Trip Report: Grande Ronde White water Rafting self-support trip

Grande Ronde White water Rafting self-support trip
By Gretchen* Siegler
BOATING 06/19/2022 Class II+

Participants: Michael Budig, Dianne Budig, Gretchen Siegler, Melinda McLlwaine

The original intention had been to run the Grande Ronde, a solid class 2 river in northeastern Oregon. Due to heavy rains resulting in high water and washed out roads, Michael suggested we go down the Klamath River in northern California instead. He had boated it a number of times before.

To make up for the high gas prices, we decided to run our own shuttle which took up a good portion of the first day on Monday. We finally were able to head about 5 miles downriver from Iron Gate reservoir that late afternoon. Lindy had a pack raft, I had a solo Tributary, and Michael and Diane were in a rowing catamaran. Little did we know at the time that none of the boats would make the 110 miles downriver to where the cars had been parked.

On Tuesday, Lindy had to leave at a river campground after her boat malfunctioned. Her craft wasn’t meant for what was turning out to be at least a solid class 3 river, with a class 3 plus and a class 4 up ahead. She caught a ride up river to her car.

Then there were three of us. Drying out on Wednesday night after flipping in a class 3 rapid and then flipping again in another class 3 early the next morning, I began to worry about my safety. I ended up taking out on Thursday afternoon before the town of Happy Camp (home of Big Foot) and the impending big rapids. I would never get through them in my overloaded inflatable. Michael and Diane ferried onward with their more manageable catamaran.

Michael had assured us that in the approximate twenty years he had his boat, he had never flipped it. At my new camp, I had managed to catch a ride down river to my vehicle. Watching the water as I drove back up-river toward Happy Camp, I glimpsed some yellow boats and wondered if there was a small chance that one could be the Budig’s yellow oar-boat. Peering through the reeds I saw Michael and Diane humbly sitting on some rafts manned by a gang of young aspiring guides in training. The Budigs had run the class 4 and according to Michael, due to “missing one stroke on the oar,” managed to lodge their boat upside down on a rock in the middle of the river. The young trainee guides retrieved Dianne and Michael from the frothing water but were unable to get the boat off the rock.

Then Ranger Dave, by no means a youngster, but rather an old time protector of the scenic Klamath river, came to the rescue. He showed up at the ranger station in Happy Camp on Friday evening and after much effort on Saturday, was able to lighten the boat so it finally floated off the rock. Everything was saved except for Michael’s wallet which had been in his pocket during the flip. Most important was the retrieval of Michael’s car key and my camper key, both which were in the dry box.

What a nice adventure we had. It gave us two women an opportunity to tease Michael mercilessly for a couple of days. He mostly took it with humor like only a good boatman can. Also contributing to our fun was the abundance of wildlife we saw along the way. It included a herd of elk crossing the river directly in front of us, muskrats and many turtles, and a huge variety of birds along with bald eagles, osprey and blue heron by the dozen. And finally, this adventure provided us a colorful story that is ripe for future embellishment and exaggeration.