Monthly Archives: April 2011

Kayaking Little Butte Creek: A Hidden Gem

It’s raining and its been raining for quite some time. For most people today might be a day to stay inside and get some laundry done, but me and my brother have other ideas…were going kayaking.

putting in on little butte creek

Early Spring days in the Rogue Valley mean warm temperatures (relatively) and high river levels; the perfect recipe for doing some play boating on flooded creeks.

Today’s target is Little Butte Creek. It rained all night on top of saturated ground so the creek that normally meanders through Eagle Point is now topping its banks and kicking.

This isn’t a hard run, it doesn’t have enough gradient to generate any nasty drops, but the river bottom is made up mostly of smooth bedrock which creates some beautiful big surf waves when a large volume of water is forced through it.

The last time I was on this stretch, over ten years ago, I was blown away by the quantity and quality of the play boating. There were perfect waves and holes everywhere. Todays’ level wasn’t quite as high as ten years ago so the waves weren’t quite as big or plentiful. It was damned fun though.

One feature I distinctly remember from last time, was a great play hole about halfway down the run. It was there today and was even better than I remember it. We played here for quite a while. The sun was out and hole was perfect.

The hole sets you up perfectly for throwing ends. All you have to do is relax and it automatically puts you into the perfect spot. I filmed my brother throwing some ends.

little butte creek oregon (click the previous link to view the youtube video.)

After the hole we were hopeful to find the next big feature I remember from last time; a massive wave with a perfect break at the top. I remember this wave being big enough to easily do crossovers with two boats.

As we made our way through Eagle Point, smelling the smells of McDonald’s and Wal-Mart, we came upon a nasty horizon line we’d totally forgotten about. It’s a two-part weir dam…nasty sumbitch.

We walked around it, thinking how stupid it would be to die in the middle of Eagle Point, on little Butte creek.

As we started getting near the end of the run, we realized the wave we were searching for must be coming up. We came through a stretch that looked like we remembered but the wave wasn’t there.

The creek was either not high enough, or it had changed. Whatever the case, the wave of my dreams wasn’t there. Oh well, I’ll always remember it the way it was that first time.

As we hit the confluence of Little Butte Creek and the Rogue we figured no one had run that fun little stretch of river since the last time we did. It’s a hidden gem that gets overlooked because of its close proximity and benign nature.

Bear Creek Boating: The Ghetto Run in Medford Oregon

It’s mid-April, the ground is saturated from recent rains which means the rivers and creeks rise quickly when the rains come. The ground can’t hold anymore moisture so it all runs off into the creeks making for some great high water kayaking.

One of the best runs is right in downtown Medford…Bear Creek.

Mostly people don’t even notice Bear Creek as it meanders through the guts of Talent, Phoenix and Medford, finally dumping into the Rogue river around Gold Ray.

But when it rains and the polluted little creek starts to swell, the play boating can be damned good.

The best section is from Barnett road bridge to the Rogue Valley Mall. It flows through the soft underbelly of Medford, which is why we call it the ghetto run.

It always feels funny putting in at the Dairy Queen on Barnett. You get some damned funny looks from the locals as you begin donning your gear and carrying your boat to the water.

This isn’t the normal remote put-in most boaters are used to, this is downtown Medford, a stones throw from Interstate 5.

There’s no designated put-in, you have to fight your way through thick riverside blackberry bushes, hoping you don’t step on a used hypodermic needle.

Once you’re on the water though, the fun begins. The river bottom is made up of smooth bedrock which makes for some really perfect surf waves.

The only problem is slowing down enough to catch the waves. As with all high water runs there are very few eddys.

Usually kayakers have to plow into the river bank and hold onto some submerged sapling, or possibly an abandoned shopping cart, as you wait your turn for a 6 foot wave.

You don’t really have to wait though, there are many waves and not many kayakers think to float this section, so there isn’t much competition.

It’s a short run with lots of fun surf waves and a few holes too. The holes are pretty shallow though and I don’t mess with them much, mainly because I don’t relish flipping over in this nasty, muddy, polluted water.

I’ve flipped many times and never contracted an illness, but the less I’m under the better.

The pollution probably isn’t a problem when the river is really cranking because it’s flushing all the nasty shit down pretty quick…it’s parts-per-million.

A good level to do the ghetto run is anything over 800 CFS. You can find an up to date flow here. It gets really fun when it’s above 1000 CFS, the more water the better.

A word of caution: as with all high water runs be sure to watch for sweepers and floating logs. They can ruin your whole day and they can appear and disappear from day-to-day on these little creeks.

