By Bob ReinertJuly 30, 2010
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - At the end of the whitewater rafting trip run by Joint Base Lewis-McChord Outdoor Recreation on the White Salmon River, if conditions permit, things can get rather exciting.
"If water levels are right, ... we run the falls," said Rick Kivett, JBLM adventure program manager. "You go over the 10-foot waterfall, and the boats tend to just disappear in the white froth."
That Aug. 8 adventure should be among the highlights of JBLM Outdoor Recreation's August schedule.
"We've got some pretty cool trips coming up," Kivett said.
What could be cooler than negotiating the Class IV rapids on the White Salmon' Well, there's bungee jumping. And if you're a woman, the Bella Donna event on Aug. 15 might be just what you're seeking.
"That is really the ultimate rush," said Kivett, who added that it beats skydiving. "It just doesn't compare to standing at 200 (feet) above a river and purposefully and knowingly jumping off there. It's definitely a rush."
A bridge near Mount St. Helens provides the breathtaking platform for the JBLM jumps.
"We have the country's tallest legal bungee bridge," Kivett said. "This bridge was originally built for logging. Most other bungee-jumping venues in the country are off of cranes."
The Bella Donna jump is for women only.
"Not only do you get the adventure side of it, but it kind of breeds a more relaxed atmosphere," Kivett said. "Those have really been picking up steam lately. It's just a really great way for these ladies to bond and enjoy what the Pacific Northwest has to offer."
Another Bella Donna trip early in the month - a hike to Twin Falls - is a gem, according to Kivett.
"The Twin Falls hike ... is just a nice, beginner-level hike," Kivett said. "It's not too far off the beaten path. You get back in there, and it's just woods and the river and just a really amazing place."
If you'd rather pedal than walk, then the Aug. 7 introduction to mountain biking, open to everyone, might be your path to relaxation.
"Our bikes are awesome," Kivett said. "People just don't realize, and then they show up. They're like, 'Oh, wow, these are nice.'
"We have a fleet of full-suspension Cannondale mountain bikes. They are very, very expensive bikes. They're just great to ride."
This is the third season of mountain biking offered by JBLM. Kivett said it's an ideal way for people to get into the sport. Along with bikes, helmets and gloves will be provided.
"We start very basic," Kivett said. "We go over the anatomy of the bike. We talk about weight transfer and gearing and braking. We offer the opportunity to practice all these things in a non-threatening environment. It's tailored to each group individually."
At the end of the 2 1/2- to 3-hour session, Kivett said the hope is to have the group riding on a "non-technical, single-track trail. We just hit the trail and ride."
The Aug. 28 inflatable kayak float on the nearby Nisqually River is new to the Outdoor Rec calender. Kivett expects that to be another hit.
"It's something that we've never done before," Kivett said. "We're really lucky to be in a hotbed of rivers around here."
As Kivett pointed out, however, most of the best rivers are hours away. This is much closer. The inflatable boat also makes the trip more accessible.
"It's kind of a cross between a raft and a kayak," Kivett said. "It's very stable, but it has a lot of the properties of a whitewater kayak, so it's very maneuverable and designed for tight, narrow rivers with rapids."
The Nisqually's rapids are more manageable than those on the White Salmon, Kivett said.
"You get the feel of whitewater boating without having to have all the technical skills," Kivett said. "Seasoned river runners and beginners alike can enjoy this trip."
Kivett promises a scenic, 7-mile float.
"It's beautiful back in there," Kivett said. "You can see where the river has eroded through the volcanic deposits. You've got waterfalls that are cascading down the sides of the cliffs, and it's just a beautiful area."
Even more trips are planned for this fall, when the Lewis and McChord Field outdoor programs become one. Kivett looks forward to the Oct. 1 merger.
"It's not necessarily that the programming is going to change a whole lot, but (the McChord staff brings) their own specialized skills," Kivett said. "They have kind of a backpacking flair, and we can offer that as another subdivision.
"There are a lot of talented people over there, and we're looking forward to using the best of both facilities to offer bigger and better programming."
Bob Reinert is a reporter with Joint Base Lewis-McChord's weekly newspaper, the Northwest Guardian.