Rafting and camping on the river has always been one of my childhood dreams. Each summer we’d drive into the mountains for our family vacation, and like a kid going to Disney World I’d begin counting down to rafting day. As east-coasters, our primary choices were the Nantahala, Gauley, Ocoee, and a few others. Now as an adult living on the west coast ,the river choices are overwhelming. To add to my overwhelming sensation, I’m now running these rivers in my own raft without a guide telling me which line to pick.
Our morning drive over several mountain passes to the put-in surprised us with considerable amounts of new snow dumping and slowing our progress. Not only did this fresh snow make us late to the show but it also left us wondering if heading into some of Oregon’s remote backcountry in February was such a good idea. Our group would be on our own for 3 days.
When my good buddy Andrew and I rolled up to the put-in, I bet people thought we looked like the Beverly Hillbillies. My cataraft, nearing 20 years young, was not the fanciest boat at the ramp to say the least. Combined with the old raft trailer upon which it sat, we were quite the sight. As we scrambled to ready our raft, strap on dry bags, firewood, and gear, I wondered if anyone was watching me fall over myself while hurriedly improvising with bluejeans after realizing I’d left my warm clothing in a bag at home.
All other boats were in the water as their occupants watched this motley crew back their trailer into the cold, swiftly moving water. The air-filled pontoons plucked our boat from the trailer’s deck, and floated it next to one of the many beautiful new boats in the group. Luck was on our side, most people were in no hurry since the first leg of our trip would be short. The Oregon Whitewater Association is an incredible group of outdoorsmen and women. Many members have vast amounts of experience and are a valuable resource for new boaters. We signed some release forms, listened to the group safety brief, and before we knew it found ourselves rowing in a flotilla down the Deschutes River, in February, in the middle of nowhere, probably without a way to call for help. What were we doing?
To see what happens next, watch the video. This was truly an awesome experience, and watching the video flushes my body with excitement and makes me begin counting the days until our next trip.
“Wild Bill” Warncke did a great job writing about this annual trip in his trip report here: