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Greg Hatten’s WoodenBoat Adventures: Yellowstone Lake

Our friend Greg Hatten, the WoodenBoat adventurer, is floating some of our country’s National Parks as part of the centennial celebration of the National Park Service.

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Greg is an accomplished guide and fisherman who splits his time between Missouri and Oregon. He is happiest on the river in his wooden drift boat, the Portola.  Greg’s Portola was built to the exact specs of the original Portola piloted by conservationist Martin Litton down the Colorado River in 1964 as part of a historic journey that helped save the Grand Canyon. As difficult as it is to believe, there were plans at the time to dam the Colorado River, flood the Grand Canyon and turn it into a gigantic reservoir.  Wooden drift boaters took to the river, along with a documentary crew, to make a film that brought national attention to the proposed reservoir project. This river journey helped save the Grand Canyon for future generations. Greg’s 2014 recreation of this journey is part of his larger commitment to our National Parks.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Greg is running rivers through some of our most beloved Parks. Pendleton will be following his journeys on our blog, starting with his trip to Yellowstone Lake.

lakeAs Greg says in his blog post:

On this WoodenBoat adventure… it was late May and the lakes in Yellowstone National Park were free of ice earlier this year than anyone could remember. Usually on Memorial Day weekend, this park is just waking up from its winter hibernation – the snow is patchy in places, the campgrounds are just starting to open, and the staff and crew coming from around the country to work for the summer are learning the answers to hundreds of questions they will be asked by the visiting tourists from around the world. The park was green, the wildlife was stirring and except for the sparse number of tourists, it seemed like it was midseason.

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Greg sets up camp Pendleton-style, in a canvas tent with our Yellowstone National Park blanket AND one of our newest products. Greg has only good things to say about our new roll-ups, which are virgin wool camp blankets attached to a new waxed cotton fabric that we are just a little bit proud of.

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As you can see, so far we are offering this blanket in Badlands, Glacier and Grand Canyon. Greg says it sleeps like a dream in the wild, and we trust his opinion. So go read all about his trip on his WoodenBoat blog, especially the meal. Everyone here in the office wants to try Greg’s campsite cuisine!

Canvas & Wool on the McKenzie by Greg Hatten

Our friend Greg Hatten writes about his “home water,” Oregon’s McKenzie River. Greg uses our Yakima Camp blankets and National Park Series blankets on his expeditions. You can learn more about the Parks and the blankets they have inspired here. But for now, just enjoy a trip on the river with Greg. 

far-campThe McKenzie River in the Cascade Range of Oregon is my “home – water” – it’s where I learned to row a drift boat and where I feel the most comfortable on the oars.  Her icy waves, aqua pools, moss covered boulders and challenging rapids bring me back again and again.  It’s a rock garden playground for a wood drift boat and a 90 mile paradise for native redside rainbow trout as the river makes its way down the valley and folds into the Willamette River on its way to the Pacific Ocean.

Tall stands of Douglas fir, western hemlock and red cedar line the banks and steep hills forming a solid curtain of subtle shades of green on both sides of the river. As the McKenzie cuts through the Willamette National Forest, there are small pockets and openings within the dense trees to camp alongside the river.

For 8,000 years, this river was home to Native Americans – mostly of the Kalapuya and the Molala tribes.  In 1812 it was explored by the Pacific Fur Company and was named for the expedition leader, Donald Mackenzie.

Camping in canvas and wool seems appropriate in this place and my mind drifts back in time 200 years as I set up the tent in a small clearing of towering  trees.  With so little evidence of civilization around us, it’s easy to wonder what those explorers in 1812 experienced as they reached this spot on the river, what they saw, how they camped, how they fished, and cooked and ate.

I spread a Pendleton blanket (Badlands National Park) over the floor of the teepee tent, unfurled the cowboy bedrolls and enjoyed the coziness of the shelter for a moment before starting a campfire .  The oars from the boat become a triangle “lamp stand” when lashed together and the camp lantern hanging above our campsite gives off a warm glow casting playful shadows on the ground and tent.  It’s a comfortable camp filled with nostalgia and authenticity.

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Most of my river guests prefer an overnight experience that includes running water, indoor toilets, soft beds, clean sheets, and WIFI.  Not these guests! These guests requested a unique and rustic adventure filled with wood boats, canvas tents, wool blankets, and warm campfires. They wanted to get away from cell phones, computers, and modern conveniences.   It’s an unfiltered McKenzie River experience they seek – a direct connection to the explorers and pioneers that originally explored this McKenzie River Valley.

That evening we ate smoked salmon, fresh vegetables, pasta, and organic strawberries that were so sweet they tasted like they’d been soaking in a brine of sugar water.  After dinner the smoky smell of the campfire complemented the scotch we drank as we talked about the day and made our plans for the next.

Our canvas tent and bedrolls sat on a layer of pine needles and loose soil that created such a soft quiet cushion, sleep came easy.  We inhaled the evergreen aroma of pine and I wondered if it was the same smell two hundred years ago.  The sounds of the running river were close enough to hear but not close enough to disturb as we slumbered away under a canopy of dark swaying boughs overhead.

