The Extreme Side of Oregon
We're 50 miles upriver from Portland in a place where every other vehicle in town is stacked with kayaks, mountain bikes, surfboards, and snowboards. I'm here to see if one of these sports fits me.
The local watering holes are full of beautifully fit young men and women full of stories of near misses, daring deeds and a mindset all of their own.
Kelly Murphy is a professional paddler at kayaking events around the world. She and her friend Tree invite me to go along and watch them run the river the next morning. Tree's a former Olympian who now owns a kayak shop with his brother. They give lessons to tourists and residents alike.
We're on the banks of the White Salmon River where Kelly and Tree are stretching into full body dry suits of GORE-TEX and Neoprene. They have to stay warm. After all, this river was a glacier just a few hours ago.
The river is a stairway of basalt rocks and cascading water. Golden leaves over emerald moss are surrounded by ferns. And a canopy of trees protects this magical place overhead.
Kelly and Tree strap on their crash helmets. They wriggle into their tiny boats that are painted like tropical fruit. I'm not sure I could even get into one of these dang contraptions.
They push off the rocks like seals plunging into the rushing water. Tree has agreed to wear a waterproof microphone attached to his drysuit giving us a play-by-play.
One hundred yards downstream is Maytag Rapid. Maytag got its name for the power of its hydraulic and its ability to thrash kayakers end, over end, over end.
Tree maneuvers his way into place for his run of Maytag. From the bank where I'm standing, it looks more like a waterfall than a rapid.
Let's go for another one, and another, and another. That's the play of pure exhilaration in the clutches of primordial nature. So as Kelly and Tree wave goodbye and disappear around the next bend for another one their smiles are as broad as the river and as white as the churning water.
I don't think so. I'd say a canoe on a placid lake is more my style.
I'm Hal Cannon for the Savvy Traveler.
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