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ALMS – Pirelli Trip – Day 4
July 27
© Gary Horrocks

All good things must come to an end, and on Wednesday, the Pirelli/Panoz whirlwind tour of the Northwest ended with a bang. White water rafting on the White Salmon River, in Southwest Washington.

After going our separate ways for the night, we all met and caravanned up the Columbia River Gorge, before stopping at Hood River, making the obligatory Starbucks stop for replenishment. The Gorge is one of the premier places in the world for outdoor recreation and Hood River has become a center point for those activities. Once a typical worn down mill/produce area, Hood River and the nearby The Dalles have become vibrant towns, full of life, all brought on by the extreme sports boom.

Once we were replenished, it was back into the cars for the short trip up into Washington. We drove up beside the White Salmon River and arrived at our destination, All Adventures Rafting, located in the shadow of Mt Adams. All Adventures (www.alladventures.net ) is one of many white water rafting guide services that have sprung up in the area, but from our experience, they are highly recommended. Their guides, service and facilities were all top notch.

Upon arrival, we were all handed wetsuits, life jackets, booties and helmets. Wetsuits? Well, let’s just say that the water was a bit on the cold side. Like 42 degrees. Yes 42 Fahrenheit. And we thought the ocean was cold.

The White Salmon River is formed from runoff from nearby glaciers. The water travels underground through the earth, where it drains into the river at various places along the way. The water out of these springs has to be some of the most refreshing water ever tasted and is reason enough to consider moving there. While drinking from the springs was encouraged, we were warned not to from the river itself, because before it reached us, it had flowed through a few cow pastures. It is still probably better than most rivers around, but the mental images just make the thought of drinking the river water rather repulsive.

dailysportscar.comAfter a short drive to the launch point and then a short hike down a trail, we were ready to go. Our group consisted of three boats. One represented car #50 and was led by Robin Liddell and Bryan Sellers, another represented car #51 and was led by Marino Franchitti, with the third boat being used as a camera platform.

After some short instruction, we were off. The experience is difficult to adequately describe. While the water level was somewhat low, there were plenty of opportunities for the non-skilled to get in trouble, but thanks to the skills of our guides, we had no worries at all, despite experiencing one of the top rafting locations in North America.

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Highlights of the rafting trip include the opportunities to dive into the frigid water from a rock ledge and also a bridge, which spanned the river. The drop from the bridge appeared to be at least 25 feet, and at that height, you had to make sure you took in a good deep breath before entering the water, because as soon as you entered the cold water, it would all be expelled in one giant chilled sensation.

But what will be the highlight for many was the drop down a Class V waterfall. This is the most difficult that can be taken with a raft such as we were using. The drop was over 10 feet vertical, and during the drop, the entire boat would be submerged in the cold water. Thanks to the skills of our guides, nobody was lost or injured.

After the waterfall, the rest of the trip was somewhat anti-climactic, but there were still some good rapids to experience, as well as the opportunity to get doused by the cold water. A long stretch at the end allowed us to just sit and drift, enjoying the scenery and the coolness of the setting, especially considering the air temperature in the area was around 100 degrees.

To a person, the rafting had to be the highlight of the trip. That is not a poor reflection on the rest of the trip at all, but more just a reflection on the rafting experience.

As stated earlier, all good things come to an end and in this case the Pirelli/Panoz trip had to come to an end. A fabulous ending to a fabulous trip. Now onto the track at Portland, where the action will take place on Saturday evening. And no, it is not a night race!

Thanks to Pirelli and Panoz for arranging this trip and a large thanks to Jack Gerken for the organization - and putting up with all of the crap that went along with it. And thanks to the drivers and the rest of the mob that went along on the trip. It was an amazing time.

 

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