Tieton Eddy Repose

Tieton Eddy Repose
"So, this is the river." said the Rat.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Raft the Wild, Scenic and Undisturbed Sauk River

Less than an hour from downtown Seattle, undammed waters coursing off Glacier Peak and the surrounding wilderness, merge to form a river federally protected under the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act --- the Sauk River.  In the morning, you could have an Americano at the original Starbucks and stroll Pike Place Market dodging flying fish and you could still make your launch time for this ten-mile dash through Washington's verdant back country.
Rafts at Rest
White rafts waiting for their good guides. . .
Between Whitechuck River and the struggling logging community of Darrington, the Sauk cascades between boulders worn smooth and round, and a forest draped with delicate, light-green club moss and carpeted with mosses in dozens of shapes and shades of green.  The white water rafting is superb with active and challenging rapids that demand a guide's attention.  Even the name's grab the guide's attention:  Guide Trap, Alligator Hole, Jaws and Waterslide, and more than a half-dozen others.

The Sauk River is wild, scenic and --- for the most part --- undisturbed.  The odds are you will be the only party rafting the river.  The Forest Service limits the number of visitors who can raft the river and tourists overlook the natural beauty of this part of Washington in favor of drier climates.  However, if you live in the northern half of Puget Sound, west of the Cascades, and you are looking for the best white water adventure possible for novice paddlers - the Wild and Scenic Sauk River is the finest option available.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

So You Want to be a River Rafting Guide? - Part 2

Above: Grace Peven rowing on the Grande Ronde River (circa 2002) with brother, Ben, behind.

Story By: Grace Peven

I recently underwent training to become a certified river rat. Not a rodent with a long snout and a sparsely haired tail that lives near the water, but a rafting guide.  In mid-April, twenty students, and twenty well-experienced guides and instructors embarked on a week of intensive training on Oregon’s Deschutes River

My romantic aspirations of conquering mighty currents and rapids are rooted in a childhood full of river adventures. My mom and my dad met through rafting, became guides, and eventually passed on the rafting gene to me.  I’m eternally grateful to my parents for raising me on the sandy beaches and serene waters of the Salmon River.  Many years of rafting with close friends and family inspired an ambition to carry on the family legacy of guiding. 

This led me to start work at Orion Rafting when I turned 16. I was warmly welcomed into the rich culture of Orion. For my first two summers, I perfected my pepper and watermelon slicing, preparing the tasty lunches for the company’s day trips on the Wenatchee River. I also greeted and helped guests before trips. The long-awaited 18th birthday finally came around, which qualified me for guide training and to, hopefully, find a spot on the guiding end of the rafting spectrum.

My days of guide training started with dew on my sleeping bag and a river mocha in my mug (hot cocoa mix and coffee).  After cinnamon rolls for breakfast, we practiced crucial knots, adding up to about twelve different knots by the end of the week. Now I can tie a mean double fisherman’s knot.  After a full morning of lessons on hydrology, rescue techniques, and maybe a few unexpected skits, we would find ourselves applying our freshly learned skills on the river.

Photo by Dane Doerflinger: Students gather to scout Boulder Bend Rapid on the Wenatchee River, just below Leavenworth.

Each day I absorbed bountiful amounts of vitamin D as well as a surplus of wilderness, safety, and river knowledge that was useful information.  It was refreshing to be taught practical lessons and actually apply them to the real world.  For a high school student, this abstract idea of practical learning and application was astounding!  I wasn’t cramming for a test; I was learning to apply skills towards a three-dimensional situation. 

At the end of the day, after digesting mounds of a Dutch oven dinner and a luxurious desert dish, we would huddle around a campfire to listen to stories and songs. With thirty-plus years of rafting experience under Orion’s belt, the stories and scenarios retold in the light of the campfire inspired my young guide- self and affirmed my excitement to join this spirited group of exceptional rafters.  

My training also emphasized how much of a team sport guiding is, the importance of thinking as a group, and the need to work cohesively with the people surrounding you.  Not only did we paddle together, we participated in team-building activities.  For example, we were assigned a task of fitting all twenty of us students on a rock with a three-foot diameter, while successfully completing an entire song.

Photo by Dane Doerflinger:  Instructors lead another scout before Rock n' Roll Rapid on the Wenatchee River, near Peshastin.

