IMS 5 gal tank is really the only aftermarket option on this model of bike. It is huge but the fit and finnish is good and other than having to run fuel lines everywhere, it worked out well. Looking back, I could have made the ride with the stock tank, but it was a nice safety net to have just in case we needed extra fuel. Last up was some way to carry 6 days worth of stuff. I went with the Giant loop soft bags. They had a great rep, and for good reason. They worked great and I had plenty of room for the weeks worth of gear and supplies.
After I had everything set up I took a few little around town rides to make sure all was good to go, then eagerly awaited Monday and the start of our adventure!

Day 1
We headed out Monday around 9am after a quick stop off to say by to my boys.

We opted to take the backroads thru Sandy, then over to Corbet and down the scenic Hwy. Seemed like a good way to get the ride started as we wanted to keep the freeway travel to a minimum.
From there we had to ride on 84 to the start of our route in Cascade Locks and the Bridge of the gods.

We gassed up in Stevenson Wa and headed out for what was looking to be a long but beautiful day in the Mt of the NW. The first leg took longer than I expected, and we ended up rolling into Takhlakh Lake a little late for lunch. But we still stopped for a quick snack and to rest up a bit.
While i've been here many times over the years, the place never gets old and is so beautiful it about takes my breath away every time i'm there.

While photography is a huge part of this blog, it took a big back seat on this trip. Trying to stay on schedule, ridding unknown areas, packing my nice gear and setting up shots was asking a bit much. I just opted on using my iphone for most pics and my G15 for the occasional shot that was either really nice or when I had a little extra time. For the most part though, this trip wasn't about creating great pics, it was all about the ride, with some snapshots to help tell the story, and look back on with fond memories of a great trip with great friends.

After a quick stop at the lake we headed off to Packwood to gas up, then it was up over the pass and down to Rimrock lake to camp for the night.
We were hoping to camp on the lake at Silver Beach Resort, but it was getting late and we pulled into the first campground we came to. After we found a spot, we quickly put up the tents in what little light was left, and settled in for the night.

Day 2
The day started bright and early with the promise of more perfect weather, and what was sure to be some beautiful terrain over Bethel ridge, thru the small town of Nile and up into Ellensburg.

After a quick breakfast we decided to split up and meet Dave (on a BMW650) for lunch in Nile. The route showed some difficult sections on the first leg of the day and it seemed best to have Dave go around and meet up with us later.

The early morning ride by Rimrock lake was a great way to start the day!

As Bruce and I headed away from the lake and up to Bethel ridge, it was clear this was going to be a very pretty section, with great dirt roads and amazing vistas.

As Bruce pulled up to me in this meadow, he said his bike was running odd and he smelled gas. As I looked down I notice gas leaking (like a lot!) from his fuel line. Oh shit! He shut the bike off and I got down to take a look. We got a bit lucky here as the fuel line leaking was the cut across line from one side of the tank to the other. Since his husky is fuel injected and the pump is inside the tank, we were able to shut off the vale at the tank and stop the flow of gas from one side to the other. Looking up close, the culprit was a hose clamp that had slowly worn its way thru the line. We could have taken a bit longer to fix it, but as it was, shutting the fuel off and letting the tank slosh fill up the left side would work out just fine.

So, from here we headed down into Nile and met up with Dave for lunch at the little store / gas station.
After sharing stories about our different rides and downing some yummy hot dogs, he headed north over Cleman Mt heading towards Elensburg. This section was lots of fun with great views and an awesome fast smooth dirt road section that was like riding a groomed MX track out in the Mts!

After a short ride on pavement, we headed to the bypass for the next section. Dave, on the BMW 650 was a bit new to dirt riding and we wanted to play it safe, as many riders had said this section would be by far the most difficult. All ended up well as the bypass was a nice easy cruse and got us into town with plenty of time to find a hotel and walk into town for a nice dinner.

Day 3
While we had hoped to start early, a few bike issues had us waiting in town till the hardware store opened up. With a little free time we grabbed breakfast across the street from Ace, then went to work on fixing some rack and luggage problems before hitting the road towards Chelan.

Since part of the route was closed from Ellensburg to Cashmere and we were running a bit late after our bike matinance, we opted to just take a quick trip up the 97 and over into Cashmere. Once into town we grabbed some lunch at a killer BBQ place before heading off on the 90 mile backcountry ride over to Chelan.

When you leave Cashmire, there is a great paved section that winds up into the canyons, leading to miles and miles of epic dirt roads with great views of the north cascades. Along this section is where we had our first incident. Dave on the BMW went down in a slow technical section and got trapped under his bike. Luckily there were no serious injuries and Bruce and I were close by and were able to pull it off him pretty quickly.

