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Parched is what we were.

We were in the midst of one of the worst water years in the history of the Northwest. By mid-February people were taking up terrestrial sports, starting house projects, crying in their sleep, playboating at Spencer's ( well, it's in.. )

Please, don't misunderstand; we were enjoying the balmy, summer-like weather. It isn't often that you get to lounge at the put-in for the Truss on 75-degree day in March. I remember having the feeling that it's so warm today the sun will set around 10 p.m., because that's what it does when it's that warm, like a balloon held aloft by the warm air.

There were weekends that it felt like I was a 49'er. No, not a fan of a football team, but a miner in search of gold. We all knew the creeks had a limited supply of the stuff we lust after, and we had to mine them for all they were worth before they were bare of the precious whitewater ore. I half expected to see men selling donkeys and shovels at the put in. The race was on. Seeing the usually rich creeks being dredged bare of whitewater potential, people were planning trips to the rich untapped wilderness of Alaska.. "A steamboat captain told me of huge golden streams.."

You get that many people on class V runs at low water, many of them for their first time, you are bound to get stories that you will be seeing in a Chuck Taylor video or telling that evening to the nurse at Hood River Memorial..

Along the way many discovered the deformation and crack propagation properties of polyethylene-based kayaks. Most dented their nose. Some dented or cracked the sides. "Why is there so much water in my boat?" Something about fat kid momentum...

The Little White crunches another boat..

A couple of brave fellows found a way to dent their stern, having destructive effects on the backband..

Garrzilla takes one for the team on the Green Truss

All of the low water runs on the Truss and multiple weekends in a row on the Little White were taking its toll our trusty steeds, not to mention irritating our wanderlust for adventure. We were all starting to get complacent on drops like Horseshoe, Big Brother, or Double Drop. Rapids normally known for carving your backside into cold cuts served on a silver platter with sides of cheese and crackers were charged head-on without scouting..

Reports were coming in from all fronts of people freewheelin' Lava Falls and some rather impressive pitons in the Zig-Zags. The roar of applause from the crowd camped out at Big Brother was deafening as a growing number of people joined the less-than-dignified BBCA ( Big Brother Caving Association ).

Of course, all of this inevitably led to increasing sales in the creek boat market.. "What's the word on when the patches will come in?"

Another proud member of the BBCA ( Big Brother Caving Association )

It looked like we had a good run while it lasted and it was going to be a long summer. One last run down the Little White was to be it and I was planning on hanging up the toxic poly pro and lubing up the mountain bike. After denting and cracking a couple of boats, our group headed to Hood River to dump some more money in the Gorge economy. Burritos and a collection of new paddles called our work complete. Just as we were headed out we ran in to a friend with an evil plan in the works. The conversation went something like this:

Other guy: "What are you doing tomorrow?"
Me: "Hell if I know. I don't have any plans, probably my taxes."
Other guy: "Wanna run Celestial?"
( long pause, right side of lips uncontrollably sneaking towards my ear in a Han Solo smile )
Me: "I'm in!"

The next morning our bleary-eyed crowd converged at a secret spot near the railroad tracks in Hood River to mine what could be that last ounce of gold in a less than profitable winter season. After a half hour of buckles, cam straps, spilled coffee and stuffing stinky wet gear into a trunk, we headed east.

Heading east out of Hood River and the Columbia Gorge is always a surreal experience for me. Passing through the Cascade mountain range at river level all you notice is the change in vegetation. Tall pines and fir trees segue into a step climate with sage and dry grasses dominating the hill sides.

I've found that the group dynamics on a class V trip can be difficult to describe. It makes one feel like whalers on a wind-powered boat looking to spear the biggest, baddest mammal in the ocean, knowing that if things go wrong the beast will turn your boat into toothpick-sized debris. Stepping back one can almost see the same characters: a stoic captain with cigarette dangling off his lip out for revenge as he scans the horizon looking for the tell-tale spray of the beast, a committed but white-knuckled helmsmen pretending to sleep on a pile of gear, a weathered salty seadog humming the same indescribable tune..

As we made the turn South the mood changed, climbing out of the Columbia River Valley made the waterfall that much more real. A call for a change the music was heard, to get psyched up. Something out of a LVM video, Linkin Park, or an old school rap would have hit the spot. However, our spirits were crushed when a flip through the CD folder revealed only a collection of pale Midwest rap artists and multiple copies of the same Britney Spears album.

Pulling into the park, we were pleased to see that neither a locked gate nor camp host would deter us from our goal of hucking off Celestial Falls. If you didn't know of its existence you wouldn't expect the crack in the ground to exist. From an innocuous high desert steppe a 200 foot deep chasm opens up to reveal one of the cleanest big waterfalls in the state, if not the country. After a quick scout, the rush was on. We gotta run it before a park ranger shows up.. We all knew the State of Oregon Parks Department declared that kayaking of the waterfall is dangerous and kayaking it was illegal, leading to a $250.00 fine. The flaw in this bureaucratic mess is that you still can legally go over Celestial using a pool toy, rafts, leather loafers, umbrella... anything but a kayak.

Slapping on the gear, we were a mixed group of optimists and nervous paddlers. After all, Celestial Falls is fifty feet tall! We set the cameras and gear into place the show was on! Splash, plop, boof.. the people in the front of the line went into the pool. With my compadres in crime already in the pool, I slid into my trusty boat at the lip of the falls.

"Oh, ever-faithful boat, what adventures we have had, lets do this one right." I intoned fervently. Slapping on the tight new sprayskirt with an implosion bar I knew, unlike lots of other skirts, the next time this skirt would open would be with my own hand.

A feeling similar to standing in St. Peter's Vatican cathedral flooded over me. The immense carved stone walls and overpowering beauty of light reflecting back and forth off the damp walls humbled me. Re-centering myself on the task at hand I stole a moment in time to ponder my place in the world. A divine feeling washed over me. A warm sun was painting my left side in a golden display of color. My right side was cool from the spray of the upper falls. With a small shift of my weight forward I slide down the rock and into the calm brown pool below. Seventy-five horizontal feet later we were in the next eddy and my face muscles were cramping from smiling so hard.

Several boaters ran Celestial that day. No real carnage to report, only great lines and even better smiles. I don't know if this was the last great gasp of the '05 winter boating season or if a great start to spring boating. Either way it was another memorable day with some amazing friends in a special place.

Celestial Falls is worth the drive from anywhere in the state. It is in a spectacular canyon with its own special collection of vegetation and wildlife. There are several impressive waterfalls, an old grist pond, and a power station with a collection of corroding Jules Verne looking equipment that gave power to the Northwest before The Dalles dam was finished in 1960.

The author has a nice line over Celestial Falls, a waterfall that is legal to run with pool toys, inflatables, or leather loafers, but is ILLEGAL to run it in a kayak.. who makes up these silly rules?!? Probably the same people who cable logs into rivers, if I had to guess..

This report was submitted anonymously. That said, I highly recommend breaking unreasonable park service rules like this one early and often..
- Editor