May 29, 2012

North Fork of the Crooked River - May 25 -Part 1

Kirk called me at work today, Fall Creek (a tributary of the Willamette River in the Oregon Valley) was flooding and we would have to go packrafting on some other river. Fine by me! As a solid class 2 boater (I will do 3s and 4s on occasion) the flooding of anything is a no-go for me. He also said he was called into work earlier than thought and would not be able to go packraft the Minam river next week as we had planned. Guess I'll be doing a backpacking trip instead!

Time to rock-n-roll
This river thing can be hard to plan for. Unlike a trail, the water levels change at the drop of a hat and with too much or too little, a trip can suddenly be out of the question for boaters like me. Kirk measures water features as class 5 or below, and can navigate and read anything. Having only IK'd (Inflatable Kayaked) for a few seasons before this, I have a long ways to go - or maybe never- before I'm packrafting class 4+. I feel more fragile as I get older and more unwilling to get hurt doing risky things. I need to be able to hike above and beyond all other activities. It keeps me sane.

After work, I packed all my camping and boating gear into my 2.2lb Vapor Ki pack for the first time. It seems everything will fit fine and I won’t have to take the Fanatic Fringe 9oz pack. Even though it is dramatically lighter and can hold a ton of gear, the lightweight pack's straps are uncomfortable. Weighing in at 31 pounds without water or beer, I want to be comfortable on our bushwhack up our new destination for the long weekend: the North Fork of the Crooked River. **I LOVE my Vapor Ki. Best pack ever.

If we were sponsored, it would be by PBR

I have never been on Paulina Highway south out of Prineville, and the drive is gorgeous. Rolling and craggy buttes are swept with stands of Ponderosa and Juniper; there are not many people out here. We pass through Post, claiming to be the middle of Oregon, and turn up a dirt road after checking out the river as it passes under the highway. Water! There is enough to packraft!

Camp tonight is a windy flat on top of the ridge overlooking the Crooked drainage and beyond. We are in a hunters' camp complete with trash everywhere, bullets laying under layers of pine needles and logs tied up to trees so Elk can be gutted in camp. I'm sure this spot has seen some action. This is better than Fall Creek anyway, we are on the dry side of the mountains and there shouldn't be many people about.

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