So be careful, have fun, and keep your mouth shut tight while playing on these super fun surf waves.

Modesty in Sports: the Old School Way

The other day I was skiing on Mt. Ashland with my two young boys. It was Spring conditions and I was trying out my new skis. We were ripping around the mountain having a good time, when my oldest asked me why I didn’t brag about what a good skier I am.

Green Wave
What could you do with it?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Sids1

After thanking him for the compliment I pondered the question. I’m a good skier, I’ve been doing it since I was 4, I raced in high school and a bit in college, I’ve skied some of the steepest terrain in the west…I’m a damned good skier if I do say so myself.

I answered him by saying, you can tell when someone is good at something when they don’t talk about how good they are at something. Very rarely have I heard an excellent skier or surfer, or kayaker brag about being good unless they are around their equally good buddies. It’s kind of an unwritten rule…it’s an old school rule.

I explained to him that the best feeling is knowing your super good at something but only show it when you’re actually doing it.

For example play kayaking: I’ve been kayaking almost as long as I’ve been skiing. There’s nothing like listening to all the young guns talking about what great boaters they are as they put on their state of the art gear preparing to play in the local kayaking hole.

I don my gear keeping silent. They barely notice me, the older guy with the old gear. Then we get on the water and things change. Suddenly the old guy with the old gear is doing shit they’ve only heard about, and doing it consistently and smoothly.

There’s nothing better than watching their draws drop realizing they aint as good as they thought they were.

I know this sounds smug and conceited but it’s true. There’s nothing better than putting some blow hard to shame by outperforming him at his own game.

I know this isn’t a modest post, i’m basically bragging, but I wanted to teach my boys that they are also going to be great at the sports they choose and it’s important and rewarding to be modest verbally but totally dominating physically.

River Trip Meal Tips

A lot goes into planning a river trip: gear, shuttles, meeting spots, vehicles the list goes on and on. One of the most crucial decisions is what to eat on the river. Breakfast and lunch are no brainers, but what about dinner?

Piney River Camping 2010
Creative Commons License photo credit: NickDawson

Keep It simple (Stupid)

Some rafters enjoy pulling all the stops and go super-gourmet on their chosen dinner night. They’re stacking dutch ovens, they’re working two fire pans, they’re chopping and slicing, cubing and dicing for hours while everyone else is sitting around drinking gin and tonics relaxing.

You don’t need to go overboard, the simple stuff works great too. I’m not talking beanies and weenies here (although that would be fine) but simple meals that you can prep before the trip even begins.

Choose meals you can prepare in the comfort of your home rather than out on the river. Sure some work will have to be done at the river camp, but the more you can do at home the better.

Prep the Food at Home

For example how about a Mexican themed night. Burritos are simple and tasty and most of the prep work can be before the river trip.

At home, cook the proper amount of beef, add your special seasoning, drain the fat, let it cool and spoon it into a double bagged Ziploc storage baggie. Put it in the fridge, pull it out when you’re packing for the river trip and put it in a cooler on ice. Boom, your main ingredient is done. When it’s your night, throw it into a pan and heat it up.

Besides throwing away the Ziploc bags, there’s very little cleanup. You don’t have to figure out what to do with the meat fat (don’t want to dump it at camp and attract ants), and you don’t have to worry about having to cook all that meat on a flimsy camp stove.

You can also grate the cheese cut up the tomatoes, and do whatever cutting needs to be done at home. Just bag it, and take it downstream with you. Doing something special with the beans? Do it at home.

Some ingredients like lettuce, cilantro and avocados should be done the night of the dinner to keep things looking and tasting fresh, but for the most part all that’s left to do is put out the tortillas and call dinner…simple.

What About Grilling?

Grilling’s great but damned time-consuming. If you’re cooking steaks for a twenty person river trip you’re gonna be hunched over the fire-pan for half the night. If you must grill, grill something easy.

Grill fresh Salmon! A lot of the prep work can be done at home, especially if you’re cooking on the first night.

Salmon Zoom

Creative Commons License photo credit: DR000

The day before your put in, pull out the salmon fillets and place them in large Ziploc baggies.

Mix up a marinade, (my favorite is shredded ginger root, brown sugar, soy sauce and white wine) dump it into the baggie with the fish and store it in the cooler.

By the time you pull the fish out the following night it’ll be thoroughly marinated and the flavors will be popping.

Wrap the Salmon in foil, throw em onto a grill over even coal heat and in 10 minutes you’ll have a taste treat that’ll make the most jaded foodies crazy with desire. Hey…everything tastes better after a day on the river…you can’t go wrong unless you burn something.

