Not your usual Pummel

Posted by Ken Campbell March 1, 2011 0 Comment 638 views


“You never know what’s in the pickle barrel until you get the lid off’n it.” Somebody’s Grandpa used to say that, can’t remember who it was. He could have been talking about La Push, though I doubt he was. Still, you never know what that place is going to be like until you get there to take a look.
The weekend of the Pummel usually features big surf. It is, after all, winter, and the Olympic coast catches every storm in the ocean over the course of the cold season. I’ve been to First Beach in winter when the waves were 18 feet and tumbling, huge malevolent water gods bent on destruction. When just paddling out toward the lineup was a test of the mettle and getting back in alive required an immense amount of skill and a dash of luck besides. And sometimes the other way around.

This year wasn’t like that. On Friday, when we arrived, the water off of First Beach was almost dead calm. There were a few SUPs out there but there were very few waves and what there were did not inspire me to join them. It was cold, I was hungry, waah, waah…
The sunset was amazing, as is so often the case here. Dazzled by twilight, as it were.

Saturday morning’s waves were MIA as well, so Ryan, Corinne and I ran the Quileute River. The whole thing, as it happens, from the confluence of the Sol Duc and the Bogachiel to the town of La Push. The only other river that I have SUPped is the Columbia, and the scale there is so much larger, the distances so vast. Here though, on the fast-moving Quileute, the sense of time and space is more acute. There are gravel bars and rapids – well, sort of – but there is no doubt for a moment that what we were encountering as we floated downstream was wilderness. It is as it was, in so many ways. It is still wild country.
That night the wind opened up, unloaded. And it is still going. We left Sunday morning. Other than a few of the other Pummel attendees that I happened to bump into on the beach, we had no contact with the rest of the paddlin’ crowd. That is just how it goes sometimes. It is the way of things.

I saw them on Saturday afternoon when we got off the river, maybe a half-dozen or so, down toward the point. There were some waves and I saw a few of the little boats catch a few, but it was entirely wind-powered and the onshore blow really hurt the SUPs that were out in the mix. Still, it was a good event and a great excuse to get back out that way. I hope the next visit comes soon.

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