Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Wild & Scenic Rogue River

Emily and I had been waiting for this weekend for over a month since Ben and Tyler had invited us when we
rafted the Umpqua river with them in early September. I had borrowed Chris’ wetsuit and rented Emily a thick one from a surf shop in Philomath. I then rented PFD’s, splash jackets and a dry bag from the ORC for the trip. I left school early on Friday to go home and pack up the dry bag with all of our gear. Thankfully we were able to fit the tent, our sleeping bags, clothes and our food all into the dry bag. I also went to Winco to pick up a box of wine for us and some more food. Matt and I hadn’t used the camping food we bought a couple weeks before so I threw that in too.

All 36 (38?) of us met at Tyler’s house on 16th street to load up the vans with gear and to our surprise have a bbq before leaving for the 4 hour trip down to Grants Pass where we would put-in to the Rogue at Grave Creek. Emily and I learned that the $65 we had put in
only covered our gas expenses but also provided for all of our meals for the weekend. Inside Tyler’s house I met a cool guy named Ian who I helped chop several full bags of Potatoes with for the trip. Emily helped by defrosting tons of red meat for burgers for the evening. Emily and I ran to Freddy’s quick for a 6 pack of beer that we drank at the BBQ with the others. There was no sign of Tyler’s bunny rabbit in the house this time...

After we got all the boats loaded up onto the trailer behind Bryan’s crazy van we piled into his van and two other white rental vans for the trip down. Emily and I were lucky enough to be in Ben’s wild van of Franzia shinanigans... as in we drank two full boxes of wine just
on the ride down the first night. We stopped several times at gas stations on the way,
one in which Ben grabbed a friggin’ billy club and was runnin’ around smacking people with it... Despite the stops for gas several of us had to break the seal and needed to piss like crazy. Ian ended up trying to piss out the open van door at 80mph which did nothing but lather the side of the van with urine and spray back into his face from the wind... hehe. I myself couldn’t take it any longer and upon some desperate searching through a backpack we brought found a spare nalgene to pee in, much to the dismay of Emily.
Ben desperately needed the nalgene after a while so was forced to dump my piss out the passenger window... only to get some spray back on himself... ha! I seemed to be the only one who wasn’t splashed by random pee on the trip down! By the time we got to the put-in our entire van was hammered... I really don’t remember much of how we set up our tent and sleeping bags and crawled into them... What a crazy first night and we hadn’t even touched water yet!

Waking up the next morning was tough but when I did crawl out of the tent and put my contacts in I was greeted by a beautiful river valley of beautiful fall colors and mist rising off the river from the morning sun. It was beautiful! Others had already gotten up and started hot water for everyone for oatmeal and such for breakfast. Not being a big fan of oatmeal I
decided to eat up one of the breakfast
bags we had brought with us. Everyone took quite a long time to get their stuff together and packed onto the boats. Bryan’s dad had come along on the trip solely to shuttle vans for us which I thought was so nice of him. Josh Grabel had brought his dirt on the front of Bryan’s van for Mr. Carrington to use but it looked like they were having trouble starting it. Bryan had the crazy idea to put one of the rental vans on the trailer behind his van to make the shuttle trip easier for his dad. I couldn’t believe they were able to do it. In fact, the van was so heavy that the trailer bed only sat about an inch above the wheels because of how compressed it was under the weight.

Emily and I were invited into Cody Younger’s boat, a really great guy we chatted with on the trip down the night before, but Ben convinced us to join him in his boat with Cody Pepper, Bree, and PT. I figured Ben probably had snuck the most booze onto that boat so it wasn’t a hard decision... ha! Poor Tyler on his birthday was assigned to row one of the gear boats himself... I felt bad for him. Chris Gabrielli was also in the crew but because of the surgery he had on his elbow? he wasn’t able to paddle or contribute so he rode with Lauren on her gear boat.

Our first obstacle of
the trip was the only Class 5 rapid of the trip called Rainee Falls and we encountered it just 30 minutes after putting in the river. We all pulled our boats to the side
to scout it and bring throw bags for the other boats who were attempting it. Bryan and Cody’s boats went over the rapid first without any issue, which was amazing to me because the rapid looked absolutely enormous. The gear boats of Darren, Sam, Tyler, and Matt went down a smaller chute on the other side of the main falls with several of the inflatable kayaks that were also brought. Ben Marcus actually took his IK over the main falls only to be completely tossed out of it immediately. I do have to give him props for trying such a ballsy move. I got some great video and photos of everyone going over the falls (videos at the bottom of this post). It was then our turn to run the falls so I gave my camera to Kenji and showed him how to use it.

