7-27-2013 Oregon Rivers with Jan D and friends
Please note that there are two trip reports in this post, mine and Jan’s. Her report has more details about the rivers and boating and mine is more about what us landlubbers did after the boaters drifted downstream. Hers is short and mine is long. May you enjoy them both.
There are some links included to the photographs taken on the McKenzie and I have a Powerpoint presentation of the trip, but I can’t figure out how to run it properly on this WordPress format. If you want a copy I can email it to you via: firstname.lastname@example.org
Many trips start with a plan and this trip to Oregon started with the plan to camp Saturday and Sunday nights at Almeda campground on the Rogue River, about 20 miles west of Merlin which is just a little bit north of Grants Pass. Almeda is near the end of the Class II section of the Rogue, a favorite area for rafters and outfitters and jet boats.
Jan and those who arrived early Saturday morning paddled a section of the Rogue and had fun, but the atmosphere was smoky and worrisome. As the day progressed the smoke got heavier and by the time Charlie and I arrived at camp, around 4PM the sky was dark brown, the sun a blood red glowing spot shining through the pines and there was a fine sifting of ash starting to cover everything.
Don and Karen arrived to keep us company and we paced around the two reserved campsites unwilling to risk setting up our tents because the smoke was getting thicker and we didn’t know what Jan was going to do about it.
You see, Jan has a fire jinx. She has been trip leader for so many trips that have been burned out that it’s not even fun to joke about it anymore. By the time the boaters started to arrive in camp she was saying, “I give up. I am not going to lead another trip.” Despite her dismay she took the reins in her hands and asked Charlie and I to rush to Whistler’s Bend (WB) campground, 100 miles north of Almeda and 15 miles east of Roseburg and see if we could capture enough campsites for 18 people and 10 cars (or so we thought, we didn’t really know how many people would be arriving at that point). She sent Eric F after us, but remained in the campground to sort everyone else out.
On the way, we saw smoke and fire about 1/2 mile from Hwy 5 and mile after mile we wondered if we were ever going to get to some fresh air. By the time we got to Roseburg the skies were clear but by morning we could see some puffy brown monsters climbing in the sky to the south. But for the two days we were at WB the air was warm and pure and the only smoke was either residue in our clothing or coming from a campfire near our kitchen.
As I write its Thursday August 8th and Oregon is still suffering from huge fires and more are expected from the lightning storms due later this week. What a mess!
Due to the sudden change in plans, things kept getting complicated. Dave and Debbie, who were scheduled to provide dinner for us, had to decamp at Almeda and didn’t want to travel for 2 hours then set up camp and fix dinner, so they reasonably opted to stay in a motel in Roseburg. As lead car to WB, Charlie and I were worried about getting a campsite so we skipped dinner and after we staked out enough sites for the group, ate the chips and dips and veggies we were planning on using for our appetizer later in the week. Jan, bless her heart, arrived with two Safeway roasted chickens and some coleslaw which went down very easily.
Those of us who camped at WB had the unexpected luxury of hot showers and enjoyed one of the most lovely campgrounds in Oregon. We have never actually planned on camping there but when plans have gone wrong it has served as a comforting refuge from the difficulties of life.
Jim M. had car trouble and while his boat made it to WB, he did not. His son, who lives in Portland (?), ended up retrieving it from us later.
We had a couple of newbies, New John and Cathy who managed to survive all the confusion and arrived in camp before bed time.
Dave and Debbie drove in from Roseburg to fix us breakfast and after clean up we drove upstream to the Glide put-in (just below Colliding Rivers). This section is a Class II with a Class III near the end.
If I remember the ratings correctly.
What I do remember is that the run starts out pretty flat and pretty pretty. The riverside is covered in ripe blackberries and posh homes and the river is filled with some very interesting flat rocks that create almost no disturbance in the water so that one suddenly finds oneself perched on one of these silent barriers. It is startling. There are other places where these low level rocks stick up a few inches above the surface and create an interesting maze. Then there are the rapids they create by channeling the river through unscoutable gaps. As we paddled downstream the river became more interesting and after passing under some powerlines we approached the Big Rapid above Whistler’s Bend.
