Monday, June 29, 2020

Rivers in the time of Covid

We are still out of work. So we got in the car and went boating. First, up to Glen Canyon for a night, with the set of mini boats for some portraits.

Then we took the Doryaks and set out for a tour of the West. Here's an homage to Ed Abbey in Cisco.

And on north to the White River--a tributary of the Green I've often heard is canoeable. Turns out it'll take a full sized dory as well. Andy brought a Briggs, RJ brought a classic SportYak, and we took the Doryaks. A lot of cattle and even more sheep. But the scenery was sublime. 

There are some mighty strange rocks on the way back to town.

Next up: the Upper Colorado, from just below Gore Canyon to just above Glenwood Canyon. RJ dropped out and Coop joined us in a kayak. A lot of road traffic, but again, the scenery was magnificent and the rapids kind of exciting at times.

Acres of iris.

Coop rowing Rodeo Rapid in Spooky.

Cocktail hour in a millennium-old Rocky Mountain Juniper.

Then I dropped Dawn of in the remarkable City of Rocks for a week of climbing while I headed north to the upper Salmon River.

Willow joined me for an overnight from North Fork to Corn Creek. And we found out that in just the right exploding wave, a Doryak will actually invert.

Lunch of champions.

I rejoined Dawn and we went over to Oregon and launched on the Rogue.

Words fail me. What a wonderful river, and what a great sized boat to row it in. The classic Briggs shape was born on this river and works perfectly even in a boat this small. 

Next we had to go see how Doryaks fare in the ocean. Here we are at Sunset Bay, where Buzz Holmstrom test-drove his first boat.

Then even deeper into the roots of these drift boats that have overwhelmed my life for the last four decades. The McKenzie, where they were first invented. My good friend Roger Fletcher hooked us up with Aaron Helfrich, grandson of one of the original drift boat creators, Prince Helfrich. The Helfrich clan still dominate the drift boat world here and on the Middle Fork, rowing open boats in crazy water. We were technically volunteers in a lamprey survey, but we felt like pampered passengers. What a treat to see a third-generation career drift boatman row.

And of course he caught us dinner.

Up to Olallie to run the Class III run in Doryaks. Olallie Creek is quite spectacular in its own right.

As usual, we were too busy rowing to take pictures of the craziness. But here's a camp shot of the wild blue water.

Covered bridges.

Doryaks parked next to their cousin, the aluminum McKenzie drift boat.

Roger met us at Leaburg Lake where we took out and got a tour of the future McKenzie River Interpretive Center, based in the old hatchery. Here is the room once commandeered by Keith Steele to build dories. This is the birthplace of Martin Litton's original fleet, and the first Oregon drift boats to visit the Colorado River. Deep heritage here.

Then over to the Coquille, Buzz Holmstrom's home river. We floated the boats for a couple hours while we loaded a few thousand dollars worth of Port Orford cedar on the trailer to build more boats. Holy wood.

Here's the mill, a few miles up the creek from Coquille.

It was finally time to head home. But not without a night at Bandon Beach.

And a walk in the redwoods, the ancient giants.

Five thousand miles and a month later we got back home to Flagstaff. The grand test of the Doryaks could not have gone any better. I think we'll keep 'em. On Thursday I head to Lees Ferry for my first Grand Canyon trip since Covid tweaked our world.

I'll close with my favorite Mary Oliver poem:

West Wind #2

You are young. So you know everything. You leap into the boat and begin rowing. But listen to me. Without fanfare, without embarrassment, without any doubt, I talk directly to your soul. Listen to me. Lift the oars from the water, let your arms rest, and your heart, and heart’s little intelligence, and listen to me. There is life without love. It is not worth a bent penny, or a scuffed shoe. It is not worth the body of a dead dog nine days unburied. When you hear, a mile away and still out of sight, the churn of the water as it begins to swirl and roil, fretting around the sharp rocks – when you hear that unmistakable pounding – when you feel the mist on your mouth and sense ahead the embattlement, the long falls plunging and steaming – then row, row for your life toward it.

Monday, May 18, 2020


Wow, this quarantine thing has really disconnected me from the passage of time. But I've gotta say, I've never been much busier, or much more relaxed. Good thing I was already easing into retirement. So what have I done? Well, Dawn and I stare out the window a lot in the morning. These are some of our visitors.

Speaking of windows, they hadn't been cleaned in quite some time. Okay, years. Okay, maybe decades. Dawn put her climbing skills to work.

I purged the closet, throwing out clothes that don't really fit or hadn't been worn in years. Okay, decades.

 We've made quite a few expeditions into the woods and out into the cinder hills.

Here's a big old boat we found atop one of the cinder cones. WTF. (Welcome to Flagstaff)

We have been working a bit in the boatshop, finishing up odds and ends.

A new tiller for Stella

 We finally finished the last of the mini boats. Powell boats are insanely labor intensive.

I'm going to miss these sweet little boats.

The annual Guides Training Seminar near Lee's Ferry was cancelled due to Covid, so we did a virtual one via Zoom. This is me doing my presentation on Bert Loper's Boats. It should be online somewhere soon.

Dawn decided it would be fun to have quarter-scale dories for a bird bath and garden. Here's the strongback.

And sides.

Glassing them up.

Teeny tiny gunwales.

But we needed to replace the deck before we could install the new boats. The old deck lasted thirty-five years, so hopefully this one will outlive me.

Time out for a sunset birthday float for Margeaux. We had quite a few Quarantinis that evening.

Pat's new rig: a '62 Willys. It might end up Willys Beryl Green.

The first day of my river season: launch day for my first cancelled Grand Canyon trip. But it was a pretty good day nonetheless.

I've been thinking about getting a new mountain bike, so of course I had to build a bike trail switchbacking up the mountain to the forest roads.

Dawn needed a rock wall in her front yard. This is me resting after a day's work moving giant rocks. Lava, as you may or may not know, is ten percent heavier than granite. 

Setting up a reflecting pool for some boat portraits.

Dawn doing the transom art on the new boats.

Bird Disneyland on the new deck.

A nod to Glen and Bessie Hyde with a sweep scow made of old deck parts.