Wallowa - Grande Ronde

Discussion in 'Trip Reports with Pics' started by Ed Call, Jul 18, 2012.

  1. Warning: This is long. It has no photos yet. I will add some photos and video clips when I can. You've been warned.

    Our first family multi-day float was a wonderful adventure and overall great success. Our target river, the John Day, was experiencing lower than normal floats and my river permit was too late to take advantage of optimal flows. Did we have a backup plan? Yes, the Grande Ronde. We met at Rob and Deb’s for a final planning meeting, having gone through several rounds of electronic plan refinement beforehand. After that, it seemed that all of our participants were ready to go, and excited.

    Jim knew this was Rob and my families’ first multi-day float, and having been there himself some time back, assumed the role of guy rowing the gear boat, Ed’s Scadden Outlaw Outfitter configured to haul as much as needed for the group. Rob was making a run to Olympia to pick up the loaner, nearly brand new, Orangeradish raft. Ed was dialing in his Maxxon tubed; NRS framed 14’ cataraft for the clan. Ed’s boats were stacked in the trailer, pretty much intact. Boxes and coolers loaded. Back of the SUV loaded. Every one of the houses involved had also included their “community gear” items. We did a pretty good job of dividing the group use items so that no duplicates were made and that no one had to go out and buy any new gear. Our hope was a family friendly float, one that was economically sound and something that would be remembered for some time. From a planning perspective I think we had it pretty dialed in, and now back from the trip I’m sure we did it right.

    Our first adventure day was the Tuesday travel day to Minam, OR. My family met Rob’s family at a convenient Poulsbo location, where we delayed departure because our four had not yet eaten. After a quick bite to eat, we started rolling at about 9am. We had a few bathroom/top off the tank/get a cold drinks or bite to eat breaks along the way. This is one of the nuances of travelling with three young ladies ages 5, 7 and 8. We arrived at the Minam, OR State Park and met up with Jim at about 5pm. Jim had been there for about 2-3 hours, and had staked out a campsite for our group for the night. The state park is very nice, right on the river and had a few young deer that just meandered around grazing most of the time we were there. A quick trip into Wallowa to get some dinner fixings for the evening later and we were all set up in camp, preparing boats and relaxing.

    Wednesday was launch day. After a nice camp breakfast of sausage/egg/cheese scramble, the guys loaded all the boats and all the gear into two of the three rigs. The ladies and girls stayed to play in camp and give us time to set up our shuttles and get the boats off trailers at the launch. We had a plan that they would drive the third rig down about a half hour after us and minimize the time they had to sit around and wait for us to do our thing. The unplanned variable in this scenario was that we arrived at the launch to find a group spread all over the place and taking their sweet time getting ready. We were dry docked behind them and they weren’t budging. Finally, after a full hour wait, and the ladies and girls arriving to help us finish the prep, it was our turn. Three boats quickly in the water, three rigs parked for shuttle runs, and final bathroom breaks. Off we went. The reported flow that morning was 2950 @ Troy for the Grande Ronde. Unsure what it was here at our Minam launch on the Wallowa, but it was moving pretty well with a few splashy bits right off the bat. Minam is at about mile 10 of the Wallowa, and it did not take us much time to cover the 1.5 miles to arrive at our first named run, Minam Roller, a fun splashy section right above the campground. I could tell already that I was going to be having a very good time, and the rest of my family seemed to be having a fine time too. I think I ran this one right down the middle of the heavy water and we all got nice and cool, have I mentioned that it was about 95 degrees? Red Rock Rapids was just a mile and a half later, and we covered that stretch pretty quick. Huge house sized boulder, looks sketch to the right, but the left has a little drop, a lot of splash and plenty of giggles. The discussion in my boat was great, the scenery, how cool the water was keeping us in the heat and how much fun we were already having. Thus far, Jim’s gear boat and the Rob raft were also making good time. We were all together, and all having a good time. Next splash, Blind Falls Rapid, a bit of a drop on the right, but a really heavy water tongue down the middle and I hit every splashy bit of it. There were plenty of standing waves between these rapids thanks to the large submerged boulders. I don’t know if this would have been as much fun in lower flows, higher would have been fine, but maybe not a whole lot higher.

    The confluence with the Grande Ronde came after a short lunch break. Rob and Deb provided some awesome curry chicken wraps. This is the second time I’ve had this tasty treat on a trip, it should be on the trip menu all the time. Still plenty of small splashy sections that are not named rapids and at these flows there is about 6” of water cushion on top of most of the rocks and the cataraft slides over them with ease into the splashy drops behind. Cheers of “I’m wet”, “awesome”, “hit it again” and “go hit that one Dad” were continually heard. After 10 miles, we entered the Grande Ronde and bid farewell to our new friend the Wallowa. I, for one, am hoping we meet again; maybe regularly!

