We have had several Owyhee rafting trips in our short 10 year history, but this one was the most memorable for me. It was a middle Owyhee river trip in 2006. The river was running a solid 2,200 cfs and we had several eNRG Kayaking teams preparing for the trip. Arturo and I were finishing the first International Rafting Federation guide training and education course delivered in the USA. We were working with Sundance River Company on the Rogue River, and it was raining for the 5 day course. Meanwhile in Portland, Jazen and Kristin were busy prepping the trip with food and everything we needed. Our plan was to rendezvous at the put in- Three Forks. The drive from Merlin OR, to Three Forks is the same distance from Portland to Three Forks (8 hours) especially if you make a few wrong turns:) I promised Arturo (who is from Costa Rica) that it would be sunny in the high desert of OR… and I was wrong. It snowed almost the entire drive.
We picked up Danielle Carvahlo at Rome, and arrived in sleeting rain at 6:30am after an all night drive- with sopping river gear from the previous day on the Rogue River.
With that scene- the following humbling experiences followed. Within 2 miles of the put in we came upon a party of rafters who were stranded- 2 of their 3 rafts were pinned in Ledges rapid.
15 people had spent the night in a cave with 1 sleeping bag and a small bag of vegitables.
Of course, we felt like the cavalry showing up with SAT phones, pin kits, and cutting edge training. We spent the next 4 hours in a feudal attempt to help our fellow rafters free their rafts. We sheathed 2 ropes, broke 1, and punctured 2 tubes in the ill fated attempt to free the rafts. Defeated in 40 degree rain we made a call to the BLM with our phone to alert the authorities of their fate, and had to make the decision to head downstream.
That night we made dinner in driving rain. We woke up to a break in the weather. In a little known rapid however, just down stream we managed to pin one of our rafts in the middle of half mile. Out came the gear once again, and after a 2 hour effort we freed the raft.
Fortunately that night we found cave camp to escape the forboding weather.
The following day was the day we would encounter Widowmaker rapid- the only class V+ rapid on the trip. In a crazy twist of fate, Arturo convinced me he saw a line, and could oar the rafts through the rapid.
This would either save us from a half day of portaging, or strand our group in a desolate wilderness. Arturo managed to oar all 3 of our rafts successfully through the rapid.
Amazing. And that night was the last night as 20 something. The last day of our trip we awoke to clear skys, and I had officially turned 30 years old!
My last great task of the trip was to hand wash our groover single handedly while the cute girls danced, and sipped brew from the raft above:)
Brian Thibault won a REACH rescue system for helping us navagate one of the most exciting trips in NRG history.