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By Jesse Coombs

Hi everyone,

There is something great for me in paddling with my original crew in the Pacific Northwest. These are the guys with whom I cut my teeth on class five, and it is always great to be back in the Pacific Northwest with them. It is what I like to call ‘Home Cooking’. For me that is when I get back to my roots and paddle with the original boys. So whenever they say they are getting out I don’t ask where or how much hiking. I just pack my creeking gear and get ready for some good clean PNW fun. On this trip would be the fearsome foursome of Jason Rackley, Pete Giordano, James Bagley Jr. and yours truly. This was also going to be a Home Cooking day for me regarding boats. I went retro and borrowed a Classic Rocker for the run. Man, I had almost forgotten what a great boat it is. The Classic Rocker is super fast and punches holes like a champ. It is nimble and stable and made the river that much more fun.

Not surprisingly they made a great choice based on their sixth sense of rain flow and lack of gauges picking Panther Creek in the Wind drainage of southern Washington state. Jason said he had done this river twice before, once at this level of 19 and once at 30. He said that 19 was great and 30 was terrifying. Sweet! After running shuttle and getting dressed in our Kokatat drysuits we were ready to go. I also had on my Kokatat fleece bunny suit with skull cap and pogies, and I was toasty warm all day. James only brought his drydeck and insulated pants, so he was a bit under-dressed and cold.

We put in on Panther Creek and were immediately awarded with a bunch of really fun class 4 boulder gardens. (See photo 1 panther first) The action did not let up as Jason led us down the very fun drops below. After countless boulder garden rapids run on Jason’s instructions and watching him drop out of site we came to a section that stepped things up a bit. Jason and Pete immediately started portaging it, but Pete mentioned that he wouldn’t be surprised if James and I ran them. James and I got out to look. I probed the first one (photo 2 panther slide) and James probed the second one.

We all had our sea legs under us now, and I could feel my willingness to just put my nose in the rapids growing with every turn of the river. We came to another great drop that Jason and Pete scouted for us from river right. James and I both liked it, so there was only one option for resolution… After a best-of-one show down of rock, paper, scissors won by James, he was slipping out into the current. Not being real stoked about losing the showdown I decided the next best option for me was to ‘blue angel’ it with him which gave me an up close view of his very good line. (photo 3 panther charge)

Panther Creek did not give up all its goods at once, and we still had a lot more fun boulder gardens to enjoy and navigate. (photo 4 panther big boulders) Paddling in the Pacific Northwest we are no strangers to keeping an eye out for new wood, and I am glad we did. Jason and Pete quickly found a log that was blocking the best line in the river. Not being easily discouraged we got our collective backs behind the log and were able to move it to a much better position. (photo 5 panther log removal) The log had been wedged at the top and completely blocking the good line in the falls. We were able to unwedge it and drop it down where you could barely see it in the water. Of course wood is always dangerous, but this made it much less of an issue. Plus the log was now in a position where it could be moved down stream in a flood.

Not long after the log was the confluence with the Wind River. This is a great section of water with some really fun rapids and falls. The Flume is the first big rapid and it reminds me of the North Fork Payette. That is because it looks terrible and all goes. Running this rapid is all about getting your nose in there and dealing with it. Too fun. I went first based on the instructions of Jason from the right bank and James followed soon after. (photo 6 wind flume). Next Jason and Pete followed throwing themselves into this thrashing, thundering, crashing wave hole of a rapid that crescendos in a big swirly at the bottom that wants to push everything up on the right wall at the bottom. We all did great, but Jason was the guy who owned this one. He ran the Flume like he was getting paid to do this. He cleaned up on the top with a couple well placed strokes, and then at the bottom where we all fought the wall Jason executed this submarine super man stroke and pulled through the current like he owned it. Wall… what wall?

Next came Beyond Limits. This is another rapid that looks worse than it is. Beyond Limits is all about getting speed and punching the two big flushy holes. James and I fired up this one with good lines and big grins. (photo 7 wind beyondlimits). After that we had a little more paddling and then portaged Shepards falls which is a low head man made dam. Shepard’s is runnable at low flows, but big trouble at this level.

Man, it was a great day with my buddies and a great day on the river. I could not have asked for a better Easter.

Hope you had a great Easter!


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Panther first
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Panther slide
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Panther charge
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Panther big boulders
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Panther log removal
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Wind flume
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Wind beyond limits