Category Archives: Trip Reports

Trip Reports and Photos

Illinois River – March 8-9, 2014


We talked a few Idaho friends (Tony, Andrew, and Josh) into making the trip out, promised it would be worth it… and the water showed up with them. We had great flows for a two-day Illinois trip. Mid-2000s the first day, heavy rain in the afternoon and night, and high flows for the float out on the second day.

Video from the boat:

Video from Green Wall:

Camp was at Collier Creek, which is an excellent “high water” camp. We stopped at Indigo Creek the next morning and were able to park the boats up the creek because the river was up high. Here are a couple more shots from this trip:




Chetco – February 28 – March 2, 2014

The Mission
Complete the Chetco River located in Siskiyou National Forest and the Kalmiopsis Wilderness area in Oregon in a weekend. (Feb 28 – Mar 2)

The Kalmiopsis Wilderness in Southern Oregon
The Kalmiopsis Wilderness in Southern Oregon

John Wilburn – Grant Pass

The Difficulties
Beta, Hiking information, river levels, takeouts

Put-in Logistics
There are two ways that previous people have hiked in.

1) Chetco Pass route
2) Babyfoot Lake/Mt Bailey Trail

Babyfoot Lake Trailhead
Babyfoot Lake Trailhead

This is where I probably had the most difficulty finding accurate and reliable information.

The Chetco Pass route was the shortest and with time being an issue was the most appealing but I found out that they have a POC gate that they keep closed to help with Port Orford Cedar Root Disease. If you start at the gate and hike the road and then drop down it is the same distance as the Babyfoot but it means climbing over a pass. The advantage is you get to hike the first part on the road which seemed appealing since we would be hiking the first miles in the dark. Even though more grueling it would thus eliminate the possibility of getting loss in the dark.

After finding a way to use gps on my iphone. The plans changed to the Babyfoot lake trail and I think for the better. The Babyfoot lake trail also puts you 3 miles up higher and allows you to paddle what they call the “Magic Canyon”.

To get to the Babyfoot Lake trail head, you take 199 toward Crescent City and right outside of Selma you turn onto $8 Mountain Road. Follow this road to the top of the mountain and then take the left fork. There is a parking lot there with a pit toilet. Very easy to find and everything is well marked.

We were not sure if 4×4 would be needed or a vehicle with ground clearance, etc. but this is a gravel road, you could take a Mercedes up. I also was warned that it would be completely snowed in

Distance – 9 miles

The hike into the Chetco
The hike into the Chetco

We arrived at the trail head on Friday after work and began hiking at 7pm. We hiked till 11:30 pm and crashed. The temperature was cool and perfect for hiking. That night it started to drizzle/rain. We just pulled out the tarps and rolled up in them like tacos till morning. By morning the rain had stopped, we ate breakfast and started hiking around 8am. We reached the put-in at about noon on Saturday.

Hiking with a kayak is difficult. A kayak alone ways 50 lbs then put about 25 lbs gear in it and you are at 75 lbs, not only that but it is large and awkward. These miles are also on trails with loose rocks, limbs and downed trees.

The put-in looked low and scrappy. It soon picked up volume. The upper section is tight and technical.

The Upper Chetco - low and scrappy at the start
The Upper Chetco – low and scrappy at the start

We were able to boat scout and run everything thus moving quicker than I thought we would. We put on about 1pm and paddled till dark and was only about 2 miles from Tolman Ranch having covered about 20 miles.

It rained all night and our shuttle was not going to pick us up till 5pm so it would be lots of waiting around in the rain so we decided to get an early start and push on thus getting the lower Chetco which has Candy Cane rapid and Cone Head, two solid class Vs.

Running Conehead Rapid on the Chetco River
Running Conehead Rapid on the Chetco River

We were able to get a text out at the second bridge to our driver with the change of plans to meet us at the start park. We arrived there at 3pm and was back to Grants Pass after picking up our put-in vehicle by 7pm.

We had a consistent 1800 on the Chetco gauge near Brookings. This is adequate water but if I were to do it again. I think idea would be 3000 and dropping on the Gauge thus cleaning up a lot of mank in the early sections.

