Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wednesday 30 July 2008 Lake Solano, Winters, California

Marley and I drove to upper end of Lake Solano. We unloaded our gear and began blowing up our new Aire Lynx II inflatable kayak. We met Guillermo Santana formerly of Guadalajara, Jalisco. He has lived in Winters the past 20 years, and all of his family is here now. He plays guitar at his church. He helped us blow up the raft. He had wanted to fish, but didn't have a license. I told him that was very risky, and advised against it. I gave him some water and loaned him my tarp on which to rest in the shade. He was getting eaten up by ants down by the river.

Bob Langley arrived just as we began inflating the kayak. Bob and Guillermo helped us gear up and carry the kayak down to the lake. The water was exceptionally clear and cold. We paddled down stream for a while. Bob instructed Marley in good paddling technique, eddy turns, and ferry angle. We practiced in the flowing water. Large basalt boulders and sand bars provided eddies where we could practice moves. We eddy hopped back up to our put-in. Marley noticed some white water up stream. We paddled upstream as far as we could.

Marley wanted to paddle in the white water, so we put the boats in Bob's truck and drove upstream about 2 miles to the gauge. There are several easy rapids between the gauge and the lake. Marley really enjoyed them. She wanted to paddle them a second time, but while Bob and I were deciding how to do the shuttle, she remembered that she had promised her friend, Kaylen that she would be home by 1430. We stopped at the taco truck in Winters. Marley ordered a bean and cheese burrito, Bob and I split an order of 6 tacos.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

2008 June Rogue River Trip.

In late May Bill sent me an email to let me know that some friends of his in South Carolina, Cat and Tom, had drawn a permit to kayak the Rogue River in the Siskiyou Mountains of southwestern Oregon from June 24 to 28. One of the couples, Rob and Betsy, who had planned to provide raft support for the trip had backed out due to some major life changing events, like getting a new job, moving to New Mexico, and getting married. Cat and Tom now needed another raft and invited me to provide that raft support. After making sure that no one at work would be too upset, I accepted the invitation to join the trip. Since I had never provided raft support for a multi day trip, I had some preparation to do. I cut and varnished a piece of plywood to provide a firm surface to tie my cargo to, and ordered a lot of new straps with which to secure the load. Photos of this trip are posted at Picasa

0600 Sunday 22 June
I began loading my 1992 Jeep Cherokee with my rafting gear. My son, Oliver, helped me put the oar frame on top of the Jeep.

0900 Don arrived at my house. We tied his Necky Rip on top of the oar frame, and stuffed his gear wherever it would fit in the back of the Jeep.

0930 Don and I left Vacaville, California en route to Grant’s Pass, Oregon.

1300 We ate lunch at Casa Ramos in Mt. Shasta. We shared the molcajete del mar which I had never ordered before. As everything else I have ever ordered at Casa Ramos, it was delicious. I stumbled upon Marco Ramos' second restaurant in Mt. Shasta soon after he opened it in the late 1990s, and have been following the growth of his chain and eating in his restaurants whenever I have the opportunity ever since. I am especially fond of the Borrego or lamb shank.

1700 Don and I arrived at the home of Paul and Steph in Merlin, Oregon. We were greeted by Bill and Sue, Tom and Cat, David and Merridee, Dennis, Paul and Steph. We visited and drank beer on the SE corner of the wide deck that encircles Paul and Steph’s beautiful new home near the Rogue River. Paul took several of us on a hike to the river. I identified ten different kinds of wildflowers on the hike. Tom and I made a beer run into Merlin. We selected a wide variety of pilsners, lagers, ales, porters and stouts to satisfy the wide variety of tastes in our party. Steph, Cat, and Tom made a supper of hamburgers, green salad, beans, and watermelon. Some of the sweetest onions I ever ate were served with the hamburgers. One of the ladies told me they were Vidalia onions. After eating and putting away the leftovers, we visited on the deck enjoying the twilight and cool evening air. When several people retired for the evening, I spread my bedroll beside my Jeep and was asleep before the first stars appeared.

Monday 23 June
I woke up just before Arcturus slipped behind the mountain to the west. The summer triangle shown brightly overhead and the waning gibbous moon was low in the SE. It had probably been up for an hour or two. I heard a bird that whistled three times every ten to fifteen seconds, wheet, wheet, wheet, ten second interval, wheet, wheet, wheet. A grasshopper or cricket was chirping, there were peacocks calling in the distance, and a bull frog croaking in an nearby creek.

