Trip Report: Rogue River - Sept 2019, flow unknown
Equinox on the Wild & Scenic Rogue River
Submitted by Michele Gila
On Wednesday Sep. 18th, we leave Portland and drive to Almeda where The Wonder Twins (aka Cathy & Don) have spent the day rigging their boats. Most of the drive is in dumping rain and Mark and I laugh regularly, imaging them getting soaked with each downpour we encounter. We spend the whole drive with me at the wheel and Mark on his iPad and iPhone negotiating a contract for our clients, going Sale Pending just as we took the Wolf Creek Rd. exit. We decided to take the scenic one lane road over the mountain and come out at the Grave Creek Bridge. Shortly after arriving at Almeda, EmRo makes her way to camp, coming in from Olympia. As an added bonus, my cousin Taira shows up. She has recently moved to Grants Pass from CA. We hadn't seen each other in about 30 years, though we've kept in touch pretty regularly. We enjoyed sak & avocado rolls & nuts for dinner. Shortly after dark, our 6th crew mate Scott Harvey aka Riverbear, rolls in and though we have a fire going for a while, the rain finally extinguishes it and we all retreat to our dry beds for a good night's sleep.
Thursday Sep 19th Launch Day. Cathy & Don rise early and head to Smullin Center for the 7 am check in. Got the groover - were good to go. We each receive new maps. Which of course have a different calculation for RM, making communication on the river a little challenging until we all get on the same page, so to say. We chit-chat a bit with Class Five Dave while he waits for his custies in from Hawaii. For fun, we rename him Riffle Dave. He was a good sport about that. Our plan for today is to make it to Little Windy for a nice layover. Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny. Five of us wrestle our way through Fish Ladder at Rainey, though Mark buries his raft in the middle chute. I missed that moment as I battled rocks river right. All make it through unscathed.
Well distractions happen and two of our crew (who shall go unnamed) cruise right by Little Windy. Meaning, we push on. Luckily there are two really cute river otter playing hide & seek with us in the eddy and tensions turn to laughter. We make our way to Upper Horseshoe Bend and eddy out to hike over to the camp to see if it's available. Score! All boats tuck in, we take our time in the sunshine to unload and set up camp. Today I counted a total of 12 turtles basking in the sun. And we all agree, this is a way better camp for layover. Luck looks odd at first, sometimes.
Oh ya, this will be our first trip where the whole crew agrees to eat vegan & gluten free meals, as a means of being inclusive. I was determined this was possible and because of the nature of celiac disease and because I love my EmRo so much, we went to great lengths to be sure we kept her safe the whole trip. And to do so, and partly because Im a control freak, and mostly because I love to cook riverside for people I cherish, I take on the position of crew chef. So this trip report is told through the experience of dining together out of one kitchen safe for it's entire crew. Up until first dinner, which is tonight, we've all been on our own for food. The basic gist is everyone makes their own lunches and keeps that food & dishes separate from the main kitchen. And if you're my meal helper, you also cannot have beer (gluten) in the kitchen. We have a few other rules, like you gotta rock a cute apron, and river water for dish cleaning Must Get Boiled, we dont use bleach. Other than that, it's a pretty kick back set up. And because it's all vegan & GF, we have no other risk of contamination from basic human acts like double-dipping in the guacamole.
Appetizer: beet & rice crackers with homemade Boirsin-style cheese. Dinner: homemade corn & wild mushroom chowder; tomato & feta & shredded kale salad with creamy cilantro dressing; homemade bread & pesto. Dessert: homemade zucchini bread with chocolate chips & toasted hazelnut crust.
Friday Sep 20th - Layover Daya! No one is in a big hurry to get up. Except maybe *that guy* who forgot his sleeping bag. The river has been quiet and there is fog in the tree-tops. Don & Cathy put together a new coffee system so they are up brewing and I get to linger in bed, not having that task to tend. Which I consider a huge luxury. But Im a morning person and I'm pretty excited to get breakfast going. So I rise & shine & head down to the river's edge where we set up the kitchen. Breakfast: white bean, lions mane mushrooms & sun-dried tomato frittata, with roasted squash & beets in chipotle sauce, with Egranes Tali sauce to top it all. Yummy! We spend most of the day hiking around, staring at the bend in the river, watching a GBH for what seemed like an eternity, and of course a heated round of bocce. We also knew that we had other friends on the river today and hoped we'd see them as they made their way around the bend. And by noon, Matt, Heather, Torrin, Zach, Keean, Whitney and Whitney's dad Whit float up. Her mom is hiking in with the family dog. There's just something sweet about being out on the Rogue and having friends stop by to visit, as they make their way further downstream to Kelsey Canyon to camp. I hear it was extra fabulous as the boys are now grown men and they took on the planning duties. Multi-generational boating has got to be special!