I don’t know the name of the rapid, we always call it the Big Rapid Above Whistler’s Bend. It’s visible from the road into camp and makes enough noise to help you find it. It’s a horseshoe shaped rapid down a rocky slope, maybe a five foot drop. There are several options and our group took all of them. Way over On river left there is a chicken route that the Tandem boats opted for. The solos scouted from river right. They took so long that Karen and I were able to hike upstream from the bottom of the chicken route so we could watch all the solos finish scouting and pick their way down the drop. Jan went on the extreme right, Eric bounced down on the extreme left, Jake took a smooth line down the middle and Cathy flipped her IK going down the center. There was a little rooster-tail that caught her left tube just right and by the time she hit the hole at the bottom she was already atilt, and she went over. Jan was there with a rope so it was just another wet ride.
Well, maybe for the observers, perhaps Cathy had a differing opinion. She seemed to be OK with it.
Karen and I had risked broken ankles rushing across the boulders to the bottom of the drop and we decided it would be easier, faster and safer to jump into the river and let the current take us back to our boats. We held hands and jumped together and had a good laugh. I had left my PFD pocket open and Jake was so kind as to rescue my chapstick as he paddled by. The water was about the most perfect temperature possible and I didn’t even get chilled in the boat as we paddled the remaining 1/2 mile to the boat ramp.
Jumping into the river with Karen made me feel like the trip had fully recovered from the fires on the Rogue.
We were woken up at the crack of dawn by Charlie, who disturbed the morning peace by starting coffee. Cathy, not used to our ways, asked, “What’s with the early risers?”
The answer was, “USW.”
“Up Stream Winds.”
We had cleared camp by 9AM and were on the road to Dexter Dam for a quick Class I+ paddle to Jasper Park. Jan had given directions to the put-in multiple times so she thought things were covered, but at the last minute it turned out that Cathy and New John hadn’t been present during any of Jan’s expositions and they needed instructions. Seems that in their East Coast paddling community, everyone stayed together and caravanned from point A to point B. It just didn’t seem to be working out that way this time. Sorry about that, Chief. We made sure they could follow us as we turned off Hwy 5 onto Hwy 58.
Jan and the other vehicles were waiting for us at Parkway Road, the turn off to Jasper. Right after crossing the big green bridge we hung a right at the light and headed upstream on Hwy 222 to the put-in on river right just below Dexter Dam. The road sign for the river access was obscured by brush and we whizzed past only to make a five car U-Turn at the dam to make the 100 yds to the access road.
Jan kindly offered Charlie and I pole position, “so we could see the critters.”
In Soggy Sneakers, my ancient guide book for Oregon rivers, this run was listed as a Class II with strainers. I don’t like strainers. In fact I hate strainers, as anyone who has taken a canoe class should. Being lead boat on a river with strainers was more of an adventure than I liked and every time one of the huge white driftwood pile ups appeared downstream my stomach lurched. Not so much for myself, Charlie and I get around well enough to avoid hazards, but for those following us. I wasn’t sure of the skill level of some of the paddlers and so I stressed myself out by having visions of shredded IK’s tangled in the roots and branches of some giant Cottonwood corpse hung up on an eroding riverbank.
Aside from that it was a lovely run. At our lunch stop some horse riders appeared on the other shore and Ruth gave a sigh, she needs a bumper strip for her canoe that says, “My other boat is a horse.”
The river wound through wildflower filled meadows, then past ritzy homes with picture windows looking out over neatly tended gardens and the river. I guess that because the river is dammed, people think the flood plain is a safe place for multi-million dollar homes. But I wonder how much they pay for flood insurance and how often they take a trip to higher ground when the spring run-off gets out of hand. I just couldn’t live like that, never knowing when my home would get washed away. How much do you trust the Army Corps of Engineers and their dam building expertise 50 years ago?
Beautiful to look at though.
The river was pushy and there weren’t very many play spots and Charlie and I tend to motor downstream when we are lead boat so when we arrived at Jasper State Park, everyone took off to explore the park, check out the facilities, and play in the little waves and holes nearby. I fell asleep in the grass on the shore, holding our painter so Charlie could nap in the boat.
