I got a late start on my sunset ski out to Elk Lake this weekend and didn't leave the parking lot from Dutchman until 6 p.m. My pack was heavy and kept throwing me off balance, and once the wind kicked back up and clouds closed in, I considered turning around more than once.
I've done this 11-mile ski on a winter evening quite a few times now, but solo on only one other occasion. Once I got warmed up and accustomed to the extra weight, I was content to be out there all by myself as the sun quickly set, creating interesting light play between the clouds, mountains and lava flows.
Only one group passed me while I was out there; two snowmobilers also headed out to the lake, but other than that I was totally alone.
For someone who treasures time by myself, I was surprised that loneliness overtook me during the ski. As it got darker and darker, colder and colder, I imagined my friends whooping it up in the lodge, tipping back beers at the bar and singing along to the music. I imagined my sister and her friends back in Bend in our house, having a cozy night by the fire, watching a movie and eating popcorn.
Eleven miles later, just as the delusional headlines like, "Outdoors Writer Found Frozen in Snow Bank," started to pop into my head, the sign for Elk Lake appeared on my right. My pace quickened and I made the happy decent down to the lodge just as my friends had begun to get worried.
My friend, Kitri Falxa, rented a cabin at the resort for the weekend in order to enjoy the music of our buddy Greg Botsford who was playing in the lodge both nights for Elk Lake's Ice Man weekend.
One of my favorite things about Elk Lake is its wonderful homey feel. Families have been coming up for years and all know each other for the most part. The owners of the resort dine at the same long common table alongside guests. If anyone is a stranger to the resort, it is pretty much guaranteed they'll know everyone's name and, maybe even their life stories, before they leave. Perhaps the person most responsible for this atmosphere is Elk Lake's jubilant General Manager Jay Walsh, who makes everyone feel like a friend, and who can be the life of the party if you catch him on the right night.
After a late night of drum circles and cabin hopping, our group made the trek around the freshly groomed loop around Elk Lake Saturday morning. One of the owners, Nansee Bruce, is an avid skate skier and her husband groomed the road and erected a substantial barrier to prevent snowmobilers from chopping up the fresh corduroy on that loop. Without stirring up too much mixed-use controversy, I will say it was a nice relief to get away from the noise and the smell of snowmobiles for a few hours.
Elk Lake Resort will still be snowbound for the next few months, and I highly recommend this spring skiing adventure, especially for those who enjoy the balance of a social atmosphere and a wilderness retreat. The resort can accommodate nearly any budget, with camping cabins starting at $58 a night, to the most luxurious cabin at the resort for $399.
The Riverhouse Rendezvous is a spectator-friendly whitewater slalom competition that will take place behind the Riverhouse Convention Center and Hotel in north Bend on Sunday, March 27, beginning at 10 a.m. Throughout the day, paddlers divided by age group, type of boat and gender will test their skills and endurance on the quarter-mile whitewater course.
Two years ago, kayak enthusiasts Bert Hinkley (Pacific Northwest representative of the National Whitewater Slalom Committee), and Geoff Frank (owner, Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe) worked together to revive the Riverhouse Rendezvous whitewater kayak slalom race, now in its fourth re-incarnation. Drawing top paddlers from Oregon and Washington, the race is part of the Northwest Cup slalom paddle series and is a Junior Olympic qualifier.
"Paddlers don't have to be highly skilled racers to participate," said Hinkley, "Slalom is a great way to hone your river running technique. The friendly competition can provide an opportunity to challenge friends and see who can be fast, clean, and precise in the gates using the flow of the water."
Whitewater slalom kayaking has been a sport since the 1940s when Swiss alpine skiers embraced the runoff from the mountains to race the rivers on their off-season. Today, this sport is known to test not only the physical skill of paddlers, but their knowledge of the river and their ability to use currents and river features to their advantage.
For more information on the event, please visit tumalocreek.com or call Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe at 541-317-9407.
Rush Sturges' Film Screening of "Frontier"
Paddlers in town may know Rush Sturges as one of the most renowned pro kayakers in the world, as well the filmmaker and producer behind RiverRoots, the studio that brought the film Dream Result to Bend last year around this time. But Sturges is also an incredible musician of the hip-hop/world variety, and goes by the name Adrenaline Rush when he's on the mic. His most recent album, The Road is Gold, can be appreciated as an homage to whitewater kayaking. Those who live for water and waves will connect with the way the track "The River" manages to encapsulate the wonder, obsession, and desire to conquer while offering up a fresh take on the man vs. nature theme.
Come down to Silver Moon Brewing, Thursday March 31, at 8 p.m. to see a screening of Rush's latest film, Frontier, as well as performances by Rush, and his most recent music collaborator, Dave Crosse. Headlining the evening is Portland's boisterous sextet, TapWater.