Fun on the John Day, May 2017

I’d written a bit about my trip on the Tumalo Creek Media Stream (on my Frisky Ripples column). It was more of a “how to” for those people unfamiliar with the Service Creek to Clarno section.  It was my first time on that stretch of river and I shared my thoughts, tips and observations for other first timers.  What I left out is the experience itself.  With more time and space to write, here it goes…

We left first thing from my place in Bend. Geared up with raft, SUP, camping equipment, too much food, and the best dog on the planet we headed east.  I’d spent a little time in the John Day area a few summers ago, but for Sam a whole new experience. A side-note here…I’ve shared very little about Sam on the professional site, but he’s a well-traveled guy.  He’s been to every state in the US and as a world champion kayaker and expedition leader he’s been to (if memory serves) 79 countries around the world.  Still, he’s easily impressed with the natural world and what it has to offer aesthetically which is nice.  Anyone with his experiences could be a total snob about travels–not him.  Just the opposite.  He’s like a kid in a candy store seeing new places, which is a joy to share.  But I digress…

We ended up taking a side-trip to visit the Painted Hills.  For those who haven’t been there it’s pretty damn cool.  If you have the day, do yourself a big favor and also visit the Thomas Condon Paleontology center, hike Blue Basin and stop by for a tour of the Cant Ranch. It’s a perfect mix of activity and nerdiness…my favorite combo (as I’m an adventurous nerd for SURE).  The visit was relatively short but got to see beautiful wildflowers with the hills in the background.

Onward, toward Service Creek, we got ourselves to the put-in where we learned very few people had launched (yay!) on this 50 mile stretch of friskies.  The stretch is rated at class I/II and with the water running particularly high this year we had a lot of fun rapids for this moderate whitewater SUP’er.  Sam was at the sticks for most of the day on the raft with Mojo (“best dog on the planet”) and I paddleboarded, however we switched for awhile, to give him a break, to fish and to SUP.  A lovely day, we cranked out about 22 miles before calling it a day at a campsite we had to ourselves.  Stunning views of rock columns and gorgeous sunset.  Since this was a birthday celebration for Sam we had amazing chocolate cake which was so good we might have had seconds…Rrrrr thirds?

A very relaxing morning complete with coffee (most important) eggs, sausage (what?!…  I’d forgotten the bacon at home…bummer) and there could have been some more cake eaten too…mmmm yum. We eventually hiked to the top of a lookout, and finally set off for 13 miles of river, for the second day.  More fun SUP rapids and more of me trying my hand at rowing which I found really fun.  Furthermore, the rapids are so gentle that I really couldn’t get us into too much trouble on the raft which is perfect for learning.

Our second campsite was also great and unshared with any other campers–going midweek is really the trick to avoid crowds. Sam caught a fish, another great dinner, and the rest is private…haha.

Our last day was an easy 8ish miles.  We’d left the shortest day until the end, however with it being the Friday of Memorial Day weekend there were many people hurriedly rushing the campsites at 11:30am! Glad we missed that.

A bit about the stretch if you’re new to paddling whitewater.  Whether kayaking or paddlingboarding it’s a fabulous stretch to try.  The consequences are minimal if you fall in.  The rapids are approachable for those who have begun their learning curve. (I wouldn’t say a first-time run for a SUP, but then again, I’m a wimp and it’s taken me awhile to get to where I am…which isn’t badass levels). However, do it right.  Take all the normal steps for a multi-day camping trip regarding gear, provisions and safety equipment.  Also, be sure to wear a helmet and quick release leash if you’re paddleboarding.

I lovely experience and a great prep for next year…Clarno to Cottonwood.  A longer and more challenging stretch which hopefully, I’ll be ready for by then.  Anyone been on either stretch please give me your thoughts!  Thanks for listening…

Painted hills flowers
Wildflowers on the John Day (photo credit to Sam Drevo)
Painted Hills
Loving the view…
JD Launch 2017 2
First morning launch…here we go!
JD Hike 2017
Little morning hike to check out the views and to ruin Sam’s shoes…
JD Sam and Mojo
My boys…
JD Frisky Ripples
Frisky Ripples!
John day breakfast
Ahhhh, life doesn’t get better!
Playin’ around.
JD Yoga
Yoga anyone?
JD Campsite 2017
Too bad the view sucks.
More frisky ripples….

2 thoughts on “Fun on the John Day, May 2017

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