We had hiked up French Pete Creek before we had packrafts, but Kirk, ever the creek boater, had planned to come back and try out the fast-moving rocky waters deep within pristene Oregon oldgrowth. The creek remains primarily trail-side for 3 miles as it rips through immense Douglas firs and 1,000 year old cedars.
We pulled into the parking area under the premise that I would be boating as well, but soon after a short scout up-stream, I decided to sit this one out as my boat handling skills need to come up a notch in order to boat this creek (and have fun!). With the pushy water, continuous bolder gardens, elevation loss of 200 foot-per-mile gradient and wood in the river, I would try and follow Kirk down the creek as best I could in case he needed help.
This is where some experienced packrafters are needed...there are plenty of places I will not go that Kirk would like to boat, any IV, V folks in the area that feel like exploring?
Anyway, by the time Kirk had donned his gear and we walked up-stream just past where we had initially scouted, the creek took a much more dramatic turn; the solo would be truly solo with no good access from the trail for any support. We decided it wasn't safe for him to be solo-boating much more than a small section near the trailhead with less gradient. Having just gotten his second hole in the boat last weekend, the last thing we wanted was to have him stuck and sinking alone.
|No backpack needed.|
The run was short and he assured me I would NOT have fun in this section. Maybe next year, or never...
The rest of the day we made camp, paddled around in the reservoir a bit and listened to French Pete Creek from our tent.
Sunday, we dropped a bike off at mouth of the reservoir and drove up almost 7 miles to a bridge where we could put on the South Fork of the McKenzie. The water level was about 700cfs which I was happy about because it made the Class III-IV(V) run (at higher flows, 3-4,000cfs) a fairly easy Class III.
Most of the miles were fun and splashy Class II. The water took on a jade color in the deeper pools and the old growth trees towered overhead.
Shortly after the confluence with French Pete Creek there is a significant class III rapid, but as it is roadside, I was able to scout it before hand.
Back to the reservoir, I hopped on the bike and retrieved the car. All in all, a great day on a beautiful river with no swims!