A 33 Hour Self Support Mission

Every year I have the good fortune to work with world class kayak instructors Mary and Phil DeRiemer. We guide instruction based multi-day river trips down some of the most amazing commercially ran multi-day sections of river in the U.S. including the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, Middle Fork of the Salmon River, and the Wild & Scenic section of the Rogue River.

A few times a year I try to do a self support kayak trip with my good friend Nate Ostis and sometimes by myself. Over the years I’ve been fortune it enough to paddle through Desolation Canyon on the Green RIver (launching 40 miles upstream of Sand Wash) in 22-hours, the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in 5-days, the Middle Fork of the Salmon in 13-hours, and a variety of other amazingly beautiful rivers.

After instructing/guiding with Mary and Phil DeRiemer on the Rouge River in August this year I began considering a different type of self support trip. The Wild & Scenic section of the Rogue River is an amazingly beautiful 34 miles of class II-III+ (w/ a few class IV rapids), but along side of the river there is also a very well maintained and stunning trail that follows the river all the way to the take-out (40 miles of trail). I couldn’t help but think about a trip that included a trail run and a self support kayak trip down the Rogue.

The logistics aren’t too difficult after spending a few years working on the Rogue River, but the idea of a 40 mile trail run followed by a 34 mile kayak trip was a bit intimidating. I knew that stashing my paddling gear at the normal put-in for the wild and scenic section of the Rogue would be a little risky with as much traffic as the area gets, so although it would make my run and paddling longer, I opted to stash my gear 6 miles upstream at the Rand Boat Ramp (making the run 46 miles and the paddle 40 miles). I also new that in order to be successful for a true “light and fast” trip that I needed to minimize what I carried with me on the trail run portion. After some consideration I decided to really commit to this endeavor and leave all camping gear (a ground tarp and a sleeping bag) with my paddling gear at the Rand Boat Ramp and run with only the food, water, head-lamp, and a minor first aid kit. Thus making any option to spend the night on the trail a lot less likely and motivating myself to run the 46 miles in one day. So the big picture goal would be to drop off the appropriate gear at the Rand Boat Ramp, drive to the take out, run 46 miles upstream to the Rand Boat Ramp, sleep a few hours, and paddle downstream to by car the next day.

I was very hesitant to mention my idea for this trip to anyone because then I’d feel like it was more real than just an idea in my head. However, I couldn’t help but bring it up to a few friends in Oregon that hadn’t paddled that section of river. Immediately both of them wanted to join in, but only for the kayaking portion (they laughed and wished me luck on the run). Although having some friends along to paddle a river with is always good fun, this did add the stress of making sure I was at the Rand Boat Ramp on time to meet them (thus putting more pressure on completing the run in one day). After making our official trip plan I set off to Galice, Oregon to stash my paddling gear and drive to the take-out the following morning.

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The morning I drove to the take-out I was as anxious (if not more) than I’ve been running hard whitewater. I’m a lot less experienced running long distances than I am paddling whitewater. What if I got hurt on the trail? What if I “bonked” and couldn’t finish? The “what ifs” continued in my head the entire drive there. However, when I arrived at the Foster Bar take-out parking lot and warmed up a bit I calmed down and gathered myself for a long day. I began running at roughly 9:15am. My plan was to jog for 50 minutes and do a 10 minute active refuel (eating and drinking while walking) every our for the duration of the run. This plan was executed flawlessly until around mile 24 when my legs really began to ache. Then my plan melted into pure movement of any kind all the time. So I would jog until my legs began to nervously quiver towards cramping and then I’d walk until the feeling subsided. The only time I stopped on the trail was to re-fill my hydration bladder in streams that cut through the trail. As I approached the 35-mile mark I began to relax because I knew I’d make it off the trail that day. I arrived at the Rand Boat ramp at approximately 8:55pm and immediately began canvassing the woods for my stashed paddling and camping gear. Once I found my gear I laid out my tarp and collapsed on it for a surprisingly restless night of sleep (the consistent dull ache in my legs kept me up). The next morning I woke up and limped down to the BLM office to pick up our river permit. By the time I got back to the boat ramp both of my friends had arrived and we began getting suited up for the day ahead (both were so psyched to not have to bother with any type of vehicle shuttling). After shooting the breeze for a bit and eating breakfast we got on the river around 10am. We leisurely paddled down the river catching eddies, surfing waves, and hitting the occasional boof. We only stopped once during the day for a food and bio-break so the milage floated away with every paddle stroke. At approximately 6pm we arrive at Foster Bar Boat Ramp and enjoyed a celebratory beer before loading up my car and heading back across the mountain to the put-in.

After dropping off my buddies I started the long drive to my home town in Virginia (roughly 3,000 miles across the U.S.). These long drives always offer a lot of time to think and I spent quite a bit of time reflecting on this trip on the Rogue. It’s something pretty special to be able to push your limits in a beautiful place after analyzing the many consequences of the trip. It was great to see the river via trail and water as well as share the river with two great friends that undoubtably enjoyed the trip as much as I did.

Push yourself, be creative, enjoy every day.

Ben Morton
www.precisionpaddlesports.com

 

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