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  1. Top White Water Destinations in North America

    Comments Off on The 25 Best Naturalist Quotes from our 5 Favorite Naturalists

    Here at Winding Waters River Expeditions, we’re constantly inspired by the wisdom of naturalists from yesteryear. On all of our trips through the Pacific Northwest’s finest rivers, we develop an almost spiritual relationship with the natural world around us. Preeminent naturalists spoke to this relationship and inspire outdoor enthusiasts to this day.

    In this post, we’ll talk about some of our favorite naturalists and the best naturalist quotes that encapsulate their wild spirits.


    John Muir

    Perhaps, the United States’s most influential naturalist-explorer, John Muir is known for his explorations through California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. The Scotsman wrote about his experiences and conviction to conservation in his writings focusing on the appreciation and protection of the natural world.

    Known as “The Father of National Parks,” Muir’s writing and advocacy has helped protect countless natural areas in the United States. Some notable parks he directly helped protect through his writings include:

    Often called “John of the Mountains,” his spirit lives on throughout the country in public wild spaces to this day.

    Our top 5 favorite John Muir quotes

    • • “The power of imagination makes us infinite.”
    • • “Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.”
    • • “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
    • • “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
    • • “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”


    Henry David Thoreau

    Is there any naturalist who blended the natural world with the American spirit quite like Henry David Thoreau?

    Known for his seminal work, Walden Pond, and his deeply influential essay Civil Disobedience, Thoreau truly embodied the Naturalist spirit. The former detailed his 2 years living on a remote pond in Concord, MA, and the latter detailing his philosophy that government shouldn’t force you to make moral compromises.

    Disobedience was written shortly after coming back from Walden Pond, and was a direct response to both slavery and imperialism shown in the Mexican American war.

    This combination of works show us how a life guided by the natural, free world is something more than just a recreational pursuit, but one guided by a philosophy of respect and connection with the wild.

    Our top 5 favorite Henry David Thoreau quotes

    • • “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
    • • “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”
    • • “All good things are wild, and free.”
    • • “Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”
    • • “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”


    John James Audubon

    James John Audubon is one of the premier American ornithologists. Audubon identified 25 new species of birds and completed the masterwork, The Birds of America.

    The volume contains 435 true-to-life sized watercolors of birds from across the country engraved on plates. In completing the book, Audubon traveled the country with nothing but his gun, art materials, and his assistant to discover and capture the electric energy of the nation’s birds.

    While he did not found the organization, the Audubon Society is committed to continuing his legacy through the protection of birds and their habitats.

    Our top 5 John James Audubon quotes

    • • “A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his father, but borrowed from his children.”
    • • “I feel I am strange to all but the birds of America.”
    • • “But Hopes are Shy Birds flying at a great distance seldom reached by the best of Guns.”
    • • “Hunting, fishing, drawing, and music occupied my every moment. Cares I knew not, and cared naught about them.”
    • • “In my deepest troubles, I frequently would wrench myself from the persons around me and retire to some secluded part of our noble forests.”


    Theodore Roosevelt

    To those who love the modern conservationist spirit of the United States, Teddy Roosevelt needs no introduction. As president, Roosevelt enacted a series of conservation measures, including:

    • • The creation of the United States Forest Service, of which he named 150 National Forests
    • • Creation of 5 National Parks
    • • The 1906 Antiquities Act, which proclaimed 18 US National Monuments
    • • Establishment of 51 bird reserves and 4 game preserves

    All in all, Teddy placed 230,000,000 acres under public protection, most of which was done under executive order.

    This conservation-minded approach to land management irked many members of his own party from western states, including Oregon’s own Senator Charles Futon. Eventually, Congress limited Roosevelt’s ability to set aside land through executive order, but not before he established 21 forest reserves immediately before the restrictions went into place.

    Our top 5 Theodore Roosevelt quotes

    • • “Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground.”
    • • “The lack of power to take joy in outdoor nature is as real a misfortune as the lack of power to take joy in books.”
    • • “There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy and its charm.”
    • • “The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased; and not impaired in value.”
    • • “The only man who never makes mistakes is the man who never does anything.”


    Gifford Pinchot

    The inaugural chief of the National Forest service and the 28th Governor of Pennsylvania, Pinchot was in Teddy Roosevelt’s conservation circle and an important figure in the era’s conservation movement.

    As the leader of the National Forest Service, Pinchot was the de-facto leader of much of the Western United States federally-owned land. Under his leadership, the Forest Service established a more conservation-minded approach to land management. He also established better practices to forest management and was a large proponent of what he called conservation ethic, which called for scientific methods in forestry management.

    Our top 5 Gifford Pinchot quotes

    • • “Conservation means the wise use of the earth and its resources for the lasting good of men.”
    • • “The earth and its resources belong of right to its people.”
    • • “Innovations never happen as planned.”
    • • “Unless we practice conservation, those who come after us will have to pay the price of misery, degradation, and failure for the progress and prosperity of our day.”
    • • “The outgrowth of conservation, the inevitable result, is national efficiency.”


    Pining to find your own naturalist spirit?

    At Winding Waters River Expeditions, we lead river journeys down some of the most wild and scenic rivers in the entire country, The Salmon River, The Snake River, and the Grande Ronde River. Many of our trips will guide you through multiple days in remote sections of wilderness where you can truly get away from it all.

    Read about our rafting and fly fishing trips that will help you explore not only our beautiful rivers, but your own naturalist spirit. Contact us to learn more about how to get more in touch with the wilderness.

  2. The History of Whitewater Rafting in Oregon

    Comments Off on All You Need to Know About Using a Toilet on a White Water Rafting Trip

    If this is your first time white water rafting or embarking on a rafted multi-day fishing trip, you’re probably excited. You should be! Rafting trips are often even more fun than our customers expect. It’s a trip you’ll be talking about for the rest of your life.

    One thing many of our clients don’t necessarily think of when planning their trip, however, is where they will go to the bathroom. While you may have experience going #1 out in nature without much worry, less have experience with going #2.

    Enter the groover, a piece of equipment as necessary as the raft itself for a successful multi-day rafting trip.

    In this post, we’ll go over just what a groover is, why it’s important we use one, and what you can expect from the experience when out on the beautiful rivers of eastern Oregon.

    What exactly is a groover?

    A groover is a portable toilet. It’s illegal to raft certain rivers without one, including the rivers we raft here at Winding Waters River Expeditions — the Snake, Salmon, and Grande Ronde rivers.

    Groovers are an outstanding piece of equipment, as they are designed to be as clean and secure as possible. There’s even a comfortable toilet seat on the groover. You’ll have all the conveniences of your home’s bathroom even out on the river, including toilet paper, hand sanitizer, trash can, and full hand washing station, plus a beautiful view of a wild and scenic Pacific Northwest river.

    When not set up for use, groovers lock securely, keeping everything where it needs to be. When emptied at the end of the trip, a secure hose is used to empty the groover, meaning the outside of the groover stays clean throughout the process.

    Fortunately for you, this will not be a worry for you on your trip. Your guides will handle setup, packing, transportation, and cleaning of the groover.

    Fun fact: Why is it called a groover?

    Back in the day, instead of stable, lockable vault boxes that prevented leaks, army surplus ammo cans were used to hold waste. Ammo cans or Rocket boxes are rectangular in shape, and when sat on to do “business” would leave grooves on the users’ backsides.

    While similar cans are used today to hold all sorts of items on the river, groover toilet systems have come a long way in recent years. We can all be thankful we have access to high-tech, vault toilets over the ammo cans of years past.

    Why is the groover necessary?

    As mentioned above, it is actually illegal to not have a portable toilet when on the river. Even if it weren’t, there would be no other place to go. The places we float at Winding Waters River Expeditions are in the wild. The camp sites are un developed and bathrooms are simply not available where we spend our days and evenings.

    We’ve had brave souls tell us in the past they’d rather just “go in the woods” to avoid using the groover, one fella even dared us to find his cat hole.  (We found it.) Due to many of these rivers’ protection by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and their conservation management, it’s bad practice to go anywhere but the toilet.  The camps that we use feel wild and untrammeled, but the truth is they are used almost every night of the summer.

    We want to make sure the rivers stay clean so rafters from the Pacific Northwest and the rest of the world can enjoy them for generations to come. The groover is an important part of this effort, and a necessary piece of equipment for our ability to sustainably raft these rivers.

    How will the groover be used on our rafting and fishing trips?

    When out on the river, we try to make going to the bathroom as easy and comfortable as possible for everyone. This is your trip and we want to make sure you’re able to relax at the end of a full day rafting.

    To ensure this, we have a protocol for using the groover that goes as follows:

    • • The first thing your guides do upon arriving at camp is set up the groover. The groover is always set up in a private space (often with a beautiful view) that will give you peace and quiet.
    • • We will also set up other facilities to add comfort to the experience. This includes a hand wash station to wash your hands, toilet paper, hand disinfectant, trash can etc.
    • • An important part of the system includes the bathroom key. This key is not a literal key, but an object you will take with you to the bathroom to signify the facilities are occupied. This is often located around the hand washing station.
    • • Once you arrive at the groover, you will notice there are actually 2 groovers. The Hot Pink one is for going #1 only. No TP or anything other than pee should ever go in the hot pink groover!  Solid waste and toilet paper go in the other groover.  There will also be a trash can there for any feminine hygiene products and baby wipes if you brought some of those.
    • • In the morning before heading out for the day, there will be a last call before securing the groover for that day’s adventure.
    • If nature calls during the day, let your guide know and they can set up the “day groover” for you.

    Like everything else included in Winding Waters River Expedition trips, the entire experience is designed for your enjoyment. We want you to have all the comforts of home while on the river so you can focus on enjoying the solitude and beauty of eastern Oregon. The groover and our camp system are designed to give you the best possible experience.

    Are you ready for the adventure of a lifetime?