The take-out was under the green bridge I mentioned earlier.
After we ran the shuttle and loaded the cars we started to scatter again. Charlie and I accidentally took the correct route because we missed the branching off of 222 to Springfield which we would have taken if we had noticed it soon enough. Others weren’t so lucky and drove around Springfield looking for the Albertson’s where they were supposed to take a right onto Main St/Hwy 126/McKenzie Highway. It looked so obvious on the map.
Paradise campground presented its own problems. It is beautiful but if you are looking for a campsite with parking you have no tent space and if you want tent space there is no parking. It took a while to get everyone settled. Our site had three tents and two cars. But Cathy and New John had to park in John A’s campsite. The kitchen campsite had room for the kitchen and Jan’s van and trailer. She put up their tents in John A’s space, too. He had 3 cars and four tents in his space.
In all this confusion, Jan made a delicious Dutch oven dinner and a berry cobbler made with berries Ruth and Jake had picked at the put-in.
Those that paddled ran a Class II+ section, Paradise to Rainbow, that put hair on my chest 20 years ago and I am still shaving it off. I just don’t have the chops for that stuff any more, so Don and Karen in their car and Charlie, Ruth and I in ours, took a drive up the McKenzie Highway to Hwy 242, up the McKenzie pass to the Dee Wright Observatory.
I have been to lava fields before and I am always amazed to see each distinct variation on the subject of hot stone coming out of the ground.
At McKenzie pass(see N 44.25971 W 121.80130) the lava flowed but it looks like there was a lot of gas in the stone because it looks like black Styrofoam chunks, some of which are the size of mountains. Everything is sharp, you do not want to fall down, not even in the parking lot of the Observatory.
The Observatory, built during the Depression (the really old one in the 30’s) by the Civilian Conservation Corps is worth the trip. It’s a stone tower built of the local lava and has port holes built into the walls that direct your eyes to specific views of the mountains in the Cascades. It took me a minute to figure out how to take pictures through them but eventually I figured out to use the zoom and I got some interesting pictures.
We wandered around the neighborhood of the Observatory for a few minutes, stretching our legs while marveling at the fierce, black rock that stretched for miles around. I really liked the places where the lava had flowed around older hills. The hill would be covered with brush and trees and surrounded by a totally barren flow of slag.
It was lunch time so we drove down the mountain to a little lake we had passed on the way up. It was very sweet – a classic dark blue mountain lake. The grassy edges gave way to flowering shrubs and everything surrounded by dark pine trees. We had a quiet lunch there. Don and Karen took the opportunity to trim all the burrs out of their dog, Snowy’s, fur. The trip had been so exciting for him that he passed out from exhaustion on the table and allowed all kinds of indignities.
After a lingering lunch we drove to the turn-out for Proxy Falls. The name conjured up a lot of speculation – we usually see the word Proxy applied to someone who votes for you in an election. We could not figure out how that could apply to a waterfall. Now that I am sitting at my computer I just HAVE to look it up. (Pause while I do a search) Nothing about the name – some pictures and some rave reviews. It’s pretty- it’s a waterfall after all.
The part I found outstandingly interesting was the Lower Proxy Falls. We hiked through trees laden with moss and lichen, the path was dry and dusty but the vegetation was temperate rain forest green. We get to the base of the falls and admire the greener moss growing on logs broken across the base of the falls and eventually it dawns on me that something is wrong. It doesn’t look right. I spin around on the path. There is no outlet for the water – it spins and splashes down the mountain side in glorious whiteness and then it is all soaking into the gravel at our feet. The pool never fills up except during high water. I am impressed. Never saw anything like it. I’ve seen springs but never the opposite of a spring – a soak.
We got back to Paradise after the boaters returned. They had a good day. I think the section they paddled was one I did 23 years ago with Wini H. It’s an 8 mile rock garden. Kept us awake! There was a part of me that was jealous but there was another part of me that was glad I didn’t scare myself by paddling out of my league.
