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The Gearboat Chronicles

Minam to Troy Polar Express

A gaggle of Winding Waters guides hopped in the boats for a late season run down the upper Grande Ronde roadless stretch, with a weather forecast written by Stephen King and enough longjohns to stretch from here to the moon.

Todd, his lovely wife Tammy and their canine family members Indigo and Lil’ Bear. Morgan Jenkins and his six drybags of foul weather gear. And myself, with Bula the 16-year old Wonder Dog.

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Photo by Hal Morello, using Tammy Knorr’s phone, which I then got off the facebooks.

Fishing was challenging. We covered gorgeous water and convinced some trout and whitefish to come out and play, but steelhead were aloof to the point of taking on the character traits of mythical creatures. We did talk to one guy who was obviously a liar by claiming to have caught a few.

Action seems to be down lower around Troy and thereabouts. Conventional wisdom has everyone waiting for another rain. Water temp was 38 when I checked. Air temperature looked like this:


Really very pretty to be down there with the snow and all. Then it would clear off and do this:


My elderly dog can’t hear much these days, and her vision seems a bit cloudy. Nothing wrong with her schnoz, however, as evidenced by her sniffing out this elk carcass upstream and trotting off to inspect, then eat, whatever was on the wind. This was a spike elk. Dunno what brought on its demise.


One of the things my dog can’t hear is her fur being singed. I became the proud owner of a Kifaru tipi this rafting season and just love that thing to pieces. Literally. I got this tipi used and it had a few pinholes and small rips in it that I put some patches on, but on this last trip I heard a sickening tearing noise while applying tension to set it up. The resulting tear, down near the peg loops, was significant. Then later that night it became moreso when my trusty dog tried to use it as a dog door, found it wasn’t quite large enough and enlarged the rip to fit her size by throwing her head around. Big sigh.

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Photo by David Jensen. Man, that guy’s good.

But back to her fur being singed. The tipi has a little woodstove that is far more handy than sliced bread. Love that thing. Revolutionizes cold weather camping. But it’s kind of a full-bore or out proposition and while the stove was glowing orange with a cheery blaze, my beloved dog would lay down right next to this pocket furnace, then lean over and I’d hear the sizzle of her husky fur being melted. Tips of her ears. Tail. Fur on her back. She never got burned-burned. Never felt anything. Just got confused when I’d shout and push her away from the stove. Her bed was well away from the stove and all that. It’s just difficult to tell a dog they can’t lie down next to something warm, even for their own good. She looked like she’d played a game of tag against people using hot irons by the end of the trip. Maybe Kifaru makes a collapsible dog barrier to go with their other stove accessories.

Here’s some little white dots that are mountain goats. There’s also the faint blush of a rainbow in there, but you kind of have to squint. You have to work for it on this photo.


Cold and snow aside, always a pleasure to be on the water. Well. Except when you’re on the water and ice is sharing the raft with you. But it’s a pleasure once you get to camp and get the little woodstove going, provided your dog isn’t being singed. Then it’s a pleasure.


Here’s one more shot of what the GR looks like once the clouds break and the pretty pours in.