    At Winding Waters River Expeditions, we offer a number of trips on three of the Pacific Northwest’s premier rivers: the Snake, Salmon, and Grande Ronde rivers. These rivers are all wild and scenic rivers, and give you the feeling as if you and your expedition group are the only ones in the world.

    Trips are all inclusive and include:

    • • Gourmet meals
    • • All necessary camping and fishing/rafting gear
    • • Transportation to and from the river
    • • Full service guides with decades of experience in the very river where your expedition is taking place

    Questions about the groover or anything else with our expeditions? Let us know! We’re happy to answer any questions you have or explain what you should expect when on one of our expeditions.

  3. Best Shore Lunches & Meals for Whitewater Rafting

    Comments Off on Top Whitewater Rafting Destinations in The World

    There are rivers great for whitewater rafting around the world! Every continent (with the exception of maybe Antarctica) has world class opportunities for whitewater rafting thrill seekers!

    In this post, we’ll outline some of the global whitewater rafting destination on our bucket list.



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    The rivers of Idaho and Oregon

    Country: United States of America

    We may be a little biased, but the Pacific Northwest truly has some of the best whitewater rafting in the world. Below, we’ve put the two top destinations in our globally recognized whitewater rafting region.


    The Salmon River

    One of the best rafting destination in the entire world, the Salmon River combines world class rapids with beautiful scenery for a truly unforgettable rafting trip.

    The longest undammed river contained within 1 state in the United States outside of Alaska, the Salmon river is one of the last untouched rivers in North America. The river is packed with deep canyons, sandy beaches, and rapids of varying difficulty, meaning there are trips suitable for experts rafters and families alike.

    Given that it’s an example of the natural beauty of the American west, the Salmon River should be on the top of anybody’s list of top rafting trips in the world.


    The Snake River through Hells Canyon

    Combining the natural beauty of Oregon and Idaho, the deepest river canyon in North America, and rapid classes for the whole family, the Snake River through Hells Canyon is a rafting trip not to be missed.

    This legendary route runs 51 miles through the crystal-clear water of Hells Canyon all the way to Oregon. Filled with class III and IV rapids along the way, this whitewater is unique given the Canyon’s depth, which reaches almost 8,000 feet deep at some points!

    The route takes you through one of the most beautiful regions in the country. With natural beauty combined with historical sites to take in, this river is great for more than just whitewater thrills.


    Experience the world-famous Idaho-Oregon rafting region as it was meant to be experienced

    Winding Waters River Exploration will take care of everything so you can enjoy these wild rivers as they were meant to be experienced.

    When you raft with Winding Waters River Expeditions, you’ll…

    • – Experience world-class whitewater runs, including class II, III, and IV rapids
    • – Enjoy delicious gourmet meals made from fresh, local ingredients
    • – Sleep under the stars in our deluxe and luxurious camping equipment
    • – See miracles of nature, including Bald Eagles, Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, geometric columnar basalt, beautiful wildflowers, and much more
    • – Swim in warm, crystal clear waters

    Plus, all equipment and transportation you’ll need is included. The perfect way to experience the rivers of the Pacific Northwest.

    Explore Our Multi-Day Trips Through World Class Rapids



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    Noce River

    Country: Italy

    Given the thousands of years of development on the continent, there are few untouched areas of Europe left for world-class whitewater. Northern Italy’s Noce River however, is still wild and filled with thrills.

    The Noce is one of Europe’s most exciting – and beautiful – whitewater rivers. Located in the Val di Sole, or valley of the sun, the Noce is fed by the alpine glaciers of the Dolomites, one of Italy’s most famous mountain ranges.

    The river itself boasts class IV-V rapids, including a stretch of class V rapids through the gorges of Mostizzolo that are one it’s most famous features. Though this section is known for its difficulty, there are plenty of sections of this 16 mile stretch that all experience levels can enjoy!



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    Zambezi River

    Country: Zimbabwe and Zambia

    The Zambezi river is known worldwide as the river containing Victoria Falls, the largest waterfall in the world. Just below Victoria Falls however, is one of Africa’s most excitings stretches of whitewater.

    Known as the Batoka Gorge, this 15-mile stretch below the falls is an exciting stretch of river that’s set against the backdrop of one of the most distinctly beautiful areas of the world. Known as “Slam-bezi” given it’s difficulty and punishing waves, the Zambezi should only be rafted by extremely experienced rafters. Also, make sure to watch out for the crocodiles and hippos that blanket the area.



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    Upano River

    Country: Ecuador

    Set amongst the rainforest of the Ecuadorian jungle, the Upano river is one of the most remote and exciting whitewater rafting rivers in the world.

    Generally starting out of the village of Macas, the river winds past small villages and breathtaking waterfalls, including the Namangosa Gorge area. While it may take awhile to get to Macas (it is one of the most remote towns in Ecuador), rafting amongst the wildlife and nature of the Amazonian rainforest is an experience you’ll never forget.



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    Magpie River, Canada

    Country: Canada

    Located in northern Quebec in remote pine forests not accessible by road, the whitewater of the Magpie river is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. On clear nights you can even see the aurora borealis, otherwise known as the northern lights!

    Starting on Magpie Lake, which can only be accessed through a float plane, you’ll cascade down the river through rapids of varying difficulty, camping on river islands throughout. You’ll eventually reach Magpie Falls, an exhilarating end to your Northern Canadian trip.



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    Futaleufú River, Chile

    Country: Chile

    The Futaleufú River, starting amongst the glacial lakes of Patagonia in Chile, offers one of the most unique rafting experiences in the world. The water is blue due to the minerals from the glacial lakes, and the river winds through the high alpine scenery, offering an incredible experience completely different from the other South American river on this lst.

    The Futaleufú is also known for its diverse range of rapids, with sections for all skill levels. That said, it is also known for its multiple regions of class V rapids that are challenging for even seasoned rafters.



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    North Johnstone River, Australia

    Country: Australia

    The tropical landscape of Northern Queensland, Australia offers an incredible backdrop for North Johnstone River. Located in the volcanic gorges and and rainforests in Palmerston National park, the North Johnstone is easily Australia’s top whitewater destination.

    As you float through the class V and IV rapids, you’ll see dense rainforests, waterfalls, and basalt cliffs that make this journey breathtaking. In order to get to the start point of this trip you’ll have to be helicoptered in, meaning you’ll see plenty of wildlife, including the extremely dangerous saltwater crocodiles and pythons. While the remoteness and lethal creatures make this a dangerous destination, for expert rafters this trip is worth it!



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    Sun Kosi River, Nepal

    Country: Nepal

    Located amongst the world’s highest peaks in the Himalayan mountain range, the Sun Kosi River in Nepal on the border with Tibet is a truly unique rafting experience. The river flows from high in the Himalayas down to Ganges river, one of the most important rivers in the world.

    The river features class V whitewater through remote, narrow gorges and dense forest and jungle. This is one of the more difficult rivers on this list, and should only be attempted by experienced rafters.


    Are you as excited as we are for world class rapids?

    Get in touch to see how to book a trip here in Oregon and Idaho this summer. You don’t have to go all the way around the world to experience some of the best whitewater rafting. We have world class whitewater rafting here in the Pacific Northwest!

  4. Rafting: An Unforgettable Family Friendly Vacation

    Comments Off on Sleeping Like a Log, Explained

    Pretty common to sip your morning coffee in camp and hear somebody declare they just slept better out here in the boonies than they have for a long time back home. Is it all the fresh air? Being tuckered out from rowing/kayaking/fishing/hiking/all this having of fun? What’s the deal? Why is the great outdoors so great for snoozing?

    Lo and behold, science has looked into this and a recent study sheds light on why we sleep better camping. It’s light. More natural light during the day and not standing around under fake light after sundown resets our internal clocks back where they should be.

    Turns out camping is good medicine for the sleep cycle because our circadian rhythms prefer the tempo of the real sun going up and down, rather than light fixtures going off and on. Makes sense. Circadian, by the way, means a 24-hour period. I, uh, had to look that up.

    So our internal clock tries to calibrate itself to what’s day and what’s night so it can coordinate how we do things. Like, sleep. If we sit around until midnight under 100 watt bulbs, stare at our phone for a while, then finally decide it’s time to sleep and can’t – well, I’d say we owe our circadian rhythm an apology, wouldn’t you?

    This sleep study, done by the University of Colorado Boulder and published in Current Biology, suggests a weekend outing is enough to shift the clock back to normal. Might as well go for, like, five days though to really get that rhythm in rhythm.

    We’ve had numerous doctors over the years along on Winding Waters river trips mention that rafting trips should be prescribe-able, as treatment for stress, getting a better night’s sleep and just overall well-being. Made sense, and now here’s a study backing it up.

    Trouble sleeping? We know a lot of dandy campsites.

    Jon Rombach is a writer and rows boats for Winding Waters once in a while.

  5. 7 Truly Epic Team Building Activities for Pacific Northwest Businesses

    Comments Off on Tartan Plaid VDubya Screamin’ Golf

    My dad had the coolest golf bag when I was a kid. It was plaid. Real classy. I now own a Volkswagen Golf. It was blue. And not so classy. But I had some leftover paint. Behold. The Tartan Plaid VW Golf, sporting wings of glory on the hood.


    Here’s a before picture. Sort of a pewter blue, oxidized UV look with rust streaks thing going on. The magnetic racks for flyrods turn this little chariot into a fishing golf cart of sorts. Now I just need one of those clipboards on the steering wheel with a scorecard and a tiny pencil to keep track of how many steelhead I don’t catch.

    Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

    This fine automobile is a 1985 Volkswagen Golf diesel. Gets 44 miles to the gallon. Forty-four. Miles. Each gallon. That’s a lot of miles from a gallon. Sure, it sounds like a tractor when the little four-banger diesel rattles to life. But maybe I can fix that by installing one of those pants-on-fire chips from recent model VWs that claim rainbows shoot out the tailpipe. In the meantime it’s a heck of an economy car with a spanky-new economy paint job, courtesy of hardware store enamel and a three-day weekend.

