2011 Presidents Day Rogue River Trip
February 19, 2011 at 10:00 AM
Last Friday night I was just getting off work after 8 days straight at the job. What awaited me was definitely worth it. The semi-annual Rogue river trip was upon us. All that was standing between us and a great weekend was a four and a half hour drive to the Grave Creek put in. Once we arrived we set up a makeshift bed in the Paddler mobile to get a few hours sleep before Mary Lou’s famous breakfast at Galice Resort. After stuffing ourselves with a bounty of great breakfast food, we embarked to Grave Creek to rig rafts and prepare for our three day weekend. After rigging the last raft, we staged an impromptu safety meeting and proceeded down river to start our adventure.
Day one on the Rogue is a very short day with Rainie Falls as the major drop of the day. Normally the kayakers lead first and set safety on the fish ladder to help guide the rafts down and help free any stuck rafts. This was very successful as we only had a couple of issues and proceeded down river again. The rest of day one was a couple more class III rapids and lots of beautiful scenery. Just after river mile 11, we arrived at Horseshoe Bend. Most of the camp was covered in snow and the weather was not warm. Jeffery and I proceeded up the hill towards the main camp to stake out our campsite as we were the second party to arrive that day. A few more parties were already there waiting for us with shelter and appetizers. One thing about these trips, the OWA knows how to camp. All the dinners are four course meals and everyone pitches in to help. Even the kayakers have their meal. We opted to have the Sunday morning breakfast duty. After choosing our campsite right next to the kitchen, we settled into pitching the tent and getting organized for the evening. We got our chairs out and staked our claim in the fire circle. Dinner that night was a southwestern extravaganza with a succulent avocado dip with corn, fresh cilantro and tomatoes to start things out. Everything was absolutely delicious. We remained by the fire to listen to everyone tell stories about their whitewater adventures. One man in particular seems to always draw my interest. His name is Tom Riggs. Even the way he dresses tells me this man is all about adventure. He wears a hat similar to the one the character Robert Muldoon wore in the movie Jurassic Park. One brim on the side is pinned up with a pin from Australia. He wears classic outdoor garb that looks like every article of clothing could tell a story. He is a very jovial man who makes every story interesting and can back those stories up with his rafting and fire jumping skills. (More on the fire jumping skills later.) I think we made through about a half hour of stories before most of us decided to retire at the very late hour of 7:00 p.m. I made it to 8:00 p.m. myself.
Day two began at 6:00 a.m. with the roar of the blaster signaling the start of the morning coffee. Usually this happens like clockwork at the same time every morning. Dick Sisson was up to get ready for breakfast and I made the trek across camp to wake up Ann Stephenson to complete our culinary team. Our mission was to cook enough pancakes and sausage to feed the entire camp to fuel us for the meat of the Wild and Scenic section. This section includes the treacherous Mule Creek Canyon and Blossom Bar which have claimed several lives. As we finished breakfast and broke camp we proceeded to haul our gear down and help rig rafts. After the rigging was complete we headed down river once again. After about 6 1/2 miles we came across Zane Grey’s cabin. This cute little cabin is nestled just up the hill from the river. When we were there it was in the process of being restored. Several of the original timbers were replaced, but some of the antiques still remain inside. Just as we approached the cabin we saw a wild turkey disappear in the woods across the landing strip. After taking a few pictures we continued down river to the Rogue River Ranch to collect before we entered Mule Creek Canyon.
Mule Creek Canyon is one of the most beautiful sections I have ever paddled. The problem with that is that when you are in a kayak, you are being pushed a pulled through the water by powerful eddy lines and boils, you rarely have time to enjoy the beauty. After exiting Mule Creek Canyon, we pulled out to scout Blossom Bar. Blossom bar is a class IV rapid that dramatically changes with the river level. At the level we were at the normal route just above the picket fence seemed the safe way to go. Some of the rafters decided to take the right line which looked very clear as well. After getting back in our boats we proceeded through Blossom Bar. After cutting in behind the half moon rock, I proceeded to go left of Volkswagon and run the seam line to avoid the hole. After narrowly missing the massive hole we collected at the bottom and proceeded to finish the remaining six miles of the day.
We arrived at Camp Tacoma later that afternoon. We were almost the last group to arrive as we had spent the remaining time leisurely paddling and visiting with other rafters. After setting up camp in a far warmer atmosphere, we proceeded to enjoy the delicious fruit and cheese platter that started our delicious dinner. There were so many flavors of marinated chicken, I could barely remember them all. As I recall the lime one was to die for. After finishing dinner we continued to tell stories and stoke the fire pans. Sometime later, Tom Riggs decided to give us his famous fire jumping demonstration. The first pan was narrowly missed and the second was just caught by the toe of his boot. The fire pan came crashing down and all the burning embers and coals were strewn across the fire site. After some quick gathering, the fire was as good as new and we were back to swapping whitewater tales. This night most of us made it past 9:00 p.m. I am one to stay up after most have retired. There is nothing more peaceful than sitting in front of the campfire staring at the tree line through the moonlight. After meditating for a bit I decided to retire for the night.
Day three started with a light breakfast and my morning coffee after which we proceeded to break camp. The last day of camp is less critical since we don’t have to worry about setting up camp again and I have to drag it out again when I get home to clean it and air it out. After stuffing our dry bags, we dropped them off at our respective rafts and proceeded to help carry down the rest of the gear. After finishing up, we started to head down river for the remaining 7 miles to Foster Bar. The day was shaping up to be the best of the three. The sun was burning off the fog and was getting brighter by the minute. By the time we reached Foster Bar, the weather seemed like late spring. We waited for the remaining rafts to collect our gear and found out that the road to Powell was closed and we would have to drive to Gold Beach and up the coast to go home. Although this added 2 or 3 hours to the trip, the blue sky and sunny day made the drive worth it. We cut though Drain, reached Interstate 5 and continued home to Longview, Washington. We arrived at 7:15 after seven hours of driving to a warm house, a beautiful wife and mother and all our wonderful animals.
Special thanks to the Oregon Whitewater Association, the American Canoe Association and the Oregon Kayak and Canoe Club to which my family and I are members. Without these fine organizations, trips like these would not be possible for some people . The folks at the Oregon Whitewater Association are some of the most fun, dedicated and just plain nicest people I have ever met. They treated my son and I like members of their own family. This was my son’s first and my third trip with this group. This will definitely not be our last. (My wife has expressed extreme interest in the next trip.)