Ben got us situated and
told us the moves we would have to do to safely get through the 10 foot falls, which mainly was to just keep rowing. Unfortunately as soon as we got close to
the falls I could tell that everyone, including Kenji with our camera were filming others on the smaller rapid instead of us. Yelling up at them to get us on video I completely blanked and didn’t paddle as well as we should have. That combined with and admittedly poor line from Ben our raft captain ended up putting us square agains the rock wall on the right just past the falls where the rocks completely ripped out the gasket on one side of our raft deflating it underneath me. None of us fell out but with the raft quickly deflating Ben ordered us to paddle quickly to the shore. Yeah... Ben was pissed. Just 40 minutes into our trip it looked like we had already lost a boat. I was pissed that nobody.. I mean nobody, got even a photo of us going over the falls.... booooo. EPIC FAIL. Lucky for us we paddled quickly down river to take a lunch break and figure out how to
fix the raft when some other rafters passing by offered us a spare gasket they had which fixed our entire problem quickly. Gotta love the kindness of strangers in the outdoors of the Pacific Northwest! We ate sandwiches on the rocks across from a fly fisherman who seemed to be catching nothing despite the enormous salmon I constantly saw jumping out of the river
nearby him.

Despite feeling a little rough from the previous night the rest of the afternoon was spent drinking boxed wine, passing around lemon drops, a bottle of Pendleton Ben had, and other drinks of various varieties between boats. There were more rapids but nothing of any serious nature. Our surroundings were absolutely amazing. We were tucked into the coastal range with beautiful
vegetation all around us surrounded by towering mountains on both sides. We saw numerous deer along the shore (no bears like last year which Bryan apparently chased) and tons of fish. One of the coolest things on the trip were the pumpkins... yup, pumpkins. Apparently it is tradition at the
end of the year before Halloween for a group of rafters to distribute small pumpkins all down the Rogue River in the most precarious positions on rocks that they can leave them in. It became a fun game for Emily and I to spot the pumpkins along the river. At one point Ben grabbed a pumpkin for us off a rock and gave it to Emily to place somewhere hard. She was able to lean of the boat later in the day and place it on a tiny rock in the middle of the river... an amazing feat which we were astounded she was able to pull off.

As the day grew longer and I grew more tipsy I suddenly found myself with a lack of balance and rolling off the side of the boat. This was fine as I needed to pee anyway so I rolled backwards to splash into the water. To my dismay I found myself lying on my back on the only rock in that entire visible section of the river..
in the middle of the river...
much to the amusement of Ben and everyone else on the boat.

Later in the day I was able to jump into an IK for the first time and had a blast paddling around the other rafts in the very quick, but tippy, craft. Emily soon joined me and sat in the back of the boat while I paddled (she took a turn paddling too). I decided to aim for every big rapid we could see and we definitely flipped the IK about 3 times. It started to get dark really quickly and Ben kept saying about our camp site, “it’s either 15 minutes or 50” because every bend in the river looked pretty similar in the mountains.

It was at this point of the
the day that Bree officially reached her limit and was completely wasted! She had fallen out of the boat and was all wet and basically clinging to Cody with an uhappy look on her face refusing to put on her spash jacket and PFD. It was hilarious and she had no recollection of it the next morning. “Cody are you gay?” became the quote of the night from her! Soon it became dark and Emily and I found ourselves in the IK separated from all the other boats and a little worried that we had passed our camp site somehow... with no gear, so we pulled into an eddy and waited for Ben others to catch up, only to find out the eddy was about 100 yards from our campsite!

We camped near the river next to the Historic Rogue River Billings Ranch which is a historical landmark. Our group didn’t have much company as the permit season had ended and most people think the river is too cold in the fall. To the contrary, we had wonderful weather and warm temps the whole trip!
We had a great dinner, although in the dark, and after a long night before and long day of Franzia Emily and I decided to hit the sac around 9:30 and let the others continue to
drink. We moved our tent about 100 yards from the camp fire and others and pretty much passed out as soon as we climbed in.

