Friday, October 5, 2018

Paddling the mighty Rogue River

Once we had finished our little bike tour of the general Rogue zone we were perfectly poised to execute on the 2nd phase of our ideal adventure; the river trip!

But first, it occurred to me to throw up a map showing our general bike tour route:
Of course, within that are important details - like the excellent "Scenic Bikeways" in the Coquille and Elk river areas, and if there's any interest I have the gpx route that we took.

Only minutes after we finished our tour in the little hamlet of Galice trucks started showing up with kayaks on them, and our crew had arriven.  Although the official Rogue put in for the permitted section is a few miles downstream, there is a convenient campground nearby that allows for a pre-launch riverside camp, complete with volunteer campground hosts who take their "jobs" way too seriously.   Though Leigh and Matt have been great friends for a long time, they have also been gone a long time and have made plenty of "new" friends, so we tried to make the rounds to meet everyone even as everyone "rigged" their boats (ie stuffed gear into their kayaks, and one small raft) for our 4 day trip.

The first little bonding experience our new group had was navigating The Big Rapid, Rainie Falls.
cool pano shot by Matt
According to the little info stand at the lookout far above the falls that we happily took the time to read on our bike tour, the falls  -like most - is formed at a geological break between two different types of rock.  But early river runners put in the effort to subdue later efforts by blasting out a more-gradual fish ladder adjacent to the main falls, which it appeared was generally ignored by the locals:
poached this pic from the web.   Tho we saw a few of these fish given'er like this, it's hard to get the pic!  
The main falls looks a bit daunting, but the truth is that you can pretty much line up and paddle hard, and if you do happen to get caught in the hole at the bottom the thrashing would likely be brief before it spit you out into mellow water.  As always, there was a bit of concerned-looking scouting:
the outflow

And debates whether to run the falls or the ladder,  and if the former then what line to take.  One by one we decided on our respective strategies. Kiwi Andy started hard right:
and got pushed to the center
Dave started left and stayed left to get over the maw with a fine boof stroke:
that got his hair a little wet
Chris also executed a fine boof stroke going left to right:
and I also went for the left to right charge:
I brought the pack raft instead of the hard shell because I brought my hardshell out for Andy and was too lazy to borrow another and tried to keep the bike tour/river trip gear in the car to a dull roar, and the truth is that I was a little curious to see how the Alpackalypse pack raft would do on Rainie.  Went ok:

and here's a video from Andy's run:

The buoyant little packraft likes to stay on the surface!

And on down the river we went:
Leigh running one of the many fun class 2-3 rapids.
Like the Salmon, the Rogue has a long and interesting history of human habitation, both from natives (there's evidence of habitation from 7000 years ago, and there's a  place ironically called "Battle Bar" that's yet another awful example of immigrant hubris in 1856 when 200 soldiers shot and killed mostly women and children natives) and white folks.  This ranch:
was developed in the late 19th century, and was the center of a surprisingly big population of folks who lived along the Rogue's banks.
As with bike touring, river trip pace is slow enough that you are incentivized to stop and read the historical things! 
the ranch got a big renovation a coupla years ago, and even though it's new paint, apparently it was originally painted this bright red as well.  Tons of pear and apple trees too!
Another unique aspect of the Rogue is that it was a summertime getaway for the well-known western writer Zane Grey.  His cool little cabin:
and boat to ferry across the river:
which of course inspired me to start reading an original copy of his most popular book Riders Of The Purple Sage that Martha Connell amazingly had and gave to me;
from the first 1912 printing
Just downstream was Mule Creek canyon, which is a super cool narrow gorge that is likely pretty spicy at high water, but at low water was just nice and fun.  Ash heading in:
and then stoked to have made it through the infamous swirlies:

Matt was happy that we got to camp early that afternoon and that it was sunny, since a dry bag had been left open and his more-important sleeping bag needed a bit of dry time:
it's amazing how compact down gets when it's soaked!  
and to celebrate that successful task the two lads did a riverside jam sesh:
as Ash put it, lots of trips have people playing instruments and it's usually mediocre music, but these boys are actually really good!  
The hiking along the Rogue is great; there's a well-hewn trail traversing the length of the run (and we bumped into a raft-supported runners' trip; they runners but ran something like 11, 17, and 13 miles a day while the rafts shuttle their lunches to riverside beaches and their gear to camps and a lodge; something that a commercial outfitter should do on the Middle Fork Salmon!).  There are also side hikes; one was billed as a "Grand Canyon-style slot" so we had to give that a go:
some weird steps hewn in to get up above 

