Sunday, October 23, 2011

Rogue River Wild & Scenic Take 2

Last year during the annual Rogue River weekend Emily and I were on the East Coast for a wedding.  This year Emily was also on the East Coast in Maine for work but fortunately I was free to go on the trip.  Instead of a very rushed overnight trip leaving on Friday as like before Ben and Bryan decided to stretch the trip out over three days and extend the length of the float.  This meant that everyone had to take a day off of work on Friday so that we could all pack into Bryan's Attack Van and leave on Thursday instead.  Instead of Emily I talked Chris Holm into joining me for the trip and the shinanigans.  I figured he needed the time away because of relationship troubles he was going through.

I left work Thursday a little early so that I could pick up the IK's Chris and I had rented from the ORC at OSU. Two years ago Emily and I had been in a raft with Ben but there were IK's on the trip and it looked like so much fun that Chris and I opted to try kayaking the river this year instead.  After packing up my gear into a new Black Canyon dry bag I got from Moosejaw Chris and I drove to Winco and then to the liqour store for booze.  I picked up a handle of Pendleton for Ben and a few boxes of Sunset Blush wine for him as well as a bottle of American Honey and Sweet Tea vodka for me. Chris and I then packed up our remaining gear and after some concerned looks from Tiffany, headed over to Bryan's for some food and to pack up the rafts and gear with everyone else.

Bryan had spaghetti and meatballs with salad and bread for dinner.  Gear was all over the lawn and people were starting to show up around 7pm.  Chris and I grabbed some food and I accidentally met Cody Younger's wife Nicole after slipping up and saying I couldn't wait to hit on her in front of her not knowing she was actually there.  Confused, I had to explain to her how Cody usually flirts with Emily continuously on trips and that finally it was payback time with Cody missing from this venture and Emily gone too!  Nicole and her sister Stacy and their friend Sarah got kick out of this.  As usual it took us a while to pack up everything and get the two vans ready.  I took Chris inside to show him Bryan's rabbit Bo and we all sang happy birthday to Nicole who shared a cake given to her with everyone.  I had been drinking cans of Jeremiah Weed all evening so that by the time we hit the road for our 4 hour trip down to the road I was definitely lit.  The drunken drive down to the river Thursday night was, as usual, a shit show with everyone passing around wine, a massive liter-sized flask and other drinks.  By the time we got to the put in, just up the road from our usual spot many people in the van were passed out sleeping and Nicole had some pretty gnarly motion sickness brewing.  That drive was a good introduction to what Chris would experience for the next 3 days!

When we woke up in the morning on Friday it took us all a long time to eat breakfast and pack up all the boats with our gear on the shore.  The restroom outhouse was truly terrible so I decided to change into my wetsuit behind it instead.  I spent a while getting my gear ready and attaching my waterproof helmet cam case to the top of my rafting rental helmet.  It was quick for Chris and I to blow up our IK's so we spent the morning helping everyone else get their gear ready and onto the boats.  By the time we got going it was just past noon.  Bryan's father had graciously volunteered once again to shuttle Bryan's van down to the takeout for us.  It literally saved us about 10 hours of driving by doing so.  He's the best, and one of the nicest guys I've met.  We also had Bryan's sister and brother on the trip as well, the whole Carrington family it seemed!  

Like two years ago there were many costumes.  The girls (Sara, Nicole, Stacy, Sara Vandepas, and Martin) had a pirate flag on their boat and Michelle's boat was the official Harry Potter boat with all the main characters in costume on it complete with cauldrens of boiling dry ice that floated with them downstream.  Next time I go on this trip I'm definitely going to remember to bring some sort of funny outfit.

