Tuesday, July 8, 2008

july 4 holiday, part 2

{Depending on how many parts it takes to finish this thing--assuming I don't abandon it--it may make more sense to start with the earlier post (July 4 Holiday) and work backward}

Oh yeah, I'd talked Gary down from a vision of a big rafting trip (pulling a trailer a couple hundred miles, attempting a stretch on a big swift-flowing river--the Deschutes-- with a number of class 3 rapids) in favor of something closer to home and a little technically easier. The Molalla seemed perfect--class 2 rapids with good stretches of calm water between.

Trouble is, I'd forgotten that I'd only run the river in the fall or winter, when its flow was supported by rainfall--it's not a dam-controlled river.

In our typical inimitable style we'd set an objective for a 10:00 departure and managed to leave our driveway around 1;30. It stays light until nearly 9 pm here in the summer, so that wasn't too pressing a concern.

We made only one wrong turn on our way to the river so that wasn't too bad. We did have a problem finding a place to launch the raft. It had been over 20 years since I'd boated this stretch, and I couldn't remember the exact location of the put-in which didn't seem to match the instructions in the river guide book. What seemed like a logical place was private land, a camp of some kind.

So our alternative was an embankment adjacent to the bridge that crossed the river. It was steep.

The raft is a frame raft which is probably most comfortable with 2 adults, but for short trips is fine for two adults and two kids. (Gary however envisions us carrying camping gear for multiple days out and all of us fitting comfortably. I've seen what it takes for us to camp for multiple days in what fills the back of our van. I'm having a hard time translating that bulk in my mind into the confines of this little raft which measures about 8x15'. That is external dimensions, not internal capacity.) Though not huge, it still wasn't a happy prospect to consider getting it down the steep river bank to the put-in. It had to be inflated and assembled up on the road in order to utilize the car battery for the inflater. Roadways and Scott are a combination that calls out hyper-vigilance in me since I have to fill in for Scott in the alertness department. He can very easily forget where he is and drift into the road. As the boys busied themselves with the raft I ferried the oars and other equipment down and took it on myself to move some of the bigger obstacles--mainly limbs that were obstructions at about knee-level. Fortunately they weren't exposed roots and so moved easily.

By the time the raft was at river's edge (involving a tree trunk belay with the guy rope) it was 4:30. By the time we launched it was 5:00. ("It's ok" I told myself nervously. "It's only a 6 mile stretch and it stays light late in Oregon."

One of the bridges that crosses this river used to have a gauge on it where you could get a guess of how runnable it might be. That bridge has been replaced with a modern concrete structure and the gauge is gone. This river was running about a foot below what would have made for a comfortable run. What that means is that a lot of time got chewed up by shallows where I had to get out and push (no experience rowing, so I was the muscle instead of the brains in this venture). More time got chewed up with us having to get out of the boat and look at the river ahead to see what would be our best route to avoid getting pinned in an awkward spot. As did happen early on in the trip before Gary got his rowing learning curve and we found ourselves good and caught. Of course this first test was immediately upriver from a whole bevy of picnickers who I hope were grateful for the entertainment we provided. Fortunately that was a situation Gary was able to back us out of by getting out and tugging on the stern line. We were able to relaunch from there, get lined up better and pass through that obstacle.

What a long 6 mile stretch. One more foot of water would have made such a difference. With low water like that there were times that the oars just flapped impotently above the surface, or hit rocks. That's when my leg power was called for. The kids seemed to enjoy themselves, though they really wanted to swim. Because of our late departure though I wanted to be sure we got to the take-out before it was full-on dark, as was becoming a real possibility (where the hell was that concrete bridge? We couldn't have missed it!) (Tried to ignore the refrains of an old Led Zeppelin song "The Crunge": "where's that confounded bridge!"). I placated them by telling them they could swim there. Once we took out we were going to have to hang around for at least a half hour while Gary took the bike he'd stashed back to the put-in to get the van.

So we limped off the river at about 8:25, a gravel boatramp of a county park. As Gary went to get the bike and then the van (one minor setback when he realized he didn't have the car keys and had to come back) I noticed a number of spots where people allowed their dogs to poop and just left it. Great. Half an hour with two active boys whose feet seem to be magnetically drawn to dog poop. I piled some large river stones on the spots to try to keep feet and poop from meeting. Consolidated and packed up our gear in the gathering gloom so it would be ready when the van arrived. The boys swam briefly, but the water's chill took them to their limit quickly and they were happy to change into dry clothes.

Home by 11:00. Bed by 11:30. Still on for a 10:00 departure next morning for Timberline Lodge and a ski trip. On to Kahneeta for the night from there.

What were we thinking.


Lori said...

Let me know. What WERE you thinking?!

I do love your photos. Apparently you were the muscle and the eye.

Can't wait to hear more...

Douglas W said...

I kept having images in my mind of the news report the next morning... "Family goes missing in wild river adventure..."

And a year later... "Lost mountain tribe emerges from wilderness..."

excavator said...

Here's what I was thinking besides "It's only 6 miles. It'll still be light when we get off the river.": "This is nuts... It's getting later and later... What if it's dark when we get off the river? ...Will there be yay-hoos hanging around the take-out while Gary gets the van? ...we could easily get wedged and swamped...would we be able to safely get the boys to shore if we needed?"

Doug--I've imagined far more colorful headlines in the summertime...usually on a theme of 'middle-aged mom goes berserk"...