Roguechutes 2.0, by Bill Warncke
Ok, I flipped my raft. Let’s get that out of the way right up front. I’ll talk more about that later but suffice to say at this point there are pros and cons to flipping on a club trip.
This is my third Presidents day trip with the club. I missed Roguechutes 1.0 but have been on the 2 Rogue trips since. These previous trips have been high water compared to summer levels, but flows this year were projected to be above 30k cfs which is crazy high. Our intrepid trip leader Steve Oslund wisely decided to divert to the upper Deschutes. I was just happy to get on the water for the first multi-day trip of the season.
I was rafting with my good friend Darrell, and my sweet baboo Mary. We decided to stay in a hotel in Madras on Friday night before the trip. Little did we know there was a bull auction (apparently a big deal) and a kids basketball tournament in town that night. Our first choice hotel was completely full. We were fortunately able to find a motel on our second try. The next morning at breakfast it was not hard to tell who was in town for the bull auction vs the basket ball tournament (we rafters were a colorful minority).
We arrived at Trout Creek to find a wet but happy OWA contingent packing up camp and getting ready to raft. Really good to see folks after a long wet winter. It rained off and on during the time we were loading up and getting ready to launch. I think we ended up with 24 people and 17 boats. We had some new club members on their first club trip and some old hands as well. Based on the high water levels we were not in a hurry to get on the water.
As a group we decided to camp at Whiskey Dick, right above Whitehorse rapid. After a few showers on the water we got to camp to clearing skies in the early afternoon. Some folks decided to hike down to scout Whitehorse rapid while other folks stayed in camp and hung out. I don’t know if it was because we were a smaller group than usual on these trips, or maybe it was just the right mix of people but we had a really collegial group for the trip. Lots of great conversations and laughter.
The food was amazing: delicious appetizers, lentil stew (plus sausages!), breakfast burritos, turkey chile, and biscuits and gravy (with extra sausage - Thanks Brian!). We had probably a half cord of wood along and we burned it all. Saturday’s fire was amazing, but Sunday’s fire went on to the wee hours of the night (so I understand).
Sunday dawned clear, you can’t ask for nicer weather in February. After a great breakfast and safety talk, we hit the river to tackle Whitehorse Rapid. One of the focuses of the safety talk is how we are all between swims, and folks should safely get used to being in the water. Swim a rapid with support, try flipping your boat and flipping it back up - practice. At the time I thought “maybe in the summer”. At Whitehorse there was fast, big water but the usual tight maneuvers were replaced by big holes to avoid. Everyone made through with style.
After a nice day on the water, camp Sunday night was Buckskin Mary, right below the Buckskin Mary Rapid. If you don’t know Buckskin Mary Rapid, it’s a straightforward class 3 wave train in the summer. We were one of the last boats into camp that night. As Mary, Darrell and I approached Buckskin Mary Rapid, Mary decided to swim the Rapid with Julie to practice being in the water. She and Julie jumped into the water upstream of the rapid and we watched them ride the wave train, up and down - in sight on top of the waves and then out of sight in the troughs.
As Darrel and I approached the rapid we decided to take the biggest wave at the top of the rapid head on. Normally this is a big wave, but again pretty straight forward. We squared up, and dropped into the base of the wave, and then as we rode the wave up, before I even had time to think “oh crap” we corkscrewed over to the right. Next thing I knew we were in the water. I came up under the raft which is always a bit of a panic. River Safety Training kicked in and I crawled my way out from under raft and floated away from the boat.
As I got my bearings, I saw Darrell swimming for shore (phew) and my raft floating downriver. I momentarily thought about about swimming after the boat, but camp was just downstream with lots help, and I was pretty worked from the flip. Just as I decided to swim to shore, I saw Julie, aka “super woman”, launch off the shore downstream and swim out to my raft to pull it to shore - after swimming the rapid! Well the good news is Julie swam my raft to camp, and Steve led the effort to flip it back over.
Things I did right include: I rigged for the flip. I lost a water bottle and map but all the other gear was stowed and ship shape. I was wearing my safety gear - life vest and helmet. I rescued myself, worried about my safety first over my gear. I had the training I needed that helped me rescue myself. I boated with trained and safety oriented friends and club members, that were ready and able to lend a helping hand when needed it!
Things I should have done differently: I was not prepared mentally for the flip - I really didn’t think I would flip, it was a complete surprise. When you run more difficult water you always think about what if - what if I flip here, where would I swim, who is available to help, maybe I should scout this…I was not in this space and as alert as I should have been. We looked at the rapid afterwards and saw the wave pulsing. The wave pushed up periodically growing and falling back down again. I’d like to think we caught the wave at a bad time, when the pulse was pushing the wave up.
Also, I wish I’d been more focused on my friend’s safety. I saw Darrell make it to shore. But I then ran downstream to try to catch my raft. I didn’t know at that time that Julie and others had gotten my raft to shore. At that point, I was more concerned about my boat than my friend. I should have taken the time to make sure Darrell was ok.
So the pros of flipping on a club trip far outweigh the cons. I had plenty of help and everyone was safe and I didn’t lose hardly any gear. On the other hand the cons included a fair amount of good natured ribbing. I’ve a feeling I’ll be living this down for awhile. Oh, also apparently it’s a tradition that if you flip on a club trip you have to write the trip report. At least that’s what they told me. (Newsletter team confirms this rumor is entirely true!)
We had rain Sunday night after most folks went to bed. It’s always nice to hear the rain on the tent at night, except when you’re making breakfast the next morning. Fortunately the late night crew set up the tarp over the kitchen and we had a dry place to cook Monday morning. We had a nice float out to Harpham flat. Several folks got together on the way back in Hood River and had a nice lunch at Full Sail Brewery. This was a really good crew and a fantastic trip. I already can't wait for next year.