Saturday, October 27, 2012

Rogue River Trip 2012

Once again this year Emily and I joined our rafting friends for a 3 day trip down the Wild & Scenic section of the Rogue River in southern Oregon.  This river is one of the qualifying rivers if you plan to run the Grand Canyon without a guide and is one of the most beautiful in the country.  Emily and I unfortunately had to drive down from Ridgefield, WA to meet everyone at Cody and Nicole’s place in Shedd, OR just south of Corvallis off I-5.  

We got there around 9pm and everything seemed to be pretty much packed up.  We had 4 rafts this year including Stella, the Beaver Boat, Martin’s, Nicole’s Zoo Raft and Adam (Mahogany Driftwood) had his Cat Boat.  A lot of people were also in costumes as it was the weekend before Halloween so Em and I felt a little out of place without one.  Chris holm was simply wearing a wig and ridiculous hipster Ray-Ban type sunglasses he picked up for $5 at a gas station.

As usual it was an interesting ride in the van with Ben and a lot of drinks got passed around in the back with Bryan staying straight sober behind the wheel putting up with all the debauchery.  We had a fun drunken stop at a gas station near Roseburg where we encountered another van similar to Bryan’s also pulling rafts.  Everyone went inside to grab snacks and try on funny hats found in the store while Ben and Bryan chatted with the other rafters about their plans.  

Turns out we had another chance to chat with them inside our van as we had to pick up 4-5 of them when their van’s engine imploded.  We had 24 total people spread out between Bryan’s van and a rental van behind us who thought it was our van that was fire!  After dropping the other rafters off at their cabins (yes, cabins) we continued on and got to the put-in around 1am where we quickly set up our tents and fell asleep.  

In the morning we took our time getting up and onto the river, everyone making sure that they had their costumes on and ready to party.  Lets see, we had Holm as Rick James, Bryan as batman, Rob as some mexican dude, several caped crusaders, a fembot, a white Hancock (Will Smith Movie), and even Quail Man.  One of us even had on a hip belt of liquor nips.  We loaded up the Beaver and Pirate flags strapped the FAILdinosour in for the ride of his life.

It was a few hours before we came to Rainee Falls, the only class V rapid on the river.  As usual we all got out of our boats to check it out, but this year was a bit more funny to observe with Rick James and the Dark Knight looking out over the falls with throw bags ready.  Chris and I stood by and videotaped all the rafts successfully going over the falls this year.  I got a great video of a bunch of cute river otters playing in the rapids before panning to Ben’s boat slaying the falls with the Dark Knight looking on.  Once again Nicole was kind enough to pull over after they made it through and have a throw bag ready for Chris and I who would tackle it in our IK’s.  We had watched the two other double IK’s go through and get destroyed this year so we didn’t hold up much hope of ourselves cleaning it.

We hurried back to our boats and, like last year, a group of people gave us bewildered looks when we said we were headed to the main chute.  I followed Chris again who now has a bit more river experience than I with his recently purchased hardshell boat and full dry suit getup.  I saw him plunge over the falls out of site and figured if he ate it I might as well too and took a slight turn to the right towards the biggest drop I could see.  

When I went over I plunged deep into the froth and then the front of the boat was sticking straight towards the sky with me backflipping out.  Next thing I knew my butt was actually sitting deep on the bottom of the river.  Thankfully, the current grabbed down deep and I shot out far downstream from the falls where I resurfaced.  The video of us actually loses track of me because I was carried so far downstream underwater...

After organizing from Rainee Falls we all stopped for some lunch and I mentioned to Emily how cool it was to see all the river otters around the falls and told her now she just needed to see a bear in the wild.  Literally, as I said those words I looked up and then said, “like that one” while pointing to a small black bear on the opposite side of the river.  She was pretty excited to finally see a wild bear before she turned 30 as I promised her.    That was just the start of the wildlife on the trip too.  Later Emily and Ben’s boat would see a buck swimming across the river, a skunk, and another bear with two cubs looking at them from rocks on the shore.  We also saw better views of the otters and baby otters just downstream of Rainee and throughout the trip we saw egrets, eagles, king fishers and blue herons along the shore.

Our first night on the river was nice as we set up camp.  The moon came out and we could see stars.  We had a great Cajun dinner with shrimp but my heart burn was killing me so it was tough to eat.  I instead busied myself with finishing the bailey’s I had brought with a big cup of milk.  We had a nice campfire and Chris, Adam and Martin provided the music for the group.  It was also the night that Natalie one the “crazy girl” card for the trip.... or maybe not.  It’s hard to label someone as “crazy” when they are an aspiring actress with an energetic personality that makes everyone laugh.  At first when she started “scat-rapping” to the music like a nutball I yelled out “we have a winner!” to the great amusement of Sarah but after a weekend with Natalie I don’t think she is crazy, I just think air gives her the same reaction that cocaine does to other people.... 

