We reached the take-out on the Rogue River in the most beautiful conditions southern Oregon can provide in the middle of November. Sixty degree weather, sun, blue skies, in a word, stunning. What more could you ask for after putting on the river in rainy, nasty conditions two days prior. After a lazy lunch and loading the boats on trailers, all that remained was the part no one gives much thought to, the shuttle run back to Selma.
We were loaded in 2WD shuttle vans, each with a trailer, a few rafts, kayaks, seven or eight people, and bald tires. You know, the standard shuttle set-up you would expect to see shuttling tourists during the height of summer. Perfect for that, but not so perfect for snow. From the start of the trip we were wondering if we would be able to take the Bear Camp road, or if it would be snowed-in. And since our shuttle drivers left no word of snow, we figured it would be game on.
|A third of the way up the one-lane paved timber road, everyone was in high spirits and recounting various exploits of our trip. At some point in the course of the dialogue, both cars of people mentioned the history of the area and the tragedy which happened nearly three years ago. A family of four took the very same road and became stuck in the snow. After several days the father took off looking for help, only to die in the wilderness and the mother and daughters were rescued after being stranded for over a week. But lucky for us, the snow hadn't set in and we had beautiful conditions... right?||
|Hitting the snow line and starting to get worried.
© Chuck Melber
Nope, about half way up, snow began to dot the road and not far away was full-on snow conditions. Things were sketchy, but our fearless drivers Will and Dan charged on, determined to reach the summit. We slipped and slid our way up and no matter how we sliced the options, we would be slipping and sliding our way down. During a brief interlude to discuss strategy when the tension was mounting and everyone was on edge, I pelted the vans with snowballs. Snowballs and rafts, together like peanut butter and jelly.
It's in dangerous road conditions, Class V pucker factor stuff, that you really learn how much more comfortable river people can feel on the water than on dry land. On the first steep grade turn down the mountain, the first van came dangerously close to the edge and the second slid to a halt within inches of the first’s trailer.
It was at this point that we knew we would really be in for some sporty driving. I thought we would be better off unloading the gear, getting on the oars and rafting down the hill, just like something you would see in a Warren Miller flick.
Great, just great! Now what? © Chuck Melber
|Just when we thought we were in the clear, we came to the final fork in the road where we were kindly greeted with a “road closed” sign banishing us from the main road down. The sun was setting, it was getting cold quickly and images of that fatal family flashed through our heads. Would we all be stuck out here for a week? Would we be forced to burn our worldly possessions to maintain warmth?|
The only other option was to make a 90-degree turn on the iced-over steep grade. After scouting the descent, some of us figured this rapid was just too hairy and wanted to portage it. However, with everyone else thinking about Z–drags and triage kits, our drivers charged on. At a snail’s pace of a crawl, we made it around the corner beautifully and were clear of the snow.
The shuttle run back home may not have been the cleanest or safest line of the trip, but it was undoubtedly the most memorable.
As for the rafting, well, it was the Rogue River. We were hoping to make a run down the Illinois, but the flow there was too low and we had to turn to Plan B. It was your standard Rogue adventure, with a decent flow of about 1400 CFS and beautiful scenery. We saw bears, otters, bald eagles and salmon; best of all we had the whole thing to ourselves. Another enjoyable part of the trip was sharing it with two NRS Wholesale Reps, Kurtis Perkins and Tyler Harris. It was a cold and sometimes wet November run, but the trip was great, one none of us will soon forget.
Santa Barbara, California