    Passing under the Steelhead Train Bridge as it turns from the Wallowa up the Grande Ronde, we are at about mile marker 81.5. The Wild and Scenic river section quickly arrives about a mile later and we see the first of the well-established campsites on the Grande Ronde. Looks like campsites like these will accommodate a group our size or much larger very well. Perhaps we should recruit some more families for the next run? I’m rowing toward Sheep Creek Rapids wondering if there is a creek called Sheep Creek. We passed a tiny little creek on river left and I’m wondering when both Jill, the Mrs., and Olivia, the 8, both said that maybe it is called Sheep Creek because of all the white foamy sections looking like sheep crossing the river…they are both more creative than I. Sheep Creek Rapids was really a blast, lots of submerged rocks with ample cushion to ride and easy to move from one to the next. This was really demonstrating that I was very capable of maneuvering this loaded boat well and by well I mean using it to hit every splash and giggle point I could find. Sure, there are some exposed rocks with dry tops, or some with minimal cushion that I did not mess with, but there were many more that I hit confidently and soaked us all in the splashy goodness. We pulled into a nice elevated camp area, river left, at about mile marker 75.25 of the GR, just before Clear Creek on river right. This was a nice camp site for our group, could have accommodated another tent or two and even had some pike minnow fishing excitement. We had a nice dinner of Souvlaki (both pork and lamb) in pita pockets, Tabouli salad and Tzatziki yogurt sauce. The kids had some of the above and hot dogs. We socialized, tried out the platypus gravity water filter, used the fire pan, may have sampled some scotch while the groms made smores and enjoyed the evening as the temperature cooled and a light breeze blew upriver. Day one on the water was safe, fun and tiring.

    Day two found me in the cataraft with all three of the girls. Jill moved to Rob’s raft for some book reading relaxation. I was charged with splashing over everything possible. With two girls up front and one seated behind, we rotated seats frequently. While up front, the two spotters would point out all the things they wanted me to hit. I missed a few, very few. Again, everything with a bit of cushion was targeted, hit and we slid over each, dropping into series after series of standing waves. I’ll admit now though, there was one very large boulder that I should have avoided. It had about 4-6” of cushion upriver, but dropped off more behind than I gauged. I got us hung up and hung up solid. Initially we spun about 45* toward river left and were not sitting balanced, we were left tube high, not terribly, but enough that I was now a concerned father knowing that I might have done gone and messed up everyone’s day. All three girls sat still as I worked us around this hang up. Now we are still high centered on my back deck area, but I’ve got us pointing straight down river and level. We are cool here; we could have sat here all day safely. Now it is time for me to think my way off of this rock, which I should have known better than to try to glide over anyway.

    I see Jim bank the gear boat below us. At this time I’m still at the 45* and left tube high. I lose sight of the blue raft, but Rob pulled in an eddy on the left just below Jim. Both come up to assist and are ready to come in to help unstick me from this problem. They are shouting from the bank, and I from the boat but the water is rushing past my cat tubes so loud that we can’t hear the conversation. The girls are awesome and already picking out what they want me to hit next, these little schemers…one of them picked this rock, and I went along with the plan crafted by the 5 year old… I signal to the guys with the Okay sign. I hold up the Stop hand to keep them from wading in to our aid. We are out in mid river; this is a very large rock with very deep water on both sides. They won’t get here easily, and I have an idea. My cataraft is decked fore and aft with solid standing platforms. In the rowers pod there is a scouting shelf (yes, the one I should have been standing on to see that the drop behind this rock was bigger than I should be hitting) and a “fred flintstone” hole where I can normally stand and unweight my body from the boat in shallow water. I can see the rock we are pinned on, and the downriver side of it is about 1’ behind my cooler seat. My idea, sit on my foot bar, put a foot on the rock and leg lift up and down river while holding an oar broadside in the current to let the river lift and push us on our way. First attempt, we moved about 1”. Okay, my first attempt was a pretty tentative lift just to see what would happen. Olivia, my rear passenger said she felt us slide on the rock through her rear platform. Two more leg lifts and we were floating free again. Unsure how much time had elapsed. Probably less than a minute from getting us from 45* to centered downriver, maybe another few minutes before I was returning to my rowing seat as we started moving again. Honestly, I can’t say for sure. The mothers were waiting, out of sight, nervous and awaiting the yard sale of capsized boat stuff; children, coolers, bags, etc. They never saw any flotsam and then they saw our boat slide by, girls with hands raised high and giggling as we hit something else that was much tamer this time. I was a bit shaken by what I had gotten us into and then out of, and not eager to repeat that process. I had all the precious cargo, and I had let them pick our line one too many times where I should have been the wiser. I think this was in an unnamed section, just a few large boulders, all easy to see, above Martins Misery Rapids. We did this one shortly after unpinning, and I took a wet but rock free route. I settled back down after that and we all were splashing and giggling yet again.