    For the paint application I used a roller on the big parts and a brush for the tight stuff. It sort of looks almost OK if you’re eighteen feet away or more. Closer than that and you start seeing the bugs trapped in paint, runs, drips, splatters and all that. Ah, well. I think of it as early-Earl Scheib.

    The hood is supposed to invoke the Pontiac Firebird school of art, circa Smokey and the Bandit. Here’s a close-up.


    Thing is, though, I live in Oregon and in Oregon there’s a university with yellow and green as their color scheme. Just because I didn’t have gold paint for the wings but did have some yellow, now I get questions from UO Duck fans thinking I’m a booster. It’s not that I’m anti-Ducks. I just should have bought some gold paint.

    The wing thing came from an inspirational story on the website Jalopnik, titled Here Are Ten Cars That Deserved ‘Screaming Chicken’ Firebird-Style Hood Decals. There’s a stylized handshake for the Honda Accord. A traffic ticket with wings for the Chevy Citation. There was also a link to photos of a BMW some guy had painted plaid with a roller. Then a link discussing how a new retro vehicle had nailed it on a throwback to the old Woodie side panel look. Dad’s sweet golf bag came to mind. I processed all this and knew what I had to do. Including adding “putt-putt” to the logo, because that’s what the car sounds like. You can really appreciate the shoddy craftsmanship with this zoomed-in shot. Man. Just look at that slapdash application of hunter green enamel. Breathtaking.


    Warning to the Winding Waters Family: The snazzy Winding Waters sticker designed by Silje Christoffersen is what really pushed me over the edge on painting this car. I stuck that sticker on and just knew the old coat of paint wasn’t doing this sticker justice. So I’m just saying. It’s a great sticker. You should get one and put it on your rig. But be prepared to get a new paintjob to go along with it. Or a new car. It’s a slippery slope.


    Swing by the Winding Waters Boathouse Shop and pick up one of these decals for your horseless carriage. We’ll even stick it on the window for you while you’re off floating the river. Enjoy the summer, all you good people.

  6. Bestest Ever Soap For Rafting – Dr. Bronner’s

    Comments Off on Best Outdated Outdoor Tips From 1970

    Found a blast from the past today at the local thrift shop with the book, ‘The Art and Science of Taking to the Woods,’ published in 1970. I figured I’d compare Winding Waters rafting trips with old-style 1970s outdoorsiness. I expected to smile condescendingly at their crappy old gear, but instead I saw this futuristic Buck Rogers plastic tubing tent, which doesn’t make much sense to me, but now I kind of want to sleep in a big plastic tube for no good reason.


    It’s good to check in with our elders now and then to make sure we’re not repeating mistakes they’ve already licked, so here’s highlights from how to get along out of doors, 1970s-style.

    Chapter 8. Clothes to Take to the Woods in

    “Good shirts have long tails to keep them inside the trousers when you’re exerting yourself.”

    Amen. Nothing worse than a flim-flam short-tailed shirt creeping out of the trousers when I’m exerting myself.

    “Take along at least one complete underwear change even in cold weather, and keep one set washed . . .”

    Whoah, whoah, whoah, 1970. Hold the rotary phone. Extra underoos and they have to be washed? I thought we were roughing it here.

    “Be sure to to buy canvas shoes wide enough and long enough, or you’ll soon find your big toe wearing holes.”

    Now you tell me.

    Chapter 11. Packing Makes Perfect

    “If you are using a sedan rather than a station wagon, be sure to secure the trunk lid firmly.”

    I think we can agree this is a dumb tip. Who would use a sedan instead of a station wagon? Duh. But this next one is a bonafide wisdom nugget:

    “The crease between the back and bottom cushions of your car’s front seat – which is often full of old wrappers, match packs, and an occasional lost coin – may be just the place to stow an emergency flare.”

    Why I never thought of that, I’ll never know. Thank you, 1970. No more stowing road flares in the wrong crease.

    Chapter 21. Snowbird Camping

    “Foods cook more slowly in cold weather, but many kinds can be hurried by covering them with aluminum foil to keep the top hot while the underside is cooking.”

    You cover it? On top? Slow down. This sounds like black magic, but is just crazy enough it might work.

    Here we have more of this ‘covering’ wizardry they speak of:


    So . . . cover it? On top? Why has this wisdom been lost to the ages? Why?

    Chapter 22. Camping on Rock and Sand

    Does this next excerpt not sound like a romance novel? I feel like this sounds like a romance novel:

    “When you take to the wilderness, perhaps you’ll ride or hike up from the burning plains to where a canyon’s rising tangents lift into broken masses of ravine and butte and the deep green sweeps of pine, to camp far up where peaks rear their stony shoulders.”

    Uh, OK. I checked and neither of these authors, C.B. Colby and Bradford Angier, wrote any romance novels, despite the rising tangents and rearing peaks in that paragraph up there. Whew. These dudes were nature lovers though, no doubt.

    Bonus Tip: Dog Squirter


    So far I’ve never required a method to keep dogs away while camping, but now I kind of want to be hassled by dingoes so I can break out the ammonia water pistol. Solid tip, fellas.

    Chapter 23. That First Night in Camp

    “If you don’t change clothes, at least remove your trousers.”

    Okey-doke. But two paragraphs later, we get this bombshell:

    “There may be some very cold nights when you’ll elect to sleep in your trousers. Then loosen your belt, empty the pockets and keep the legs down where they belong by tucking them inside your socks, perhaps adding rubber bands around your ankles just above where the trousers end.”

    Chapter 24. Those One-Night Stands

    Uh . . . guys? I might skip this chapter. Who am I kidding, of course I’m going to read this. Oh, forget it, it’s about short two-day trips.

    Chapter 32: Camp Sanitation


    This isn’t quite as bad as it looks. They’re advocating burning off the food residue so as not to attract animals and burning off the “tinning” so cans rust faster. OK, still pretty bad. We’ll stick with Pack It In, Pack It Out and Leave No Trace.

    Chapter 46: Foiling Petty Thieves in Camp

    “Stealing from a camper is a low form of pilfery.” No argument here. Hate pilfery.

    “Usually a petty thief will move out of a campground after stealing something, but he may claim that he found the item. In this case, just identify it and thank him for ‘finding’ it and let it go at that.”

    CSI: Polite Squad. Simpler times, those 1970s. But, for the record, theft is not a problem on our trips. In the event a petty thief did try to enter our camp to pilfer, Todd would just spray them with the ammonia squirt gun. Like a dog.

    Or Go With an Outfitter

    ‘The Art and Science of Taking to the Woods’ includes this observation:

    “You can plan a real cruise into unfamiliar territory under the direction of some professional outfitter and have little to worry about or to provide for yourself. These outfitters furnish everything from canoe and paddles to the cooking equipment, sleeping gear, tents, axes, and the like, all for about $5 a day or less per person.”

    Well, close. A few things have changed. We don’t really provide everyone with axes. We bring one, and you can use it, I guess, if you really want. But we take care of chopping the wood and all that. It’s included in the $5 a day or less. Actually, that rate might have gone up some too. We don’t have plastic tubes for tents, sad to say, but our modern tents work real well. So hop in your sedan or station wagon, make sure there’s a flare tucked in the seat crease, and bring the family on out for a modern rafting adventure this summer in Hells Canyon, down the Lower Salmon or Grande Ronde rivers with Winding Waters River Expeditions. I’ll even loan you my copy of this book if you like.

    Click here for trips and details and we’ll see you on the river.

  7. Wallowa County Day Trips: Buckhorn Overlook

    Comments Off on River Reads Book Club: Astoria by Peter Stark

    Ever wondered who the town of John Day or the John Day River was named after? Turns out it’s the same guy. Should have given you a spoiler alert there. Sorry.

    Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 5.22.05 PM

    Image search for John Day turned this up, so we’re going with it. Widescreen!

    Or maybe you’ve wondered while rafting through Hells Canyon on a Winding Waters trip, looking up at all those jaggedy rocks: what would it be like to hike through this country back in November of 1811, not knowing what you were up against? Here’s a spoiler alert: Not good. Not good at all. In fact, it went real, real bad for some trappers and traders that did just that and you can read all about it in ‘Astoria,’ by Peter Stark, our latest volume included here in the Gearboat Chronicles Book Club for rip-roaring river-related reading.

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    Here are a few excerpts describing the trek through Hells Canyon country:

    “… We could advance only with the greatest difficulty because of the sharp rocks, and the precipices plunge to the very banks of the river …

    … as we had nothing more to eat I killed another horse …”

    The large party of about 50 people divided themselves up, trying respective lucks on either side of the river. Wasn’t easy going no matter which side you were on. Here’s a snippet from the report of when the two groups regained contact:

    “… for three days after that they ate a beaver they’d killed, wild cherries, and old moccasin soles…”

    Horse. Moccasin soles. Yikes.

    This is a pretty good read, this Astoria book. Especially if Hells Canyon is on your radar or you have an interest in Pacific Northwest goings on. Or goings went, I guess. The author mentions in the Acknowledgments section that the book started by wondering who John Day was, and after looking into it some he turned up an Ahab-esque ship captain, Hawaiians that pull off some amazing rescues, oddball fontierspeople and all manner of olden times history stuff with a healthy dose of voyageurs paddling birch bark canoes and fighting and even some getting along and more than a little dirty dealing and, you know what, at some point – probably the canoes – you just have to write the book. Nice work, Mr. Stark.


