2012 Lower North Umpqua River
April 20, 2012 at 10:29 AM
Annual Brenda Bunce North Umpqua Family Float, April 20th thru April 22nd, 2012
Submitted by Ron Belnap
When my wife (Renee) and I arrived at Whistler’s Bend Park early Friday evening the festivities had already begun. For the second year in a row we slipped our RV into the best spot in the campground, right next to Gary Steffy’s miniature canvas lodge. I like this location because really good stuff to eat is continually popping out from Gary’s many Dutch ovens along with lots of laughter and stories. After setting up and a hot biscuit or two, I set out to meet new people, renew old friendships, check out new boats and other equipment, and listen to the Bickerson’s*, Scott and Bruce, for a few moments. The night was warm, the sky clear, and beyond the laughter was the sound of the river. For whitewater people life just doesn’t get any better.
Saturday morning dawned with overcast skies but the clouds soon burned off and the day turned out to be sunny and warm just what we all asked for. A scout party had been out checking out the various launch sites and had determined that there were three that worked. For those wanting a short trip, Colliding Rivers was it, for those wanting more distance, the wooden boat ramp at Lone Rock was available, and due to the high water it was determined that we could run the Narrows at Idleyld, launching with a bit of work, from Swiftwater Park at the Swiftwater bridge.
Guys are stupid (most women will verify that). When rafting with my guy friends or by myself my attitude is simple; we are here for fun and an adrenaline rush, the more fun the higher the risk, the higher the risk the larger the adrenaline rush, but sometimes we swim. Some men or boys get smarter as they get older, most of us don’t. With my wife along things are different for me, however. She has a knack for falling out. I think that it has something to do with round butts that many women seem to have. I don’t know for sure. Entering the Narrows I was a bit nervous because I knew that if my wife swam on this trip that there wouldn’t be another trip for her and that I would have to endure another round of stories about my inept rafting. I also knew that there were a lot of kids on this float. So I had listened carefully to the scouting report of the Narrows and then we had looked at it ourselves making sure of our comfort levels. Our assessments were correct. In the Narrows we were bounced around a bit, the hydraulics strong and fun but we were safe and mostly dry. I later was informed that a young man in an inflatable kayak had dumped but had self rescued and completed the Narrows without assistance. Unfortunately, around the corner, hidden from the prying eyes of rafting scouts, lurked Salmon Falls. The water was swift and waves large and breaking. The lead raft was a paddle boat containing Dave and Kelly Keys along with Don and Robyn Robertson. The second wave caught them and all four had a long cold swim with no one to help them due to their position in the pack. Much to my relief Renee and I zipped right through, but behind us another raft piloted by Bosco D’mello also had its struggles. Bosco managed to stay upright, but 7 year old Daniel with his dog Shadow, decided to test the waters, an unplanned event that his mother, Bonnie, decided shouldn’t happen without supervision, so she went along. Fortunately, all were successfully rescued. We floated along then for an hour or so enjoying the sun, scenery, company, and some minor rapids until Colliding Rivers. I would say that Colliding Rivers was exciting, but uneventful, except that Merrie King who tested her IK skills in the right channel drop would disagree. Again, the rescue was successful, with her husband Jessie now her hero and savior. After another hour or so the float ended, mid-afternoon, with everyone landing, hungry, happy, and ready for the evening.
Dutch oven cooking is wonderful. The dinner and the contest is a highly looked forward to event. I cannot remember all of the delicacies that were presented or the wonderful people who prepared them but I can remember going through the line twice and I can still taste the cherry-chocolate dessert that was my favorite. The first place winner for the main course was Franchesca for her pizza. The first place winner for his spicy beans in the side dish category and for his pear tart in the desert category was Gary Steffy. Please do not take my camping spot next to Gary next year.
We celebrated a couple of birthdays Saturday night. Miranda Ogren turned 6, I believe. She and her friends and river acquaintances were treated to balloon animals prepared by Merrie King, cupcakes, and a rousing round of “happy birthday”. A claim was also made that Julie Nathe had just turned 50. I’m pretty sure that was a lie, she doesn’t look a day over 30 and I had better not say any more than that as my wife may read this.
I did not float on Sunday. Brenda reports that there were 16 boats launching at 11:00 am. The weather was 82 degrees and sunny, the countryside was intensely beautiful and was a 10 mile trip to the take-out at Winchester. On Saturday we had 27 rafts or cat boats and 7 kayaks, canoes, or IK’s. About 75 people attended the event, definitely a rousing success. A huge thank you goes out to Brenda Bunce for planning and directing this outing.
*The “Bickersons” were a couple in a radio show many years ago who continually fought and harassed each other over the most trivial things. Listening to Scott Ogren and Bruce Ripley always reminds me of them, but also present with them is a very high level of respect for one another.