Our second night in Paradise passed quietly. Ruth and I started playing Gin Rummy. It was loads of fun. I really enjoy winning at cards but I don’t like making people lose. I know that’s a contradiction to some but that’s the way I feel about it. If my partner wins it is just as much fun as if I had won. As Ruth warmed up to the game she got better and better and it wasn’t long before she and I were tied for wins. Perfect!
Up early and off to paddle the Finn Rock to Prince Helfrik via Marten’s Hole.
This is a classic run, a long float/paddle ending with two rapids the generate thrills and spills. Brown’s Hole ate one of our boats and Ruth, Charlie and I and Cathy skipped the excitement at Marten’s Rapid although the photos online make me feel a little bit like I saw the whole thing. At the time I was just as happy to head back to camp and take a walk. The USW drove some paddlers onto an early boat ramp but we drove up to pick them up and Jan got to run the rapid.
Thursday and Friday 8-1-13
A travel day. We packed up and were on the road by 9:30 AM. Charlie and I enjoyed the drive up 126 to 20 and then down 22 to Mill City and Fisherman’s Bend campground. There was a shortage of campsites, but we managed to snag a group site for the first night and got up early on Friday to get two we could keep for Friday night.
Fisherman’s Bend is the cleanest campground I have ever visited. When I was running shuttle on Friday there was a guy in the boat ramp area with a gas powered leaf blower blowing a tiny pile of pine needles before him. He did glare at me a bit as I drove past but that could have been just a grimace of pain from the noise the blower was making.
It has hot showers and lots and lots of people. I would spend my summers there if I lived in Oregon.
Friday, the boaters boated and Ruth, Charlie and I drifted down the highway to the North Fork County Park. There we stumbled upon Chuck who was taking a nap with Yukon. We dognapped Yukon and left Chuck to his ZZZZ’s and wandered down to the swimming hole. A sweet place and very quiet due to the slight drizzle that had been hanging around. We saw only two people there besides Chuck.
It was going to take us more than 10 hours to get home so Charlie and I left early Saturday morning and instead of driving through the smoke along Hwy 5 we cut across the mountains to Bend where we ate our lunch in the parking lot of the High Desert Museum but didn’t want to take the time to visit it again. We spent the rest of the day on 97 to Klamath Falls, arriving around 3PM. We checked the first motel that we came to and it was full. We didn’t expect much seeing as it was Saturday afternoon on a main highway, but the clerk at the front desk forwarded us to a place called a Microtel. We got a room and it was clean and that was all we cared about. It didn’t matter that it was only slightly larger than the queen sized bed we shared. We napped for a few hours and then soaked in the tub and went out to dinner as the sun was going down at “Reds” a BBQ joint. Food was OK and not terribly expensive. Then instead of watching TV in our closet/room, we drove around town. There was a Hula contest in the park and we were attacked by a million flying insects near the top of the local mountain. It was way more fun than watching the news broadcasts of the fires tearing through the forests to the west.
Sunday we drove south into the smoke from the fires. Mt. Shasta looked exactly like it was floating in space, 50 miles above the plain. Then through Weed to Mt Shasta City and breakfast burritos. We arrived home about an hour before our book on CD ended.
POST Trip report
Oregon Rivers 2013 by Jan Dooley
POST paddlers spent 8 days in Oregon and paddled 8 runs on 6 rivers. The leader Jan Dooley was lucky in choosing rivers that the drought touched lightly. However, she continues to be cursed by fires on her trips. We paddled the first day on the Rogue River. A lightening storm came through the night before and started several dozen fires that created a lot of smoke. We gathered at the Hog Creek put in on Saturday, July 27 at 11 AM. The Rogue was flowing at 1425 cfs at Grants Pass. This was about 15% lower than normal. The smoke was tolerable at the put-in. During shuttle, we noted the absence of smoke at the take out. We finished the run at Ennis Riffle with an option to continue through the class II+ rapids to Galice. Upper Galice rapid became more challenging at the low flow while the lower rapid became easier. By the time we reached the campsite at Almeda campground, it was raining ash and headlights were required. We decided to abandon our campsites and relocate to the North Umpqua River.