Friday was a crazy beautiful day with warm weather and sunshine, as it would be for the next 2 days as well.  It almost felt like overkill wearing the wetsuit that I borrowed from Kevin.  Chris and I were both a bit nervous about the approaching class V rapid Rainee Falls but we had a few hours to get our wits about us before going through it.  Chris actually dumped a couple times on the way to Rainee but I think it was just from goofing around and not really paying attention.  I was doing ok and hadn't fallen out yet so I was building confidence.  We passed around some booze between us and the rafts and I began hitting the vodka/V8 fusion nalgene I had but not too hard as I wanted to be focused for Rainee Falls.  The river, just like two years ago was absolutely beautiful.

When we got to Rainee Falls we dropped our boats on the shore and headed to the rocks just above the falls.  The rapids looked nearly the same size as two years ago, perhaps just slightly bigger as the water was lower this year I think.  There was another way down far to rafters right (a fish ladder type area) that people could go down but not with our group.  Everyone was to head over the falls.  Chris and I stayed on the rocks while everyone in the rafts took turns taking the plunge.  A couple boats made it safely over the falls at first but then Scott lost several of his front teeth in a gear boat from slamming his face into the oar handle and Bryan's boat went over the main falls sideways capsizing instantly in the froth.  This was beginning to look like a bad idea to Chris and I who would be in tiny single IK's heading over the drop.  

I thought for sure Ben would nail it in his gear boat, and he almost did, but he too flipped and all of our gear and drybags remained upside down in the river as they floated downstream for a long distance.  By this point everyone had taken the drop except for the girls.  Chris and I watched them take the rapid head on and spectacularly they made it through without much effort.  As soon as they had collected themselves and started to celebrate I yelled several times for them to paddle to the shore so that they could have the throwbags for Chris and I (also so someone at least could get video of us going over the falls).

When Chris and I walked back along the shore to get into our kayaks we met several others along the way.  We had seen several kayakers go completely around the falls in what looked to be really pro hard shell kayaks.  That didn't bode well with us, nor did the comment from another kayaker on shore that said we were nuts.  Thus, Chris and I strode into our IK's and floated out into the main channel with a Heron on the shore watching us as we went.  I had the helmet cam on so I wanted him to go first in front of me over the falls.  I didn't really catch much of him from the helmet cam as I gave him a good lead in case I came down on top of him in the froth.  I saw where he went over the falls and tried to follow but got pushed just slightly to the left on a step before the main drop.  I was sent up and over a fin of water and down into a big boil that promptly flipped me out of my kayak.  When I surfaced I saw Chris still sitting in his IK and was amazed and elated for him!  Apparently he had chosen the right line slightly to the right of me and missed the boil that destroyed me.  As I was floating a rope was thrown to me by Nicole.  I first ignored it but then taking a few strokes swimming towards the shore I grabbed it and started pulling.... to find that nobody was on the other end!!! I laughed as I pulled the rope together and made it to shore... Nicole was not to hear the end of this for the rest of the trip!  Way to save me Nicole!!!

After laughing about Nicole's horrible save at Rainee we collected ourselves and gear and headed downstream a little ways to meet up with everyone else and get some lunch.  Scott was on a rock with Anna tending to him and he looked to be in a lot of pain.  His top left front tooth was gone and several others appeared to be cracked in half.  We took a look at the video I had taken with my Nikon and his whole body appeared to just fold in half into the oar handle... horrific looking.  Everyone was pretty impressed that Holm had made it through without flipping like I had.  One of the rafts had dumped over 30 beers into the river and I made the rule that if we found any in eddies or along the shore whoever found it would be required to take a knee and shotgun it.  Well.. about two hours later I had forgotten my rule and found the first can... Chris later found one as well...and we both followed the rule I had made.

The rest of the afternoon was a pretty easy float with a few class 3 rapids and a bunch of fun spots for people to climb rocks and jump into the river.  Several people, including Ben, decided it would be best to strip naked for the jumps.  We had a heron following us for a while downstream and Chris and I had a good time visiting other rafts and sharing all the booze that was on the trip.  Eventually it began to get dark and a decision had to be made on where we were all going to camp.  Ben wanted to keep going downstream for a ways but Bryan was determined to camp up on some rocks above the river.  There was some friendly arguing but Bryan thankfully got his way and we began unloading the gear boats.  At first I wanted to keep going to a flatter, open campsite with outhouses that Ben knew about but after  it took us so long to unload I was happy that we had taken out where we had.  That evening we all had a great dinner (Mexican I think) and hung out by the fire late into the night.

