Monday, September 7, 2020

Rafting the Rogue: One Season Leads to Another


For more than 20 years, we have capped off the summer with a Rogue River "Wild and Scenic" raft trip with friends and family. We launch at Alameda Campground and take out at Foster Bar--a 42 mile sojourn with 4 nights camping this year. The group changes each year, but these two couples and Mike and I are almost always the core group. Not only do we get new adventures, but there is plenty of memory sharing after we make camp.

As always, I take along my art traveling gear. Some years it has stayed closed for the entire trip, but this year I vowed to paint every day. Here is the first painting done at Whiskey Creek Campground day 1.

Whiskey Creek, 11 x 14, Watercolor

Each year's trip offers something different which will help categorize one trip from another--rain, fires, helicopters scooping water, long searches for campgrounds. This one will stick in my memory as HOT! I think there may have been record breaking 100 degree plus temperatures on 2 of our days on the river. This made swimming and sitting in creeks the best way to spend the afternoon.

Day 2's painting never happened. I had a close call with heat stroke and the creek we sat in did not easily accommodate setting up gear. But the days cooled down and we had wonderful evening temperatures, excellent meals. Mike and I chose to sleep under the stars and full moon most nights. This group now has morning routine down pat--coffee or tea first, breakfast next, groover (toilet) duty last, load up the rafts and take off for another day of fun and rapids.

As for wildlife, we were warned that it was a big bear year, meaning a lot had been in or near campsites over the summer. Each night we would haul all our coolers and dry boxes into the "bear cage"--a small space surrounded by a battery powered electric fence. However, we never saw a bear or even bear scat. We did see a variety of birds: herons, kingfishers, egrets, bald eagles, and turkey vultures. We saw and heard many small birds as well. The blue jays were especially vocal. Along the river shore we spotted one mink and several otters. 

Day 3 we camped at a new spot for us. It is known as the "Eagle's Nest" because many years ago several retired WWII high ranking military men had a cabin (now gone) where they gathered on the Rogue in the summer. What's left are very steep stairs leading up to the remnants of a stone chimney. The gem of this spot is East Creek, a beautiful, winding stream offering cool sitting areas and fabulous scenery. 

East Creek's painting started out poorly. The paper I pulled out was not a good surface. I started a painting that immediately turned muddy and was way too detailed. What was I thinking! I dipped the whole piece into the creek, rubbed off the paint and flipped it over. I sat in the camp chair, feet in the water, and began to channel shape painters I greatly admire like Frank Webb and Ratindra Das. What were the shapes? How could I simplify this scene?

East Creek, 14 x 11, Watercolor and Ink

That night, all of us slept on a small river bar, sleeping pads only, no tents. It also meant we didn't have to haul all our coolers and boxes--a bear would have had to step over us to get to the rafts! The next morning Mike climbed up to the "Eagle's Nest" to get this great picture of our rafts.

On the Rogue there is one day that makes a rower's stomach churn a bit. This is about a 2 mile stretch that includes Mule Creek Canyon and Blossom Bar. Mule Creek Canyon is a narrow small canyon filled with swirls, waves and boils. One part is called the coffee pot where a raft or boat can go round and round, peculating for several hours. Below is a view of Blossom Bar which has caused many an accident and unfortunately quite a few fatalities.

And this is how Mike looks when he does a perfect job of rowing without hitting a single rock! He's telling the details of the great run!

And, yes, I was on the trip with my hair reverting to the dandelion locks of my towhead, toddler years.

Middle Tacoma Camp is a lovely spot with lots of shade, wonderful spots to sit and watch the river, great pools to wade or swim and the bonus of an outhouse nearby--no groover duties!

On this trip, I was drawn to the rocks and plants that decorate the river, many spots look like an "ikebana" arrangement. 

The last day before take out, I pulled out one more sheet to paint on. I sat in a shady spot and looked at some rocks nearby, the river and the shore across the river. As you can see, I tried out a variety of styles with these plein air paintings. Do you have a favorite of the three?

Tacoma Camp, 11 x 14, Watercolor

And on our last day, take out day, I watch for the "Bonsai Tree" that I have painted many a time in my studio. Will it still be standing? One tree on a monolithic rock--and yes, it still stands.


Ruth Armitage said...

I love the works you made on this awesome trip. So wish I could have joined you!

LELowe said...

I love East Creek. Hope that your traveling kit and work were still in the car when you had to evacuate...