Monday, July 8, 2013

Hoh Boy!

I have been wanting to get onto the Hoh from the day we moved onto the Peninsula. But as y'all know life can sometimes put up road blocks. This Forth O' July holiday Lea and i decided to just get it done.

The idea was to scout for possible overnights involving wooden boats and semi novice boaters. As i was the one doing the scouting and running i decided we should run the upper sections, not the flat lower chunks.

We handed over the dogs for the weekend (thanks Mom and Dad) and headed into the Hoh rain forest. Camping in the National Park at the Hoh visitor center is fantastic, even over the Fourth we were able to get a sight close to the river. The park itself is not primitive camping and you defiantly can't stay up all night blaring music and tossing beer cans everywhere but then again no one else there can either. Nice and quiet, hop in the hammock and stair up the trees.

And we did have some beer....

We ran two sections the lower on day one. The put in is at Minnie Pearson's 2 or 3 hundred yards west of Peak 6 Adventure Center. You pull out onto a large cobble bar and there is the river, a milky blue ribbon of get your f%#king relax on!

The main hazard on this river is wood, big wood, really really really big wood. The river meanders back and forth through a u-shaped glacial valley. As the water cuts channels back and forth it occasionally uproots and topples old growth trees, some well over 25 feet in diameter at the stump. I did not see a lot of evidence of the trees floating very far (it sure would happen in a big flood) but they pose a hazard where they lie.

The lower section starts in this idyllic setting. I was convinced through my research that the river would maintain this character with just one or two class 2 gravel bar rapids. I was pleasantly surprised.

Look at my face, look at the surprise when we came across a little canyon with fantastic class 2 bead rock rapids! I know its easy but the sun was out the scenery amazing and the lack of tourists in the river refreshing.

The last drop on this section is Oxbow. The book rate it as class 2 i would give it 2.5 at this level (looks like it may clean up at higher water). There was a definite move to make at the end of the rapid, not terribly hard but hard enough. If your a beginner or intermediate paddler in a hard boat and have solid class 2 skills you would love this section.

The take out is on river right right after the Oxbow drop, There is a great shady lunch spot on river left, although i don't thing there are many clear blue days, it is a rain forest after all.

The upper section we ran begins at the entrance of the national park and goes to Minnie Pearson's. From the park kiosk drive fifty yards to the gravel pull out on the right and hike your boats in. This section is exactly what i thought the river would be like, big, wood filled glacial river.

After my miss diagnosis of the first day (i didn't really expect any rapids at all to speak of) Lea was a little dubious, i clearly was not.

First stop was the confluence with the South fork Of the Hoh, after the elk cleared off the bar we climbed out to poke around.

Mixing water sure is mesmerizing. And looking up stream... there are goods to be had up there once it starts raining again.

Leaving the South Fork i found the best example of youth on age i have ever seen. Amazing.

A bit more gravel bar rapids and i found a sublime place to stop for another break. I have never pulled out to hang out on a log jam, here on the Hoh you can be surprised.

Easiest  pull out ever, it was just like having a dock.

A little down stream and we found some of those 25 foot + diameter logs. Note- The logs in the photo below are further away than they appear.

The river then enters a little bit of a constriction, which is blocked off by a log. Along with the log there is an amazing grotto complete with clear pools and water falls.

You do need to portage around the log.

Lea was relaxed enough to wink after avoiding strainer.

Just after Lea winked for the camera things turned really sketch ball. First faint booms could be heard in the distance. I thought fireworks, it was the Forth O' July. As we got closer Lea said something along the lines of, "Stuber i think those are gunshots", to witch i replied, "sure are, and big ones two."

I like guns, have owned several, but if you have ever rolled up to shooters on a remote river bank you know it can be a little dicey. Once back in Ohio I paddled past a Neo-Nazi White Supremacist compound where they were shooting off assault rifles. Scared the hell out of me!

Luckily this was different in several ways, first and most terrifying they were shooting a Smith and Wesson.44 mag (a turn your head into a canoe type of gun)  into and across the river. Next they had a little encampment with a flag (not American but not necessarily good or bad). Finally to my relief there were women and children about.

I got to within fifty yards before they saw me and we waved at each other. As we floated closer they waved and smiled, the one packing heat joyfully hollered some incoherent gibberish. Next they all fired up their quads and began to follow us parallel to the river. Still a little shaken but not wanting to seam so i continued to sip my beer and lazily float down stream.

Somewhere in here there is a real dangerous log jam. Our colorful gun toting spectators stopped to watch what we would do. A portage later and we were still being followed, or so it seamed. Around the next bend we came upon a huge group of quads on the shore. I decided it was best to just paddle right up and talk.

The man who came down to chat looked just like the Sheriff from Cool Hand Luke, complete with sweet mirrored sun glasses. He was dressed in black, like the rodeo wranglers who pull riders off bulls after their eight seconds. No smile he stood looking down at me through his sun glasses as i eyed him up through mine.

At this point... nothing happened.
Turns out, just a bunch of folks out for a Saturday poker run. I wish i had a photo of our encounter but i thought it rude to shoot photos anyhow i was relieved to discover that they were just colorful locals out for some Saturday fun. See the relief in my face?

In conclusion the Hoh is amazing, if you haven't been don't miss out on this gem. If your in small whitewater boats the upper and middle sections are great! It looks like the stretch from the campground down to the park entrance would also be wood choked fun. I know that the Minnie Pearson's section would be great in a drift boat at a little higher water, the entrance rapid is a bit shallow but low water and a raft your set. There are lower sections, all the way to the Pacific Ocean...

Lastly a bad photo of a slug. What? i think there neat.

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