Here is one of many fires we saw on the trip. This one was a little to close for comfort and we didn't hang around long as the winds were blowing.........

After running over a few ridges it was time to drop down into a crazy overgrown jungle single track section that lead to the Lake. That section was a blast and I was laughing the whole way. Not sure why since I was kinda beat at this point. I think it was watching Dave on his big Beemer ripping thru the jungle whacking branches as he whipped by.
We hit the lake just before dark and quickly set up camp at 25 mile creek state park. This is a great little campground with easy lake access, showers and was the perfect place to kick back, relax and tell stories from the days epic ride.

Day 4
We had a big day ahead today so we were up early, packed and on the road by 8. It was a beautiful ride along the lake and was looking to be a great day! Until we rolled into the gas station that is. While my new tank was working great, it ads a lot of weight and when on its kick stand on level ground it is VERY tippy. So....... as I finnished filling up, I turn to put the hose away and my backpack barley brushes up against my bike. Well, thats all it took. Over goes my bike, with the cap off the tank and my gloves and wallet sitting on the seat. Oh so quickly the 5 gallons I just put in start a mass exodus drenching my gloves and wallet.
Well, as mishaps go, this one wasn't to bad and more a pain than anything else. I spent about 20 min in the bathroom getting stuff washed off and luckily the bike was fine. Just bent the hand guard and messed up my key ignition a little.
After the gas fiasco, we grabbed a quick bite to eat in town and looked at the map to go over the days route. With Dave having to head back early for a Mt bike trip with friends, our plan was to head north, then take off west on the North Cascade Scenic Hwy. Bruce and I would decide once we got to Ross Lake if we would then backtrack, hitting Harts pass, Slate peak and a few other scenic spots before heading back to Chelan. Or, we could continue on with Dave to Darrington, then drop south on the Mountain Loop Hwy, then  loop back on Stevens Pass and stay the night in Leavenworth.
Well, the North Cascade HWY (HWY20) was a great choice  and is an AMAZING ride! Once we hit Ross lake we pulled over at the dam for Diabalo lake and had lunch.


After lunch Bruce and I decided to make the whole loop and see some new areas instead of mostly backtracking back to Chelan. The trip to Darrington went fast and was a nice ride, but by this time I was getting pretty sick of the pavement and looking forward to the dirt section coming up on the Mt loop Hwy. After saying good by to Dave in Darrington we headed south and hit the Mt Loop Hwy towards Granite Falls. This was a GREAT ride with long sections of some of the best gravel roads and beautiful paved twisty's I have ever ridden. While I had really wanted to hit Slate peak if we backtracked, I was stoked ridding thru this area.  

Once into Granite Falls we realized we really needed to put the hammer down if we had any chance to make it to Leavenworth before dark. No pics, no chit chat about how great a ride it was. Just gas and go!
It was a nice ride by Lake Roesiger down to Stevens Pass Hwy, and while we had some nasty looking weather around us, we stayed dry all the way into Leavenworth. Our only bad luck came about 15 miles from town when Bruce ran out of gas. Here is where I was pretty happy I had got my new tank as I had plenty of fuel for us both. By now it was pretty dark, and I started pulling off my fuel line while Bruce emptied out a Gatorade bottle. We filled it up twice, figuring that should get us into town? Well, its pitch black by now and my headlight is about as bright as a candle so I was not really looking forward to the ride. Sure wish at this point I had got an aftermarket light before the trip! Oh well...
We pull back onto the road and just get to 6th gear. Coming around a corner we see lights and what do ya know, a gas station! Ha, isn't that the way it always works. We had a good laugh then a scary DARK ride into town, got a hotel and quickly headed over to 'Ducks and Drakes' for a late dinner and a few much needed drinks!

Day 5
It rained throughout the night and the road was wet but we lucked out once again with the weather and not a single drop of rain came our way as we left the hotel and headed south towards home.

Our plan was to backtrack some of the WABDR sections and do the bypass around Bethel ridge as that would be new to us. Depending on the time, we would either camp up on Bethel or down at Rimrock lake.
From the hotel, we headed south on the 97 through Ellensburg and down one of our favorite WABDR sections and then into Nile for lunch. Along the way, part of the route had changed as a road crew was installing a large culvert and the road was all torn up. It was here that I had my first and only crash. The drop down into the culvert went fine, but the bottom was all loose and deep from the tractors. I put my foot down to turn and it just sunk in, and me and my bike quickly went over. I picked my bike up quick though, not wanting to give Bruce a chance to get any pics of the crash :-)
After lunch we took the bypass around Bethel ridge and had fun exploring and passing time, all the while looking for a good spot to camp for the night.

