Sep 19, 2012

Salmon on the Salmon

A weekend wedding of a great thru-hiker friend took us to Welches, Oregon. Scott and his crew are a big contingent of the folks that like to paddle their boats underwater. As squirt boaters, they have a fascinating way of experiencing the river. Yet another reminder of how multifaceted the boating community is. While interested in packrafts, the squirt boaters would have a hard time doing mystery moves in my Llama!

The wedding provided a chance to catch up with some of some good friends I haven't seen in awhile; after the wedding, bike parade, and celebrating, we headed for the Salmon River.

With headwaters draining from the Palmer Glacier on Mt. Hood's south side, our cfs were pretty low - Fall is right around the corner. We drove to the upper bridge and packed up our boats for a hike upstream.

I use a Fanatic Fringe pack, perfect for day packing and with no frame, the 11oz bag just stuffs into a dry bag.
Kirk just strapped the boat to his back for the hike in...

Ooo, the water looked low, but my eye spied spots where we might be able to sneak through, well worth trying it out!

We only made it a little over a mile due to the cliffs that start upstream of where we put is apparently a dazzling gorge with waterfalls...something Kirk has run at higher water, and not somewhere I am likely to ever find myself!

As we were blowing up our boats, Kirk was the first one to notice the salmon. Fins were circling in a deep pool on the far side of the river and soon we noticed about 10 - 15 were splashing and swimming about. SWEET. I had never seen salmon heading to their spawning grounds before and was thrilled to see the massive fish so far upstream.

If I could take a clear picture, you would see big fish.
With the 80 foot waterfall not far upstream, we must have been close to the birthplace of all these big beauties. We put on the water and from there had a slow progression of dodging rocks and getting stuck. Ok, so maybe there wasn't enough water afterall... I portaged a good bit, Kirk made it through a few times by choosing the right channel, but overall we could have used a little more water.

Regardless, the area is beautiful and the fish continued to swim past us and at one point I had to scream as two salmon surprised me by splashing out of the water a few inches from my paddle. Did I say AWESOME?!?!

We got out of the river at the bridge despite the fact that we stashed a bike a few miles downriver. Our progress was slow and thought we'd save the bottom of our boats and leave the salmon to their journey.

Sep 10, 2012

Outfitting the boats

Since getting our packrafts this spring, we have slowly been outfitting our boats with extra tie-down points and most recently, gluing on d-rings to install thigh straps in my boat.

The thigh straps will not only making carrying a fully loaded boat easier, but also will help become more in-tune with the water so I can to move around rivers and rapids with much more control.

So...the steps for installing a d-ring, tie-down or patch...

First we measured where the d-rings would go...

and traced the outline where the four d-rings on the boat will go.

Then we found the right angle for the rings so that the thigh strap would lay flat against my leg.

Next using a fine-grained sandpaper, I roughed up the area inside the circle,

and also the bottom of the d-ring.

Using M.E.K., I applied three very thin coats to the inside of my circles.

And the bottom of the d-ring, making sure each coat dried **it is important to not get too much M.E.K. on your boat, it will eat away at it if you are not careful! (i know because I've done it)

Then Kirk mixed the activator for the Staybond glue

and painted three very thin coats on the d-rings and the boat, making sure each coat dried fully.

We had to turn my boat inside out to get the front circles painted with glue.

The last step is using a hairdryer to heat the d-ring and boat for about 30 seconds, and then slowly applying the d-ring while smoothing it as you go so that there are no air pockets.

And voila, done!

Sep 5, 2012

Grande Ronde River

We have only been back from the Grande Ronde for less than 48 hours, but it already feels like an eternity ago! Such is life.

We knew the approaching three-day Labor Day weekend would present an opportunity to explore a river farther away from home, but little did I realize we would choose one that would add up to 14 hours of driving. Whew, long hours in the car, but at least we had spectacular scenery and many podcasts to keep our brains busy.

It wasn't until Friday morning (the day we wanted to leave) that we thought about checking into the Grande Ronde River in the North East corner of Oregon. We had been up that way and boated the upper stretch of the Minam River in June (the Minam joins the Wallowa River and then downstream joins the Grande Ronde River).

I called Grant Ritchie of Minam Raft Rentals to get his take on packrafting options in the area, and he suggested boating the 39 miles from his store at the confluence of the Minam River and Wallowa River, down to Wildcat bridge. Most of the river is along a road-less stretch, and at 550cfs, the river would be just right for packrafts.

We decided the trip would be just boating, no hiking, and set up a shuttle with Grant. We jumped in the car after work and drove the six hours to the put-in. In daylight the next morning, the river looked scarcely boatable. Wide sections of the river-bed spread out what little water there was into a very thin sheet of current over the rocks. We met some rafters at the put-in, and I seriously doubted their ability to travel down the river (in reality they did fine, although jumping out to pull the raft was a common occurrence).

Mountain Goats!

What followed was a very mellow river run, a few instances of running the boats aground in shallow areas, and a very serene few days. Camps, while not super plentiful, always appeared when we needed them.
This was the most "packing" we did all trip: from camp to the river, oh about 30 feet!

We must return to boat from Wildcat Bridge to the Snake River. Eastern Oregon is a pretty wild and wide place with much to explore!
Some lady Big Horned Sheep met us on the way out of the river.