Posts Tagged ‘Camping’

Return To The Rogue

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A  tanker helicopter works it’s way up the Howard Creek drainage along the Rogue River.

The Big Windy fire that kept us away from the Rogue River for our first two trips had, as much as a fire can, settled into a more predictable pattern.  It wasn’t crowning from tree top to tree top and it hadn’t jumped the river. Officials were calling it a “healthy fire” since it’s behavior was to creep along at ground level confined to just the understory, despite having burned thousands of acres.

The BLM reopened the river corridor allowing trips to resume.  There were still restrictions in place from Howard Creek down to Missouri Creek with regards to where you could stop during the day as well as camp each night. The normal shuttle route over Bear Camp Road was closed meaning trips would have to return via the coastal route. We were pretty excited about the prospects of getting at least one trip in on the Rogue this season.  Thanks to Jim Ritter at RRJ we had been keeping our guests on each trip up to date on the fire’s status. This third group was happy to hear about the reopening and they understood there would be smoke for part of the trip- how much and where was up to the wind.

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First camp at Wildcat

In addition to the great white water and instructional opportunities the Rogue presents, we were all pretty curious about seeing the effects of the fire. From our first night’s camp at Wildcat we could see the smoke and occasional flames from the Howard Creek area a mile downstream.  Thankfully we had downstream wind and air at camp was clean with blue sky above.

Howard Creek, we were told, was where fire crews were putting in a fire line to form the eastern boundary of the fire. Just before we arrived in camp, in the flats above Tyee rapid, a large tanker helicopter dropped down to within feet of the water’s surface and began slurping up water.  It flew off in the direction of the Howard Creek drainage and returned to begin the process all over again.

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Day two started out smokey.

Day 2 dawned an eerie, heavy day. The clouds built as we packed up, obscuring the sun and holding the smoke in while the rain began to fall. We made our way past the most active part of the fire visible from the river.  It was the most bizarre scene, the trees were green and healthy while underneath, smoldering moss and grass occasionally gave rise to a small flareup. Rarely on the hillside we saw the glow from a burning tree trunk -surrounded by green trees!  We could see scorched areas where the fire had come down almost to the water’s edge.  It looked as if fingers of the fire had extended down the hill.  The worst area was around Horseshoe bend where a stretch of shoreline from Jenny Creek down to the point at Horseshoe had been scorched.  We learned later that was the result of a back burn that firemen set to prevent the fire from jumping the river.

As the cool, steady rain fell, all I could think about were the positive affects as it washed the smoke from the sky.  By the time we made it to camp at Mule Creek the air was clean and altho we set up tents, the skies cleared and the stars were bright.

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Nine year old Johnny kayaks near camp at Mule Creek.

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Super guide Katherine Luscher surveying her domain

Day 3 dawned clear and the Rogue was looking like it’s old self again.  We paddled Mule Creek Canyon and Blossom Bar under sunny skies, watched Johnny skip stones and talked him into his first session of bottom walking (picture big rock, calm pool, start walking, hold breath- oh and heavy parental supervision and approval) all before lunch.

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Clifford S. exiting Mule Creek Canyon under mostly blue skies.

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Nature’s cooler.

On the last night, after the evening’s festivities and dinner, people wandered off to bed, tired from another good day. Three of us remained, standing at the edge of camp looking up at the night’s sky.  Mostly we were silent, enjoying the beauty of the moment.

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The group from our August 21st Rogue trip

Adventure is defined as “outcome unknown”.  Thanks to all that joined us on this and the trip on the Deschutes this year.  We are grateful for your adventurous spirit and for placing your trust in us and the fantastic crew we work with from Rogue River Journeys.  Together we all made some great memories.

Photos and content ©DeRiemer Adventure Kayaking all rights reserved.

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Hot Lemonade And The Rogue Less Traveled

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Deschutes River, Oregon

When fires ignited by lightning began to burn in the Rogue River corridor on July 26th we held our breaths to see what would happen next and how that might affect our August trips.  The Rogue is a beautifully forested river that hasn’t seen a major fire in many years.  It had been spared from being involved in the 500,000 acre Biscuit Fire complex back in 2002 when that fire stopped just shy of the southern boundary of the river’s view shed along Bear Camp Road. This time the fire had started within the corridor and the potential for a big burn seemed high.

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I wish it were this simple. Fires were a big factor on many rivers in the west this year.

On July 31st the BLM closed the Wild and Scenic portion of the river from the put in at Grave Creek to Marial, just above Mule Creek Canyon.  In some cases the fire had burned very close to the river and, remarkably, it had been solely limited to the south (river left) side. We had to cancel our August 7th trip.

We then turned our attention to our August 14 and 21st dates. Brainstorming with our outfitter, Jim Ritter of Rogue River Journeys, we decided to move the next trip to the Deschutes in Northeastern Oregon, just north of Bend. The Deschutes fit a number of criteria in terms of length of run, difficulty and a location that wasn’t ridiculously far from people’s original travel plans.  Most of all, it wasn’t on fire.

Making the switch wasn’t without its challenges and rewarding moments.  I love the boating community and the way the outfitters support each other, kinda like living in a small town where everyone is willing to pitch in and help. We activated the boating network and reconnected with friends we hadn’t talked with in a long time. Fellow kayak instructors, raft company owners and private boaters all helped us gather info about the run before we ever paddled it.

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Mary and our vehicle’s solar powered BPS (Buddhist Positioning System) otherwise know as a prayer wheel.

Since this would be our first time down the Deschutes and wanting to provide the best trip possible, Mary and I headed to the north with enough time to get in a quick two-day paddle of the 52 mile stretch from Warm Springs to Sandy Beach before our August 14th launch. The experience was greatly aided with the help of Brian Sykes and his guides at Ouzel Rafting who let us paddle along on an overnight trip and pick the brains of the guides about camps and the like.

