From Rogue River lunatic, Greg Hatten: Our annual trip to the Wild and Scenic section of the Rogue last weekend was particularly memorable this year. My son came out from Texas and brought a friend which added an extra element of river management to the long list of things on my mind. Three guys, two tents, three sleeping bags and food and drink for four days pushed the limits of my little wooden drift boat and I swear I heard it groan under the weight as we pushed off from Graves Creek put-in early last Thursday loaded to the gunnels. There were seven of us in two drift boats and two cats.
Some of my favorite faithful river-rats were on this trip and were quick to point out I was so loaded down with gear and guys that I had no rocker left to my boat – both the bow and the stern were touching water… ouch – kinda negates the best features of the McKenzie style drift boat. How in the world was the boat going to navigate the technical water ahead??? I was worried.
We took on more water than usual through Graves – the first Class III of the 34 miles, and we picked up a few new “racing stripes” in the fish ladder as we scraped our way around the Class VI Rainie Falls – at one terrifying part of the lining I lost control of the heavy boat and it careened down the chute as a runaway – ripping rope through my gloved hands so fast I smelled burning leather and felt fire in my palms. It came to rest with 5 feet of rope left in my hands and we scrambled to regain rope and composure.
We fished the heck out of Mondale Riffle and faced the first Class IV of the trip – Tyee. Normally my boat floats like a leaf, draws 4 inches of water, is more nimble than most any boat on the river, and handles a Class IV rapid without too much worry. Based on the sluggish first four miles of this trip, my boat was in no shape to make the sharp left turn and stay off the wall at the bottom of Tyee – so, thanks to the suggestion of Rick Allen, I asked my boat mates to “fish” their way around the rapid and meet me on the down-river side… (it would be the successful strategy for our next four days of river running the III’s and IV’s). With my passengers out of the boat “fishing”, the boat transformed into it’s old self and became as responsive as always hitting every line and avoiding most every rock.
Wildcat was wicked, Slim Pickins was fun, Black Bar was brutal, Mule Creek was dark and evil, Blossom was manageable, and the canyon was on fire with bright fall colors, crisp mornings, and warm days. The camp fires at night smelled like camping is supposed to smell like and the banter seemed somehow more meaningful than usual – maybe it was the scotch… maybe it was the moon… maybe it was the Rogue.
The half pounders played hard-to-get but more than a few were willing and we had one adult steelhead on the line long enough to know they’re around. Our David Ellis canvas tent smelled like the ones my Boy Scout Troop 45 set up along the banks of the Platte River when I was twelve. We ate better than usual with roasted garlic, fire pan pizza, toasted peppers, grilled pork tenderloin, dutch oven desserts, and the highlight – steelhead on a cedar stick on an open flame… un-freakin believable!!!
It was an incredible trip and I didn’t even mention rowing out in the pre-dawn darkness the last day – navigating by headlamps to get to Foster take-out by 8 a.m., finding our rig had been broken into and burgled (can’t believe they took my Allison Krouse CD), or driving the one-lane logging road like it was the Baja so the boys could catch the afternoon flight out of PDX.
I asked my son how he would describe this trip to his Texas Ranger buddies back home and he said he tried once but words don’t work – it’s larger than life… “the colors are brighter, the rapids are bigger, the canyon walls are closer, the water is colder, the fish are brighter, the trees are greener… just can’t put that into words for them”.
We captured some of the highlights in HD with a little Contour… still doesn’t do it justice. If you ever get the chance to run the Rogue Wild & Scenic – Do It !!