I woke a second time just as the last stars were fading from the sky, probably about 0500. I listened to the peacocks, doves, crows, and other birds, probably gold finches and woodpeckers among them.

0530 – I dressed; found my camera, watch and notebook; went through my backpack, and began writing in my journal about events of the past 24 hours. I looked at the shop Paul is building. The walls are well insulated and he has installed skylights in the roof.

0630 – When Paul came out of the house, I greeted him, and we went in for breakfast of a very sweet flavorful cantaloupe, cherries, bagels, cream cheese, figs, and coffee. Steph is going to work today. Tom has a sinus infection, and is going into Grant’s Pass to see a doctor this morning. Most of the rest of us are going to kayak.

0900 David, Meridee, Sue, Bill, Dennis, Cat, Don, And I kayaked a 3 mile section of the Rogue near Paul’s house. Paul took us to the put in at the launch ramp on Lower River Road. We took out on river right on Straton Creek Road just below the yellow bridge where Galice Road crosses the River. Paul had left Bill’s truck there. This was a very easy class I or II- section of river. We saw quite a variety of wildlife and wildflowers.

1230 – We returned to Paul and Steph’s house and ate lunch. We napped and organized gear throughout the afternoon.

1600 – Don, Sue, Cat, Merridee and I left in my Jeep. Don and I dropped Sue, Cat, and Merridee off at a thrift store in downtown Grant’s Pass so they could look for dresses to wear on the river. Steph met them later in the afternoon to take them to Jacksonville for the evening concert. Don and I went to the Wild River Brewery to check out the options for taking some good beer on the river. The deposit on the keg and tap was more than we were willing to pay considering the wide variety of tastes in beer among our group. We decided against buying the keg and drove to Jacksonville where a local couple directed us to their favorite pub, the Bella Union Saloon. Don and I shared bowl of steamed clams. Don ordered baked cod, and I had soup, salad, and a sausage.

0900 – Don and I found Paul, Steph, Dave, Merridee, Cat, Tom, Sue, Bill, and Dennis at the Britt Gardens, and settled down on the lawn to enjoy the Britt Festival concert. Taj Mahal opened and put on quite a show. Keb Mo was the second act, and Taj Mahal joined him for one or two songs. It was a great evening.

Tuesday 24 June
I woke up at 0500 as usual even though I didn’t get to sleep until after 2300 last night. I promptly stuffed my sleeping bag into its compression sack even though it was still damp with dew, and began packing my large dry bag. I helped Tom, Cat, and Sue cook a breakfast of chicken sausage, eggs, cantaloupe, and salsa.

We packed the vehicles and headed for Merlin to top off our fuel tanks and a few last minute purchases before going to our put-in at Almeda County Park. I borrowed Paul’s electric raft inflater to blow up my raft, and topped off with my hand pump after rigging the oar frame, ice chest, and dry box. Merridee helped me load and secure my cargo of food boxes and dry bags.

We were on the river by 1230. We didn't even consider running Rainie Falls. All of us ran the sneak route down Fish Ladder on the far right side of the river. Paul, Dennis, and I were in camp at Whisky Creek by 1430. Don and Bill had paddled ahead to secure the campsite. Dave, Merridee, Sue, Cat, and Tom arrived about half an hour later. We ate lunch at 1530. We had frozen lunch meat, cheese, and fresh tomatoes on flour tortillas, with gorp and fig newtons for dessert. Most of us were asleep by 1600.

I went for a refreshing dip in Whisky Creek after lunch and slept soundly until 1700 and lightly off and on until about 1800. I hiked to Whiskey Creek Cabin, and filled my filter bottles in Whiskey Creek. I got eaten up by mosquitoes while filling my water bottles. Steph hiked into our camp site after she got off work, and joined us for supper. Tom grilled chicken breasts while Sue, Cat, and Merridee made a salad. We ate about 2000. I spread my bed roll out on a high river terrace on the left bank of Whiskey Creek made by a flood decades or maybe centuries ago. I was asleep by 2100.

Wednesday 25 June
I got up at 0515 and hiked up river. I got back into camp about 0600. My river companions were packing and preparing breakfast by 0615. I transferred day 4 food from a plastic box to my dry box. There was about ½ cup of water in the plastic box and a cardboard box of crackers was quite wet. Steph began her hike out immediately after breakfast. She was going to work. She had planned to take scout with her, but when she saw how much fun Scout was having, she didn't have the heart to take him home with her, so he was with us the whole trip and ate whatyever we ate if he liked it. We were loaded and on the river by 0900. Paul, Dennis and I got ahead of the kayakers and stopped at Black Bar Lodge. We visited with some of the staff and looked at the cabins. The lodge and cabins are quite nice with lots of character. They cost $120 per person per day, but I would be willing to pay that on a cold, wet winter day.