We made it back to the regular route and quickly headed up to the ridge where we knew there was a great view, and with a little luck, maybe we could find an epic spot for the last night of our trip.
While we saw a few places that would work, I wanted the perfect spot! So off I went out some old dirt skid tracks in hopes of finding something good while Bruce waited on the ridge. 
The road / trail went for longer than I expected and as I came around a sharp left corner was faced with a steep loose hill climb that looked a bit imposing with all the gear strapped to my bike. At first I about wussed out, figuring it had been a great ride so far and I didn't want to take any chances this close to the end. But then I said fu^* it, and the photographer / adventurer in me took over and up the hill I went.
It was a bit sketchy but not to bad, and after a few more turns I was awarded with a view on a grand scale and a perfect spot to camp for the night.



So, we found a sweet spot for sure, so good in fact, that I finally had the chance to shoot a pic I had been wanting to do for a few years, but till now never really had the chance.

A few years back, I was filming at PIR and was hit by an out of control rider. I was on the inside of a corner in what should have been a perfectly safe spot, but as luck would have it, that day it was the wrong place at the wrong time. The result was a shattered right side pelvis that took 2 major reconstructive surgeries, 8 plates, lots and lots of screws and 3 months in a wheel chair before I could even start rehab. 
I had many great friends help my family and I out, and one company that steeped up as well.
Giant Loop! After hearing about my accident and hi med bills, they auctioned off one of their saddle bags and sent me a check in the mail when the auction was over. Pretty dam cool, especially when you consider I didn't own, or honestly even really knew about them. I had just gotten into dual sporting and never had a need to look into travel gear. So the fact they did this without any connection was super cool of them, and I had often thought of returning the favor some day. Well, today was that day! I could repay Giant Loop with sweet photo of their product.

It was nice having Bruce along as he is also a ad photographer, so between the 2 of us we got everything set up quick. I figured this would be a nice shot for my portfolio as well as a nice ad for Giant Loop, so we had some fun and shot a few different setups. 

Here is a quick how to on the set up of my favorite shot.
First issue was no tripod and just a point and shoot G15 camera. While I did have a little camera mount, it was only about 6 inches high, and that just wasn't going to work for the shot. So, I grabbed Bruces little camp chair and set a few large boulders on it, both for added height and stability. Then I put my mini mount on top and that seemed like it was going to work. Since it was a super contrasty scene being backlit into the sunset, I needed to do multi exposures and strip them together. This meant I needed the camera perfectly still. Not an easy thing to do with the set up I had, but doable.
Most important thing here it to have the camera on a timer so it wouldn't shake when I pushed the button. Also, I shots LOTS of brackets. That way I would have lots of brackets to pick from. If the images from one bracket didn't line up perfectly I would have lots of others as backups.

First I shot the bright exposure for the foreground

Then a much darker exposure for the Mt and clouds

Back home I layered the two together and added a little color to make the overall image pop a bit more. 
When I was finished, I sent it to Giant Loop along with a thank you letter for what they had done, and let them know it was theres to use how ever they would like.

Day 6
It was a great night, and while the clouds looked a little ominous at sunrise, we had yet another amazing day with no rain.

We soaked up the view for a while then packed up and headed down the Mt to have a yummy breakfast at  Silver Beach Resort. From there is was back into Packwood to gas up for the long stretch to Carson.
We rode the WABDR back to Takhlakh lake, taking a little detour over to Walupt Lake.

From here we headed back on route to Takhlakh then over to Council lake. We thought about heading up to Council Butte but the campground was packed with riders everywhere so we opted to head towards home.
We dropped down the old decommissioned road from Council Lake and hit NF 90, then rode to the Lower Lewis River Falls for our last photo op of the trip.

The ride back to Carson went great and we rolled into Stevenson to gas up and grab some pizza before the final leg home. As usual, the ride over the bridge of the gods freaked me out (Why does it always have to be windy going over that slippery metal grated surface?) but the rest of the way went smooth and we rolled into home around 5 with 1168 mile on the odomiter. Just a little shy of my prediction of 1,200 but still a pretty good trip!

This was a first for all of us. While I have been ridding dirt bikes my whole life, I had never done an overnight trip on a bike. None of us had. Dave and Bruce were great partners and I see many more such trips in our future. Were already looking into the Utah Discovery Route, and hope to hit it sometime next year.

If your not sick of looking at pics yet, take a few minutes to check out the video I made of our ride. It has some helmet cam footage mixed in with lots of pics. I have tried and tried to embed the video here but just cant get it to work. So here is the link if you want to check it out.

Hope you enjoyed the writeup and thanks for taking the time to check it out. Feel free to let me know if you have any photo questions or would like route info.