Morning came early and we broke camp quickly so we could get to the pressing business of river running in a wood boat.  The Class III Marten’s Rapid was on our river agenda and on my mind all morning as we navigated minor rapids and fished our way to the top of this most treacherous rapid on the McKenzie.  As usual, we heard it before we saw it with its low growl that warned of danger.  Two days before us, a drift boat hit the left wall so hard it left a mark on the rock – the moment of impact was captured by a photographer below the rapid and the picture was plastered all over web sites and facebook.

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When the river is low in mid summer, the slot gets narrow and the holes get deep so we pull into an eddy behind “house rock” at the top of the rapid to catch our breath and confirm our line.  The path looks more complicated than usual.  We pushed out of the eddy and picked up speed.  We put the nose of the boat as close to the “can opener” rock as possible and then pulled hard to miss it by a foot.  A rebounding wave off the rock knocked us off course a little and sent us flying towards the wall on the left.  Digging the oars deep, slowed the boat just enough to narrowly miss the wall.  We immediately dropped into a series of sharp swells that tried to swallow the boat and soaked us with breaking waves over the prow.   It was a roller coaster ride with two big holes at the bottom, which we threaded and then pulled over to dry off and bail water out of the boat.  Quite a ride!!

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Some of my favorite rapids on the river are below Marten’s.  They are technical but not brutal and the boat moved with elegance – threading rocks, skirting eddies and working in perfect harmony with the river. The afternoon was hot and sunny as we settled into a rhythm of rowing rapids and fly fishing for trout.

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The last fish brought to the boat that day was a beautiful native redside rainbow trout, a fitting end to a throw-back adventure of Canvas & Wool on the McKenzie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greg Hatten and a Wooden Boat Proposal

Greg Hatten is our guest blogger today. Usually he writes about heart-stopping whitewater river journeys in his wooden boat, the Portola. Today’s post is about another kind of adventure, and it’s more heart-tugging than heart-stopping. We hope you enjoy it.

My youngest daughter and her serious boyfriend, Josh, took an Oregon river ride in my wooden boat one hot summer weekend last year. Despite the lack of fishing time, we all had a great time. This trip was about the water, the waves, and the old man checking out the young man in my daughter’s life. He checked out fine. I liked him much more than the others that had come and gone before him.

One year later, he was eager to come back to Oregon. He was ready to get back in the boat and maybe catch a steelhead on a fly. Understand, this is an accomplishment that requires thousands of casts and years of suffering broken rods, broken leaders, broken spirit. But he had a goal, so we saved the date. As it approached, his interest and questions about the details of the trip increased.

It was going to be a hot, sunny day. We started early. ‘0 dark 30 early, 4:30 AM early. Mentally making our offerings to the steelhead gods, we climbed in my FJ40, pulled the choke, turned on the headlights and headed up river, boat in-tow. We pulled into the boat launch. Judging by the lack of trucks and boats at the ramp, most fishermen had stayed in bed, conceding the day before it even began.

The most elusive of Pacific Northwestern fish proved to be just that. For two hours we fished some of the best pools and slots on the river and felt nothing – not a bite, not a hit, not a take-down, no sign of a steelhead. A familiar fishless ache in my gut prompted me to remind Josh of the degree of difficulty and disappointment associated with chasing steelhead on the fly. And then–WHAM! Josh felt “the tug” — a strong one – and suddenly line was peeling off the reel and the rod was doubled over in a rainbow arc. I heard him say, “WOW.”

It was a great fight with impressive runs and a few sharp jumps caught in vivid HD by the Go-Pro mounted on the bill of a fishing hat. A thirty minute tug-of-war brought a tired fish to the net and into the boat. He did it! On one of the hottest, sunniest days of the summer, Josh had hooked and LANDED his first steelhead on the fly.

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We took the required pictures. He sat there holding the big fish in my boat, looking very serious and clearing his throat. Then he asked my blessing to propose to my daughter. Then it was my turn to feel “the tug,” and Josh heard me say “WOW.” But this had nothing to do with a fish. I thought, are you kidding me? Who’s writing the script for this? He’s holding a trophy fish in my wooden boat and asks for my daughter’s hand in marriage. What could a fly fishing father say but, “Let me shake your slimy hand and welcome you to the family, Son.” Especially since fifteen minutes later, in the very next pool, Josh hooked up and landed a second steelhead in a battle that was even more dramatic than the first. That time, we both said, “WOW”.

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That evening, after a dinner of fresh steelhead on the grill, Josh pulled out a ring and proposed to my daughter Sarah by the light of the campfire over the sound of the McKenzie River flowing behind Eagle Rock Lodge. She said yes. And then I’m pretty sure she said, “WOW.”

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Quite a day.

 

Our congratulations to the happy couple. Be sure to read about Greg’s river adventures here, here and here.

Night in the Canyon by Greg Hatten

Enjoy this, out third and last guest post from Greg–for this trip, anyway.