    Wallowa is running a nice fishy green at the time of this posting. Paul and I got out this morning for a few hours and ol’ Pablo landed a real nice wild hen, pushing the 30-inch mark. I don’t know how hard she was pushing 30, as I witnessed this from across the river. But upper 20s, for sure. Here’s exactly what it looks like when you’re 5 seconds too late getting your phone to camera mode with wet fingers from across the river. Lesson: we’re all about quick release of wild fish here, photos be darned.


    6 Ranch has all that nice, newly restored riverway to run a fly through and James Nash is available to show you his home waters. Also check out the full-day guided trip options and overnight expeditions to get out amongst those steelhead.

    Here’s one more try at a recent fish picture. If you look close, looks like the fish is peeing from a fin. Huh.


    Good day. And have a pleasant tomorrow.

  8. Basalt and Pepper

    Comments Off on Hells Canyon On the Rocks: A Bourbon Tour

    Is an unexamined bourbon worth drinking? Probably, but why risk it when you can satsify your thirst for knowledge and adventure on a bourbon appreciation, adult education and wilderness vacation combo trip. “Hells Canyon On the Rocks: A Bourbon Tour” is devoted to exploring the wonders of Kentucky elixir while also exploring the deepest river gorge in North America on a whitewater rafting expedition. With food to write home about among rare scenery on a voyage of bourbon discovery, this the kind of continuing education Hemingway would approve of.


    The study of bourbon is a serious matter and requires a proper learning atmosphere. This 3-day floating seminar takes place on the Snake River in Hells Canyon, home to some of the biggest whitewater rapids in the country. As classroom settings go, this remote canyon provides bourbon lovers the solitude needed to really concentrate on their sipping and studying each night, with expert instruction and flights of bourbon as learning aids.


    Instructor Jordan Felix, of Multnomah Whiskey Library in Portland, Oregon, shares his knowledge of bourbon and other fine spirits acquired during his career that began in Australia at the ripe age of 16. After fine-tuning his bar tending skills in New York, Felix now oversees the Whiskey Library and was named one of 2015’s Best New Mixologists by Food & Wine Magazine. Felix provides well-rounded bourbon background and education for trip participants while honing in on their individual preferences so they might discover new favorites.

    2016 will be the third season of specialty bourbon trips offered by river outfitter Winding Waters River Expeditions of Joseph, Oregon. Owner and operator Paul Arentsen hails from the bourbon homeland of Kentucky and began the bourbon-focused trips with friend Jason Brauner, owner of Bourbons Bistro in Louisville, KY.

    Brauner’s first outing as an adventure bourbon specialist inspired a group of rafters/bourbon connoisseurs to book a bourbon pilgrimage to Kentucky in order to purchase an entire barrel for their private collection. Brauner arranged an action-packed 3-day schedule including distillery and barrelhouse tours, visits to historic locations linked with bourbon heritage, dining and sampling bourbon along the way.

    Visits to the historic Buffalo Trace, Willet and Four Roses distilleries ended with the thoroughly enjoyable process of narrowing down the possibilities for their personal barrel from Four Roses. The selection process began by drawing samples from ten aged barrels with the whiskey thief, tasting and debating to narrow the contenders down to two final barrels. The impressive start and smooth tongue of a 106.5 proof bourbon was up against a 126.5 proof bourbon with a relatively hot start but incredibly smooth, satisfying finish in the chest. The bourbon pilgrims are not revealing their ultimate decision, but Jason at Bourbons Bistro will have bottles of the final selection and can pour you a sample to see if you agree with the choice.


    Pursuing your own bourbon education aboard the Hells Canyon whitewater tour takes you in rafts along the imposing cliffs and open canyons of the Oregon-Idaho border. Full-bodied rapids add splashes of whitewater during the day, followed by a smooth finish each evening in deluxe campsites where bourbon-inspired meals are served riverside.

    Winding Waters River Expeditions has grown a strong fan base for their attention to great food on their wilderness outings. Farm-fresh eggs, produce from the garden, homegrown pork and local grass-fed beef anchor their menu ingredients – a departure from old-time river fare that leaned heavily on hunger as a sauce.


    Insider knowledge on the craft of bourbon production is complimented by outdoor knowledge from the river guide staff who share geologic, wildlife and historical insights on the Wild and Scenic Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. Bighorn sheep, black bears and bald eagles are among animal celebrities commonly seen in the canyon.

    Participants in “Hells Canyon On the Rocks” will be able to say they went to the wilderness because they wished to taste bourbon deliberately, to see if they could not learn what it had to teach and not, when enjoying bourbon, discover that they had not enjoyed the best stuff.

    Cost of the three-day river trip and bourbon seminar is $1295, including all meals from departure to return from the river, transportation to and from the river and all that marvelous bourbon.

    Learn more about “Hells Canyon On the Rocks,” bourbon instructor Jordan Felix from Multnomah Whiskey Library and Jason Brauner from Bourbons Bistro.

  9. Split-Lip How-To Guide

    Comments Off on Quality Control

    Off-season water sampling was conducted last weekend by myself, Gearboat Zen master Todd Kruger and his lovely wife Tammy. We skied into a remote wilderness shelter as base of operations to do inventory on snowpack that will eventually melt and trickle down to form super-fun boating times on the Snake River.

    This particular survey was focused on water that will be floating our boats in a Class III rapid on the Snake River, just below Dug Bar, on or about May 16 at 2:35 in the afternoon. That’s Pacific Time. The science isn’t exact, but that’s my best guess. Here’s the snowy lair we spent the night in. Quaint and awesome, eh?


    Rafters will be pleased to know that currently these snow molecules are very fun to ski on, and therefore meet our rigorous standards and have been approved for eventual rafting. Here’s a photo of the research team, minus Tammy who’s running the camera. Todd’s in the helmet. I’m sporting the blue ski pants that I’ve had forever and discovered have given up on being water resistant and now appear to attract moisture, or even create it. It’s hard to account for the liters and liters of sopping wetness those pants managed to collect.


    Hey, you wanna see a pretty vista, looking out towards Hells Canyon. Sure you do. This was a sparkly, groovy morning.


    If you’d like to inspect a sample of the whitewater you’ll be rafting this coming season, send me a message with details on your Winding Waters trip date and I’ll get Todd on the horn so we can go collect a snowball likely to be from the batch of snowmelt that will be warming up and carrying you on your summer adventure. Then we’ll box ‘er up and get it in the mail to you. Overnight shipping works best for these snowball packages. Especially cold nights.

    See you on the slopes for now. Be seeing you on the river soon enough.


  10. Freedom Or Whatever

    Comments Off on Road Map as River Guide

    A good river map is downright essential equipment for a proper voyage, right? Yeah, but there’s always the AAA Road Atlas alternative for finding your way by boat. It’s not ideal. Or all that safe. Or recommended, really. At all. But this story I’m linking you to is recommended. Warning: the ending appears to not be a happy one. But this is well worth the read. Particularly for the river-minded. There’s even a Salmon River tie-in from our territory. It’s quite a tale.

    Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 4.59.34 PMBen McGrath does a dandy job with ‘The Wayfarer,’ writing about long-distance canoe traveler Dick Conant. Big fella in bib overalls charming folks on riverbanks – from police officers to librarians to residents of rough parts of towns – on a big long paddle trip from 20 miles shy of the Canadian border, down to North Carolina where his canoe and belongings were discovered, but no Dick.
    The Salmon River portion of Conant’s river time involves a kayak he has “fashioned” … sounds ominous … in which he set out to reach the Pacific, via the Salmon. Made it 350 miles, shy of the ocean but described it as “a learning experience.” I’ll bet it was.

    For reasons not clear, I very much enjoyed the description of Conant drinking capfuls of soy sauce on a riverbank, alternating with sips straight out of a Tabasco sauce bottle. Huh? I don’t know, but this guy is my kind of kooky and without any more ado-ing, I’ll plop the link here with a hearty recommend for the best big-ol’ story I’ve stumbled on while walking around the internet in some time. It’s in the New Yorker … which, I don’t know, I guess is OK. Me, I prefer the Old Yorker. But no matter.

    Read this and enjoy. If you don’t, I don’t want to hear about it.

    Further Suggested Reading Involving Road Maps as a Navigational Aid:

    I read this years and years ago and it made a real impression, as I was a shoestring sailor living on a crappy sailboat at the time. Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 4.58.53 PMI probably still have my copy of Cruising World stashed somewhere with the original article. Upshot: It’s cold up north. Guy in a rough spot buys a crappy boat for $500. Makes homemade sails from blue tarps. Navigates down to the Florida Keys using road maps. Somehow makes it. Whoah. Would like to know what Capt’n Freddy is up to now. Story is still floating around online, but just barely. Check this out.

    Capt’n Freddy or Dick Conant, if you’re reading this, get in touch. Although Dick, you should probably just contact that New Yorker guy.

    All the rest of you, safe travels to your Christmas get togethers and we’ll see you on the river.

    UPDATE (Not a good one): Attentive reader Hal Morello sent this update, from August 2015, which suggests Capt’n Freddy is no longer with us. Damn.

  11. Solar powered Christmas gift and Wallowas covered in St. Elmo’s Ice

    Comments Off on Steelhead Salad Sandwich

    Cooking fish intimidates many people. Or is it just me? All right, fine. Just me. I worry the slab of fish will be undercooked, which is gross. Or overdone, which is like eating rubbery ingots. Even if fish turns out just right, I worry it’s not just right enough. Preparing fish is high stakes cookery.

    Especially fish you’ve gone out and caught yourself. If you char that meal it’s not like you can just thaw another chicken breast from the Costco pack and start over. Oh, dear me, I’ve burned the steelhead. Let me just run down to the remote canyon after tying some flies and get a lucky drift over a creature that just swam hundreds of miles on the return leg of an epic migration. Be right back.

    Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 3.19.04 PMEven if you do nail it when baking or broiling or grilling or whatever-ing a steelhead, you sometimes end up with leftovers galore. Somehow fish leftovers don’t do it for me. Now you’ve got wayward bones to deal with and the leftover asparagus doesn’t look appealing either.