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Bucksin Mary putting the hammer down on a 32 mile scouting day.

RRJ guides Katherine, Saylor, Ross and Esa showed up late the night before the launch, weary from the travel but excited about a new adventure and all of us being together again on the water.  The next morning we rigged and talk more with Tim, an Ouzel guide with great knowledge who guided with our trip. Jim Ritter, RRJ manager extraordinaire and our kayak guests arrived in time for lunch after a scenic drive from Medford along the upper reaches of the Rogue. Then we hit the water.

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First night’s camp.

What I  saw during the trip was the coming together of a great group of folks; guides who were motivated to run the best trip possible and guests who wanted to spend multiple days on the river while having a good time, learning new skills and improving existing ones.  The Deschutes did not disappoint.  The last day of our run was a nice climax to the trip, full of great rapids.

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Classroom with a view. Mary leads a “chalk talk” about strategies before leaving camp day 2.

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Super guides that know how to keep it fun while providing a great trip.

The most common comment we got from folks as we said good bye? “See you on the Rogue next year”.

Photos and content ©DeRiemer Adventure Kayaking all rights reserved.

Middle Fork Salmon July 3 – 8, 2013

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A glance over the bank at Boundary Creek put in revealed some color in the water after a night’s heavy rain.

A gully washer upstream of the Middle Fork’s put in of Boundary Creek the night before our launch didn’t bring the river up, but it did wash a lot of ash from an old forest fire into the river.  The unusual silt in the river made it a challenge to read the water where shallow rocks lurked invisibly just under the surface.

With the challenges of those first 12 miles behind us, we settled into camp at Sheepeater Hot Springs. With a walk of about 300 yards from the kitchen, you can bet there was a hole lot of soaking going on! Nothing better than waking up in the hot springs with a cup of hot coffee in hand!

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Evening color at Sheepeater camp at the end of the day.

Day two was the fourth of July and we were bound for Marble Camp. The river was still turbid but more channelized so it was easier to navigate. This stretch provides a good warm up leading down to Pistol Creek, the key rapid of the day.  From there the rapids ease and it is a nice paddle to camp.

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Sweep boat driver and game master Zack B. ready for the fourth of July.

Marble is home to one of the finest surf waves on the river. It’s nice to camp there because if you don’t have the energy to surf at the end of the day, there is always the next morning.  We don’t always luck out and get Marble camp, but when we do, we make the most of it.

The wave at Marble is, for many, their first high speed surf.  Once established on the wave you feel as if the water is racing by at 60 mph.  The challenge is getting on the wave. While there is a great eddy on river left  to stage from, it is unforgiving if you are unable to scramble back into the eddy before you get washed downstream.  Once below the wave it’s either a tricky ferry from the opposite side of the river, a carry back up above the wave or, if the level is right, a human rope tow whereby someone stands in the water and pulls people past a surge of water that guards the eddy. The water level was right and with one of us positioned on a submerged rock in the eddy itself, we were able to push people onto the wave if they needed an assist. Between a session in the evening and another long one the next morning, everyone was giving it a go, including a 72 year old Henry. What a surf!!

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Normally guiding one of the rafts, Anika borrowed some gear and showed us how it was done.

Rather than give a blow-by-blow account of the trip, I’ll let these photos tell the rest of the story.  Lets just say this group was into having a good time, from playing and learning on the river to hoola-hooping in camp, we all had a lot of fun.  Special thanks to the crew at ECHO who provided great support; Anika, Zack, Tessa, Colleen and Dewi plus Chris Lewis, our third kayak guide. Great fun everyone!

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One big happy group on the Middle Fork.

Photos and content ©DeRiemer Adventure Kayaking all rights reserved.

Finally, A Trip Down The Selway River

Chances are you have a bucket list of rivers you would love to do some day.  On our list has always been the Selway River in Idaho, one of the original rivers included into the wild and scenic river system back in 1968. The permitted section is forty-five miles long, is located in the rugged Selway-Bitteroot wilderness in Idaho and boasts a healthy forest of Red Cedar and Douglas Fir.  The forest service only allows one launch a day which makes these permits hard to get, combine this with a short window of runnable flows and you can see why it might take a while to get on it.

We had been invited before, more than once, but for one reason or another it never worked out, until this year.  Our good friend Dave S. pulled the permit and put together a fun group of folks from across the country. The launch date in mid- June meant it would fit perfectly before our annual Middle Fork Salmon trips. We were 16 people in five rafts and five kayaks on  what seemed to be a user friendly flow of between 5,000-6,000 cfs (gauge at Lowell below take out). While we never really added it up, the combined years of river experience were probably close to 1,000 (o.k., I exaggerate, but it was a lot). The poor folks who were on their first multi-day trip had to endure a lot of year’s worth of river stories. For the five days we were on the water, we saw no other groups floating the river and we felt like we had the place to ourselves.

Clear skies and sunshine were with us for the first three days, then the sun gave way to clouds and rain for the remainder of the trip- it didn’t seem to matter, we were prepared and having an outstanding time! We hope to be back but I’d prefer not to wait another 30 years to make it happen.

If it’s not there already, put the Selway on your list.

A little aside:  Along with us on the trip were Kevin Lewis of Idaho Rivers United and Dave Steindorf of American Whitewater. We learned a lot from these two about the challenges our country’s rivers and their ecosystems face. Please click on the links, learn about the important work these organizations do and please support them.

Idaho Rivers United

American Whitwater

Click photos for larger view.

Photos and content ©DeRiemer Adventure Kayaking all rights reserved.