We are back! Safely returned from the Troop 260 2019 50-miler summer expedition. Before we get into some narrative, here are a few facts and figures.
- 1300 miles driving
- 100+ miles! >> 85 miles of paddling + 16 miles of walking / portaging gear
- 29 people and 2 dogs started… and finished
- $2,200 on food
- 14 canoes, laden with
- 29 sets of personal gear
- 13 boxes of food
- 7 ice chests
- 5 gear boxes
- 2 privy tents and buckets
- All carried by 7 cars and 2 trailers
- 3 gallons of coffee consumed
- 2.5 capsizes (okay, 3)
- 2 ferries avoided
- 1 car A/C unit explosion
- ~0 gear losses
Any trip like this takes huge amounts of planning, so before getting into the fun stuff, let’s acknowledge the leadership and efforts of Scott our ASMs and all the supporting scouts and family members that came together to make this happen 👏👏
The high adventure started early, but in an unexpected manner as it turned out we had failed to reserve our first night’s campsite (despite what the meeting minutes said). Much of the drive up on Saturday was spent arranging a place that would accommodate all of us, all our the gear, allow us to launch efficiently on Sunday morning as well as a location to safely stage two cars. Some advance scouting from the Laverys along with extensive use of the mobile internet guided us to the McCartney boat ramp and park – attending our first day by 5 miles. Not ideal, but it worked out.
Day 1: After some gear unloading, breakfast burritos, and car shuttling we launched with gusto on Sunday morning. Beachmaster Kevin (and beachmaster-in-training Harris) herded us safely into the water and we set of tentatively in a moderate flow towards our first set of rapids.
Sunday, was also the first of two birthdays on the trip: HBTU Kevin L 🎉.
Scott did warn us that if people were going to capsize it would be on day one, and sure enough, we upheld tradition. As we approached our final destination of the day, the Davis canoe turtled in an aggressive stretch of water. After having safely insured that both Kathy and Phil were back on dry land, canoes let by Dave S and Thomas, Aidan L and Richard Jr, Marion and Donald chased down our rogue vessel and recovered it about half a mile downstream. We took a short rest and used our radio to communicate back to the main team who hatched a plan: the rescue team would work on readying the tipped canoe and our SPL and ASPL (Tristan and Harris) navigated overland to the recovery point to free up some canoe space. Within the hour we were all back together, and found a better campsite than we had planned less than 100m further on. So a net win 🙂
After some warm afternoon sun drying us out, lovely food (cheeseburgers) and water, everyone was feeling good again. Erika was so taken with the apple sauce she polished off about ⅓ of a big jar that was leftover.
Day 2 started off with, well, a little bit of a smell. Taking down the privies is never anyone’s favorite job but it has to be done. The Doody Duty crew armed with Jericho’s mattock, firelighter fluid, bags and buckets got stuck in, and was kept in high spirits throughout by Kate (giving the buckets names helped a lot!).]
On our way down the river we started to experience the wildlife. A number of Osprey and Bald Eagle nest poles have been installed and we saw several of each as they circled overhead looking for their next meal. Over the coming days they would be a reasonably constant companion and we were luck to twice see them pluck fish from the river right next to us and then carry it in their talons like a torpedo to a nearby perch.
I was a long 20 mile day that left us hot and sticky. Thankfully, nature delivered a great swimming spot at our next campsite, Tripp’s Island, allowing us to cool down our core temperatures and shed any grumpiness (us, grumpy, surely not!). It was initially disconcerting to be sitting in the shallows and see your scoutmaster, go zipping by on a current, but we got used to it. Emily and Alison ticked off some more requirements for their Canoe Merit badge, which along with their strength and prowess at the stern all week places them in our “most experienced” canoers category.
A Troop requirement is that every 50 miler participant on a water trip must be able to swim. We must confess that we started the trip this way: Albus the dog was not yet a confident pup in the water. But, on day two, with great courage and a big shiny yellow ball as encouragement, we’re happy to say that he passed his Safe Swim Test. Well done Albus, 12/10 🐕
Day 3 was another big day, 18 miles finishing at Luckiamute landing. It was hard to gauge not whether the most welcome sight was the flat open camp area, the sandy beach or the well presented porta potty. In retrospect we were all just happy to make the site as it had a tricky access right before some fast water and it would have been all too easy to 200m downstream before you knew it, and camping alone on a sandbar.
It was Tuesday, so dinner was, naturally, tacos! Tasty for us, but also for the local hornets who were attracted to bits of dropped beef, and struggled to carry away their bounty. Unfortunately, we had three crew members stung, fortunately none had bad reactions, but they were all watched over safely by our Wilderness first aid trained adults and scouts, led by our on call medical specialist and registered nurse, Cheryl.
At Luckiamute we took the time to re-assess our plans, given our crew and the take-out logistics for the final day. We had originally planned a 25-mile Thursday and a 21-mile Friday, but with car shuttling and loading times to factor in we decided to shave some distance off and finish at an earlier take-out point, Wheatland. This resulted in an 18-mile Thursday and a 6-mile Friday, giving us more time to load and head to our final night leaving our drivers at less risk of exhaustion for the drive back.