    My first steelhead coach Tom Farnum solved both my anxiety of cooking whole fish and the problem of leftovers by introducing me to the idea of steelhead sandwiches. It was a revelation.

    There’s a certain reverence surrounding steelhead. If not, there should be. So I imagine the lemons need to be sliced just so for a steelhead dinner, with the good silver on the table and napkins folded into exotic bird shapes. Tuna sandwich isn’t the image that springs to mind when I think of eating a big beautiful fish caught on a fly rod.

    It’s reaaaaally good, though. Try it. It’s like a super-tuna sandwich. Scrape those leftovers into a bowl and have at it for salmon-filletlunch tomorrow. If you really blew it on the fish preparation, scrape the whole thing into a much larger bowl and have at it for lunch all next week.

    For this recipe you will just need your favorite recipe for tuna salad, but use steelhead instead. Pretty easy. My secret ingredient: red bell pepper diced super fine. Adds some crunch. So good.

    So there’s the Gearboat Chronicles culinary tip for the week: Don’t worry about cooking fish, because you can just disguise it with mayonnaise and hide it between some lightly toasted sourdough bread for a quick and elegant sandwich.


  12. Nooooooooo

    Comments Off on What a Load of Bull Trout

    The upper Imnaha country is an honest-to-golly end of the rainbow place to be this time of year with hillsides of gold from the tamaracks going off. The weather for the bull trout spawning ground survey at the end of October was eeeeeeeepic. Gearboat master Todd Kruger was the wilderness chef. Barry Cox packed our gear in. I got to go along to help look for bull trout redds. Here we see Ian Wilson of Nez Perce Tribal Fisheries wading in the water peering around for redds. Note the blue, blue sky and green, green water. Man, it was nice up there. You outdid yourself, Ma Nature.


    Here’s Jeff Yanke of ODF’nW and Brian Simmons from NPTFisheries beholding the lovely idyllic stream before bushwacking down through face slappy brush to their next survey stretch.


    Thanks to Gretchen Sausen with US Fish & Wildlife for running the show and letting me talk her into taking me along. Identifying these spots where fish make babies is interesting work. You wade your section of stream with eyes peeled for likely signs. A disturbance in the river bottom. Waterproof baby montitors. Little fish diapers littered around the gravel. That kind of thing. Then you consult. Measure. Say some science things. I like to announce a possible redd sighting by singing out: “I spy with my wee little eye … a clear line of deposition over here.”

    Again, look at the grandeur. I can’t stress enough the grandeur.


    This time of year in the Wallowas is just the bee’s knees, shins and ankles. Kruger and I are about to shove off on the Grande Ronde a five day steelhead float. So we got that going for us, which is nice. Meantime, got in a little mountain biking. Got on a trail recently that was so steep I worried about fire danger from the heat coming off my melting brake pads.

    No joke, Todd’s brakes got so hot they gave up on doing their job and Kruges got a nasty blister when he touched the brake disc to investigate. Just a fun little bike ride, I was told. More or less straight down, it turned out.


    Been hearing of great results on the Grande Ronde from steelheaders. Will bring back a report from this Minam to Wildcat expedition. See you out there.



  13. Trick or Steelhead

    Comments Off on Mike Baird’s Salmon Migration

    So get this. Mike Baird grows up in Idaho and tromps around the Salmon River country during his whippersnapper years. Gets all growed up and works in various Salmon River wildernessy areas parachuting into fires, planting new trees and whatnot. Marries his lovely wife Kathie in Stanley, Idaho, which is located between the left atrium and right ventricle of the upper Salmon River scene. His daughter Caitlin grows up and gets married ON the Main Salmon. Flloated down the Main Fork and had the ceremony on the beach. Pretty cool. Mike river guides in the summers, sometimes guiding raft trips on . . . waaaaaaaait for it . . . the . . . guess which river.

    The Grande Ronde.

    No. It’s the Salmon. You were totally right.

    So. A Salmon runs through it with this guy. And this year that same daughter Caitlin and friends lined up a trip to do the Middle and Main forks of the Salmon. Both real groovy sections of river. Real groovy. Mike was in. Then Winding Waters called asking if Baird could work a Lower Salmon trip. Rays of golden light beams shot from his calendar as he realized this was so coo-coo crazy it just might work. So Mike Baird loaded his boat, set off for Idaho and floated the whole gol-dang thing, 19 days on the water. 286 miles. 60 miles of it solo through rapids he’d never laid eyes on. Heckuva trip.

    Here’s Mike with daughter Caitlin and son-in-law Matt Seitz.

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    Baird had to pack carefully for this journey. Luckily he remembered to bring me and I got to go along for the first leg on the Middle Fork. Here’s Baird rowing and me about to get a faceful of water.

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    We toodled through the Frank Church wilderness and saw chunks of rock like this this’n here. Easy on the eyes, that Salmon territory.


    Mike saw many things on this epic river jaunt. Like this 95 or 96-inch giant dragonfly. Magnificent creatures.

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    It takes a lot of huevos to embark on a river trip of such proportions. Pictured here (SFW).

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    Not pictured: rancheros

    Let’s just consider those stats once more: 19 days. 286 miles. Camped with 30 different people. Consumed at least two cans of beer — one of them at the confluence of the Salmon and Snake rivers, by way of shotgunning, to cap the trip. For those not familiar with the technique of shotgunning a beer, easiest way to explain it is to direct you to the nearest freshman dorm during the first week of college. Second thought, don’t concern yourself with this barbaric ritual. Actually — no, everybody should know how this works. So you poke a hole near the bottom of a can of beer — bottles don’t work nearly as well — tip it up and pull the tab to open it in one fluid motion, then attempt to consume all the fluid in one or more gulps while foam erupts out your nostrils and your eyes start watering. Or so I’m told. I would never do such a thing.

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    Mike rolled into the Pine Bar boat launch thoroughly warmed up, joined the Winding Waters crew and finished ‘er off in style. Nice work, Baird.

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    Ready for your own epic river journey? I know some people who’d love to take you. Get on the horn with Winding Waters River Expeditions and let’s do this.

  14. Get musically KO’d at the OK — TONIGHT

    Comments Off on Oh, Deer: How to Pee in the River

    Going tinkle in the water is one of the simple joys of summertime rafting. Just wade out up to your waist, place your hands on your hips, pretend to be studying the landscape across the river and let fly. It’s good etiquette to be downstream of others who may be swimming. Aside from that, peeing in the river is just good etiquette in general because there’s no reason to pee-pee in the bushes or fill up the groover when you can cool off and enact dilution as the solution to pollution at the same time. An advanced technique is to be drinking a liquid of some sort while you are standing in water up to your waist and also releasing liquid consumed earlier. That’s called reaching equilibrium.

    WARNING: Graphic Image to follow.

    Even deer use this practice. Observe this here deer taking a potty break in the Grande Ronde. Good job, deer. Way to leave no trace. It took us forever to train those animals to stop peeing on shore. The hoof marks on our faces and arms are not going away quickly, either. That is some deep bruising.


    These elk in the next picture had no time for a bathroom break, however. They were hotfooting it off an island where I’d dropped a work crew of noxious weed sprayers. Two tiny calves were bedded down on the island, with six adults who crossed over to the main riverbank.

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    Here’s what it looks like to load up backpack sprayers and head off to squirt leafy spurge, yellowstar thistle, knapweed and the other bad dudes of the invasive weed world.


    The Narrows rapid not too far from the mouth of the GR where it joins the Snake River was a little bit on the spicy side. At low water the river squeezes between basalt walls with no room to get an oar in the water. Higher water creates a mess on a corner with a sampler tray of interesting obstacles to navigate. Jaggedy rocks, a decent-sized hole to avoid, a short little spillover you probably don’t want to mess with. We took a line right next to the bank, skirting the hole. Took some doing to get a boat into the narrow slot, but worked out fine.

    Here’s a few more pics from this lower Grande Ronde tour, like this cool arch:


    And a few of the sheds picked up during spraying missions:


    Come join us, why don’t you. Rafting season is kicking in the afterburners right now and Winding Waters has trips of a lifetime departing for Hells Canyon and the Lower Salmon River each week. This is beautiful country, folks. And seeing it from a raft is hard to beat.

  15. Morels of the story

    Comments Off on Get Your River Rations

    River rats, line up and get your rations. As per always, guests on Winding Waters trips can look forward to their very own stylish and collectible WWRE coffee sipping vessels to bring along rafting—plus this brand new item in the ol’ pre-trip gift package: ingots of healthy goodness in the form of River Rations energy bars, made right here local-style by BGood Bars of Joseph.

    BGood master chef Judy Goodman applied her considerable backcountry know-how with frontcountry good sense about what’s good for us to eat, combined the two, squeezed out the gluten and—pow!—BGood Bars. River Rations are built to travel, can tuck right into the side pocket of a personal flotation device in Hells Canyon heat, get splashed and still be delicious. BGood has a full lineup of other recipes too, like Espresso Date Nut, Peanut Ginger, Spicy Hemp Cranberry and more. Check out the River Rations on your rafting trip and stock up on the other flavors on your way home. Here’s the BGood website.


    Rafting season is underway, with a tour of Hells Canyon back from the deepest ditch in the 48, heading right back out next week. Gear guru Todd Kruger and his wife Tammy found a few days before rafting season took off, so they took off down the Grande Ronde. They even found enough morel mushrooms to outfit dinnner each night and bring some home in the cooler. Nicely done. Now that’s how you go mushroom picking.


    I, however, went out to the woods to look for morels and bearly found any. Did come across these footprints, though.


    Be good. Be healthy. Be seeing you on the river.

  16. How Deep The River Is Right Here

    Comments Off on When Hells Blooms Over

    Ready. Set. Raft.