That’s why you don’t need to go crazy gourmet. Whatever you serve on a river trip will be appreciated and consumed…guaranteed.

Private River Trip Setup

As I stated in a previous post, my wife got a Rogue River Permit. We’ll be putting in with friends and family in mid-summer, the perfect time to be on the river. Now that the permit is taken care of and we have all the spots filled it’s time to start planning the trip.

raft on the rogue
Our 15 foot SOTAR

Trip Leader

Since my wife got the permit, she automatically becomes the trip leader, the head honcho, the HBIC (Head Bitch in Charge). It’s up to her, (or us) to put everything together logistically. By securing the permit, we assume many responsibilities:

  • Gear: figuring out the gear is the most important job we have. We have to figure out who has what river gear. I’m not talking about personal river gear like sleeping bags and tents, i’m talking about community gear like stoves, shitters, coolers, and pots and pans to name a few. We don’t want everyone to bring a portable toilet, it’s not needed.
  • Rafts: We also need to figure out where everyone will be riding on the river trip. Who has a raft, how many people can it carry? If there are more people than spots, then we need to think about renting a raft. Another option is bringing down inflatable kayaks and putting people into those.
  • Vehicles and Shuttle: Who has what kind of vehicle? Can they tow a raft? who has raft trailers? The less vehicles you have to deal with the better but you want enough space to take people and gear comfortably. You don’t want to be crammed and uncomfortable in 100 degree heat while driving the treacherous shuttle road. Also the fewer cars you have shuttled to the takeout the less money the trip will cost.
  • Food: The trip leader doesn’t need to be in charge of all the food, but a plan needs to be in place. Delegating meals to different families or couples is a great idea. For instance were in charge of the first nights’ dinner, then another couple is in charge of the next night. You can do the same thing for each meal, although we usually have people come up with their own lunches.
  • Logistics: The trip leader is in charge of setting up when and where people should meet for the trip. Where will the loading take place? Where is home base? How many days and nights will be spent on the river?

Were fortunate that all our river running friends are accomplished river veterans. Everyone knows what’s expected of them and can operate on their own. However, if you have some neophyte river runners, you may need to be more active in the planning. Be very clear on what each family is responsible for bringing to the trip.

Proper and thorough planning will pay off with a river trip that is smooth and effortless. Once you’re on the river you want to be able to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor. You’re only worry being whether or not you brought enough beer.

Volkl AC50s… My New Babies

I’m an old school kind of guy. I tend to hang onto my old gear years and years after it’s technology has been made obsolete, however this year I’ve done some serious upgrades. I’ve traded in my 1992 vintage mountain bike for a 2010 full suspension Giant, and most recently (days ago) dropped some serious cash on a new pair of downhill skis.

The last time I bought new skis was in High School when I begged my parents for a new pair of Slalom race skis. The night I got those I pulled them into bed with me and caressed them until sleep came.

I had those skis all through college and beyond. I finally upgraded when my brother-in-law passed along his Salomon X-screams. This was my first venture into the new shaped ski craze and I loved them. They were old when I got them, but I skied on them for another 8 seasons.

Last week I was in Tahoe (see previous post) and noticed that not a single skier was on a pair of skis more than 2 or 3 years old. My old X-Screams stuck out like a sore thumb.

That doesn’t really bother me, I love having old gear and still being able to out ski most of em, but it got me thinking that maybe there was something to the new technology.

I decided it was time to check the new shit out. As luck would have it my local ski shop, Rogue ski shop, was having an end of the year sale. I talked for hours about the new technology with their knowledgeable staff and finally decided to buy the 2011 Volkl AC50s.

volkl ac50
My new skis- Volkl AC50

I originally wanted to get into the new twin tip reverse camber stuff, but they convinced me that those weren’t conducive to my racing style of skiing and doubted I’d enjoy them.

My first venture onto the slopes with my new skis was amazing. It was a blue bird day with warm temperatures. The snow was soft in the sun and hard in the shade. These skis absolutely shredded everything I asked them to do. The stability was phenomenal even in unexpected ice.

The AC50s are touted as more of a giant slalom ski so I was a little concerned about the amount of pop they’d have in quick turn situations. I had nothing to fear, the skis popped from edge to edge with lightning speed, initiating before I even thought about it.

I haven’t had the chance to take them onto cut up powder or crud yet, but I’m confident they’ll eat that up with ease. They’re wider than any ski I’ve ever been on which will add some serious float, more than I’ve ever experienced, so I’m not worried. These skis simply ROCK!