The kayakers caught up with us before we got back to the rafts. We continued together to Horseshoe Bend camp. I camped here with Tom Swaffer and Bruce Thomas in 2001. We arrived a few minutes after 1200 and were eating lunch by 1230. I was asleep by 1400. I woke up at 1600 and played a game of bocce with Tom, Cat, and Merridee.

At 1700 I climbed the ridge upriver from camp. I crossed a lot of ground dug up by gold miners, and an old ditch. Finally, high above the river, I found the main river trail. I walked up river, crossing a couple of dry creeks without finding anything that inspired me to take a picture. Finally I stopped to write a while and catch up on my journal before returning down river. On the way back to camp I met Don where a piece of orange surveyor’s tape marked the trail back down the hill to camp. Don had taken this trail up to the main trail. We got back in camp about 1830, just in time for margaritas and a few chips and salsa before a dinner of fajitas.

After supper, Don, Dennis, and I were inducted into the secret society of the Moose. While waiting for my induction I heard stories about the day’s river carnage. David had a long swim at Russian Rapid followed by a long hike to his canoe that had washed far downstream before someone got it ashore. Sue had a short swim at slate slide, and Meridee went over, but Tom helped her right her kayak before she exited. Dennis was stuck on a rock mid river at Tyee for a while, and I hit his cataraft as I followed him through the same rapid. After being inducted into the Secret Order of the Moose, Merridee shared her Tullimore Dew with us, and Paul and Dennis serenaded us on the guitar. I was asleep at 2130.

Thursday 26 June
I woke up at 0530. We had boiled eggs, yogurt, bagels, coffee, and granola for breakfast. We were packed and on the river by 0900. We hiked up to Zane Grey cabin and made camp about 1200 at Rogue River Ranch. After lunch several of us hiked to Rogue River Ranch. Dennis found a swimming hole near the ranch house, and Paul hiked back up river to where there is a house size boulder mid river. Several of us napped. Some were bothered by flies, but I covered my face with my hat, and slept for a couple of hours.

Sue and Bill cooked spaghetti and meatballs. They served it with French bread, Parmesan cheese, minced garlic, and a green salad. I ate seconds, washed dishes, and broke out my Cuervo 1800 reposado tequila, ice cold from the bottom of my ice chest. I had a couple of mosquito bites, so I put my long pants and long sleeved shirt on.

Friday 27 June
I got up about 0500, made coffee and boiled water for decaf coffee and tea. We had cantaloupe, sausage, and pancakes for breakfast. Don made the pancakes. I helped him some. We cooked them in the Dutch oven and it took us a while to get the heat adjusted properly. The first pancakes were pretty black on one side.

We were packed and on the river by 0840. Paul described the rapids that we would run today, and asked Tom where he wanted the rafts to be relative to the kayaks. Tom said he would rather have the rafts ahead of the kayaks, so Paul, Dennis and I took off ahead of the kayaks. We ran a few small riffles and rapids before entering Mule Creek Canyon where the river bed narrows to as small as 5 meters between vertical hard rock walls 10 meters high.

We stopped at Stair Creek to view the falls and wait for the kayakers. We had been there 15 minutes when the rafters that had been camped next to us at Rogue River Ranch brought Sue to us. She had her paddle, and said she had swam before she reached Mule Creek Canyon and her boat had gone on ahead of her.

Merridee arrive about 10 minutes later and finally a full 30 minutes after the rafts had gotten to Staircase, the rest of the kayakers arrived with Bill towing Sue’s kayak. Paul tied Sue’s kayak on to his raft, and Sue rode on the raft until we were through Blossom Bar. We scouted Blossom Bar Rapid. Paul described the critical move at the top, and several options below the picket fence. We watched Paul row the rapid. The kayakers then ran it followed by me and then Dennis. I made the critical move behind Half Dome just as I had planned, but made the next move to river right a bit low and touched the lower rock enough to change the angle of my raft by about 45 degrees. I had to work harder than planned to make my next move back to the left. Otherwise it was a good run. Devil’s Stairs, a class III comes up shortly after Blossom Bar. The last 2 of 3 sections push a raft into the rocks on the right requiring rowing to the left.