On the river itself during my first turn at the helm, I successfully made it through the rapid with all persons remaining in the boat.  My heartbeat quickened as I took the guide stick into my hand for my first class 3 guiding episode.  In the middle of the rapid, Buckskin Mary’s, a monster-wave awaits to devour its visitors.  I faced the wave head on, prepared for turmoil.  “All forward!” I commanded.  Seated at the stern of the boat, I watched in awe as a white curtain engulfed my crew, momentarily halting our raft with its sheer force.  My crew aggressively paddled through the powerful wave with grins stretched across their faces.  We emerged from the bowels of Buckskin Mary’s with yells of victory and thrill.    

This summer I hope to enjoy similar experiences, guiding the Wenatchee River.  We’re incredibly lucky to have one of the most sought after rivers in the state, running through our backyard. The Wenatchee is filled with rollercoaster waves that will leave no one dry by the end of the day.  Granny’s Rapid, my personal favorite, contains a thrilling set of monstrous waves.  Residing a quarter mile from the Cashmere take-out, Granny’s is the perfect end to an 18-mile day trip with equal measures of turbulent whitewater and peaceful green water. 

Photo by Dane Doerflinger: Post-guide training on the Deschutes River.      

A particularly important lesson I learned during guide training was humility. One of our days on the Deschutes we swam a class 3 rapid. The students experienced an up-close-and-personal demonstration of the relentless force of the river. Drinking in river water and being swept about like a log made me forever grateful for our safe rubber rafts. It motivated all of us to perfect our guiding abilities to avoid swimming future rapids.

To further emphasize humility and to show our recognition of the greater power of the river, we partook in an Orion tradition of dropping a small rock in the river as an offering to the River Gods.  The rock symbolized respect for the mighty power of the current.  We are subject to the pull of the water, the powerful surge of the rapids, and the relentless, unbounded current.  We simply must accept and appreciate the river’s natural power over our human weakness. Pay attention the Golden River Rule, we were told: Respect the River Gods and they will tolerate you.  

Above: An early morning hike above the Deschutes River.  Part of the appeal of rafting is also enjoying  the surrounding landscape.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

River Rafting Testimonial

Leavenworth, Washington

Over Memorial Weekend, a group of ladies celebrating an imminent wedding date booked a river rafting trip on the Wenatchee River at pretty high water.  The organizer of the trip - but not the bride-to-be - was a mite skittish about the whole white water thing.  I assured her we would do everything within our means of showing her a safe and fun time.

As the River Manager, I made certain this group paired up with a guide who I knew would succeed in showing them a rollicking good time, skirt what needed to be skirted and challenge the waves they could successfully challenge.  They had a fantastic time!  So much so, the organizer wrote an eloquent and pithy review on Yelp.  She gave us five stars.

Well, Yelp decided to filter it out.  Which is a shame because it is one of the best written reviews I have seen.  I hope she won't mind me sharing it with the Orion public.
Rafting Joie de Vivre
Good times river running.
This is from Lera M.  of western Washington.

"If you want a personalized experience for river rafting, with the security of going with an established company--use Orion. (Ignore the cheesy BBQ marketing from the "other" guys).

This company has class. The guides are excellently trained. The owner of the company even let us pick one of the most experienced guides because we were a little nervous taking a Bachelorette Party down the Wenatchee in May just two weeks before the wedding.

We only got wet if we wanted to (except for the splashing harassment from the other boats--which was awesome) and for those who got wet--our guide, Ally--offered up her own personal gear to make sure the girls who jumped in wouldn't be too cold as the weather turned chilly and dark the second half of the trek.

It was a great workout--we had planned on having a crazy night in downtown Leavenworth afterwards--but we were so exhausted, we kept it low-key.

Ally was an exceptional guide. We didn't need to use any of the safety tips she provided before we got in the boat (thankfully!) but as the most scared one in the group, I felt confident that she had prepared me. She was fun and personal, and it was evident from the 16-mile trek with HUGE waves that she knew exactly what she was doing, when we needed to preserve our energy, when we needed to focus and work hard, and when it was time to have fun. She kept us safe, warm, and excited!

And! ... They offered clean equipment--warm wetsuits and booties (LOVE the booties!), fancy well-maintained boats, and you can wear your own rain jacket (Do NOT skip this in colder months!) which just feels better after 4 hours of wear.

Thank you Orion! This was the Bachelorette Party Weekend Getaway HIGHLIGHT!"