[Part one] About 11 miles down the river is Jenny Creek, an idyllic spot on the south bank where we camped the first night. I could hardly imagine a better campsite but our last night on the river was even more amazing, with a gentle sloping sandy beach and a friendly family of deer wandering through camp.

Our second night was spent at Marial Lodge, which was a combination of experiences I really appreciated: I love camping, but I can’t lie, I love showers and flushable toilets just a tiny bit more. Marial is incredibly charming, with a cozy lodge to hang out in, enormous home-cooked meals to savor, and the world’s friendliest dog to play with.

Day one offers the most rapids, day two is relatively chill with a few big splashes, and day three is the most intense at the start, with the rock walls narrowing and the ground dropping to create the fast-moving Mule Creek Canyon at mile 21. We hiked the night before to an overlook where I watched the great rushing boil of water and firmly abandoned my original half-baked plans to take the kayak through.

(A piece of slightly comical advice from a guide to the Rogue on Mule Creek: “Your goal should be to keep your boat straight, and moving forward.” Yes, much like the helpful skiing instructions from Better Off Dead: “Go that way, really fast. If something gets in your way, turn.”)

John took us through Mule Creek on his raft with barely a bump, even in the infamous Coffee Pot at the end, which is essentially a roiling bowl of crazy. This isn’t my photo (credit: NW Rafting) but it shows the setup: the combination of a small space and a whole lot of water power can be very challenging.

After Mule Creek comes Blossom Bar, the most difficult rapid of the river. I guess it is a class IV, the same as Coffee Pot, but it’s scarier because of the potential consequences. Blossom was originally unnavigable, with early miners and explorers essentially hand-dragging boats through the giant rocks before it was cleared with dynamite, and now it remains a boulder-strewn churn that demands precise navigation.

The first and most important move is to avoid the so-called “picket fence,” a line of big undercut rocks that can act as a trap and a fatal sieve. A hard turn at the exact right moment is required before moving with the current through powerful lateral waves and quickly eddying out before picking your way through even more rocks.

My first times through Blossom were on foot, walking around the rapid with our kids. As the boys got older they were able to walk through on their own and I rode with John, with one memorable trip that resulted in us briefly high-siding on a rock before thankfully sliding free.

On this journey, John perfectly executed the entire run without even a single impact. “Like buttah!” I howled, zingy with post-Blossom relief and pride, and then I gave myself the solemn promise that I too would successfully navigate this rapid on my own someday JUST KIDDING I am pretty sure I am never doing that ever.

I did paddle the rest of our time on the river, though, to our campsite at Tacoma Camp and all the way out on the morning of day four. Every day we saw bald eagles, osprey, great blue herons, river mink, turtles, tiny lizards, and once, a disturbingly large leaping fish that was either a salmon or young sturgeon (also a reminder that deep waters are never to be trusted). We cooled off from the hot sunshine in the river by day and sat by crackling campfires at night. We told stories and laughed a lot but spent most of our time in companionable quiet, happily lost in the ever-changing landscape and waters.

Since we got back home I’ve been trying to curb my screen time and news reading, to try and hold on to just a bit of that peace of mind the Rogue brings. There is truly nothing like this place, and I can’t wait to go back.

Comments

8 Responses to “Rogue trip 2020, part two: if something gets in your way, turn”

  1. Sally on June 30th, 2020 3:02 pm

    Absolutely fantastic. I am Jealous (with a capital J!). x

  2. Annie on June 30th, 2020 3:12 pm

    Your descriptions put me there, thank you. Hang onto that peace of mind. Wild rivers are magical.

  3. Anonymous on June 30th, 2020 4:10 pm

    You are so tan! Jealous of the trip except for the water rapid rafting thing. Not a fan. More of an inner tube floating fan.

  4. Jennifer on June 30th, 2020 8:39 pm

    So beautiful to read your words and experience this a bit with you. Missing NATURE here in Chicago so much. Glad to know that the wild part of our world continues, despite all the difficulty and suffering, and is there for us to escape to. Thanks for sharing the wonderful moments of your adventure.

  5. Mary on July 1st, 2020 4:54 am

    I make a vow to curb my screen time at least once every two weeks. It’s so hard. It’s almost like a compulsion (What am I talking about? It IS a compulsion!). I am making another effort to cut my ties with Facebook this week because watching people fight to the death about whether or not they are willing to wear a face mask in the grocery story is zapping the life out of me. Thank you for sharing your beautiful journey with us…it’s so nice to be reminded that our country has such beauty in it.

  6. Anne on July 1st, 2020 9:34 am

    My apologies in advance, Linda, but as a native to Indiana I’m statutorily obligated to insist that you “don’t get caught watching the paint dry” when someone mentions a picket fence.

    https://youtu.be/C2ILSuQOmEg?t=60

    That requirement aside, I’m always confused about the logistics of rafting trips not organized by an outfit. How does your vehicle get from the put-in to put-out? Do you just have to have a helper?

  7. Linda on July 1st, 2020 10:17 am

    Anne: yes, you do. In this case we pay a local rafting service to pick up John’s truck from the put-in spot and drive it to the takeout. They also keep it on their property during the overnights so it isn’t just sitting in a lot.

  8. Nine on July 2nd, 2020 7:16 am

    Do you have any idea what the street value of this mountain is?!

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