Getting up and loaded any morning takes time. On a canoeing 50-miler it takes waaaay longer. We awoke at 05:30 everyday and it would take until approximately 08:00 to be on the water. One of the things that takes time is filtering water, but less so on this trip thanks to the efforts of Bryce and his gravity water filter 💦. It was great to know there was always a full blue water jug to fill from. And John was always pleased to be able to make coffee in the morning without worrying about his water supply – seconds count…
For day 4, we mixed up the crews a bit, with John continuing over as lead with Cherly, Dave L getting his first shot at the helm, and proving very able (as if we had any doubt). Richard Sr got the chance to canoe with Erika.
Wednesday was a short paddle, only 12.5 miles, finishing at the Riverside bike and boat campsite in the city of Independence, OR. What a spot; solar showers, flush toilets, running water and… … … ICE CREAM! There are advantages to urban camp spots.
You would think all this was already more of a bonus than we could expect. But, no. This was the day for the tri-tip planned by Dave S to come out of storage and into our stomachs. The BBQ pit was overseen by Owen taking on his first scout pit master role, assisted ably by some other fire+food philic scouts. They turned out a cracking roast that we chomped down with mash and beans.
It was fun being in a town, but we did have to contend with a few unsavory characters (looking at you ‘snake man’ 🐍x2)
Day 5 started with a mini-portage as we lugged canoes and gear back down to the water from the Riverside camp. Were we getting stronger already, or was all that ice cream giving us hidden power? Either way, we got things loaded in record time and pushed off for another long day – our penultimate one on the water.
It is always good to test your scoutmaster’s and assistant scoutmasters’ skills, and develop your own. After a slow, hot morning paddle we took a short stop where Richard Jr grasped the opportunity to test some ASM canoe balance skills with a challenging deep-water canoe entry. The ASM failed, and everyone took a dunk – fortunately we were just at the bank which made recovery straightforward (and we did find the water refreshing).
Despite a mostly gentle, slow moving stretch over the day, we did hit a few short but gnarly rapids, several sandbars that appeared from nowhere and a few sneaky eddies and whirlpools. One of these sections nearly took out Richard Sr, but some steadfast helming saw him through with only a lost paddle. The same section pinned Marion and Scott to a bank where they got temporarily entangled in some tree branches. It also resulted in Team Davis taking another unscheduled swim test, but they were swiftly back at their paddles after a flip and repack from supporting canoes, this time featuring Nathan in the Stenseth canoe. All a part of the high adventure scouting experience 😁
Our team continued to grow in skills and confidence on the water. Colin swapped with Dave for his first time at the helm and within no time was ruddering like a pro and yelling at his ‘engine’ to “paddle harder” whilst relaxing at the back – nice work Colin . Ethan was getting expert at powering through rapids and towing his canoe off gravel banks (Harris not wanting to get his feet wet because he forgot his water shoes).
At the end of the day we pulled in to Spong’s Landing and set up the privies for last time. Lucy the dog was everywhere keeping team morale high after a long hot day. Needless to say, the water beckoned once more for a sit, swim and play. Jericho outdid himself along with Aidan L and other scouts by accepting and executing on a Scoutmaster Challenge: “Build a fire in the river” (see the pictures). Marion helped with the relax and recuperate vibes too with her pop-up spa doing cucumber eye pads and hot rocks treatments. Lovely.
Spong’s was also accessible from the road, and sure enough around 2am some post-party locals decided to spend an hour hooning around about 50m north of our camp. Lucy and Albus both gave some alert growls, but aside from an hour or two of distrubed sleep, nothing came of it.
Before we knew it, we had slept our last sleep on the river. It was Friday morning and time to pack up the poop and pots. Even though Connor is not yet a scout he showed strong spirit (and stomach) by helping burn the used TP. Eeew – nice work Connor.
Day 6, our last leg, was 6 miles to Wheatland boat ramp. We pulled out at around 11:30 at proved to be an ideal take out location (lots of space, noone around, good roadside parking close by) and executed our swiftwest unloading yet. Thanks to Jeff McCarthy for the driver shuttle we avoided the wait and cost for a taxi to get the drivers to the cars.
We were all pleased to see the grass campsites and endless warm showers at Champoeg State Park. Nearly all scouts and adults took the chance to get clean[ish]. The final night was a food blow out: chilli dogs, mac n cheese, fruit cups, and smores over the campfire. Donald celebrated trip birthday #2 in style with a birthday cake themed protein bar (candle lit, natch’), cake, and TJ’s Scandinavian Swimmers🍰🎁. Kudos to the senior scouts led by Aiden L that did dinner from unpack to final dish put away without any ‘guidance’ from the adults.
For three of our crew, this was the end of their last 50-miler as Scouts – Tristan, Jericho and Aidan L turn 18 shortly. A bitter-sweet moment, but if goes without saying that the roster is always open to them in future years
At 05:30 on Saturday we were up again, enjoying a rag-tag breakfast of oatmeal, oranges,pastries and Oreos. Classy. Our convoy was on the road by 07:00 making the 14 hr journey back home, which was uneventful apart from Harold’s AC unit blowing up not long after we crossed into California (Harold is the Calzia Suburban)
All of us have returned richer in skills, experiences, stories, and mosquito bites than when we left. And we only lost one radio. Not bad.