    We stopped for lunch at a location that had a geocache. Unsure of the serpent population, Jill opted not to bag this one, but we are certain we could see where it was hidden from the small campsite where we had lunch. The girls had hot dogs again. We ate a mix of leftovers from yesterday’s lunch and dinner as well as some cheese and salami sandwiches in the pita pockets. Deb had brought some sort of cheese that was buttery creamy and she said lactose free. I had never had this before and found it to be extremely tasty. No shuffling of passengers and we were off to find Grey’s Rapid, the last named rapid for the day. I did not get us stuck to anything for the rest of the day, but we did rub a few smaller rocks with pretty large cushions. After about 17 or 18 miles on the river we found a nice camp site near mile marker 58.5. By this time I know I was totally exhausted. I had rowed back and forth on the river hitting all the foam, drops and splashes that the girls had been picking and I know I covered a few extra river miles getting from one splash and giggle to the next. We set up the kitchen on the rocky beach and tents up top in the glade. There was more sipping of spirits, Jim’s tortilla soup (which was a hit to all the campers) and a lot of rehydration going on this evening. One may initially be questioning why soup on a 90 degree plus day? Because it was awesome, that is why. Made fresh right before the trip, and then frozen, it was a heat and eat item topped with cheese and avocado that was just amazing. I can’t remember how many bowls of it I ate, but let’s say more than my fair share.

    Breaking camp for the final morning we enjoyed fresh fruit and oatmeal. Fresh fruit on day three of a river float in this heat is an absolute treat and an excellent call by Deb for her planned breakfast. Today I started with all three girls in the boat again, but after we hit Mud Creek Access and took a vault toilet bathroom break we reunited families in their own boats. It took just under a couple of hours to this point, and only a couple more hours to our take out in Troy at the bridge. We splashed through the Double Eddy Rapids, which was a really odd pair of eddys around high cliff banks. I bet this one would be interesting at much higher flows. I’m sure that some boats have rubbed the banks at some point. We rounded one or two more corners and could see our rigs parked roadside near the green metal archway bridge in Troy. We had our boats recovered and rigs loaded, separating the community gear to their rightful owners and were rolling by 2pm. The two families were headed to Walla Walla for an off the river overnight stop at a hotel. Jim was headed into Idaho (always an adventure seeker). Before we split we decided to hit Boggans Oasis to have some lunch, which was very good tablefare. Maybe next trip we’ll float right to here, I saw a few splashy bits between Troy and Boggans that I would like to hit.

    Walla Walla presented a bit of respite from the heat as a thunderstorm blew into town. Both families ate at Rosarios, enjoyed some chatter and retired back to our rooms at the hotel. Rob’s family left early the next morning to head toward Olympia to return the ‘Radish raft. We hung out for the day at the Walla Walla Sweet Onion Festival, the 27th and got our tourism box checked off. On the way home Jill suggested that we float a stretch of the Yakima for her to get some rowing in. While we floated, my little Sophia sat in my lap many times and rowed through some easy and moderate areas, and I was giving her instruction. Jill said she’d like to try. We were going to do a simple non-canyon section of the Yakima, but found the water to be like chocolate milk due to a recent mudslide in the thunderstorms the night before. Rather than retreat to the canyon and easy rowing so that I might get some fishing time in, we went up and did a simple float from South Cle Elum to East Cle Elum. It was beautiful, the water cool and clear, and we passed a few boats that were working their fishing mojo as we floated by. The girls each fished a bit, but really this was just another chance for me to row some great ladies in some great water. I made one last stop, a further up public access where I often will wet-wade fish to await pass congestion to clear. Just a few minutes here for me to cast one of my kids’ rods and for all to see another little beautiful piece of water.

    We were home by about 6pm on Saturday night. We’ve been gone 4.5 days and the level of fun and relaxation was amazing. I have one more weekend with the ladies before they leave me for family vacation. Unsure what we will do, but we’ll find some fun together.

    I hope that others in my circle of friends decide that they would like to do a trip like this, even this very one. We’re game! I think we could all get used to doing trips like this. We forgot a few things (like my camera batteries) and could do with a few others (like maybe a roll up solar panel to charge the one battery I had for my camera that was almost dead when we started). When I get photos from Jill, Deb, Rob and Jim, I’ll add them to the report.
     
    veilside180sx and atomic dog like this.
  2. Too long, didn't read. Pictures?
     