Our initial plans were to take out at the first bridge crossing the Chetco. Some reports said bring a rope to get your gear up. Don’t be fooled there is an easy trail after the bridge on river right. We ended up taking out at Alfred Leob state park. Ideal takeout would be the South Fork Chetco confluence on River Left. Thus getting the two Class Vs and cutting out the flat water.

It was neat to see and feel how this river starts out as a mountain stream and then gains volume and turn into a river. The vegetation also drastically changes from dry and airy to moss covered and coastal. The rapids are well spaced and I never lost boredom with flat water until below the Sourth Fork junction. The lower rapids had lots of big rocks and different lines and were quite fun.

After 9 miles hiking with a kayak and 40 river miles, I could not wait for a hot shower with a cold beer!

Takelma Gorge, North Fork Rogue – November 15, 2013


On this trip we had five rafts. Flow was low. I think you take the above gauge and divide in half for actual flow. If someone knows better please let me know in the comment section below. The crux at this flow was the second drop of the the first rapid (after entry rapid and sharp right turn). You can go left or right. Boats that tried to go right got spanked a bit. Boats that went left did alright. At this flow, it is tough to have a “clean” line in there with a raft because it is so tight.

R2 – Erik Sol and Michael McKenzie
R2 – Aaron Babcock and Thomas Hood
R2 – Glen Finch and Jeff Finch
R3 – Skip Volpert, Mike and McCale
R4 – Will Volpert, Steve, Adam Spencer, John Bartosz

Michael and Erik Sol in taking a break in Takelma gorge
Michael and Erik Sol in taking a break in Takelma Gorge
Skip Volpert, Mike, and McCale running a rapid in Takelma Gorge
Skip Volpert, Mike, and McCale running a rapid in Takelma Gorge
Glen and Jeff Finch making their way downstream
Glen and Jeff Finch making their way downstream

N.F. Rogue (Mill Creek) – September 2, 2013

The Mill Creek stretch of the North Fork of the Rogue River is a spectacular stretch of water. It is a short run, however, and so on this particular day we did two laps. If you catch this stretch during a recreational release there is a shuttle vehicle organized by the power company, which is a nice plus.

In a raft, this is a pretty technical run but a ton of fun. Here’s a video of our second run (TJ Vandehey and Will Volpert):



Lochsa Falls – May 14, 2013


As the saying goes, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat,” the same can be said for running Lochsa Falls at high water. Twice in the last three years, the Lochsa has peaked just above 20K (9ft), making the run a good old hootenanny. This coming spring looks to be just as promising. And with the big water will come the carnage at Lochsa Falls.

When I first scouted Lochsa Falls the level was 20K on the gauge. The V wave at the Falls looked intimidating and something I wanted to avoid. This notion was quickly proved wrong. As we were scouting from the road, an oar rig with two paddle assist came in charging hard into the V wave. The oarsmen knew exactly what he was doing; he was moving from river right to the left, and angled directly towards the left side of the crashing V wave. He had a perfect line smooth as butter, no one in his boat got wet.

Rafting Lochsa Falls on the Lochsa River, Idaho.
Rafting Lochsa Falls on the Lochsa River, Idaho.

Still, I was nervous so I went with the more conservative line, left of center. The Lochsa veterans called the move “Satan Gut” line. The line is to enter left-of-center and continue to work left while threading the needle between big holes on both sides of you.

A year later I tried the right of center-line. When I came into the wave, I noticed it was building and building, and on cue it crashed directly on my boat. Like a stop light, the wave went from Green to Red in an instant. Stopped us dead, surfed us, then flipped the boat. We had no chance.

Illinois River – November 17-18, 2012


Flows looked great for this trip until the day before our launch. The storm we were counting on to bump up flows was pushed back and instead of a rainy day we were left looking up to semi-clear skies with not a drop of rain. Nevertheless, we remained optimistic and started the drive to Miami Bar the next morning. On the way in, somebody asked what the flow was… 350 CFS was the answer. Erik Sol – “I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.”

It was cold, windy, and low. Really low. For loaded 14′ rafts it was difficult to move downstream without getting stuck. After a long day of dragging boats, we arrived at Klondike and called it quits for the night. Then our storm arrived and the rain began to fall.

Glen Finch in Green Wall.

We awoke the following morning to a much healthier flow and were able to easily reach Oak Flat that afternoon.

