Mar 29, 2016

John Day River

It was the weekend, and adventure was at our fingertips.

It has been a fairly wet winter and spring, so when we looked at the water flows around Oregon, we thought it would be a good opportunity to try our luck at some of the desert rivers and creeks. Now we knew the desert rivers were flowing, but were some of the smaller creeks? Many of these are only boatable in the spring, so it was worth a trip out to the John Day area to find out.

We first choose Burnt Creek which runs along the Painted Hills area, one because it would be a stunning float, and two, because why not?

When we got there we first checked out the Painted Hills.

Then soon determined Burnt Creek probably never has enough water to packraft, at least not while all the willows in the creek made for pokey sticks that might sink a packraft. Now a hardshell would be a fun bomb run at high water.

So we looked up the dirt road to the John Day River.

Water flows were 4,400 cfs, plenty for a raft, so plenty for a packraft.

We had neglected to throw a bike in the car, and these roads were so sparsely traveled, that we would need to float the old fashioned walking upstream and floating back to our car.

We found a sweet spot to car camp on the river, and set out for a little hike.

This is a stunning area, and it left us wanting to spend more time over here. It's just over 2 hours from Bend, maybe we'll be back next weekend too!

The next day we packed up our packs for a walk upstream to the next boat launch.

Because there's a fair amount of private property in the area, there aren't many spots to access the river.

Once we got to the Priest Hole put-in, we pumped up our boats. I'm using my new bow bag that Kirk made for me this week. It will help to have small things accessible along our future packrafting trips.

It was a lovely float.

Spring was definitely still in the air, and the wind had a bitter cold hint to it.

There were a couple of splashy Class II sections, but mostly it was a mellow float.

I think we will be back next weekend...this time with our raft!

Jan 29, 2016

Packrafting at Smith Rock on the Crooked River

We've been wanting to packraft the Crooked River through the popular climbing area, Smith Rock, for some time. While the water is flat and calm as it passes the dramatic cliffs in the state park, right above it is continuous class IV with some short flat areas and only a few access points into the canyon.  Below Smith Rock are some meaty Class IV/V sections when water flows are in the 2,000+ CFS range (only runs for a few days per year at that flow). Something Kirk has boated countless times before, but it's unlikely I'll find myself in those sections any time soon, unless we take our full size raft and R2 it.

However we always wondered if it would be doable at a much lower flow...perhaps the rocky rapids would become serene pool drops? When we saw water levels hovering around the 400 CFS range we decided to check it out.  Most times of the year it is 50-80 CFS or lower.

We parked above the park, loaded our packs with boats and such, and after reaching the river, started heading upstream to find out how far we could get before putting our boats in the water.

We reached the north gorge where the basalt walls started to close in around a jumble of rocks choking the river channel.

Picking our way, we finally determined the water was too low to make it through the river rocks and sieves up higher in the gorge, so we put in just above here and ran the last few rapids of the lower gorge. It looks like high water is the better way to boat this section, but then it becomes continuous Class IV.

So we put on the river for our serene float.

And the sun came out too.

After about 4 miles on the river we rounded the back side of Smith Rock and I spied the famous "Monkey Face" rock formation, which looks much more like a monkey from the water than from on land!

We took off the river after an unrunnable rapid below Smith Rock State Park, yep, there was a big 2x4 board in the middle of the first drop in a rapid called Number 1 (class V), it could be moved but getting to it to move it could be hazardous (if the water comes up it should flush out, and or be covered by water).  Below here you are committed to boating down another 12 miles of class IV/V with no exit from the gorge until Crocked River Ranch where there is a old skid road / trail that gets you up the 400 or so feet out of the canyon.  At this flow you would probably find the same sieved out rock piles with not much passage for a packraft.  There is another committing 18 mile class III-IV run below that but it has a spring on it (Opal Springs) that adds quite a bit of water, so that could be a future trip.  So at this point we packed up our boats, and walked up and over the cliffs back to the car.

Not a bad day in the desert!

Nov 11, 2015

A Short Paddle on the Upper Middle Deschutes

Sometimes its easy to forget about sections of river that are right under your nose. In this case sections of the Deschutes River that run right through the middle of Bend.

Just above and below town there are some beefy Class IV-V sections that I may never boat, but just below the "Riverhouse Run" near Tumalo state park is a primarily flatwater section...but it's so close we decided to give it a try. Even if it's primarily flat, we knew it would still be a pretty float.

We called up our friend Brian who's been wanting to go out, and picked out a short 5-mile section of river.

We parked at Tumalo State Park and hiked upriver to a spot that was good to launch.

And yes, it was mellow, but we did come upon a few splashy Class II rapids that helped break up the flat water.

Next we want to do the next section that runs to the outskirts of Redmond...and beyond. Kirk has paddled almost the whole length of the Deschutes River, and that is one of the remaining sections left.

Not a bad way to explore your backyard!

Oct 19, 2015

First Look at the Six Moon Designs Flex Pack

New on the market recently is the Six Moon Designs Flex pack. Designed with water sports in mind, this could be a great addition to packrafting gear options.

I haven't had a chance to take it on a nice long hike/float yet, but loaded it up for a short paddle on the Willamette River in Portland this weekend.

I was able to fit boat, PFD, throw bag, smaller dry bag, and raincoat all in the large waterproof bag. Extra straps are included to help configure multiple combinations of strapping paddles, PDFs, ect. to the outside of the pack, and I think this pack holds great potential for winter ski touring trips as well.


The heavier weights of a packrafting load (especially on overnights or multiple day trips) have made for uncomfortable trips in the previous packs I have used, but the bomber hip belt and back panel already look to make those trips more comfortable.

I've been working with Six Moon Designs (SMD) over the last year as their media manager, and used SMD's Fusion 50 on the CDT this year. The Flex uses the same suspension system as on the Fusion 50 (I often carried 6-7 liters of water and 5-7 days of food...probably around a 40-45lb load at times), and was very comfortable.

We are looking forward to putting this pack to the test!