Finally we were able to float some river on the 7th. This trip took us from CR 775 to Labatt’s Crossing, which isn’t, at least not right now. They are upgrading the old steel truss bridge with a more typical of the area concrete one. Actually, I kinda wish they would just restore the truss bridge. They have the old structure on wheel blocks just up the road. It is very beautiful, at least compared to what they want to put in.
Back to the float. This strech was 5.5 miles, bringing our trip total to 19.1 miles. Other than the banks being saturated clay, getting in wasn’t too bad this time. If you have been keeping up with this journal, you’ll know that the put in for this trip was our holy grail from last trip. The river was still a little higher than normal, but actually not much, maybe half a foot in the morning. It was kinda nice because it made the trip quicker. This time we also took out our depth finder as the calibrated oar technique for finding channel depth was not going to work. For the most part on this trip we were never under 6 feet deep.
This reach was largely homogeneous. It was characterized by steep banks, usually around 20 feet tall, with impressive cliffs around 40 feet on the outside of meander bends. We began to see a shift in the bank material towards a more sandy mix, and it was stratified. The near water banks had more clay (from visible inspection) and it moved towards a more sandy mix at the top of the banks. There were quite a few jams, but not the same type that we had seen upstream. These were mostly tree fall type jams, were a tree on the bank falls in due to channel widening, and smaller logs get caught in this felled tree. We had seen this before, but the primary difference was the size of the main tree (key log). Generally they were smaller, so the jams usually didn’t block the whole channel. Also, the channel has widened a bit in this reach (though it still narrowed considerably in spots) making it harder to block the entire channel from a tree fall. However, we still ran into two complete jams. These were not too bad to portage, I guess we are getting better at this 🙂
Okay, enough of the observation, your reading to hear raucous tales of river mishap right? Well here you go…
Like I said above the banks were soggy to say the least. Soggy clay banks plus steep sides make for an interesting slip and slide type approach for getting in and out of the river. This was also our first “cold” trip, it was in the 30’s in the morning, though it did warm up later in the day. I was fine, I think Tim was too. We had dressed the part with thermal base layers and gloves, yay for pre planning! Largely this trip went without incident, but there were definitely some fun moments. Don Huebner would be proud because we saw a feral hog. It came charging at us full force from river right. Pretty big one too, around 250 lbs I would guess. It came crashing through the brush, Tim tried to get his camera ready for what ever it was. When it breached the brush and saw us in the river, it made a 180 and shot off. Didn’t get a picture of it unfortunately, but it looked a lot like this. One of the great joys of this trip is the wildlife. We see all sorts of different birds, turtles, and small ground animals. We saw a squirrel that made us envious. It was scaling the bank with total ease, if we could only do that! Lots of pretty little yellow breasted finches (I am not good at IDing birds) and a great blue heron like this one led us downriver, warning all creature ahead to our presence.
We ran into our first jam around halfway. It was caused by a felled Cottonwood, and had lots of fresh willows caught in it from the last storm. On river right there was a forced bar created from the felled tree, we got out there and began to come up with a plan. We machete’d a path down the bar through the smaller willows. It wasn’t too bad, but the bar was completely saturated! I machete’d the path, sinking as I went. Towards the end of the path, the bar was so wet it sucked my in 2 feet! I had a really hard time pulling my legs loose. Now that the path was cut, we had to drag/carry the boat to the other side. Adding the extra weight sunk us even further. I used the cuttings as stepping points in the muck, that helped a lot, but it was still difficult.
The next jam was hardly a complete one. It really was just a small tree fall like we had seen the whole trip, but one log wedged itself across the channel between the jam and the bank. We tried prying the log loose to no avail, it was very wet, and too heavy to move, so we got out river right and carried the boat across. This is were it got gun. I guess we underestimated the river. I got in the boat, and Tim lost hold of the rope, I began floating downstream leaving Tim on the bank! The river was moderately swift here, and I took off. I stood on my knees in the middle of the boat and began to fight the current. It took me 3 minutes or so, but I made it finally, though Tim had to jump into the boat. That was hard work, I am a good paddler, with a fair bit of experience, but our little zodiac is a hard paddle for one person.
We reached the take out earlier than expected at around 2:30pm. It truly was comical, the land owner adjacent to the bridge had put a fence all of the way to the water surface. It looked new, so I assume he put it there to mark his property off limits to the construction crews. His property was perfect for taking out, I mean it was almost a boat ramp, the public right of way was a totally different story! We decided to try the “right” way first, and if we could get out we would trespass, and throw the boat over the fence. The property owner would see our tracks though, and we didn’t want that. The fence ironically helped us out. We used it as an anchor to climb the bank. Even still, Tim slipped and almost went in the river. Luckily the boat stopped him. After must ire, we got the boat up the side of the bank and set it up on the flats. We still had a good 1000 foot hike uphill to the car, so we broke down all of the equipment and packed it as best we could for the trek. It was at this time that I realized I had left my damn keys in Tim’s car, at the put in!! Great, now what. Realizing we couldn’t do anything about it right then, we lugged all of the stuff up the hill. That took us an hour, and left us beat and panting. The don’t call it field work for nothing! With all of our equipment sitting next to my car, we got lucky and the before mentioned property owner drove up to his house. I walked over there and asked him for a ride, offering to fill his tank for the trouble. He agreed and Tim went with him to the car.
Overall a good trip. We have three more small segments to go, and then there is a 20 mile stretch with no crossings. I imagine we will have to float it all at once, camping halfway on the banks. A “true” adventure I guess. We will see.