We woke up in camp to beautiful fog sitting on the hillsides around us.  We ate a great breakfast of potatoes, pancakes, eggs and of course bacon before hitting the river.  This part of the trip is always my favorite as we passed by the Rogue River Ranch where we got lunch and bed told the group of all the animals he personally had shown his raft, traveled through Mule Creek Canyon and Coffee Pot rapids and negotiated Blossom Bar all in the same day.  It had rained the night before so some of our gear was wet and it continued raining throughout the day which was ok because we were all in our wet suits anyway on a river...

After we all made it through Blossom Bar without a problem the real drinking began with the now annual birthday cake vodka shots and plenty of bag wine being slapped by everyone.  We tied up and became raftzilla and watched as other groups of rafters and kayakers nervously, but speedily, passed us with only a few stopping to sample our bourbon and beer on the way by.  This party seemed to carry onwards through a lot of flat water until it began to get pretty dark.  Several other groups at camps insisted they wanted none of us near them and one person even shoved our kayakers off of shore.  When we finally pulled up to a flat gravel bar we noticed that Holm was nowhere in sight.  

This sent me into a panic as I knew he was pretty drunk.  I got pretty mad at anyone (Ben) who seemed to be setting up their tents while Holm was missing on the river without any of his gear for the night.  Thankfully, Adam and Sarah jumped in his cat boat and rowed up stream until they found Holm who was nearly blacked out paddling in the wrong direction.  They yelled to him and after grabbing his attention he of course paddled up to them like it was nothing.... When he got back to camp I simply told him to never pull that shit again but I was pretty freaked out as it was then several hours after dark... Yes he had a dry suit, but it may have gotten cold for him over the night and it’s always important for the group to stick together.

Once again we had a fun campfire with shinanigans from Natalie and music from the guys.  Holm was pretty burnt out but we did get him to play a bit of music as well.  We were able to pick up the Beavers vs. Washington game and unfortunately, thanks to some stupid plays by our starter quarterback we lost the game by 3 points ending our 6 game winning streak this season.  It rained pretty hard all night again once we were in our tents so it was nice to not have to worry about sleeping in the wet stuff again on Sunday night.

On Sunday we had a pretty chill day on the river without any dangerous rapids to think about.  We stopped for lunch at the natural waterslide on the side of the river that seemed to blow Natalie’s mind.  All the newbies took the falls except Emily who had bruised herself up pretty good and sprained her thumb looking for Holm the night before.  She spent the day on the gear boat with Cody instead of paddling on Ben’s boat.  Before we left the waterfall Adam showed me a secret geocache under a bridge and some of the stuff he had put in it years before as this was now the 11th time on the river for him.

Near the takeout we encountered several cool fog banks sitting on the river marking the end of rafting season for a few cold months.  We were off the river by about 4:00pm and Bryan’s dad, who once again graciously shuttled the vans for us, had cooked us up a big pot of chili and a pot of chicken noodle soup, both fantastic.  We packed up all the gear and loaded the rafts on the trailer with Adams massive Cat Boat on top of all the others.  Nicole, Sarah, Em, Chris and I all loaded into what thankfully turned out to be the quiet van with Bryan’s dad for the ride over the coast range back to Roseburg and I-5.  

On the way down the dirt forest road we could see Adam’s boat leaning a bit on top of the other rafts and tried honking and flashing our lights at them but Bryan is a speed demon and didn’t notice.  Right before he was going to pull over and check the gear the cat boat snapped free and flipped through the air onto it’s rafting seat skidding down the road.  Miraculously nothing else was really damaged but I felt bad that Adam’s brand new John Deer seat had been crushed by the weight as well as the pots that were used for dinner.  Once we got everything strapped up again we had a relaxing ride home to Shedd with just one quick stop for drinks and snacks and refueling.  Em and I helped unpack for a bit at Shedd and were back at our place in Ridgefield by 1am.

For a 3 day trip down this river it costs anywhere from $500 to $1500 dollars.  We did it all for just $70 each and Chris and I both got kayaks and gear for $40 each on top of that.  We saw a ton of wildlife, ate and drank like kings and queens and all came out pretty much unscratched.  My only loss were my sunglasses which I think may have been left on the rocks at the takeout or swallowed by the Rogue at some point.  They are all our good friends and we look forward to rafting with them all again after ski season which started for me as soon as I hit play on the ski videos on my iphone on the van ride back.

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