At Paradise Creek we began seeing jet boats bringing loads of 50 or more tourists up river. We frequently had to get out of the channel to make way for them. Paradise lodge has a fine dock and staircase to the lodge. Jet boats bring people to the lodge for the night and /or fine dining. All the rapids from Devil’s Stairs to Tate Creek are easy.

We had planned to camp at Tate Creek, but there was some confusion about which camp is Tate. An Echo raft guide told us that the place we camped at is upper Tacoma, and that Tate is a very tiny camp site just below Tate Creek falls. Upper Tacoma was a very hot campsite with little to no shade. We ate lunch and hiked to Tate Creek. We hiked up Tate Creek to a swimming hole and water slide. I got there first, went for a swim, and took a few pictures. Bill was the first to climb to the top of the falls and slide down the falls. Don did the same later. Paul and Scout raced for sticks thrown by others. Paul won the first of three races, but Scout stole the stick right out of Paul’s mouth.

Scout is an inspiring dog. He is 5 years old. He lost his right front leg in an automobile accident when he was 2 years old, but he doesn't seem to miss it at all. He runs and swims just like any 5 year old chocolate lab. Paul got the biggest kick out of racing Scout for the stick. He laughed heartily when Scout took the stick out of his mouth. The relationship between them was wonderful to see.

We spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in the river drinking all manner of liquids. I fell asleep while sitting in the water, and sunburned my legs below the knee even though I was sitting in water nearly a foot deep. We were reluctant to abandon the coolness of the river, but at 1800 we moved to make supper of beef stroking off, green salad, and guacamole. Tonight was dress up night. Cat, Sue, and Merridee had bought shirts and skirts for all the guys on the trip. They presented each of us with their selection and asked us to wear them, which we did. Paul and Dennis took turns serenading us on the guitar while we washed dishes, put away food, and sipped tequila and Tullimore Dew. Once again I fell asleep before the stars came out. It was so hot I used my sleeping bag for a pillow.

Saturday 28 June
I got up at 0500, made coffee, wrote, read, and packed until everyone else got up shortly after 0600. We had sausage, fruit, yogurt for breakfast and were on the water by 0900. We had only easy rapids this morning and were at take out at Illahe by 1100. I put the back seat of my Jeep up so I could carry more passengers. I put much of my gear in Paul’s trailer and Bill’s truck. I rolled up the raft and put it on top of the oar frame on the Jeep. We drove to Agness for root beer floats and ice cream before heading back to Grant’s Pass. We stopped at a vista point for lunch. The sky was smoky from the time we left camp this morning until late in the afternoon. I at first thought it was fog, but it soon became clear that it was smoke.

At Paul’s house we each got a cold beer, unloaded the food, and rearranged gear so Don and I could take Tom and Cat to the airport in Medford at 0430 in the morning. I put lots of gear in Bill’s truck. I took a shower, shaved, and washed my hair. We ate food left over from our raft trip. We had several creative cooks who put together a pasta with cheese and lunch meat casserole, and a bean salad for supper. The wind came up mid afternoon, and I had moved my bed roll from along side my Jeep to the deck. After supper we went out onto the deck to watch the lightning show to the south. It began to rain so hard that I moved my bed roll into the house. It was a beautiful storm, but we were glad to be off the river before it began. I slept upstairs rather than outside as planned. The sky was beautiful and it was plenty warm outside, but I didn't want to have to pack a soggy bed roll before heading home in the morning. I was asleep shortly after 2200.

Sunday 23 June
Tom, Cat, Don, and I got up at 0400, said our goodbyes, and were on the way to the airport by 0420. Don and I dropped Tom and Cat off at the airport by 0515. We had quite a bit of difficulty finding the terminal. A new terminal was under construction. There was cyclone fencing and orange plastic everywhere. I drove into a parking lot took a ticket and then tried to find the exit. When I told the parking lot attendant that I didn’t want to park, I was just having difficulty finding the terminal, she laughed. She said the signs were blown down in the storm last night. She didn’t charge me for parking, and directed me to the terminal. We finally got Tom and Cat to the terminal, bid them a good trip, and found our way back to the freeway. We got gas in Weed, and breakfast in Dunsmuir. The Cornerstone Bakery was closed. We asked some locals where to eat, and they directed us to Penny’s Diner north of town. We had a hearty skillet breakfast, and Don drove the rest of the way to Vacaville. I slept much of the way. We had lunch at my house in Vacaville and Don headed to Oakland for a sea kayak rescue event that Donna was attending.