    Winding Waters staff has been down in Hells Canyon watering all the plants so things are green and training the wild animals to come out for pictures. So everything’s all set for another splendid boating season. We’re launching a trip May 15 for a three-day sojourn amongst those big ol’ canyon walls and green, green Sound of Music hillsides sporting artful wildflower arrangements. Hells and high water, y’all. Get you some.

    Here we have a lively action photo taken during a Spring Hells Canyon trip of  yore. Camera operator on this was photographer Kendrick Moholt. The raft is in a big trough. Passengers smiling. Snake River splooshing up a fun wave. Thanks to some judicious cropping of the photo, we’re spared from seeing the pilot of this boat, who . . . wait a minute, that’s me rowing. I know the back of that hand on that oar like the back of my hand. OK. I get it. Fine.

    Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 1.52.30 PM

    Let’s just move on with a review of some of the sights you might see along the Hells Canyon corridor in Spring. Mountain goats, black bear, bighorn sheep, golden eagles, sasquatch and chupacabras are on the list, but we’re always putting photos of them up here so for the sake of variety I’ll throw in some of the under-appreciated Hells Canyon residents.


    Awwww. This little nibbler was frolicking around on a tranquil hillside near Hominy Bar. So cute. But that’s because you can’t see the fangs from this angle. Hells Canyon is home to a population of Monty Python rabbits, which are not to be fooled with. And that’s why you go with professional river guides. I’ve seen Morgan fend off attacks by these beasts, coming at him from all angles, using just a carabiner and his surprising dexterity.



    What we have here is a chukar. This is what makes those chuk-chuk-chuk sounds you hear while floating along. As far as I know, chukars do not exhibit the same aggressiveness and the bunnies. But you never know. Also, I’m told they are quite delicious.


    From wildlife to wide open views, this here is a shot of the Suicide Point hike. Don’t be fooled by the name. It’s not all that bad. Steep drop, yes. But the trail is really pretty easy going and well worth the juant.


    Usually the timing works out to get a birds-eye view of the gearboat pulling downstream. Here we see Todd taking off from Salt Creek camp, loaded down with all the comforts of a Winding Waters camp.


    So there’s a peek at Hells Canyon springtime. Our new guide, Jordan Manley, just got back from a week down in Hells, foraging around and living off the land with Joe Whittle, local writer and photographer. We’ll have to get their biscuit root casserole recipe and maybe try that out among the menu rotation. I’m especially excited about the signature hot sauce I saw in the boathouse kitchen that Hilary just made.

    Give us a call and get on board for a Hells, Grande Ronde or Lower Salmon expedition.

    See you on the riv.

  17. Shift Gears at the Outdoor Gear Swap

    Comments Off on Guide to Getting Philosophical

    Paul and I both got a teensy bit older last week and celebrated with a rootin’-tootin’ river campout with friends and a float through unbelievable steelhead water. Unbelievable because it looked so good and somehow we managed to have one of those days when some wisenheimer says, “They don’t call it ‘catching.'” [Important note: this was experimental water, outside our normal beat. Normally we just whistle and steelhead come running.]


    Theories for why fish just won’t cooperate when they had been team players in recent days range anywhere from meteorology to a banana being on the boat. Like most things when it isn’t going your way, the first stage is denial. “I can’t believe this run didn’t turn up a fish,” et cetera. The next stage is changing flies. Color. Depth. Fishing whitecaps in desperation. You start saying naughty words under your breath. Finally, a tough day on the water ends with observing, “Well, it’s just nice to be out here.” And pretending that’s completely true. I mean, it is. But, you know.

    I  just learned two fantastic new ways to cope with not catching, so here is an entry for The Gearboat Chronicles Guide to Getting Philosophical.

    Kevin Harlander is the marketing dynamo for Terminal Gravity Brewing, a Wallowa County landmark. Kevin and I took a quick afternoon sprint to the Wallowa River last week for an on-the-water business appointment. It’s like a conference room but with a better view. Harlander didn’t waste time and got right down to business by hooking and landing one of the nicest fish I’ve seen in a while – this wild buckaroo of a steelhead right here. This fish was a real beast.


    Then I landed a beauty of a wild hen and broke my recent string of getting skunked. So we were both in the bonus round and had nothing to complain about.

    Kevin hooked a second fish, but it spit the hook like a kid trying brussels sprouts for the first time. He shook his head, reeled in and said, “Its spirit was just too strong.”

    This is my new favorite explanation for a fish getting the better of a hook and line encounter. Its spirit was just too strong. I just like saying it. It’s perfect. As for broken leaders, hurried knots and other fishing mishaps . . . their spirit probably just wasn’t strong enough.

    Credit for the spirit saying goes to Jordan Manley, outdoor philosopher and recent addition to the Winding Waters guide bullpen. Jordan and I were on a boat floating in Hells Canyon years ago and I asked him if he knew what time it was. His answer? “I don’t believe in time, bro.” I’m telling you, this guy’s got an answer for everything. His spirit is strong.


    Back on the Wallow River at a different spot, Kevin and I witnessed what I guess would be a ‘breaching’ incident. I was busy tying on a fly, heard a splash and looked up. Then saw a steelhead come straight up out of the water and fall back in. “You seeing this?” Kevin asked. The fish jumped again, straight up. Then did it again. I dug my camera out of my waders because if this fish was going to put on a performance like this I wanted to get it on film. Its spirit got tired of jumping, though, so no film. (I mentioned this incident to Mike Baird and a few days later he reported seeing the same phenomenon in exactly the same spot.)

    Kevin and I failed to entice this jumping fish onto our line, then admitted defeat and reeled in to call it a day. As he packed it in, Harlander announced, “That’s why they make beer.”

    Two perfect sayings in one day. This guy’s good at philosophizing.

    What Are You Doing Up There?

    Paul and I pulled our raft onto a little beach and thirty seconds later, this is what Arentsen was up to. Fifty points if you can guess what made Paul climb a tree in waders.


    If you guessed: There was a metal wagon wheel rim stuck in the branches of that tree somehow – Congratulations, you get fifty points. I guess floodwaters put it there. Or, maybe, uhm . . . I really don’t know what that thing was doing in a tree. But Paul gets 100 points for hula hooping with a wagon wheel. This picture is brought to you by AquaSeal.


    The Wallowa River is fishing real well and WWRE fishing guides are ready to put you into the steelhead. Get on 0ut there.


  18. Lost and Found on the Ground Round

    Comments Off on Shed Ahead

    ring-ring: Yes, hello there, James Nash. The cuss you say? Go 38 miles in one day with the Grande Ronde only flowing at 2,500 cfs? Oh, it’s down to 2,000 . . . I see. Weeeell, uhhhhhh . . . as a matter of fact it does influence my decision if you write ‘The Emeral Mile’ on your boat.* All righty then. Save me a seat.

    (*note to Winding Waters Book Club members: you should read ‘The Emerald Mile.’)

    So we bombed down the Wallowa and Grande Ronde at 2G in a day. Took nine hours, hampered somewhat by the ballast of all the fillings from my teeth and cartilage from my spine piling up on the floor of the drift boat after collisions with rocks when I was rowing.*

    (*note to Winding Waters Rowing Club members: the Wallowa River has rocks in it. And a lot of them are poking out right now. The Grande Ronde has rocks in it too. They’re poking out much less, which makes it much easier to hit them going much faster. **sidenote: up til now I’ve been strictly an inflatable boat guy. You caress rocks in a raft. Generally. An aluminum drift boat encountering stone is a tad bit more jarring.)

    Chandeliers Just Laying There in the Weeds

    Justin Moncrief was also on board. From what I gathered, Justin is quite good at finding elk and deer sheds. So imagine how tickled Justin must have been when James was merrily rowing along, glanced up and announced: “Big bull shed. Right there. Dibs.” And it wasn’t just the one. James and Justin climbed up The Eiger Hillside in their waders and located the other half of the pair not far away. I was pretty busy down on the bank not climbing steep hills in rubber overalls with oversized boots that have slick felt soles.


    Look at these things. The scientific term for these sheds is: ridiculous. I mean, just look at these things. Imagine toting those things around on your head.

    Here’s a much grainier view, up near the summit of Shed Mountain, right after discovery.


    We’ve done cast and blast trips in the past, where you go surf and turf after fish and birds. Might have to start doing steelhead and shed trips. As a bonus, these things are worth real money so a person could actually make money chartering a deluxe wall tent-equipped and fully catered shed hunting foray with all the luxuries down this roadless area of the Grande Ronde that’s probably littered — strewn, even — with sheds. I’ve heard far worse business plans.

    Fishing wise, the Wallowa is about as clear as it gets and the Grande Ronde has some chalky color to it, but is certainly fishable. Here’s what it looks like at the confluence right now. Sidenote: Justin hooked a steelhead 30 seconds after this photo was taken.


    Check out the Winding Waters fishing report for more details on the pursuit of finned ones in the Wallowa territory.

    And to take the bull by the horns to go look for horns off a bull from the water, give a call.

    Now go out there and get after them.

  19. How Not To Take a Picture Holding a Fish

    Comments Off on Steelhead Soup for the Soul

    The weather has looked Photoshopped lately, it’s been so nice, so the only real options are: A) Squander the day inside wishing you were up to your knees in a steelhead run or 2) Just give up and go do it. To handle temptation such as this, write out a list prioritizing all the things demanding your immediate attention. Next, start a fire with that list. This will help take the morning chill off while you construct a PBJ sandwich, gather your dog and fishing accoutrements, rehearse calling in sick, then depart for the stream while whistling a merry tune.

    Do take note that the appeal of playing hooky to go fishing has its limits. It’s three. Oregon fishing regs allow three steelhead per day. Here’s what that looks like, pictured below. Not pictured: total, utter contentment and the warm flush of a day well spent permeating every cell, right down to the mitochondria.