Saturday morning I awoke from my bivy to find Ben wearing Sarah's bikini top and a whole bunch of string cheese wrappers in my bivy with some left in my pants pockets as well.  Apparently I had gotten the late night munchies after hanging out with Cory and Lisa.  Once again it was a beautiful morning and the fog lifting off the river into the surrounding hills was gorgeous.  We all had an awesome breakfast of fresh eggs, juice and my Chai Tea which I shared with Ben and Holm that I cooked up with my Jetboil.  As usual it took us a while to hit the river after packing up all the gear boats.  Anna's gear boat had a leak which took a bit to repair before we got going.

It took me a little while to get back on the saddle and open up my next nalgene of vodka and juice but after I did I felt better (thankfully I don't do the "hair of the dog" thing that often or it could spell trouble :).  We came across a great cliff jumping spot that was probably 35-40 feet above the river.  We all pulled over and took turns jumping off of it.  I got a great video of the jump with my helmet cam on as well.  

At some point the girls were drinking their very yummy birthday shots and Nicole decided it was time for an semi-naughty photo shoot for Cody to later see.  This involved her jumping onto my kayak and filling my mouth with whipped cream.  Little did she know I wouldn't stand for this as I then pushed her over, climbed on top, and smeared it all over her face... ha!

We continued down the river having a blast in the beautiful weather until we came to the Rogue River Ranch where we pulled out for lunch.  This is the spot two years ago where we camped over night.  We all took our boats out of the water and I went exploring with the Rudnicki sisters towards the open buildings of the ranch. We walked all about checking out the stable and the barns out back as well as the main residence.  When we returned to the group someone had found a praying mantis to my surprise.  I hadn't seen one in probably over 10 years and didn't realize they were in the Northwest as well.

The rapid that scared me the most was quickly coming up on Saturday afternoon.  It's name was Blossum Bar and although it was a class IV and not a class V like Rainee Falls it had claimed several lives this past year with one girl's body being stuck in a keeper undercurrent for several weeks.  I was glad that we would be going through the beautiful Mule Creek Canyon and Coffee Pot rapids before Blossum Bar so I would get some more experience under my belt.  Two years ago a kid in our group in an IK flipped going into the canyon and swam almost the entire length of it through all the hydraulics.  Chris and I made it through without a problem at all in our IK's but we didn't stop for a group photo like we did two years ago due to time constraints.  Mule Creek Canyon is one of my favorite parts of the whole trip.  You can see the water line on the rocks as you pass through it and there are towering spires of volcanic rock all around you.  It is the reason this section is called the "Wild & Scenic" and rivals the Grand Canyon for beauty.

Soon after Mule Creek Canyon we pulled over to the side of the river to scout Blossum Bar on the rocks above it.  Upon looking at the pinball of boulders and rapids we had to negotiate and seeing another trip go through in rafts Chris and I actually felt a little at ease as it appeared to be far easier for a kayak to negotiate than a raft with 6+ people in it.  Ben told us we would have no problem either so when we all went down and got into our kayaks I wasn't too worried.  I knew to just head right before the nasty rapid that held the girls body for so long.  It turned out to be a piece of cake for Chris and I... felt more like a Class III actually.  Once we got through it I climbed up on some rocks and got a really great video of Ben and his raft making it through without even touching a rock the whole way!