It wasn't super slotty, but it had a nice section:

Andy made it exciting
and it was beautiful in a deep Northwest way:

The last bit of beautiful excitement is the Blossom Bar rapid.
The general line is to start left and cut quickly to the center to avoid the dreaded "Picket Fence" of big boulders below the left entrance; at high water this is pretty challenging, but at low water it's no problem.  However, a week prior some unlucky drift boater cut too hard right and discovered why undercut boulders are problematic; the raft in the pic is the runners' gear boat and the pinned drift boat is circled
Here's the crew on the scout:
another cool pano by Matt
Andy lining up for the unorthodox right line; he's going Rogue!

Ash and I lining up for it:
and dropping in
Ash making the first cut to the right....

charging through the meat! 

and cutting back to the left, while I'm staring at that pinned drift boat that's creating a fair hazard!  
Once again, everyone made it through with no problems, and we happily made it to our last camp:
Where Ash celebrated a successful trip with a bowlful of gin and tonic:

The Rogue is well known for its population of black bears, and being from New Zealand where the most exciting animal is the wild goat Andy was determined to see a bear.  And indeed, he was the one to spot a momma and a coupla cubs:

Too soon we were at the takeout, and with the simplicity of the (mostly) self-contained trip (the raft did house the groover, tables, stove, and a few extra beers; thanks Ross!) we were off the ramp and scattered pretty quickly.  

Andy and I  had one more adventure left in us, so after dropping Ashley off at the Medford airport early the next morning he and I headed for the North Fork of the Rogue where it bubbles out from near Crater Lake.  It's a beautiful stretch of river that is in two sections separated by a bridge; a class 3-4 canyon and below that is the Takelma Gorge, where the river goes into a vertical walled canyon that is short in both length and height but has 5 multi-tiered rapids and is mostly inescapable once you're in.  We had a nice time on the upper section, and took a good long time to scout the gorge, that is indeed a bit daunting:
But there were no logs in the rapids and we decided to give it a go.  
One of the first drops
Scouting another
I've said a few times that I haven't really found the limits of the pack raft and had been feeling confident in it, so at the 4th of the five rapids I had no problem with charging over a 6-8 foot pourover, and was quite surprised when I found myself upside down!  I had been practicing rolls in the boat on the river trip because the roll is a bit more difficult than in a hardshell, but alas I didn't hit my combat roll and found myself swimming over the next rapid, where I made the major faux pas of letting go of my paddle.  I was able to wedge myself and the boat into a crack between the basalt columns and we got out the spare paddle to exit the gorge into the flatwater where I was sure we'd find the lost paddle, but to no avail.  So it goes; another donation to the river gods (here's a helmet-cam video of a coupla doods running the gorge at what looks like about the same flow that we had).  

We had planned on paddling the infamous Hell's Corner run of the upper Klamath, but the shuttle logistics of that run were too daunting so we took the proximity opportunity of Oregon's only national park and went to Crater Lake, where we found a great run up to the park's high point

Before turning the wagon back towards Salt Lake.  

As it turns out, we paddled the Wild and Scenic Rogue river right about on the 50th anninversary of the Wild and Scenic rivers act, which has been used ever since to protect rivers from dams and other degradations and is without any comparable river protection anywhere in the world.  The Rogue received the designation in 1978, but still only 1/4 of 1%  of rivers in the country have this formal designation.  And not a single mile of river in Utah is yet Wild and Scenic, and with our current leadership it's hard to imagine that will change soon.  I haven't yet watched it, but this movie on the Wild and Scenic act looks good.

Thanks again to Leigh and Matt for having the vision to get the Rogue permit and organize a great posse of Suzy, Steve, Ross, Megan, Dave, Chris, Cathy, Barney, Corrie, Andy for Ashley and I to paddle with.  Always fun to hang with great river rats, and I'm glad that my recollection of the Rogue not being that great was totally wrong; it's a gem!  

No comments:

Post a Comment