Sunday, July 15, 2012

West Coast Tour 2.0: Gold Beach, Oregon

There is something to be said for man and his attempt to conquer the water.  We'll leave that for someone else to espouse.  What I will say, is that I've heard of Gold Beach before and when I heard about the possibility of a 90 minute drive to somewhere that would lead to a 104-mile whitewater wilderness tour, I felt it was a memory worth creating.  Or recreating, you see, Kerry had been on the same ride about 28 years before with her twin sister (for which we received a text saying something to the effect of "how dare you rewrite childhood memories without me.")  But the idea that it was such a strong memory for both of them meant that it would be a great one for 3 kids, 2 adults and a grandpa (who took some of the best photos shown here.)

Probably a good start is introducing the crew.  Pictured from left to right we have Kenzie, Jake, Dave and Bear on our single row on the boat.  Kerry has never been a fan of being photographed so, don't expect to see much of her.  We got a call early that morning saying that if we hurried down there a bit earlier than planned, they'd upgrade us from the mid-size and mid-priced ride to the wham-bam-who's-your-momma 7+ hour trip.  So drive Bear did, arriving just in time.  Wish I got a picture of the little dog out in front of the store that would shove a large smooth rock toward customers in hopes they'll shove it back to it -- in one of the funniest little games that I've ever seen.  Cute.  Oh, well, off to the boat...

One thing that I still remained impressed with were the bridges.  I mean, look at this one.  It's the first one you see when you leave the dock.  They mark a lot of the history in the area by how high floods were when they went through.  One specific bridge still stands despite flood waters rising about 10 feet above it.  But this bridge stood out.  I think they mentioned a French architect and some bill getting signed that made it happen.  From the opposite side, there were nests. (What kind can get lost on me.)  Someone even took a photo of the boat and its occupants from above.  Well, I shouldn't mention it and not show you.

I'm over there on the left side waving in a borrowed brown jacket next to Kerry (your only photo with her in it... see what I mean.)  It's a pretty good sized boat with 3 engines and (what took us a long time to notice) a dog.  I told the kids that it was a specially trained water dog there to rescue children that don't keep their hands in the boat and fall in the drink.  They were pretty well behaved, so the threat wasn't important.  Jake was a little seasick at first (and forgot to take a pill) but someone sitting behind us mentioned chewing gum... which flowed plentifully the rest of the trip.  What Kerry and I found funniest was the same man that helped Jake had a hat that said Navy on it.  He'd lunge forward every time there was burst of water from spray, waves or rapids and use the hat to block her face from each assault.  I told him later that he was definitely a true gentleman.  When he looked confused, I told him that not many men would throw the whole Navy in front of his 'lady love' to protect her from the elements.  Got a broad smile from him and a laugh from what I thought was his wife.

I mentioned wilderness in referring to the boat tour, right.  Well, there were a lot of funny little creatures everywhere.  And the driver did a great job of making sure we knew if something was nearby.  First there were the little birds nests on the opposite side of the bridge.  Then there were tons of birds... and I will not be able to tell you much about them other than there was an osprey, herons and well... this well-recognized American symbol.  I can tell you that I never in my life expected to see a bald eagle.  I guess that's the living-in-a-desert mentality.  I mean, I didn't see a lizard anywhere on this trip.

But we did see a bear!  Sure, the eagle was #1 on my list but to see a hunter in its pursuit of a meal just gives a tingling feeling.  We followed it down bank quite a ways.  From the photo, you can see she (the guide believed it was a female from previous sightings) is searching the water for a nearby fish to pounce on.  Didn't know how the kids would react to seeing something so natural as that (especially after they kept reciting lines from Finding Nemo) but we moved on.  Sure, having a cell-phone as your camera on a trip like this means only one thing: the battery is going to run out that much sooner.  So I had to keep turning it off and turning it on to save power to take specific shots.  Thankfully, Bear (my father-in-law... appropriate nickname to reinforce at this point, right?) had the good equipment to catch these.  My grainy photos could have been Sasquatch sightings.

There were a couple good breaks here and there and the kids got to stretch their legs.  Really beautiful surroundings to do so.

Do you remember me saying something about rapids and whitewater?  Well, that actually did happen.  The problem is that you really shouldn't use electronic equipment when the boat is rocking, when it is spraying water all over you or when the driver does a 360.  So a smart photographer would keep his equipment safe and dry.  So, Bear put his camera away and (cough) someone else took these final enjoyable shots of part of the waters of the Rogue River often called The Wild.

Another full day of the trip in the bag and, yes, a very long day with more sun than I'm used to.  So, it's time to recover.  Maybe a slow day.  Maybe not.

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