Thanksgiving on the River

IMG_0135 IMG_0147 I’ve been meaning to post this for a few days, but time has taken it’s seat in the fast lane and has gotten away from me. This last weekend, I spent the holiday on the lower Deschutes. It’s a 43-mile long section of river, traveling through spectacular canyons as it winds its way north toward the Columbia River. For those unfamiliar, the Deschutes starts 250 miles upstream from it’s mouth at the Columbia, and in it’s livelihood, it takes on many forms from calm mirrored waters to tumultuous class-V and class-VI rapids. It wanders past aspen groves, beside walls of basalt and gets turned 180-degrees around as it wiggles its way through Oregon’s scenic and impressionable volcanic landscape.

Three friends and I set out for the river on Thanksgiving, which proved to be quite a frosty morning at 6am. We drove to the town of Maupin and just downstream, we unloaded the rafts, set a car shuttle and by noon we were drifting downstream.

IMG_0179IMG_0192Despite the freezing temps of the morning, it turned out to be a nice afternoon. We had two rafts, one in which I rowed with a friend from Portland seated in the front, and a second that my friends paddle-rafted. By nightfall—which at that point was 5pm—we had tied the rafts ashore, unloaded it’s contents, set up our kitchen, laid out our camp chairs and starting heating up a good ol’ fashioned turkey dinner. I had cooked the turkey the night before, in addition to a classic pumpkin pie, homemade cranberry sauce and a creamy gravy. On the river, we added to the delicacy, by making mashed potatoes, stuffing and mulled wine.

For those who have had the opportunity to savor a tasty mug of mulled wine, you know it’s a treat for the holiday season. On this particular occasion, however, it was not the most tasty, nor hot for that matter, but it was still a treat. Minus the cloves and chunks of unstrained cardamom pods, of course.We sat around a campfire, enjoying the ambiance until my eyes grew heavy. I retired to my tent at the very late hour of 8pm.

IMG_0214I awoke the following morning to frost and a temperature that froze our water jugs solid. She-ra, one of my very dearest friends, was kind enough to get a fire going while bringing a pot of river water to a boil. I went about trying to busy myself in some poor attempt to stay warm. That proved difficult and then impossible. As I packed away my tent, flakes of frost fell to the ground. And as I trying to tie IMG_0185down the coolers, tables and other equipment from our camp, my hands pierced with pain, my bone marrow cold to it’s core. I’d alternate between placing my enormous mittens over my hands, regaining some warmth and feeling, and then taking them off, placing smaller gloves on and trying to rig the boat. The pain was tremendous and I couldn’t hold back the steady stream of irritation that was about to erupt. I mumbled a few curses and then spoke out to no one in particular that I’d never go on a winter rafting trip again. After a tiresome and cold pack-up, we were drifting downstream once again.

I rowed with determination that morning, eager for sunlight to hit my face and warm my body. When it did, my circulation returned and my spirit began to rise. Ultimately, with a little sunshine, my body’s homeostasis returned to normal.

For the remainder of the trip, it was very enjoyable. It was never warm per se, but it was comfortable. We rowed and paddled by day, and by night we gathered around the campfire beneath a clear night’s sky. We ate like royalty, drank like royalty—compliments from Hop Valley Brewing Company—and tried our best to relax in the arms of nature.

IMG_0300One of the most memorable moments of the trip was on the second morning. Our camp lay beneath a steep hillside and I decided to hike up to an old, abandoned railroad, in a quest to take some photos of our camp below. By doing so, I found a trail. It was wonderful—the perfect complement to our adventure. There was a beautiful view overlooking the canyon and the river cutting it’s way through. And as I walked along the footpath, it got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be neat to go explore these canyons and do a mini-thru hike along the Deschutes River? Well, I’m sure it would, and maybe one day I’ll take the time to hike along that old dilapidated trail that only a few hearty fishermen use. Until then, it’ll stay in the infancy of an idea and until then, I’ll stick to rowing down the river despite how cold some mornings it may be.

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