Fish Creek, North Umpqua – May 30, 2012

Photos courtesy of Garret Smith Photography.

The entire time frame of an adventure can be broken into bits and pieces and, in particular, dots that mark significant turning points. There is always a first dot, the starting point, and a final dot, which marks the end of your journey. Each decision you make (another dot) often has a profound effect upon the remaining dots yet to be made. If your adventure involves kayaking or rafting, your journey normally ends as expected, at the final dot, someplace known as a “take-out” or access point along the bank of a river.

packing-upIn a small clearing we rested. “How far above the creek do you think we are?” I asked Garret. The answer was maybe 100 feet or so. Not much, but it was steep and rocky, with a small cliff to start out, and we didn’t have a static line so our z-drag was going extra slow. It had taken three of us exactly three hours to move ourselves, our boats, and other miscellaneous items approximately 100 feet up and out of Fish Creek. We rested; and as we stared off in various directions I started picturing the dots that had led us to what was now a significant turning point in our little adventure.

It had started off about as normal as it gets for a group of people looking to get outside on some of Oregon’s rivers during Memorial Day Weekend. We’d run the Upper Rogue and from there headed over to the North Umpqua. We still had Monday to go boating and on Sunday afternoon the itch for an adventure hit some of us like a bad case of poison oak. I remember specifically saying something about wanting to find a creek off the beaten path. Willie, who is familiar with the area, said there was such a creek just six miles up the road from us. We drove over Fish Creek that evening and were ecstatic to see a good flow underneath the bridge. Our map showed a road that led right to the water and would give us about a five-mile run. Our adventure had been found and dot number one had sprouted.

Around the campfire that night we looked over our not-in-depth-at-all Oregon road map that had contour lines for every 300 feet in elevation. It seemed that there would be two particularly interesting sections on the creek. The first was within a quarter-mile of where we were putting in and the second was about a mile-and-a-half into the run where the creek would drop 300 feet in less than half a mile.

The next morning we packed up and drove to the put-in. The creek looked great. Dana, who was doing our shuttle and not at all enthused by our fabulous adventure, always asks me what time she should call for help. “What do you think? Six hours?” she asked. It was 10:00 and the whole run was only five miles long. We were all motivated to get it done quickly because of the drive back to Ashland. I thought for a second and replied, “Don’t get worried until it starts to get dark.” We pushed off. She drove back to the campground. And so it began.

willieIt wasn’t long before we came to a fairly significant horizon-line-jumble-of-rocks-log-gnarl. We pulled over on river-left and hiked downstream about a third of a mile. We’d be lining and portaging this one – all of it. But other than the huge drops, sieves, and logs it looked like it would have been a great rapid! So there remained a glimmer of hope for what remained downstream.

That glimmer came to life briefly as we managed to scrape a mile or so downstream without significant portaging or lining. The rapids were tight and technical and a few had some nice drops. But we weren’t making good time. We stopped and scouted everything and we did get hung up in a few places. Then, very suddenly, we came to a corner that reeked of heinousness.

The creek pooled up as it rounded a left-hand bend and slipped underneath a pile of logs. We stopped again on the left bank and my brother Skip and I started hiking. I stayed high and went quite a ways downstream. It looked like we’d be lining this one for sure, and I couldn’t see the end of it as the creek disappeared around a right turn. Garret joined us and mentioned he thought we could line along the left bank. It was now crunch time – we were definitely pushing the clock to get out before dark. It was after 2:00 and we probably had not gone more than two miles. If things continued like this we’d be in trouble. We decided to get back to the boats and begin the process of moving downstream.

Willie and Garret took to moving the small Avon while Brandon, Skip, and I worked on the much larger Vanguard. We moved as quickly as possible and had made it to where the creek began bending right when I heard a whistle blast, looked downstream, and saw Willie motioning for us to join him and Garret 100 feet down river. They did not look stoked. From where they stood the rapid not only continued to be huge, but it actually got steeper. In fact we were standing on a significant waterfall and it appeared that there was another one just downstream. What time was it? 3:00, which meant maybe three hours before it would start to get dark. We knew from looking at the map that there was a road on river-right roughly 500-600 feet above the river maybe one mile away.