Appetizer: hummus, homemade Romanesco sauce & Marys Gone Crackers, carrot sticks, mixed olives & homemade pickles plate. Dinner: homemade makdous; stuffed mini-sweet peppers with cashew cheese & herbs; chickpea flatbreads (made at camp), (rice) macaroni salad with sundried tomatoes/Italian sweet peppers/celery/white beans; arnabeet; homemade tahini sauce. Dessert: 2 chocolate bars around the fire.
Saturday Sep 21st - The Last Day of Summer. And it doesn't disappoint. We wake up to clear sunny skies and take our time packing up camp. We have another long day ahead but feel no rush. Breakfast: Build your breakfast bowl - roasted red taters in coconut oil & garlic; pinto beans with fresh oregano; pico de gallo; homemade Oaxahacan hot sauce; roasted pistachios. We find ourselves floating through Kelsey Canyon at a nice pace. There's current but it's not so fast that we miss any beauty. 6 rafts and the late summer sunshine. Mule Creek was gorgeous as ever. We encounter a few more turtles taking us to 18 sightings for the whole trip. Oh ya, this is my first time rowing the Rogue. I've been on it two other times, but only as a passenger. It's like a whole new river to me and Im having a blast. As anyone who knows the Rogue knows, up next is Blossom Bar. This is Cathy's first time on the Rogue and my first time rowing it, so scouting is a must. The line looks obvious, though not intuitive. But Im prepared and make the slot with relative ease. Noting of course that at higher water, I could see how one could get pushed pretty quickly into that picket fence of boulders. All totaled, I tap two rocks with my right blade tip the whole way through. I consider that a pretty damn clean run. There are high fives in the eddy below as we all let our heart rates settle back down. There's something eerie and wonderful about making your way through that jumble of boulders and glancing over your upstream shoulder to see your friend emerge from behind that rock. A relief few humans get to enjoy.
Today's hopeful camp is Half Moon Bar but as usual, it's already camped. And of course who do we see at the lower end? The Saucy Clan. So we stop for another round of hugs and laughter and get to meet Whitney's mom & dog this time. The light-tilt for last day of summer is evident and while we wanted to hang out longer, we felt the call to find a camp upon us. Scott stopped at Half Moon Bar Lodge to take in a tour with Mike, the new owner. Sounds like it's going to be a real nice place. What a huge endeavor to clean up, repair, restore & improve the land and buildings in such a remote location. I look forward to visiting it next time! With few options on camps, we settle in at Upper Solitude. It's a rocky shoreline with a small hike up to the bear fence. Were all a little tired and hungry, but we get the work done and just before dark, Scott finds us and dinner is ready!
Appetizer: good ol' reliable chips & salsa & guacamole! Dinner: Jamaican black beans & sweet onions in coconut milk; homemade pupusas stuffed with shredded cheese; toasted walnut meats in olive oil with dried herbs & sea salt, Dorfis slaw with corn/sweet peppers/cilantro. Dessert: chocolate chip & cinnamon crisp cookies.
Sunday Sep 22nd - My birthday and the First Day of Fall. Around midnight the clouds and rain move back in. The 3 tents are huddled together and as I hear the first drops on my bivvy sack, I hear someone rustle around installing their rain fly. Mark and I are out under the clouds on our cots. I snuggle deep into my bag staying warm & dry. Around daybreak I start to emerge, hoping to see a bear. There are 3 deer across the river, but no luck with the bear. Maybe next time. Of course part of me thinks we also lucked out having no bear in camp. We heard there was a cinnamon bear getting a little too cozy in camps this summer. Maybe that would be more stress. The rain lets up here and there and we get a break for breakfast.
Breakfast: Ramen bowls with seaweed & miso; chopped fresh bok choy; kimchee; toasted almonds; shelled edamame; spicy crunchy noodles. Our last official meal together and I figured Why Not Go Weird on them with this finale. No one complained and maybe it was the sleep in their eyes, but I think I nailed it with the weird part. haha! If you've never had ramen for breakfast, give it a try! You might just like it.
As we pack up, the Saucy crew cruises by heading to the take out and the drive back out to reality. We aren't long behind them. A few rapids to enjoy and lots of waterfalls and more GBH and a final river otter, making the total 5 for this trip. About a mile from the take out a few rafts are on the cobbles and in an effort to help, Mark manages to sprain his ankle. But doesn't tell me. Until much later. We get to Foster Bar and in the rain, manage to wet pack all the gear, get all the rafts loaded onto trailers and make the drive up out of the canyon to the beach, where our crew will spend one more night together at Cape Blanco State Park. If you've never been there, it's worth the extra trek west from 101. Incredibly beautiful. We luck out and get 2 sites across from each other, sort of dry out some gear, watch a great sunset and start a fire. I have leftover beans and soup to offer up for dinner and a special bottle of apple cider wine to share. It's my birthday, after all!
And what's this? Do I see candles and hear my friends singing? Yep! Along the way they manage to find a grocer who has vegan and gluten free ice cream. What luck! I felt so loved. Celebrating this One Wild Life with some mighty fine friends, on a wild & scenic southern Oregon river that winds it's way to the mighty Pacific. It's a wish come true. Buono Apetito!
Photos by Don Smith