    Next slide please. I saw this majestic beast from the river, all silhouetted on the ridge.


    Yes, it’s a cow. But this proves that any creature appears at least somewhat majestic when backlit and peering down from a height. We nodded at one another, this cow and I. And I feel we had some form of understanding. The cow seemed curious as to what I was up to and I was in turn curious if the tavern on the way home would be open on a Tuesday because I could sure go for a burger all the sudden. Maybe even fries. No. Not fries. Better go with a salad. It’s not that I’m trying to watch my figure. The problem is I don’t have to try to watch it, I’m starting to see it in my peripheral vision. This sedentary winter routine is sure having its way with my pants size. Anyway. Fishing. Cows. Right.

    Technique Talk: Fundamentals and The Importance of Ignoring Them Sometimes

    You know those casts where you think: Nuts, I better try that over. But you fish it anyway, hoping. Well, it’s important to be confident in your technique and you can’t do that if you’re always worrying about doing it better. So, screw it. Let it ride. You never know. That’s awful, terrible advice. Really horrible. But it sure worked out for me yesterday. Twice. I caught this next fish here in water that was way too shallow, in too close and I had no business wasting a cast by—boop! Fish on. Just like that. There was just the slimmest outside cusp of likelihood a fish would be where this one was, and slimmer yet that one would move there. But just enough to let that errant cast go while scolding myself to reposition. Satisfaction Level: Immense.


    The second against-my-better-judgement hookup was trying to cover water well beyond where proper line handling left off and the mending attempts looked more like a double-dutch jumprope exhibition where someone could lose an eye. But I will be dog-gonned if that fish didn’t time it just perfect for once and I got a hook set in before the next cycle of trick roping attempts at throwing another wavy mend took place. My, but that’s gratifying to get a connection from way across the river where you have no business fishing, but suddenly you’re in business. Feeling Afterward, In Relation To World: On top of it.

    OK. That’s enough of that. To recap: fishing is fun. You should do more of it. Call Winding Waters and Cam or James will get you hooked up.

    And for those interested in rowing, I am pleased to present . . .

    The Cata-Rainbow-Raft

    It’s the latest thing in stealth on the water. Tired of fish seeing you coming? Wish you could just row right up to where the steelhead are, reach down and give them a high-five on the tail fin? Maybe that’s a high-one. Either way, have I got a deal for you. No more worries about spooking fish as you float along in this disguised pontoon boat. Also available in cuttyrainbrown pattern.


    This is the kind of thing I do on days when I’m not playing hooky. You know, important stuff.

    See you on the river. Unless I’m in my stealth catarainbow. In which case all you will see is a dude riding two huge fish. And you will be confused. But don’t worry about it.

  20. A wee bit gusty

    Comments Off on River art

    Ever try to build your own picture frame? It’s a pain in the don’t-even-ask. The worst part is trying to cut the glass to fit. For that, I need a glasscutter, blood donor and ambulance standing by. Like every challenging task, I’ve learned over time that the best way to go about it is ignoring the whole thing. So I’ve had a pile of to-be-framed treasures carefully piled here and there, until the other day when I came across a stack of old broken plexiglass I’d also set aside to be ignored. But wait. Plexiglass is easy to cut. It kind of stinks when you run it through the table saw, but doesn’t make you bleed. Perfect. Let the framing begin.

    First up was a watercolor by Silje Christoffersen, Winding Waters guide and all-around superstar. The scene is Imnaha canyon country, which you’ve seen from the air if you’ve done our Hells Canyon whitewater rafting trip where we fly you out from Dug Bar, just above the mouth of the Imnaha on the Snake River. A closeup of Silje’s work is below, but check out this artful positioning—if I do say so myself—below an impressive deer skull also from the Imnaha River. My dog Bula found it years ago when I was fishing and she was scouting around on the bank. Good girl, Boo. Good girl.



    Nicely done, Silje. Penny has more of Sil-jay’s artwork in the Boathouse Shop so take a look next time you’re in. Next up in the river art gallery is a painting by Tom Kearns, family amigo of the Christoffersens and one of my favorite river floating buddies over the years. Tom will go ahead on the gearboat, sit down in a pretty place—which is pretty much anywhere in the canyon—and focus in on a slice of wilderness. If the framing on this looks better than the others, that’s because Paul did it.


    Hey, hey, hey . . . what’s this, now? A bunch of takes on the same bend in the river? I liked this so much from the first time I saw it that I’m afraid I put the full court press on the artist, Gretchen Williams, for ownership and she gracefully let me pry it out of her hands after a wrestling match. Gretchen created this during an art day at Skeleton Creek on the lower Salmon when we did a layover day. Good times. Layovers are always fun but the outdoor art studio she set up really put that one over the top.


     Next we have sort of an avant-garde sculpture. Really it’s just a piece of driftwood, but with some super-funky swirly action in there that made me pack this thing down the river and home with me. I applied some varnish and it now resides atop the vintage laptop that was a gift from Hilary Valentine, our Winding Waters river chef. Thanks, darlin’.


     This last one here doesn’t have a river connection, but it does serve as a directional sign for the groover in my cabin. The picture of the dude smiling and pointing is off some old house insulation that I tore out in the early days of renovating my shanty. I was so impressed with the 50s-looking drawing that I cut this chunk out and always planned to stick it on the wall for when guests ask where the bathroom is. He’s finally behind plexiglass and busy pointing toward the groove. Keep up the good work, 50s insulation guy.


    You’ve got a shot at taking home some one-of-a-kind functional art by attending the Frostbite Film Fest next week. Paul Arentsen is building another ski sculpture this year and it’ll be auctioned off by amateur auctioneer me. Paul’s furniture made from retired skis adds 10% to the value of any home when displayed on the front porch—so it’s a wise investment on top of being visually appealing and comfy to kick back in. The Frostbite fundraiser is Thursday, Feb. 12 from 6 to 9pm at the OK Theater in Enterprise, so we’ll see you there. And please just shout out really large bids when the auction thing starts. I’m a little reluctant to be doing the auctioning. Craig Nichols set the bar awfully high for that. Here’s a picture of him in action at a previous Frostbite.

    P1070379 - Version 2

    Again, just shout out really big bids when the auctioning starts. That’d be a big help. Not just for me, but all the winter sports outfits the Frostbite helps fund.

    OK, go dust your own art collections and we’ll see you on the river.

  21. Catching season is open

    Comments Off on Finally, a big enough bobber

    Strike indicator. Thingamabobber. Floaty thing. Call it what you will. There are some folks who frown on attaching a visual aid to your leader to signal when your fly has a customer down under. On a private float last year some buddies and I tried sharing the river with an outfitter whose guides either had unique interpretations of river etiquette or none at all. It was hard to tell. One of our fun interactions featured them trying to barge in and poach a run my buddy and I were just starting to fish. When asked what the deuce, the reply was: “Well, you’re indicator fishing, right?”


    Answer: yes. Implication: spey rods trump bobber rigs because . . . it’s harder, I guess? Very well. I’ll go along with that. Next time I see that particular guide I’m going to snorkel through the run and go after steelhead with my bare hands. Problem solved. We can all go back to getting along now.

    Sorry, makers of calamine lotion. Thanks to Jeff Yanke and Kyle Bratcher over at ODFW Fisheries for organizing a trail cleanup last year to remove poison ivy and blackberry bushes on one of our popular riverside trails. I would have loved to be there because coming in contact with both of those bushes is my very favorite thing. But I was, uhm, I had . . . uhhh . . . I couldn’t make it. I did get to see their handiwork last weekend though and it looks like Zorro put on a machete class. Kyle, Jeff and whatever work crew you commandeered from prison, thank you all.


    Behold what 80% chance of rain looks like, pictured below. Some of the Winding Waters crew and comrades got out last weekend with a not very encouraging weather prediction. Gusty winds up to 35 mph. Rain. Boiling seas. Dogs and cats living together. But if you have the proper gear, it doesn’t much matter. Although it does help if the weather forecast was written by some crackhead who was waaaaay off.


    Name that critter. Had some fun wildlifey viewings last trip to the river. These here had me fooled at first from afar. Thought it was one thing, but looking through my far-seeing tubes revealed this as a something else. Hint: rhymes with Opp-ih-tie.


    Mark the calendar.

    Frostbite Film Festival fundraiser function for Fergi featuring films, philantropy and . . . I’m all out of f-words, except for that one.

    Anyway, come to the OK Theater Thursday Feb. 12 from 6 to 9. Details on The Facebooks page.

    Adios, amoebas.

  22. Tips For Unsticking a Stuck Rod

    Comments Off on Pete Seeger rowing an oldschool raft in Hells Canyon

    You may remember Jan Homan from one of our naturalist trips. She’s the second-nicest person in the world, behind the pope, and stopped by today with photos of music making person Pete Seeger, who you may have heard of in context of everybody knowing who Pete Seeger is. If you have not heard of Pete, he invented the electric guitar and gave the first one to Bob Dylan.

    Here he is at the oars in a photo from 1972. The river guide in me looks at this and says: holy cheezwhiz, look at that wooden frame. And those pinchy oarlock stands. A bucket boat. Imagine. Complete with bailer right there under his seat. These rowing conditions are nothing short of barbaric. Hey, there’s an ammo can in the lower right. Timeless. And what have we here in the background? I say, that does seem to be Pine Bar, which you will recall from your Hells Canyon trip as the site where we jump off Sturgeon Rock. And if you peek closely, you can see the outfitter cabins in the background that were reportedly burned down via some arson. Lot going on in this picutre.


    These pics are from a trip sponsored by Hells Canyon Preservation Council and copies were dropped by at Kirkwood Ranch by Boyd Norton, rowing in this next photo. Here’s a link to a nice tribute Mr. Norton wrote about Mr. Seeger.



