Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rogue River - President's Day Weekend 2009

I joined 48 other paddlers (rafters and kayakers) for a President's Day trip down the Rogue. Flows were a fun and juicy 3210 CFS - 3440 CFS for the weekend and the weather was pretty fair. Shell was gracious enough to let her husband be absent over Valentine's Day, so I could experience this trip... just another reason why I love her and am lucky to have her as my wife.

So, for those of you unfamiliar with the Rogue, the Wild and Scenic Section (Grave Creek to Foster Bar) is a great combo of Class II, III and IV water and has some of the most spectacular scenary I've ever seen.

The first day starts out at the Grave Creek Put-In and paddlers are immediately met by Grave Creek Rapid, which is an eye opening set of 2 Class III rapids with lots of stuff going on, stark eddy lines and big boils. Within the first mile, paddlers come upon Rainie Falls, which definitely requires a scout, if for no other reason to just look at this monster. (You can get out on river left and walk right up to the lip to look at lines.) Now, I've seen this drop in pictures at flows around 1400 CFS and it looked "good to go", but on this particular day, the 3+ foot drop off of the rooster tail rock led into a messy recirculating hydralic, which combined with a 4 foot boil coming off the left wall, made me just stare in awe at this beautiful work of Mother Nature. (Quite honestly, it scared the beejezus out of me and it took me about 1 minute to decide to seek a different line.) There are several chutes that looked good and one cat and a hard shell (Well done Erik!) ran them with success. However, with only a mile under my belt and still feeling a bit groggy, I opted for the Fish Ladder, which was a lot of fun at this flow. The rest of the way down on the first day, we hit Tyee, Wild Cat, Slim Pickins, and the Black Bar twins (Upper and Lower), all of which provided some great Class III paddling amidst stunning scenary.

Saturday night we camped at Horseshoe Bend, which is a great spot. It rained a bit the first night, but we had a great dinner of Beef Stroganoff, several bonfires and some liquid warmth to keep the mid-thirty degree temps at bay.

On Sunday, we did 18 miles, starting out with Quiz Show, Kelsey Falls and numerous other Class II rapids. The water was moving pretty quick and the sun was shining, so life was good. We stopped at the Zane Grey cabin, which was cool and provided a nice break. It was a great break and it amazed us all that, though it was only February, it smelled and felt like a spring day. After this brief respite, we got to the meat of the day... Mule Creek Canyon, Blossom Bar and Devil's Staircase.

Mule Creek Canyon is about a mile long and as narrow as 2 boat lengths in spots. Into this canyon flows the entire Rogure River, so you can imagine the type of hydralics and boils you experience. All I can say is that it was INTENSE. You start out with some great Class III rapids at the Jaws, where paddlers stay left to avoid a nasty little slot. From there, we moved to the center of the river and dug in, essentially boil hopping our way down, trying to avoid the huge eddylines and whirlpools that form out of nowhere. Coffee Pot, the last significant spot in Mule Creek Canyon was more like a huge Espresso machine on steroids, but we all dug through it with success. I was mentally spent by the time we reached the Lunch Eddy at the bottom of the canyon, but I was whooping, hollering and laughing too much to notice. We stopped at Stair Creek Falls, which is awesome, and moved towards Bloomom Bar. On the way, we came upon a River Otter that was inclined to pose for the camera and allowed Erik and I to get within 4 feet of him. After he'd had his fill of us, he jumped back into the river and swam along side us for about 50 yards... a very cool experience.

Next up was Blossom Bar Rapid, which is classified as a Class IV and for good reason. This one has it all... crux moves, big water and a stout boulder garden. We grabbed the eddy on river left and talked about lines: The crux move at the top is the most important, as it avoids the dreaded "Picket Fence". I'd been studying the great diagram in Matt Leidecker's book and felt pretty confident I could do it as soon as I saw the entry slot. My buddy Erik ran first and signaled with a head tap about 1/4 of the way down. I dug in and headed for the slot to get in behind the Goal Post Rock, nailed it and did a great airplane turn around the hole and down the green tongue... I slowed down in a small eddy just long enough to see the rest of my line... I grabbed some current and read and ran the rest of the rapid, going right of the Volkswagen Rock and hitting an eddy on river right to wait for my other friends and provide safety. Everyone made it with style and we stopped to grab some lunch above Devil's Staircase.

Now, as a general rule, I don't like to take long breaks during any sort of sport, especially when I'm feeling "in the groove" and I've got a Class III/III+ staring me in the face. However, we were all pretty hungry and 30 minutes later, with an overly full stomach, I peeled out into this little monster. All I can say is that I took what can only be described as the worst line in the annals of kayaking history, got barrel rolled by a curler, typewritered into the river right wall and, 4 roll attempts later and still bouncing off the wall, pulled my skirt... ARGH! Luckily, I grabbed and eddy and got back to my boat with the assistance of my buddy Brandon. Apparently, Lucifer thought I was a little too cocky today and thought he'd let me know his thoughts... thanks Dark One! We finished the rest of the float down to Tacoma Bar and, as the meal team for Sunday night, the kayakers prepared a feast of penne pasta with meat and veggie sauce, salad and bread. The weather was warm, the compay outstanding and we all sat around the campfire till 11 before drifting back to our respective tents for a well deserved rest.

The last day was an easy 6 mile float down to Foster Bar and a grueling 8 hour drive home.
This trip was my first self support and it was a great experience and I'm looking forward to a return trip to this magical place. Below you will find a few pictures from the trip, but the gallery (photos courtesy of Jim Funk, Dick Sisson and Erik Stoermer) can be found by following this link:

Getting Ready at the Put In

Scouting Rainie Falls

Morning on The Rogue

Blossom Bar Rapid (the crux move is right at the top, behind the large rock to the bottom left of the raft)

Looking back upstream from the take out at Foster Bar

Until next time, enjoy the pictures and remember... right out side your door is a magical land... get on out there and enjoy it!

See you on the river!


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