Thursday, July 5, 2007

Grande Ronde River 2007

This June provided a unique trip. For the first time that I can remember, my father and all his brothers along with my brother, Todd, went on a trip together. Last year my father joined me and a few friends on a 3 day float down the Grande Ronde River.

Put-In at Minam

It quickly became a family favorite and so as this spring approached this years return trip began to come together. With some planning and help from my dad and my brother we made our way to Minam to join up with the rest of the group.

Lunch Break

We ended up with 9 people in all counting my friend Dave that had joined as a second kayaker and a few more family members that decided to join us. We spent the first night at Minam State Park before putting on the river.

Sheep Creek Camp

It didn't take too long to rig up the boats and get underway. We quickly realized, to no surprise, that we were a little overloaded only having two 14' rafts and two kayaks for 9 people. I had wanted to take 3 rafts, but I was unable to secure one in time. Nonetheless, we headed down river with my dad running his raft and my brother running the rental. Todd did great even though he hasn't ran a boat in almost 15 years. Not only was the boat heavy with gear and three passengers, but the river had dropped early this year leaving a minimal flow of 1800 cfs. This created a much more technical run than what we had encountered last year at 3500 cfs . We cruised down river to Sheep Creek for our first nights camp. What a great camp. There was a good kitchen area, plenty of room for tents and a great fishing hole just upstream on the other side of the river. The cook group got into action and we had a great dinner. There was some animosity and about the groover system, a new experience for most I take it, but all went well. After dinner I did some exploring and found some flowers that I have been looking to photograph this spring. The next day brought us to my favorite section of the Grande Ronde valley. This is prime country for wildlife and some incredible scenery. As the day wore on, people on Todd's boat were getting a little cramped so they asked me to find a place to take a break. I searched for awhile, not really finding anything that I liked until I finally spotted a shoreline I felt the rafts could make with some shade. Shortly after the rafts pulled in and everyone found a spot to rest under the shade of a big Douglas Fir and take in the beauty of the canyon, we had an incredible wildlife moment.
As we sat under the tree, across the river a moose wandered down the hill to the waters edge. Now, some of us had thought it to be a slim possibility of seeing a moose on the trip while others simply thought the idea completely impossible. Indeed, this was a discussion the previous night. In any case, we now had the good fortune of seeing one of the few moose in Oregon.

At first we moved cautiously so as to get a couple picture before it would inevitably leave. After ten minutes or so and everyone getting a picture the moose had other plans. It stepped into the water. It began to cross the river and it was coming right at us! A little bit of confusion set in as this was very unexpected.

The moose continued to cross in magnificent form without any trouble. It came up on the shore not 50' away, seemingly turned and posed for a picture, then headed on down the shoreline and into the forest. What an amazing sight!

"So there really are moose in Oregon"

That night we had planned on camping at Big Tree, but we found the camp occupied and so we floated down another mile or so to camp for the night. It turned out to be a nice camp and worked well. The cook group for this night made a great chicken fajita dinner and we found ourselves having another great night on the river.

The next day we headed down river towards our last camp of the trip and one that we had stayed at last year. Potter Bar is a great camp and is the location of an old homestead. There are no buildings left, but there are various pieces of farm equipment and trees that were planted by the homesteaders.

The most obvious and beloved are the three large Catulpa trees the line the beach.

This camp has it all. Easy offloading of gear, excellent shade, nice tent site, great kitchen site, a fishing hole across the river and some local history and artifacts thrown in. This was a great last night on the river. This camp and the river certainly did not disappoint.

Our final day brought us to the town of Troy were we pulled the boats apart and headed our separate ways. It was truly a great trip and I hope we are able to get together again next year for another trip.

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