    Coming Soon To A Bookshelf Near You

    Ellen Morris Bishop has a new one out. If you like knowing how the earth works, this if for you. She’s reading from it in Joseph this week and I’m a-going. Check it out at your local bookstore, or here’s some linkage to Ellen’s web hangout.

    Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 5.25.01 PM

    I shared an apartment with Lightning in college and it was a nightmare.

    First Sunset of the Year Requiring Photo Documentation

    I’ve just about had it with the splendor around here. A guy can’t even take his dog for a walk without being assaulted by beauty. I mean, look at this sunset that got all up in my face today. There I was, minding my business, trying to focus on being agitated about something then Mother Nature barges in trying sell me some free grandeur and I’m like, Lady, can’t you see I’m busy? Ridiculous.


    Just ridiculous.

    Well, kids. Get busy sticking to those resolutions. Happy New Year from Winding Waters River Expeditions and we’ll see you on the river.




  23. Must-have gear: headlamp

    Comments Off on Old Building, New Cheeseburger Frontier & Big Water

    The award for Best New Name For An Old Building is . . . The Redd. It’s in Portland. On Salmon Street. Note that street. A redd, for those suspicious of the two d’s, is a nest excavated by fish to lay their baby fish eggs in. The internet assures me ‘redd up’ means to clear or tidy an area. The expression is used in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Pennsylvania. I guess that makes sense, if that’s the connection, because fish do clear bigger rocks out and sort the gravel when digging redds.

    Normally symbolism and the like symbolizes for me that my eyes are about to roll, but in this case you’ve got: Salmon Street; fixing up an old warehouse to kick off new life for businesses and whatnot; little baby fish/businesses growing up to make a healthier stream/street. I like it. It’s good. Give whoever thought that one up a high five.


    Spencer and Bobcat after steelhead on the Wild and Scenic Grande Ronde.

    I heard about The Redd project from Spencer Beebe. I know him as a steelhead fisherman, rower of boats and card player. But he’s also the founder of EcoTrust, the conservation outfit in Portland, who are behind this revamping of the 16,000 square foot warehouse intended to be a place where jumper cables can be applied to good ideas. Last time I saw Spencer was on the Salmon River last fall. We sat down along the Grande Ronde River this month and played a round of ‘What You Been Up To?’ and Spencer definitely had me outgunned in the cool-sounding projects to make the world a better place department. Although I did put a new roof on my house this year and I don’t recall Spencer mentioning any roofing projects. So I got that going for me. Which is nice.

    Anyhow, learn more about The Redd and other EcoTrust goings-on by internetting here. To learn about playing the card game Oh Hell, stay here.


    Remember to spey and neuter.

    The card game Oh Hell is pretty simple. All you need is a deck of cards, a float trip in the fall, a wall tent full of steelhead fishermen, a little woodstove crackling in the corner of the wall tent to dry waders and keep you toasty, something to drink while playing – also to keep you toasty – then you get dealt some cards and there’s either a trump suit, or not. You bid how many you think you’ll win, or not. And . . . I don’t know. It’s easy to play but hard to explain. Better have Spencer or his pals explain it. Anyway, it’s super fun and you should try it. Here’s what the inside of a wall tent after a game of Oh Hell looks like:


    The steelhead fishing catch rate for our late October trip was off the charts – if you used small charts. Slowish, or challenging, would be accurate. Water levels, temps, recent pulse of rain, all that jazz had me optimistic that we’d get into the fish all right on this 5 day trip. But the steelhead were being hardheaded, or were dallying downstream. The crew went after it hard, though, and did get into some fish. And river otters. This next picture shows Silas Beebe laying some casts out and those two little heads just upstream of him are otters working their way downstream. (Click to enlarge.)


     Cheeseburger Redefined

    Jared Wilcox helped Paul and I run camps on this foray, and burger night got stepped up a notch beyond the already powerful high mark of using local, grass-fed happy cows from Carman Ranch. Jared and I went the extra step to stuff smoked cheese and bacon INSIDE our burger patties. Repeat: cheese and bacon were INSIDE our burger patties. The overall effect was . . . well, this is a family website so I can’t go into too much more detail. Let’s just say it was [Edited to comply with windingwatersrafting.com standards] and could only be compared to [Edited to comply with windingwatersrafting.com standards] that I heard about one time from a guy I know who was in the Navy.


    Cheeseburger revolution.

    Dessert wasn’t too shabby, either. Here’s Paul warming fruit compote to go atop ginger cake. Thanks, Hilary.


    And a nice, peaceful shot from one of our favorite GR camps with some misty morning action.


    This just in:

    The Boathouse Shop will be OPEN this December on Fridays & Saturdays from 12-6PM. Great spot to buy unique gifts. 30% off on all apparel.

    Also: WWRE is planning a big whitewater trip for springtime. Check out our “Hells and High Water” Adventure May 15-17, 2015. Special early-season pricing.

  24. Heavy Metal Forecast

    Comments Off on Back to sch . . . still rafting!

    How about all those first day of school photos populating Facebook right now. Young scholars bubbling over with excitement about facing 9 long months of sitting through fractions and The War of 1812. Yessir. The tracks of their bitter tears are barely visible because the camera tends to focus on the brand new outfits and backpacks.

    Listen, kids. Enjoy those Number 2 pencils. You could be out in the work force instead. Like young Linden here, seen hard at work packing coolers for the family business.


    It’s like something out of a Charles Dickens novel. “May I have some more porridge?” “NOT UNTIL YOU LOAD THAT GEARBOAT!”

    Nah. Linden’s as happy as ever and no children were forced to carry things in the process of taking that photo. She volunteered, of all things. Here’s another photo of her, taken at Maloney Creek camp on the Lower Salmon where the Arentsen brothers and family hosted a sleeping pad-insulated sumo wrestling tournament that really should have been available on pay-per-view.


    Speaking of the Lower Salmon and back-to-school time, here’s an inside tip: now is a great time to be on the river. Lots of folks have got their rafting in for the season so you don’t see as many rafters on the water, plus the weather is generally pretty great on account of things cooling off a touch in the evenings. Wallowa County gal Andi Leuders knows what we’re talking about. She’s organizing a locals trip down the Salmon coming up real soon.

    That goes for the Snake River in Hells Canyon, too. Morgan, Todd and co. just headed for the ramp to enjoy the September conditions in Hells Canyon.

    2014 had some fires out in these parts, but not to worry, appropriate caution was taken and no harm done. Well, there’s a few trees that may disagree about harm done, but also a lot of grass and such that’ll bounce back next year greener than ever. Here’s a shot above Skeleton Creek on the Lower Salmon, showing a panorama that distorts things some, but shows what it looks like to round a corner from blue sky into smoke. Two wildland engine crews were down there off the Eagle Creek Road to protect houses and those folks were sure earning their beans.


    Music For Inhabited Places

    Our Wild Places musical river guide pal Kai Welch played the Juniper Jam music festival at the fairgrounds in Enterprise over Labor Day weekend. And did a smash-up job of it, I might add. Rafters who have been on a Music For Wild Places float would recognize his Superman theme trumpet rendition to start his set. Looking forward to hearing who Kai lines up for wilderness concerts next year. Here he is tuning up before his set.


    Coming up, I’ll be volunteering on a bull trout spawning ground survey this fall, hiking into the Imnaha headwaters. Should see some awesome country. But the real draw, of course, is that this event is catered by Morgan Jenkins, wilderness chef supreme. I’ll hike any distance and wade through icy streams for that guy’s cooking.

    Here’s a parting shot of WWRE guide Robin Pace’s brother Anders, pulling a sweet Hells Canyon handstand on that blue boat in the distance.


  25. Music For Wild Places on the Lower Salmon

    Comments Off on Eagle feather

    Check this out . . . Tim Roberts fielding a puff of eagle down that drifted off a bald eagle during a flyover.


    If you tried to recreate this with an eagle drone, the combination of timing wind and river currents with the drift of the kayak and feather would make it a mighty good trick to get this little whisp to drift down pretty as you please into his hand like it did for reals. I mean, it looked rehearsed. That was pretty cool.

    (Note to game warden: the wee feather was released into the wilds.)

    Speaking of bald eagles, check out this little snapshot of Nature celebrating the 4th of July by shining sunbeams on another Grande Ronde River bald eagle. Good job, Nature.


    If catching a bald eagle feather is good luck, I’m guessing these folks did not catch one the day this happened. What we have here is a sad portrait of a driftboat on hard times. Get a job, driftboat! Pull yourself up by your oarlocks.


    This wreck is one of two driftboat crackups on the Grande Ronde in the past couple weeks. My sources say no one was hurt in either wreck. The boat pictured here chose to go left after Blind Falls, and would probably re-think that if it had a chance for a do-over.

    The other boat is currently residing on a rock above Minam State Park. Whoopsie.

    Wanna see a picture of a bear? All righty then.


    This lil’ smoky was in the Wild and Scenic stretch of the Grande Ronde, taking a water break after a hard day of teaching kids about fire prevention.

    Speaking of teaching kids, this little whipper-snapper here listened to a 30-second tutorial on how to row a boat, hopped in the seat and started working the oars like he’s been doing it for more years than he’s been around. That was honestly one of best demonstrations of natural ability I’ve seen since that Redford movie.


    Also had a young gymnast on a day trip the other day, pulling off somersaults from the kayak.


    We got on the water for a float on the Grande Ronde and I was chatting with the Steensma family on my raft and this young fella Kees here said he went to Jesuit High School. Had I heard of it? Heard of it? My cousin Gary Rombach coaches football and track at Jesuit. Wouldn’t you know it, Kees plays football.


    (Confidential to Coach Rombach: I don’t know what his training schedule is the rest of the summer, but he definitely got a workout paddling the river the day I saw him. Have him do some pushups next time you see him to prove it.)

    Been a great summer with lots of water, good times and better company. And the good news is we’ve got more on the way. Let’s go rafting.