Current Location: Sunset House on a clear non-smoky day at 94 Degrees F
First of all, and most important, did you notice that Non-Smoky Day introduction? It is August, and hot, and for once, the skies are crystal clear. There is a fire about 30 miles north, just west of I-5, and the last few days have been smoky. Thankfully, the fire isn’t growing as fast as it did initially, and is about 25 percent contained, and the smoke is blowing somewhere else at the moment.
Last year at this time we were buried in thick, dark smoke that never gave us a break for more than 2 months. It was a horrendous summer, and when this fire started everyone in this area sighed deeply, thinking it had started again. But the weather isn’t as brutal, and so far, things have been a lot better than last year, or the year before that and the one before that. Who knows how long it will last, but for the moment, it is incredibly gorgeous.
I hope it stays that way, since my lifetime friend Maryruth and her husband Gerald will be here to take possession of their new home on August 19. They are leaving the California foothills to escape the fires that have plagued them in Oroville with repeated evacuations and fear. We do get fires here in the surrounding forest, but they were careful to buy in an area that has plenty of defensible space, in the city limits, rather than in the urban forest interface.
I didn’t realize just how much of our month of July revolved around water until I started the final processing of my photos. Unlike the Lumix camera, which I shoot in RAW format, I shot lots of Galaxy S9+ photos this month, mostly because of the aforementioned focus on water. Lots of it. The phone photos don’t take a lot of processing, and even though they look nice most of the time, there are certain subjects which really do need a camera to look good. Especially closeups of birds on a bright day with lots of water reflections. Still, I love not having to pack the camera for a simple lake kayak, and especially love not having to pack it on a river raft trip!
Even though the “water” I am talking about for the month of July has to do with lakes, rivers, and oceans, it was also a watery July because we don’t yet have automatic sprinklers at Sunset House and I spend at least an hour or two each day watering “stuff”. With a low producing well, I have to be especially careful and pay attention to how much I am using, how full the cistern is, and how much water is being produced by the RO unit.
I love the quiet time outside with the hose, and hand watering like this gives me a chance to visit each plant, each area in person and make sure I have an intimate connection with what is happening as the hot, dry summer days progress. The morning light coming through the trees illuminating the flowers is especially lovely from the bedroom windows.
We started the month with a lovely little simple July Fourth celebration with Mo and I and daughter Deborah and Grandson Matthew. Instead of driving somewhere to find a lake, we decided to take a ten minute trip to the edge of town and the Whitehorse County Park on the banks of the Rogue River.
In the past, we have shared this holiday in many different ways, including days at home with Bocci ball on the lawn. In dry summer Grants Pass, extensive lawns are non existent, at least at home, and we thought it might be fun to pack up food and drink and head for a park for a real picnic. It was great fun, and so easy, except we forgot to bring the Bocci Ball game.
So much grass to enjoy, all green and all watered and level. I sent photos to Melody and we all got excited about planning our bigger family celebration for next year at Whitehorse Park, even deciding that we could probably all camp there easily. The park wasn’t crowded at all, and a perfect place to simply hang out with family.
The short walk from the park down to the river was overgrown with blackberries but once there we enjoyed watching the Hellgate jetboats going by, and getting our feet wet while we looked for rocks and let Mattie play.
Until I remembered that on July 2, next year, Mo and I will be embarking on a cruise around Scotland on Oceania’s Nautica. Oops. Guess we will have to celebrate the holiday early. Not a problem for any of us since fireworks are no longer a requirement for a fun day.
A few days later, with more gorgeous clear summer skies to inspire us, Mo and I decided to take the boats out for a day of kayaking. Initially we thought we might try a section of the Rogue River nearby that seemed innocuous enough, but a bit more research led us to think hard side lake kayaks on the Rogue might not be very smart.
Instead we headed south toward the Applegate Reservoir, about an hour and 15 minutes from home. Unlike last year when we kayaked that lake a bit earlier in the year, the water level was down enough that launching wasn’t very enticing.
We drove to the southern end of the lake, looking for the park we had seen from the water last year and found a nice picnic table and for a $5 fee parked in the shade. There were some people around enjoying the sunshine and the water, but it was a long rocky walk to get into the river, clambering over boulders. We have done worse, but somehow just couldn’t get excited about the whole thing.
We drove around the lake a bit, checking out some of the other launch sites, but with the water lower than last year, the steep brown banks weren’t the least bit enticing, and we decided the day wasn’t a total loss with the lovely picnic we had enjoyed.
We left the boats on the car and within a couple of days decided to make the trip over the mountains back to Rocky Point and our favorite launch site. It only is about 90 minutes from here to the Rocky Point boat launch. Not the 5 minutes it used to be for us when we lived there, but definitely worth doing for a beautiful day trip.
The water was still nice and high, and the launch at Rocky Point is so very easy. We decided to paddle east toward Crystal Creek, thinking that with the high water it would be a great day to take the Wocus Cut back toward Recreation Creek and Rocky Point.
We were right. It was a lovely paddle, not too hot, not windy, and nice deep water. The wocus plants were taller than I ever remember seeing them, and the bulrush “tules” were at least 10 feet tall. A rich, luscious, verdant landscape. We saw pelicans, an eagle or two, least terns, red winged blackbirds, Canada geese, unidentified ducks, gulls, and some little brown birds that I think were either catbirds or cowbirds. Who knows, but they sure had a great call.
