Monday, August 15, 2011

Deschutes River Rafting Weekend Booze Cruise with Ben

This past weekend Emily and I joined our buddy Ben Sigler and his sister Ali on a booze float down the Deschutes River in North Oregon on the East side of Mt. Hood in the high desert.  Emily and I have only rafted and kayaked rivers in Western Oregon under huge Douglas Fir forests so we were excited to try something new.  We took 4 rafts and a kayak down the river and stayed overnight in a beautiful river canyon with towering hills all around us under a clear sky full of stars.  We got to go cliff jumping into the river and also checked out some natural rock underwater slides on the White River near the end.  The trip was an absolute blast through some really amazing terrain.  Click the link to read more about our adventure!
Emily and I met up with Brian Carrington Friday night to ride with him, Cody Pepper and Cody Younger in his ridiculously monster A-Team-Eating Van.  Brian had a rough day at work dealing with a car crash on 34 so we were were a little late leaving and after picking up Younger at his farm we didn’t make it to Oregon City to meet up with the rest of the people until close to midnight.  By then everyone there was pretty lit up having drank in the parking lot for several hours waiting.  We blew up one of the rafts, through it on the roof of the van with all the gear in it, loaded up his front and rear racks and then piled 16 people into his van (yes we all had a seat, it’s that big).  I was exhausted from lack of sleep so was drifting into and out of consciousness on the 2 hour drive from there to Maupin where we picked up Ben who quickly woke me up at 2:30am with a shot of Pendleton.  We made it to the camp at the Trout Creek Boat Launch just after 3am and after quickly setting up our tent I passed out sleeping.
Thankfully, on Saturday morning there wasn’t a huge rush to be up early and on the river so I was able to sleep until about 9:30am when the sun through the tent started to melt me.  When I got up to pee in some bushes nearby I think I saw a snake but I don’t think it was one of the many rattle snakes that Ben and Brian had warned us both about.  After some food and getting all the gear packed up and ready we hit the water around 11am.  There was a park ranger that chatted with Ben for a little while and we found out that there was a guy in his early 20’s missing on the river and presumed dead.  Apparently he and his friends had launched around 5pm on Friday night and around 8pm flipped the raft in Whitehorse rapids.  Everyone else came up except the guy without a life jacket on who was wasted apparently… A little scary to start the trip off with but Ben and Brian both assured us that the rapids were way easier than stuff we usually raft. 

We had a fantastic afternoon.  On our boat that Ben was guiding we had his sister Ali and her boyfriend Conor, Caitlin (who soon passed out from drinking and joined the gear boat), Cody Pepper, and Emily and I.  We had the smallest boat out of the 5 we had which meant we would have a bit more fun in the rapids, especially with Ben guiding.   For the most part the float was pretty calm and flat and when we actually went through Whitehorse Rapids I was confused because they weren’t really anything difficult and it was hard to believe someone may have died there!  As usual with the Sigler Family there was a lot of drinking on our boat but we were all experienced rafters and kept our life jackets on through any rapids we came across.  The scenery was amazing and we found ourselves following train tracks for most of the trip.  There was very little vegetation and the river carved itself deep into the rolling hills to the east of Mt. Hood with tons of lava rock visible in cliff faces.  We saw a ton of ospreys fishing in the river all around us throughout the day but unfortunately for Emily, no bears.  

Towards the end of the afternoon we came across a cliff jumping site.  The wall was about 25-30 feet above the river and I was a little concerned to do it with my knee but decided to give a go anyway and climbed up several times.  The first jump I went holding hands with Ben which Ali got a great photo of.  The 2nd time I climbed up with Emily who also jumped with me.  We were all a bit lit up and I was happy that nobody took a bad belly flop from that high up.  Before we left the area Ben took a pretty high head-first dive into the water to rejoin us.  From there it was just another hour or so of easy floating until we found a great campsite to take out at for the night.  Ben actually ended up swimming about 2 miles in front of our boat and was the one to find the spot.  The water was cold but in the hot sun of the afternoon it always felt great to jump into.

When we got camp I passed out first on a cooler, and then rolled onto someone’s sleeping pad for a bit.  All of us were pretty tore up after a long day of drinking in the sun.  Emily almost immediately went into our tent and fell asleep.  After what felt like a couple hour nap I woke up and milled about the campsite chatting with people and scrounging food because what Emily had bought for us certainly didn’t suffice for my appetite.  That’s when it happened.. I slipped on a grassy hill and went down hard on my knee.  I lay there in pain for while praying that I hadn’t snapped my new ACL.  The rest of the night and the following morning I tried every test I could think of to see if it was snapped and thankfully it seemed like I had just tweaked it really good but the ligament was intact. 

The next morning was a leisurely one spent scrounging for breakfast food again and getting the rafts ready for the final float.  Everyone seemed to be taking it a lot slower on the drinking on Sunday.  For the most part it was a super casual float with small rapids.  We formed a floatilla and all chilled with our rafts tied together until I was offered the Inflatable Kayak for the afternoon.  I jumped in and had a blast paddling around the rafts and bringing items back and forth to each one on the flat water areas.  Emily and I were told that once we passed the main put-in for the extremely popular Maupin section the river would become a Six Flags Log Ride with so many rafts on the water it would be like bumper cars.  We were even told that there would be photographers taking photos of everyone and offering the photos online just like a theme park ride!  

When we reached the put-in we stopped briefly for lunch and for Cody Younger to meet up with some friends.  From there we got back on the river and to my disbelief there were actually photographers along the sides with massive signs telling about their offerings online.  The only significant rapid was called “Boxcar”, a class III.  I was a bit buzzed at the point of hitting it so I took a more conservative line to the right of the big hole.  After I passed through it I saw that Emily, Cody, Coner, and Ali had flipped and were on the side of the river righting it.  Everyone was fine though as it was an easy swim. 

From Boxcar we then floated down the river a little further to an area of underwater slides that Brian and Ben knew about.  We had to walk down the river a bit to a tributary (the White River) that entered it via a series of cascading drops.  If you jumped in above the drops and held your breath on the last one the current would take you down a smooth natural underwater rock slide for about 15 feet before spitting you out to the surface.  It was a pretty cool experience.  

From there it was a quick float to the Maupin take out bar which was utterly packed with rafting companies pulling “city folk” out of the river who didn’t know what they were doing.  Apparently, one of the girls in our group fell asleep (passed out) or something at the water slide and had to join another raft for the final mile or so to the take out.  She pouted in the back of the van the entire way home blaming all of us for leaving her.  We quickly got all the rafts out and packed up onto Brian’s Van and headed into town where we dropped Ben off at his car.  We again stopped in Oregon City to drop the rest of the group off and Emily and I made it home by about 9pm to Corvallis, exhausted but happy after a great weekend of rafting!

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