An Oregon River Trip
By Alice Gray, Shipping Manager
My sister had lived in Oregon for more than 15 years and I had not yet been to visit. I landed in the Northeast back in 1987 and promptly grew roots. The time had come for me to fulfill my family duty and spring for the plane fare west. She, my sister, tempted me with the promise of a six-day river trip down minor rapids, promising it would not be life threatening, yet full of fun and wildlife. You see, she and her husband were guides on the Rogue River and they were taking a seven-day trip and I was welcome to tag along. I had no gear; she said she’d find me some. How could I go wrong?
It was dark when I landed in Medford, Oregon. I don’t know how long it took to get to Ashland—I was just glad to get out of the airport system. We stayed in a large workshop that was set up for artistic welding. Pieces of work, some complete, some partial, were scattered throughout the shop. The doors were huge, wooden pieces of artwork in and of themselves. Sliding the door along its guides, Ashland greeted me kindly. The sun was shining, light wind brushed my skin, and the view was beautiful. We were close to the top of the hill looking down on the town below.
Over the next couple of days we hit the thrift store for a fleece over-shirt and a wind breaker in my size, the grocery store for supplies, a sidewalk fair, and we lounged at the workshop. I truly enjoyed the fact that I was not at home, where many projects waited for me to complete, phone calls needed to be made or answered, commitments and obligations waited to be fulfilled, and the calling of the time clock. My vacation was starting out great!
With the truck pulling a trailer loaded to the hilt with two large rafts, multiple coolers loaded with food, dry boxes loaded with more food, camp gear in dry bags, clothes in more dry bags, tables and camp chairs, half a dozen people, and a dog we pulled down to the launch. At this point, I was the fish out of water. Everyone knew what to do and was methodically unloading and packing up the rafts. I tried to help, but was clearly in the way. This group of friends had done this many times and knew what they were doing, so I stepped back and let them work their magic. Occasionally, I was able to help by grabbing the other half of a cooler or running a message from one person to another. Before I knew it, we were floating out and those in the two rafts were confirming the first scheduled stop of the trip.
In no time, the guys were up in their seats rowing the rafts downstream. I must mention that my brother-in-law is a beast. He rowed hard and fast for three hours and by noon we were at the first campsite. Setting up camp took about 30 minutes for the experienced crew; it took me about an hour to set up my borrowed tent. The rest of the day was spent hiking around the area and soaking up sunshine or reading a good book. That is how the river trip went every day. Up rather early, pack the rafts, row hard for about three hours, unpack the rafts, and then enjoy the day.
Some would think the trip was boring and repetitive. Let me assure you, it was not. The sights along the river were amazing, most of the rapids were rather mild, but there were some spine ticklers. At one point, everyone who was not rowing exited the rafts and hiked a short distance along the bank of the river while the guys navigated through a set of rapids. We, on shore, watched huge salmon jumping upstream while one raft helped the other get off a rock that jutted up. It was quite exciting to be safely on shore while watching the boys get thrown around.
Toward the end of the trip, we stopped at a ranch and spent the night in real beds, took showers, and used flush toilets. I normally would not mention toilets except that I had just spent several days using a modified army box set up in the open. Although it did not happen, I half expected to be using the toilet while another traveler would come around the bend. Really, what does one do? Wave and comment on the lovely weather we were having?
The river offered several excellent moments to my life. The quietness of the river, its travelers were rafts, kayaks, and canoes. The rock formations were spectacular. On one of the hikes I found barbed wire that looked to be the kind used in the nineteenth century. In the northeast, where I reside, anything metal would have rusted away. I saw multitudes of birds, deer, fish, turtles, and scorpions, and signs of bear, unidentified animal tracks and scat.
Prior to this trip, my traveling had always been on land. I’ve traveled through every one of the contiguous U.S. states by car. I have flown from east to west, north and south, and back again. But this was my first trip on water. River travel is a part of my West Coast family’s lifestyle, which I had never experienced. My sister and brother-in-law, as river guides, worked together on the river for years rowing and cooking for the public. The best part of the trip was to see my family in their element. They live very well.
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March 6, 2014 / Alice Gray / 0
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