    Steffan Brown and orangeradish like this.
  3. Ok I read the whole thing. Good report man and it sounds like you had a great time involving the families. You made some good notes along the way as well right? You know, marking down all the really great swinging runs and such?

    Glad you unstuck yourself from the rock without too much difficulty. I could totally imagine being there and being nervous myself! It reminded me a little bit of floating the klick in the dark with you that one time. How do you keep getting yourself if these situations Ed? ;)

    Well damn - now I really have to get a boat - for the family of course!
     
  4. Check the classifieds!
     
  5. Ohhhhh - I saw that thing...I just cannot think of a place that I could actually store it near downtown seattle without dropping some serious monthly coin.
     
  6. Congrats on a great trip. Sounds like everyone had a blast. I really love that part of the State. The GR, Wallowa, and the Wallowa Mtns for backpacking.

    I use a Goal Zero Nomad 7 to charge my Go Pro's, Iphone, and DSLR batteries. It's very handy to have, and not too expensive.

    I'll most likely upgrade next year...to an Escape 150. That way I can charge my laptop as well, to edit footage while out there.

    2 hrs and counting till I head out for the Rogue.
     
  7. Goal zero, will look that up.

    Jesse, the thing would story under your bed if you broke it down. Prices to full boat in about 15 minutes with practice. Buy it and spend quality water time with your ladies.
     
  8. Sounds like a great trip Ed! I'm glad that the girls enjoyed it so much and hope that there are many more such adventures in store for them. You should bring them over for a Wenatchee splash and giggle trip!
     
  9. I need to eyeball the Wenatchee first. I hear my rock riding may not be such a good idea there.
     
  10. There is a family-friendly section that I am sure would be fine. Actually, it may be too tame for your little ladies after that trip! No 5' drops or anything cool, LOL.
     
  11. I thank Ed for writing about the trip so well. Apart from a 6 (not 5) year old who had a minor melt down each afternoon that was easily remedied with a nap, the trip was a fantastic family experience. We also owe a huge thanks to Jim. If he wasn't rowing the gear boat the trip was dead in the water. And a big thanks to o-rad who lent me his new baby, which was returned without incident. Unfortunately, after dropping his boat back in Olympia and coming home to Bainbridge I located his trailer's spare tire safely in the bed of my truck. Not one to put off my responsibilities, it was a quick 31/2 round trip back to Olympia to drop it off. This was the first time I rowed a larger craft for extended length and through bigger water. I'm glad to say I was pleased with how things went. My wife enjoyed the trip so much I may be able to wrangle a boat out of it so we can do quick excursions on the Yak as well.
     
    JesseCFowl likes this.
  12. Awesome vacation and report Ed!
     
  13. Sounds like a fine time was had, Ed.
     
  14. Ed
    Great report and can hardly wait for the pics to add to the story.
     
  15. Sounds like I need to add that one to my "must-float" list! I'd really like to check out the Methow, and of course there's the Cle Elum, too! An overnight on one of these might be really fun as well!
     
  16. Nice Ed,

    We got back last night to Forest Grove, Oregon about 10 pm. Camped off the mt Emily Summit Road on Saturday evening, sunday made it to Minam and put on, did about 17 miles down the the big bar on river right at river mile 74.8. Saw one bear all calico colored from blond to black. More TP/human crap at this camp than I have seen at any camp since the mandatory packout your poop rule went into effect. Looks like it was from 1 group and not that old. Had a layover day at this camp on Monday, and got back on the river tuesday, made it down to the great forested camp on river left at 60.3. Wednesday morning we headed down to the shady grove you camped at on river right at river mile 58.5 near sickfoot creek. Spread my old dogs ashes along the locust trees and in the river on his favorite beach. The old boy floated the Grande Ronde a dozen times or so, the lower salmon, main salmon, owyhee several times, and a bunch of other rivers, RIP Simon. The new dog, Star, had her first multiday raft trip and was a natural along with Barley the big chocolate lab and his two human girls (my neices) 4 and 7 years old. This was the 4 year olds first multiday, and the 7 year olds 3rd multiday. She did the Grande Ronde first at age 2.5, the main salmon at age 5.5. We had thunder and lighting storms every night about the time it was ready to hit the sack. Then each morning dry and sunny and hot. Menu was teriaki chicken and rice/salad, then tostadas and salad, then tamale pie in the dutch oven with brownie in the dutch, then deep dish pizza in the dutch and salad, breakfast was cereal and cantalope on put in morning, then sausage, egg potato, veggie cheese scamble, then biscuits and grave, and finally omlets. Took out at Mud Creek.

    Ed, we need the curry chicken wrap recipe.

    If you liked the Grande Ronde, I would also recommend the NF John Day at about 1500 cfs starting just upstream of Meengs Canyon down to Monumet.
     
  17. Seriously good eats right there.
     

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