This weekend, after a somewhat last-minute set of arrangements, I and two others went traveling for a couple of hours or so down a portion of the Rogue River from Grant’s Pass to Hellgate Canyon and back. In retrospect, I would have wanted a bit more time. For example, when we were standing in line to go on the boat I saw that it was highly recommended to wear sunglasses (which I did not have on me) as well as sunscreen, which would have been highly useful, but not being fully prepared I had to accept the inevitability of a ferocious sunburn, which I got. Likewise, I probably would have brought a light jacket, which would have cut down on the sun as well as the water, as it was a pretty wet experience, although not unenjoyably so. Likewise, my mother, being a person who likes to make plans and has a far greater sense of adventure than is usually expected of her, would have liked more notice as well to do more planning, but sometimes notice is not given and one simply has to roll with the current of the rapids as best as one is able.
My own relationship with water is somewhat complicated. I have always found the water to be greatly calming, and have generally looked to it for purposes of tranquility rather than excitement . This particular trip, though, was definitely about excitement. There were alternating periods of talk and idling in deeper water in the river with high speed rushing through the rapids of a river that could be as shallow as only a few inches in parts. The Rogue River is certainly a lot less deep than one might expect for a river of such importance in Southern Oregon–other rivers like the Applegate, responsible for the name of one of the trails connecting Oregon and California, are even smaller and more insignificant when viewed from river level. That is not to say that the river was not beautiful–it was, with the cool water being a refreshing break from the heat of the day, with there being all kinds of friendly and gracious and warm people in and along the river to wave to, and some beautiful sights of osprey nests and homes built on floodplains and gravel beaches and green, forested hills on both sides of the river. All of those are things I happen to enjoy seeing.
The people on board were an interesting mixture of people. Many were young, which is not too surprising. About a half or so of our particular boat was made up of people who worked at a local Mexican restaurant in Grant’s Pass, many of whom were very friendly with each other, even to the point of roasting each other for not being able to swim and so on. It was intriguing to see just how easy it was to encourage a sense of rivalry between the people and driver’s in one boat and another. It seemed as if, far from being a cooperative sort of event, that there was a special interest in pitting people against each other, whether the people of one boat against another or even the people of one side of the boat against others when it came to getting wet. I found all of this greatly intriguing to watch, being someone who enjoys watching the behavior of people just as I enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.
So, all in all it was a worthwhile trip. By the end of it, I was the only one who seemed aware of where we had parked on the way in, and the only one well equipped to do a fair bit of hiking, but sometimes that comes with the territory. I and everyone else on those boats got at least a little wet but it was a hot enough day that we felt pretty dry even after being doused repeatedly by the cool river water. The skipper of the boat was full of jokes and stories and good humor about the flood levels of the Rogue River in various years, the behavior of the local bird population, as well as the various films and television shows that had filmed in the stretch of the river we traveled in. There were frequent suggestions within our group of the advisability of having a booze cruise, and plenty of people enjoying the river in quirky and odd ways, who were generally friendly souls to the other people on the river. To be sure, I would have liked having more time to prepare and more knowledge about what is needful to have the most fun with the least negative consequences on the river, but although I am deeply sunburned it was an enjoyable experience, and certainly one well worth doing again.
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