Our choice was to either to risk continuing downstream and maybe not getting out before dark (and probably footing a search and rescue bill) or bailing on the trip, sending two people out to contact Dana to let her know all is well, and hiking the boats and gear out. We chose the latter. Put a dot there.

The first step in the process was to get the boats from river-left to river-right above a huge drop. Garret and Brandon went back upstream, crossed over the logjam, caught throw bags that were attached to the rafts, and pulled them across the creek into a small micro-eddy at the base of a cliff. When we re-grouped on river-right it was decided that Willie and Brandon would hike out while Garret, Skip, and I would begin the process of getting the boats started on what was sure to be an absolute nightmare of an experience.

And so there we sat, three hours later, a measly 100 feet above the river in a small clearing surrounded by tall trees. “Well according to the map the road is in that direction,” I said. We decided to go look for it. There was no way we would be getting the gear out tonight, we’d have to save it for tomorrow, but there was no reason for us stay with it until then especially since we didn’t know where the road was.

We started walking through the dense woods. “Holy shit…” all three of us muttered. We tilted our heads upward and stared at an enormous 300+ foot cliff that emerged through the trees. “Maybe there’s a way around it if we go further downstream?” We started hiking along the base of the bastard. After about a half-mile we took a break and then heard whistle blasts from back upstream. We returned them and soon were reunited with Willie and Brandon. They had found a steep and narrow gulley up the cliff, had found the road, hiked to the highway where they hitched a ride, and had caught Dana as she was driving in the opposite direction to the Ranger Station. That was a huge relief. They showed us their route and it wasn’t long before we were back in a truck headed to the campground.

That night we came up with a plan to get the gear out. The first step was getting a static line. Willie called a friend in Roseburg (Greg) who, not only lent us a rope and a bunch of extra climbing gear, but he drove it up to us that night (THANK YOU!). Our plan involved moving the gear in stages that would take a few laps each. From the small clearing we would move everything to the base of the cliff. From the base of the cliff we would z-drag everything up the gulley as far as the rope could go. We’d then reset the z-drag at the top of the gulley and get everything to the top. From there, it would be a quarter mile to the road. I figured we’d be lucky to get everything to the top of the cliff and would have to come back later that week to get it the rest of the way out.

Of course it rained all night and was especially cold the following morning. We packed up camp and left around 8:00 a.m. Got down to the boats around 9:00. We rolled the Vanguard so that it had four carry loops and then “one-two-three’d” it for an hour and a half to the base of the cliff. Up and over fallen trees, gaining elevation over huge boulders, squeezing it between narrow gaps between the cliff and trees, it somehow – magically – ended up at the base of the cliff. Next we went back for the Avon (which is about half the weight of the Vanguard) and the remainder of the gear. By 11:30 we had everything at the base of the cliff.

The z-drag went smooth. We had 180 feet of rope and nearly used the full length twice so the gulley was around 350 feet from top to bottom. It was 1:30 by the time everything was at the top. We were exhausted. It took two more hours to move everything to the road but we got it done by 3:30, exactly 24 hours after Willie and Brandon had begun their hike out to reach Dana.

There are few adventures I have been on where reaching the final dot has been so challenging and there are even fewer adventures I have been on where it has felt so rewarding. Normally, your final dot is at a place you’ve planned on. Perhaps the difference between an adventure and a misadventure is landing on a dot you weren’t expecting. And when that happens you must make decisions that make your future dots easier. Despite creating an absolutely heinous situation for ourselves we did overcome a tremendous challenge in avoiding injury, getting 100% of our equipment out of a tough spot, and staying positive. In order to accomplish those three things we made some good decisions after making one really bad one, which was putting on with limited beta on the run.

We arrived back in Ashland around 8:00 p.m. that night. Skip had gone back to Eugene so Willie and Garret helped unload the gear into my yard. Garret was headed back home to Shasta. Other than this weekend, we’d hardly spent much time together aside from a day of touring breweries in western Montana (actually that’s a good story too – maybe another time). When you go through an experience like we had it brings out everyone’s spirit, demeanor, and who they truly are; which is maybe what he meant when he responded to my apology about putting him through such a physically heinous ordeal with “Don’t apologize Will, I feel like we had some quality hanging out time together.” He’s right – when it comes down to it all of us involved in this adventure did spend some quality time together – and we won’t soon forget it.