The next morning Emily and I took some time to go explore the Billings Ranch which was pretty cool. There were multiple buildings such as a blacksmith shop, farm house, garden house, etc that were completely open to the public. The old red farm house was like a historical museum from the area inside with photos of how it was in the past. The only house we couldn’t go
through of course was the caretakers who live there year round to cater to guests and uphold the rules of camping at the campsite we were at. We got reprimanded for not having our fire raised off the sand
on shore. Emily and I still don’t understand why there was a massive field of sprinklers there though.

After a wonderful breakfast of pancakes, potatoes, eggs, bacon and o.j. we hit the river again around 10:30. We very quickly found ourselves venturing into a slot canyon in the river called Mule Creek Canyon with Coffee Pot rapids in the middle of it. Ben told us to keep an eye out on the hydraulics of the river here because they were really bizarre. As we entered the canyon we could see that someone in an IK had flipped out of it and was swimming. With nothing
but rock walls on either side Ben Marcus looked frightened as he swam down the river looking for something to hold on to and not caring at all where his IK ended up. As we passed him we yelled to him to swim to us so we could pull him in but he
went to a rock hold on the side of the river instead where Brian later picked him up as we fished out his IK and paddle for him. Hats off to Ben for taking the gnarliest drop of Rainee Falls in his IK and then again swimming the entire Coffee Pot rapids! The canyon was by far the most beautiful part of the whole trip in my mind. We all stopped at Stair Creek Falls for a photo shoot of our group on the Rogue. It was pretty friggin’ amazing.
Our raft then casually followed Tyler and Matt in their gear boat through the rest of the canyon, the whole time gazing at beautiful rock walls above us and looking in amazement at how high the river level usually is indicated by a continuous white line on the rock walls on either side. From the
river we could see a pinnacle in the distance called “Pinnacle Point” which looked like something you would see in Thailand or Tibet. I half expected to see a small temple at the peak of it and it made me feel like I was in a completely country.

We continued down the river at a casual pace having a great time drinking and relaxing in the sun. Ian took it upon himself to put Gabrielli’s nutty outfit on and
sing some country to us as well. Ben, Cody Younger, and Bryan all seemed to be the target of Eileen throughout this last leg
of the trip as well. She did a lot of swimming between boats... I’ll leave it at that. When we came around a corner to pull out and scope our last section of rapids complete with boulders to doge we saw a big black cormorant on a rock in the middle of the river just before the entrance to the rapids stretching it’s wings... as if it was warning us not to enter. This was a little creepy and foreboding I thought but after looking down at the zig zag of water through the amazing carved rocks of the river (one looked like a
hand) I ignored the bird’s warning and got excited again. Ben raced us all down the rocks and back into the boats so we could be the first raft through the section. Emily left her helmet behind so had to wear a funny looking full-face one that didn’t fit
here right... hehe. Making our way through the rapids I wanted to do well to make up for my shitty performance through Rainee falls so I paddled hard with the rest of the boat and we easily made it through the rapids to an eddy so we could watch the rest of the group.

After everyone made it through the rapids the rest of the trip was a breeze. We first went through another small slot canyon where I quickly realized I was the
oldest person on the entire trip. I told Ben to pull the boat over and he and I climbed up a 30-40 foot rock cliff along the river to jump in to make myself feel better. We then
tied the boats together for a few hours into “raftzilla” and relaxed down the river seeing a few more deer and herons on the sides. When we got to Foster Bar we took the boats out of the water and met up with Bryan’s dad and the vans. We gratefully took off our wetsuits (btw... putting a cold wet suit on that morning had sucked at camp!), loaded up the boats and gear and ate some Curry before taking off for home. I can’t tell you how much left over curry there was... now I know why I was chopping potatoes for an hour the first night! The trip home was
pretty uneventful as we were all tired, except for Eileen who was in our van and ridiculously still drunk from the
river... amusing to say the least. Both Emily and Ben passed out for part of the ride home. Once again a big thanks to Darren for stepping up and being our driver.

It was truly a great weekend that Emily and I won’t soon forget and we both met a lot of great new people on the trip as well. I think rafting is definitely a sport that we both are going to get more into next summer with our new friends! Thank God the rafting season isn’t during ski season or it would be a tough choice!See below for some movies (it may take some time to load).

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