Trinity River Canoe Camping September 28-29, 2013

Trinity River, Steel Bridge Campground to Junction City
approx 20 miles
450 cfs at Lewiston Dam
Trip leader: Eric R.

There was a certain amount of kerfuffle because Eric’s email wasn’t working. Somehow his return address was misspelled so he could send out email but couldn’t get the replies. Also people’s address books were using the incorrect address so emails that they sent to him also didn’t arrive. The end result was Eric did his best with that ancient weapon: The Telephone.

With that thought in mind I want to thank the inventor of email for creating such a wonderful tool. When it works, it is a fabulous way of organizing a trip. I think the part I like best is that if “reply all” is used people can keep abreast of changes to the plan. If someone asks for something the person who has it can pipe up and ta da! it arrives at the put in. Without email the trip leader was in the position of having to call everyone to find the desired something and when he finds it he has no simple way to stop the others from continuing to look for it.

Anyhow, the gist of this intro is that we missed being able to fully communicate with each other, but made do with old technology.

Charlie and I decided that getting up at 3am and driving up to Steel Bridge campground was preferable to arriving there at midnight on Friday, so we arrived at the put-in at around 9am. Boats were being loaded but we were able to catch up pretty quickly because we didn’t have to pack our drybags.
Shuttle happened at 9:45ish.

We were; Don and Karen, Vince and Shauna, Kit and Charlie, Eric and Joann O., Roy and Sally, Kate and Alan, Eric R. (solo in a tandem canoe) Jan L. (solo IK), and another tandem???

We had a cursory circle before setting off, we all knew each other and skipped the introductions. The weather was changeable with people stopping to put on and then a few minutes later to take off sweaters and jackets, then a few minutes later putting them back on. Those in drysuits stewed then chilled then stewed again. At 1pm we stopped for lunch at the new river access at Indian Creek. This is the point at which real trip bonding took place for Charlie and I. We chatted and chewed and caught up with people’s lives.

I forgot to mention we had 3 dogs on the trip, Pepper, Snowy and Tegwin. They managed to get along OK. There was some overzealous stick chasing by Tegwin and Pepper wanted to make especially sure that Eric was well protected so they spent most of the trip surrounded by a wide circle of empty air. Snowy wasn’t feeling very chipper so he just made sure that Don and Karen, in the lead boat, didn’t miss any birds that happened to be tripping on the water.

After my 10th or 15th time, I am finally starting to remember this stretch of river well enough to know that after the Douglas City campground (they now have flush toilets and hot showers right near the river) the river gets a little exciting with several Class II drops. This year no-one flipped but I enjoyed remembering memorable flips from previous trips. The channel where a couple semi-wrapped their canoe on a mid-stream stump has filled with gravel except where a steep chute plunges right onto the stump. the chute is so narrow no one even thought about using it. The spot where another couple flipped due to indecision about which side of a rock to take was passed without danger, although I was startled by the number of rocks we could have sideswiped but managed to miss. Remembering those accidents was about as exciting as the day got.

By the time we arrived at the flat where we camp we were tired. There were a few gusts of wind that delayed setting up our tents but nothing serious.

Appetizers were on the blue tables almost before the kitchen was set up and I gave brief lesson on how to set up the groover in the bushes downstream of camp. Kate and Alan provided dinner, 2 pots of delicious soup, bread and butter and veggies. Brownies for dessert. Rain was expected so the evenings entertainment was putting up two tarps over the kitchen and chair circle. Then, I kid you not, it was cool enough that people were in their tents just as soon as it got dark enough to pretend they might go to sleep. Several of the tents still glowed like paper lanterns when I got up at midnight.

The weather reports said, 30% chance of rain Saturday night and 70% chance on Sunday. Sometime after midnight I was woken by the gentle patter of rain on the tent but I wasn’t sufficiently disturbed to remember to close the vents on my rain fly so by the time I woke up fully in the morning I had a wet blotch on my sleeping bag and a puddle on my mattress. I was only mildly annoyed, though, we would be off the river and home around dark. the wet gear wasn’t going to be a problem. If I had been on a multi-day overnighter I would have been angry at myself. But thinking about that I would like to think I would have actually remembered to close the fly if I was in any real danger of suffering from a wet sleeping bag.

It continued to rain while Joann made sausage and eggs and blueberry pancakes. To me, everyone seemed cheerful and warm although the dogs were looking a little worn out and soggy. Cleanup was fast and easy, the gear was packed and we were off the beach at 9:45. It was still raining, but it wasn’t very cold or (god forbid) windy. Conversation usually started with comments about how wet we were but quickly switched to how lovely the river was and how we loved the mist drifting through the trees on the ridges and how the colors of the rocks were polished by the rain. I saw a rock that did a perfect black and white imitation of Neapolitan ice cream, big fat stripes of black, then grey and then white. I wanted to take it home but the boat was feeling heavy and I put the rock back amongst its colorful family. Sometimes playing catch and release with river rock is difficult.

We stopped for lunch under the Junction City bridge. Don provided a rice and bean and veggie filled burrito dish and Lays version of Pringles, tubed potato crunchies. The remains of the brownies from dinner were distributed and we paddled the remaining ½ hour to the beach where the cars were waiting for us.

The only accident of note happened at the take-out. I was staggering around on the slippery rocks pulling something out of my canoe when a rock I was standing on slipped out from under me. I fell like a giant sequoia flat on my back in about six inches of water. I heard my back popping like a pot of popcorn and yelled and cursed and made a fuss. Roy and Sally were standing next to me when I went down and they gently helped me out of the water. I apologized for the swearing and was pardoned by Sally with the comment, “Sometimes swearing is appropriate.”

When I looked at the spot where I landed I was amazed I didn’t really hurt myself. My head could have whacked against a nearby unsubmerged rock, the rock I did land on, hit me on my back right where my PFD padded the blow. It was just a bad chiropractic adjustment instead of a trip to the ER. I am so lucky sometimes. I popped two naproxen, just in case.

Some minor details of the end-shuttle were worked out and Charlie and I were on the road home by 3:45. Since POST sold the van everyone is in a separate vehicle and no one thought to organize a dinner stop. We passed and were passed by canoe carrying vehicles but we all drive at differing speeds and a dinner stop never congealed. The good news is that CW and I got to listen to a book-on-tape of a Carl Hiassen novel, “Star Island.” The driver sometimes had to fill the passenger in on the parts slept through. That isn’t to say it was boring, it just we were very tired, it’s a long drive, 550 miles in two days, with a canoe camping trip sandwiched in. As we sat in Pietro’s #2 in Vacaville, Charlie said, “that trip is just about the level of difficulty I like to do.”

I added, “As I get older I am more attracted to long canoe-camping trips like the Smith in Montana than to higher rated rivers.”

“Yes. This was perfect.”

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