Shout-out to one of our lifetime members, Jon Almquist, who never stops volunteering his time to help others adventure and experience our beautiful rivers. Whether it's helping out with the whitewater class, heading up skill builder trips right after class, leading adventure trips to the beautiful Olympic Peninsula or pushing any level paddler to their next level - he's always game!
Thanks Jon for all your guidance!
At our whitewater trip planning party back in January, I had asked Jon if he would be willing to run a "Fall in the Wall for first timers" (since I missed it the previous year). Fall in the Wall, also known as FITW, is a section of the South Fork Snoqualmie River, located between the East and West bound lanes of I-90 just as you near Snoqualmie Pass from the West side. It's a section of river that is hard to catch at the lower flows, which is the best level for a first time run. It's steep creek-ish type of run that only lasts about 1/4 of a mile and as Jon calls it.. "Our local Disneyland / putt-putt golf course”. Jon proposed a date back in January and as the date drew near, ma nature threw the first-timers a bone. Jon reached out to the signed up participants and most of them were able to make it on an earlier run! I unfortunately, was busy and drooled over the pictures that were posted on Facebook after the trip not knowing if I would get a chance in the coming weeks.
Over the last couple of years I had been asking lots of questions about this amazingly beautiful creekish run, but being that I am super conservative, and need the stars to align, I was feeling bummed about missing the trip. Well fast forward almost two weeks and Jon pinged us all again.. sun was shining, level had expected to be around 270cfs (cubic feet per second) and Jon was willing to do it all again with a "first timer".
One of the things I love about Jon's style of boating, is his ability to "break it down" for a first timer, whether it's a class II or a class IV. He can verbally describe a move, he gives tips (when, where, what stroke to put in), and most importantly if it's possible to scout we do! Now don't get me wrong, it's doesn't mean it's always easy to figure out the verbal beta - there are times my mind interpreted his words so much differently - but that's the excitement and adventures of kayaking! And also just because he tells you what stroke to make, it doesn't mean we don't freeze at the top of a waterfall and plunge in nose first without even a simple stroke.. ha!
Well it was Sunday morning and we had a crew of three - Jon, Chad and me. The sun was shining, the water level was sitting pretty at about 285cfs, and I had some amazing support beside me, guys that understand my boating style, my nervous behavior of talking a mile a minute and my never-ending questions - YES the stars have aligned!!!
It was expected to be a hot day, so the idea was to go early before the melting snow increased the level. Jon and I were there first, so we donned our gear, drove cars to the take-out.. only a quarter mile downstream, stashed our water bottles behind out back tires for our hopeful multiple lap water refill and walked back to our boats up the road. We found our way down a muddy trail and ditched our boats so we could move downstream on foot to check out our first 4 drops. At this water level, each rapid was defined separated by slower moving water and actual eddies to catch just below each one. At higher flows, the rapids would have seemed like one looooooong rapid. We had a lead in rapid before heading into a section of 4 rapids known as Fearsome Foursome. My biggest fear was going over one of them upside down, Jon however, said I don't imagine you doing that, but of course in the back of my mind I was thinking - yeah right! We went slow, scouted, and broke down each move and eddy into easy-to-digest bits and pieces. The whole time I kept thinking.. "oh geez if I mess up one part of this, I hope can remember what's next" ha!
After the Fearsome Foursome, I would rely on verbal beta from Jon until we got further down, where we would scout another combination drop. The Fearsome Foursome, went pretty well for a newbie.. my lines weren't perfect, but I wasn't upside down either.. Woot Woot! I don't think all the drops have names, but a few standout drops have such names as, Island Drop, Fishermans (where a lot of fishing happens, but not for fish, rather boats and swimmers), and The Green Room (where as I learned you don't see anything but green because your boat and body get buried under the beautiful green of the river).
We finished our first lap - very successful I might add and headed up the trail to our awaiting water bottles, my adrenaline was kicking so it was nice to take a breather and let my heart rate chill out. Chad joined us there, he had left his boat on the side of the road 1/4 mile upstream and he was going to offer to carry one of our boats on the walk back up. However, as he was waiting for us, he saw a truck coming down the road with something sticking out of the back of it - yep a dude said he saw the boat and he thought it was someone's from Denny Creek Campground, so he was going to return it - yeah right buddy! Chad was pretty much standing in the road, yelling "my boat, my boat!". Who knows, at least he got it back, but then had to carry it back to the put-in.. ha!
Both groups got some amazing pictures, and had some good stories to tell! What a fun trip, looking forward to getting it again next FITW boating season! Thanks Jon for all you do for the club and for those of us stepping up our game!