Elated about making it through the last serious rapid of the trip the shinanigans were stepped up a notch and the birthday shots were broke out again by the girls.  What ensued for the rest of the late afternoon into the evening is actually very foggy for me.  I know at some point someone borrowed my kayak and I was in a raft, then I returned to the kayak with a passenger, but I forget who that was.  We ended up making it to a gravel bar in a bend in the river where we set up camp on the rocks above but by the time we got there it was really dark and we all were in headlamps.  Several members of our party had to literally be dragged and dumped ashore and I don't remember what was cooked for dinner or how the fire got started.  

I didn't even remember where I had set up my bivy as I had to ask Stacy to help me find it in the dark.  Apparently from the stories I later heard I ate a bunch of curry (yuck!) and was watching the stars on my back next to Ben for much of the evening.  People sat by the fire for a while but I don't even remember the fire.  I have no recollection of how or what time I went to bed....

Sunday morning was ROUGH... I woke up very much still drunk with my pockets full of string cheese once again.  Yelling down to the group that I once again had a bunch of cheese in my pants was pretty amusing to everyone.  We all ate a nice breakfast as we watched other rafters float by and a few river boats head up the river by us.  Martin played a bit on his guitar and we once again had beautiful weather to start the day.  As usual it was a pain in my ass to get my wetsuit back on and for all of us to load up the boats but it wasn't as crucial to get everything as locked down as we had a very easy float to the takeout.

Throughout the morning I asked everyone what the hell had happened to me the night before and I heard a few good stories trying to piece it all together again.  Chris had the most interesting story of all though as he told it to me on the river just before I puked over the side of my kayak.   I had finally past the point of being drunk into one of the worst hangovers I've ever had.  It was about this time that everyone else started to get their drink on, including Chris and the ladies.  I chose this moment to vacate the vicinity for my own health and sanity.

At first I stayed just ahead of the group which worked out great as we quickly pulled the rafts to the side of the river for some food and to check out a waterfall slide on a small stream that entered the Rogue.  We had to boulder hop up the stream for a ways to get to the spot and then wade into a deep pool of water and climb a knotted rope up the face of the waterfall to get to the top.  Each one of us in the group took turns climbing up and sliding down.  Just after I had climbed up and slid down the rope broke and it took some time for Ben to repair it from the top.  Thankfully nobody was high up on it climbing when it broke.  Chris Gabrielli, Paris and their rafting group caught up with us at the falls for a little bit as well.  After some good photos and helmet cam footage of the slide we walked back down the stream to the rafts.  I slipped a few times on the wet rocks which really tested out my knee ACL, thankfully it held.

The rest of the day on Sunday I spent far ahead of all the rafts which had joined together into a party raftzilla.  I could see drinks being passed around liberally and many calls for me to come back and partake but there was no way I could even smell booze at that point.  They were having such a great party that small salmon smelt actually jumped out of the river into their boat to join them (look at the photo closely).  So, for the last few hours of the float I simply laid back in my kayak and passed in and out of snoozes letting the river carry me along.  

Thankfully I was sitting up at the point when I saw a couple of our rafts pull to the shore at the takeout.  About 20 minutes later the party rafts showed up and people began literally crawling ashore to the amusement of Bryan's dad who had the vans all set up for us.  Ben and Erica took the drunk trophies for the day as they both were just wandering around useless for quite some time.  I was super excited to see a grill fired up with fresh burgers for me to eat.  I needed something solid and greasy in my gut at this point.

As we packed up the rafts on the van and trailer clouds started to roll over the coastal range towards us marking the end of the perfect weather on the Rogue that we had just experienced for 3 straight days in October!  We all then piled into the vans and tore over the Coastal Range with Bryan, as usual, scaring the shit out of everyone in the back of his van, but thankfully shaving valuable time off our ride home as well.  We got back into Corvallis early in the evening and helped everyone unpack all the gear.  There was some leftover food so I helped my self to some deli meat, peppers and tomatos from the trip before I dropped Chris off at home with a big smile on his face from the fantastic weekend.  I felt bad that at the same time Emily was sick in Maine for work and missed out but I'm sure that we'll both be back on the trip next year as it is certainly something we both look forward to.

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