Some confusion occurred with the sudden change in venue. Kit Hewitt and Charlie Wright sped off to secure us campsites at a favorite campground named Whistlers Bend. Eric Forsman quickly followed them without even knowing where he was going. Unfortunately, he had Jim Malcolm’s kayak on his truck. We had no way to inform Jim about the change since he had no cell phone and camped independently. His son eventually made contact with us and picked up the boat later in the week. The LaDue family, Dave, Debbi and Peter, had spent the previous night at Almeda. Their tent was a palace, but difficult to pitch and take down. They and new members John Dickey and Kathy Streletzky opted to spend the night in a hotel in nearby Roseburg. Don and Karen Jarrell, plus the Verhaegh-Dooleys found their way to Whistlers Bend. Jan brought along a hot, store-bought dinner since we all rushed off without meal arrangements. The smoke remained horrible until we reached the Umpqua watershed. You could see fires near the highway spewing smoke. Whistlers Bend is a lovely county campground with hot showers, a beautiful setting and campsites available late on a summer Saturday evening. Poor John Atkinson wondered around Sunday night trying to find us. Intelligently, he caught up with us on Monday.
On Sunday, we paddled from Colliding Rivers to Whistlers Bend. This is a class II(III) run. The flow registered 925 cfs at Winchester. This was below the runable cut-off flow 0f 1000. We found no trouble with the low flow. The river braids with multiple channels separated by brush growing on igneous rock islands. The challenge lies mostly in finding a route. Jake Verhaegh nimbly stood up and down in his canoe to scout. I wish I had young knees again. The river was very clear with several Class II rapids. A few rapids rated class II+ because the river constrictions between islands created large waves. The class III rapid named Whistlers Bend had two channels. The tandems and less confident paddlers chose the left channel which was class I. This channel seemed to be larger than last year even with the drought. The right route contained the class III rapid. Jan had scouted it from the campground from the far side and 100 yards up the cliff. She led down the route she thought looked likeliest. Fortunately, a scouting location was found. A straight forward class II route was available on far river right which Jan ran. Jake, John and Kathy chose the class III route down the center. John showed obvious comfort picking his route and nailed a beautiful line. Kathy in her inflatable kayak hit a few rocks and flipped at the bottom in the strong cross currents. Jan made an easy rescue rope throw and Kathy landed safely. Jake hesitated on his approach, but eventually found the tongue and ran clean. Eric decided his route looked bad and scooted to shore to take a second look. He eventually ran his original route down the left side of the rapid, which was shallower than he liked.
Monday saw us moving camp to the McKenzie River. Along the way, everyone paddled the Willamette River from Dexter Dam to Jasper. This beautiful class I+ section makes a great warm-up run that we used to help beginning paddlers expand their skills. Soggy Sneakers warned that the run needs class II paddling skills because of strainers. With Ruth Verhaegh and Peter LaDue along, this warning became obvious. Fortunately, they both recognized the dangers and stayed clear of them. We made camp that evening at Paradise campground. Thanks to a hard working kitchen crew, dinner and dishes were done by dusk. Paradise is another wonderful Oregon campground with large trees and extensive undergrowth. If you stay at campsites 53 or 19, you have an eddy to play in at your site. All the riverside campsites are splendid.
Tuesday saw many paddlers taking a rest day after the long travel day. The more skilled, solo paddlers (Eric, Jake, Jan, John and John) wanted to get on the water, so we paddled the Paradise to Rainbow run. This run consists of continuous class II to II+ in the upper section. We had relatively low flows at 2100 cfs at Vida, which made the section above McKenzie Bridge easier than usual, and the lower section harder. Since we typically paddle pool-drop rivers, it’s fun to try something different. We discovered that stopping to play on waves and in eddies rarely happened in the continuous action. Dancing with waves for miles became the goal. Few forward strokes were needed. Instead you moved laterally a lot to line up your momentum. A commercial photographer captured our run at Desserts (McKenzie Bridge campground), which might have been the hardest drop on the run. Check it out at West Coast Action Photos, July 30, 2013, Canoes, IK and Rafts.
