2012 Presidents Day Rogue River Trip

Submitted by Jessie King

[Editor's Note - This article is one person's perspective on the incident and should be read in concunction with the perspective of the person needing the rescue and the person leading the rescue at Blossom Bar.]

The annual Presidents Day Rouge River Trip was nothing short of epic! It had action, adventure, daring rescues, parties, stunning vistas, excellent food, and wonderful people to share it all with!

I’ll admit, that going into the trip I was a little nervous about this being my first overnight trip with OWA. Merrie and I have been members for a while now, and we’ve been on multiple car camping trips, but no multi-day trips. We could not have picked a better trip as our first. There were forty eight people, seven rafts, twelve cats, one kayak, two layover groups and five Dave’s.  You could hardly say the name Dave without getting a response!  

Our trip started Friday morning, stacking boats and heading south to the rendezvous at Galice Lodge. Many of the trip participants opted to float into the Horse Shoe Bend camp a day early to have a layover day. Some might say they were lucky to squeeze out an extra day. Some might say they missed out on the party at the lodge. There are rumors that the hot tub at the lodge was packed with a bunch of naked rafters, but those rumors can’t be confirmed, nor should they be! What they for sure missed out on was the fabulous breakfast that Mary Lou and her crew prepared for us! I waddled out of there feeling very fat and happy.

After breakfast we made our way to the put in at Graves Creek. The launch was a flurry of activity as everyone prepared to head down river. Bee Tyree, the trip leader, gave a brief but insightful safety talk before we shoved off. After setting up safety at the Fish Ladder, we made it through with minimal hang ups. A big thank you to all the helpers that were staged throughout the Fish Ladder!

At the put in we talked about how long it would take to get to Horse Shoe Bend. I remember hearing “It should take two, maybe three hours.” After a few “It should be just around the next bend” and “are we there yet’s” and after about five hours of river time we made it to camp. I guess there really is such a thing as “Rafters Time.”  

At camp we were greeted by not but a few happy and grinning faces, as well as some sunshine to set up our tents in. After we got settled in hors d'oeuvre were brought out and a wonderful meal was prepared. The taco soup was very good and there was lots of it! There were various other plates of food flying around that were just as scrumptious! Dessert was a delicious banana caramel cream pie. Libations and merriment went late into the night.

The morning started a little slow. Oatmeal and hard boiled eggs for breakfast! A great way to start out such a big day! I was full of anticipation and anxiousness for Blossom Bar and a nice full belly of good warm food helped calm my nerves. Many thanks to the food crews and dish crews for putting together the meals and cleaning up!  

After breakfast we broke camp, loaded boats, and pushed off for the next leg of our adventure. The sun came out to highlight the spectacular beauty of the wild and scenic wilderness. We stopped for a quick bite of lunch and to regroup before heading into Mule Creek Canyon and Blossom Bar. Mule Creek Canyon was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.  At times it felt like I couldn’t take an oar stroke because the oars would hit on both sides. The boat got pulled from every which direction and I spent a lot of time on the sticks trying to keep it off the canyon walls. Everyone made it through unscathed.

Again we quickly regrouped just before Blossom Bar to talk about the line one last time and figure out the boat order and who would set up safety.  Just as we lined up and were getting ready to start moving through we were waved off. Our worst fears, someone had pinned their boat! From our vantage point we couldn’t see anything and communication back to us was shoty at best. 

As I sat there trying to subdue butterflies in my stomach I gathered that the boat was pinned on the Picket Fence, some people had got there with ropes to help from the bank, and it was not a good idea to go the normal line. After much deliberation and scouting it was decided that we would go down the right side. In all my reading up about Blossom and You-Tube video watching, I didn’t even know a boat could get down the right side!

Needless to say, my heart rate was up a little bit! When the raft in front of me got hung up on a rock just as I entered the chute, the adrenaline kicked into overdrive. I made it around him and through the rest of the rapid unscathed. The raft that was in front of me came off shortly thereafter with lots of oaring, jumping up and down in the boat, and just a few cuss words!

We eddied out as quickly as we could and made our way back to the site of the pinned boat to put our SRT skills to the test. Just as we got there, well just as my group got there, the boat was pulled off. I was moving a little slow and still trying to loosen my hands from the death grip I had on the oars. The boat crew seemed pretty shook up, but no gear was lost and everybody made it out safely. 

We made it down to Tacoma Bar for camp without further incident.   We set up camp just as the sun was going down and we were treated to a picturesque golden sun set. With camp made we headed to the kitchen to see what was for dinner. Chili and cornbread! One of my favorites! There appeared to be a lot of tired and subdued boaters around the camp fire that night, and as Merrie and I were very tired, we called it a night early.

Some of the group got their second wind, and others proved to be champions! Libations and merriment again went late into the night. Breakfast was good old bacon and eggs! Green onions were mixed into the scrambled eggs giving it a delightful kick! And on the side, English muffins with cream cheese. I hope all the rowing I did balance out with how well I ate!  Again, another big thanks to the kitchen crews for meal preparation and clean up!

Much of the success and camaraderie of a trip happens in the kitchen. If you have not volunteered to be a meal captain, helped prepare the meal, or helped with the dishes I strongly encourage you too! It’s a lot more fun than it sounds, and the kitchen is the social epicenter of the camp so everyone comes to talk to you!    

We broke camp and packed boats one more time. As we floated out of camp the second group of layovers bid us farewell. The second group consisted of many that were part of the first group. Man, how do they get all that time off? I need to win the lottery or find some rich dead uncle!

As we made our way to the take out, we found ourselves rowing through a lot of flat water. It was as if the river didn’t want us to leave as much as we didn’t want the trip to be over. At the take out at Foster Bar, as we unloaded boats and packed up cars, I was wrought with mixed emotions about the trip being over, the long drive back, and how good my bed was going to feel.

All in all it was a great trip, and one I will remember for years to come. If you’re a newbie and you have any reservations about going on an overnight trip with OWA, brush them aside and get out there!  If you lack the gear, just ask somebody. You’ll be able to borrow it, or it will already be there with somebody else. It will be an enjoyable time and you’ll want to go again and again!  

A special thanks to Rick Carmen for schlepping Merrie down the river and providing excellent tutelage to my blossoming river queen. Rick tried to show her how to go around the rocks, and Merrie tried to show him how she could hit every rock! I think they were both successful and the only thing that would have made it better is if I could have watched with a bag of popcorn!  Thanks again everyone and I look forward to the next trip!