We paddled about 2 1/2 hours, and Mattie did quite well. Often after 90 minutes or so she gets restless in the kayak and vocalizes a bit to let us know. Something I forgot to mention: at the Rogue River she decided that water wasn’t so terrible after all and waded in up to her knees, something she has avoided at all costs in the past. This time at Rocky Point, she also walked in up to her belly. She is a great swimmer, but doesn’t like to do it much, so just getting her into the water is fun to see.
By the time we got off the water, it was lunch time and we headed back up the mountain to Fish Lake Resort for lunch on the patio with Mattie. When we were there last month, we had the MoHo and did our own cooking, but those hamburgers looked really good. The breezes coming of the lake were cool and lunch was delicious. Funny thing, though, I asked for some kind of amber beer and they had nothing. So she offered me a cider and what showed up on the table was something called hard seltzer, lime flavored. Interesting drink, but I won’t be seeking it out anywhere.
It was just a few more days until our scheduled family trip once again to the northwestern part of Oregon, and we left the kayaks on the car so we would be ready. In the mean time, however, daughter Deborah had planned a nice adventure for the four of us, Mo and I, Deb and Matthew, with a paddle raft trip on the Rogue River.
We were excited about this and looking forward to checking out the Rogue in a rubber boat that should be good enough to handle the rocks and the rapids. Deb picked a rafting company that sounded good and had good reviews, and by 9:30 AM on Saturday morning of the 20th we were lined up with lots of other people for our day on the Rogue.
We had a 13 foot 8 inch rubber raft with four paddles, and they hauled us up to the launch point in an old bus. Along the way, the driver (who was an old river guide) told us to “stay to the left at the first four islands and go to the right at the 5th one”. He also mentioned that if you get caught in a tree, don’t grab the tree, or the boat will continue downriver and you will be hanging in the tree. Ok then. With that little bit of instruction, we launched our boat and piled in.
Now Mo and I have paddled kayaks and canoes, but I haven’t paddled a paddle boat for years, and Matt and Deborah have never paddled much at all. A few days on a lake in our kayaks doesn’t really count much, as we discovered when we entered the strong, swift current of the Rogue River.
Within minutes we were at the first hard bend in the river, with strong current, rapids, and rocks to avoid, and yes, trees on the shoreline. Sure enough, we ended up right in the trees, with a cut off branch knocking Mo in her rib (yes it is probably broken) and another really big branch almost knocking me out of the boat by my head. Deb was having visions of her decapitated mother left in the boat. I managed to slide under the big branch scraping the underside of it with my thick life vest. Thank goodness. None of us were knocked out of the boat, but Matt lost his paddle, and Mo was hurting quite a bit. Not a good way to start 18 miles of river!
I didn’t get too many photos while we were on the river, but I did get this shot of Deborah retrieving the lost paddle that flew by us quite a bit later in a shallow area. She got it, but not without a bit of a mishap in the strong current and a busted baby finger trying to stay upright.
We obviously didn’t know the river, and had a hard time counting islands. Once we thought we had better go right because the rapids to the left looked too rough, but at the last minute decided to change our minds. Not a good thing. We got hung up on a really big rock and it took a LOT of crazy Matthew energy to get us unstuck. Scary stuff. The river was really too low in some places and we hung up on the bottom a couple more times before we finished. Farther downriver things eased up a bit with deeper water and stronger current, and we finally had a few fun rolling rapids that were actually fun, the way rapids are supposed to be.
The funniest part of all, only in retrospect, was the constant battle between what each person thought should be done in the way of paddling. Mo and I had our ideas, we were in the back of the boat, Matthew had his ideas, in the front of the boat, and Deb couldn’t figure out why things didn’t work right the way she expected when she paddled. Every river paddle needs a boss, someone who knows the river to call the shots and tell people when to dig in and when to turn or stop.
We stopped in Shady Cove for a break, and made the choice to get back on the river to finish the final 6 miles to the Dodge Bridge takeout, the place where Deborah had arranged for us to be picked up by the rafting company. 18 miles was a good run and it took us about 6 hours to do it.
Each of us had underestimated that river, expecting rolling class 1 and 2 rapids, but not expecting hang-ups, and really big rocks and hard turns. Sadly, others underestimated the river as well and just two days later a 54 year old doctor was rafting and fishing with his son, became entangled in an anchor rope for their raft, and died. It happened near Shady Cove, where we rafted as well. If we get on that river again, we will be more prepared. However, we both decided that we will stick to lakes, slow big rivers, small streams, and estuaries and probably leave the Mighty Rogue to others.
We were all darn hungry by the time we got off the river and really enjoyed dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, had some good laughs, and the river arguments about how to paddle slipped away as we remembered how much fun it had been to share the adventure. Later I made a google map of our route on the river with a few notations of where we ran into the tree and where we got hung up on the rocks. Just for fun, check it out Rafting the Rogue
We ended our watery month of July with a lovely trip to Cannon Beach with family, but I’m getting rather long winded so I’ll save that for the next story. In the mean time, enjoy this watery photo that I took one evening from the hot tub as I watched the sunset.