Wednesday, we ran the most famous run on the McKenzie, Finn Rock to Prince Helfrick. The flow remained 2100 cfs. The run had a nice rhythm to it and supplied numerous play spots. Eric F and John D especially enjoyed playing. One side surfing wave flipped Eric. Brown’s Hole had a narrow, shallow chute to avoid the hole. It tried to suck you into the hole and Dave swam. The weather turned and became cloudy, humid and windy. Kathy in the IK and Ruth took out at Rennie. Jan joined Ruth, but Kit drove the shuttle car at Ben and Dorris Kay take-out back for her so she could paddle Marten rapid. Several paddlers scouted the rapid while waiting. They each decided to take a different route. John A and Eric found a sneak route down the right side. John hit a rock above the hole and swam. His canoe bashed his face as he held onto it for extra buoyancy through the hole. Jake chose the usual entrance, but ran the chute on the right side and missed most of the large waves. Jan ran the rest of the group down the usual route just right of the large rock in the center. Jan unintentionally went into the largest hole sideways and sidesurfed on her offside. She climbed out of the boat, but it kept surfing without her. Don and Karen ran their tandem through without trouble. Dave did well and caught 2 eddies. West Coast Action Photos also captured this action on July 31, 2013, in Canoes @ Marten Rapid.
Sprinkles dampened our spirits Wednesday evening through Thursday. It dried up enough to make breaking camp not unpleasant Thursday morning. The coldness discouraged everyone from paddling except Eric and John A. They went to the South Santiam for a short run below Foster Dam. Jan recommended a fun, ledgy, S turn that could be run multiple times. Unfortunately, the paddlers never found it. We suspect the low flow changed it. We camped on the North Santiam river at Fishermen’s Bend Thursday and Friday evenings. Unfortunately, we could not reserve enough camp sites for the group and none were available. The pleasant staff at the campground figured out an alternative, but half the group had to move camp on Friday. Eric and Joann Olson plus their daughter Rebecca joined us and John D and Kathy left us.
The Packsaddle to Fishermen’s Bend run made for many happy paddlers on Friday. Don and Karen, Jan, Jake, Eric F, Eric Olson, John A, and Dave put on in sunshine at a flow of 1500 cfs. It’s been several years since we paddled this run but we remembered as a blast. It has numerous class II+ rapids that provided on-going challenge. It’s a pool-drop run with short pools. Spencer’s Hole was a class III with a class II canoe sneak route down river left. Eric F and Jake decided to run left of the hole in the main chute and made it look easy. Everyone else took the sneak route without any drama. The action slows a bit after Spencer’s, which allowed us to chat and play a bit as we paddled. We skipped Carnivore, a class III rapid in a shallow side channel. The run ends with another class III called Mill City Falls. We scouted the falls during the shuttle, but there were no obvious landmarks. Don and Karen boat scouted it and reconfirmed the location of the preferred chute. They circled back upstream to lead everyone else through it. We decided to take out at Fishermen’s Bend to avoid the steep take out in Mill City.
Saturday, The Olsons, Jake, Ruth and Jan ran the Fishermen’s Bend to Mehama run. This is one of my favorite class II runs. The water is so clear the river appears black. The rapids each have their own twists to challenge but not overwhelm class II paddlers. The banks have lovely vegetation and the rocks are very interesting in places. Ruth continued to show her improved skills and even surfed a bit. Jake caught a powerful side-surfing hole near the bottom and almost went over. Not much trips up those kids (ages 15 and 12) any more.
I have greatly enjoyed leading week long trips for the past several years with POST. The supportive nature of the group makes the hard work worthwhile. I especially appreciate everyone’s willingness to support my children’s developing skills and the aging paddlers deteriorating skills. I tell my non-paddling friends that I have a river family in POST who may know me better than my blood family. Spending 24 hours a day together over several days with close quarters and stressful situations forms a bond that is rare in modern civilization.
This year, it was a treat to get to know John Dickey and Kathy Streletzky. Kathy wrote a book called River Run about her adventures as a class V kayaker.
This is my last long term trip to organize for a while. If you want this type of trip, please lead one. I am happy to provide advice and I look forward to joining it.