Nighttime in the Grand Canyon adds another dimension to darkness for me.

1_Nate_PickensPhoto by Nate Pickens

Towering walls rise up almost a mile above the Colorado River to touch the night sky, soft sand wraps around our sleeping bags in a warm embrace, and the river of darkness between the canyon cliffs overhead is filled with so many bright stars that most nights, the ground is visible without the aid of a flashlight.  Darkness in the Grand Canyon is filled with light, and my favorite light comes from the campfire after dinner.

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Photo by Nate Pickens

We throw another log onto the bed of half-spent coals in the fire pan, sink deep into our camp chairs…and take a long breath.  No rapids to scout, no river to run, no boats to wrangle.

The banter is lively as we replay the day – the heroic runs, the botched lines, and the close calls.  Laughter and teasing settles into quiet conversation and reflection as we enjoy the flames of the fire and each other’s presence.  Together, we unwind from the challenges of the day.  Sometimes the only sound in our circle of camp chairs comes from the flickering fire and the river (and occasionally, snoring from Tony).  We listen to the river every second of every waking hour and we hear it in our sleep.  Darkness in the canyon is filled with the sounds of the river and laughter from the circle.

When we’re talked out, we fold our chairs, and one by one, leave the warmth of the fire. Sometimes two or three of us take the campfire conversation deeper into the night.  The smoke from the fire follows us to our sleeping bags and tucks us in. Our best and our worst is on display in the stressful situations of the canyon and in the solitude of my bedroll each night, I sort through which of those “won the day” – and then I sleep.

Darkness in the canyon is filled with the smoky smell of a campfire and self reflection.

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Photo by Izzy Collett

Brightly colored tents sit below the steep rock walls of the canyon.  Some are scattered between boulders and sagebrush or even clustered in bunches on the sand banks of the river.  They glow with a dreamy light.

Some nights there is a special sound to the darkness as Izzy plays a Native American wood flute while she sits on her boat.  The rich low sounds are from a different time and place.  Authentic music mingles with the smoke trails and travels up the canyon on its way to the stars.

It adds a richness to the experience that I will never forget.

The darkness in the canyon is filled with the haunting sounds of the Anasazi flute.

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Photo by Dave Mortenson

In the daylight, my canvas tent blends with the light tan color of the sand.  It’s the same material they used for tents and bags on the 1964 trip we are replicating.  I use the tent when there is a threat of rain or I want a break from the strong winds and blowing sand.

When we’re not in tents, we sleep on the open ground with nothing overhead except the stars in the night-sky.  The distance we hike away from the river to throw our bags down on shore is in direct proportion to the energy we have left at the end of a day spent rowing heavy boats through heavy rapids.  Most of the bags are within 100 feet of the boats on the sand banks above the river.  Some mornings we wake up as part of a sand dune and have to shake our way out of our bags.

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Photo by Greg Hatten

Many nights we sleep on the boats.  It’s my favorite place to spend the night.  Down here boats are life… they’re everything.  We row them through the valley of death and they deliver us from evil… repeatedly.  They carry everything we own and faithfully get us to our next campsite at the end of our rowing day.  They “connect” us to the river with a bond that’s hard to explain.  We love our boats.

6_John_SchroederPhoto by John Schroeder

All covered up in our warm blankets, we peek out in the dark and occasionally see a falling star in the night sky as the water gently slaps the sides of the boat and the river rocks us to sleep.  On “two-blanket” nights it’s cold enough to see our breath – which makes the blankets feel even warmer and the boats seem even cozier.

The darkness in the canyon is filled with cold cheeks, cold noses and gently rocking boats.

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Marble Canyon Tunnel – Photo by Robb Grubb

The darkest dark I found in the canyon wasn’t on the boats at night.  It was in an exploratory tunnel drilled deep in the side of Marble Canyon where construction had begun in the 1950s on one of the last proposed dam projects in the west.

A couple of us tied off our boats on river left and scrambled up the loose shale to the mouth of the tunnel – a hundred feet above the river.  From that elevated vantage point, the canyon looked spectacular.  I tried to imagine a dam in this special spot and couldn’t.  We turned from the river, climbed over the railroad ties and boulders guarding the entrance, and crawled through a portal into the heart of the Marble Canyon wall.

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Marble Canyon Entry – Photo by Robb Grubb

Twenty feet in and we were covered in darkness.  Real deep dark heavy darkness…. an eerie black quiet darkness… and I thought of orcs, and goblins, and the Lord of the Rings.  We turned on a laser light, splashed our way through the puddles on the packed-dirt floor and tripped over loose rocks that had fallen in the narrow passageway.  Walking with an awkward stoop, we finally reached the end of the tunnel several hundred feet from the entrance.  For a moment we turned off the light and just stood there listening to “drip…drip…drip” coming from the dank ceiling and falling to the floor somewhere in the blackness.  For the first time in days we couldn’t hear the river – it was silenced by the tunnel and it was deafening.

We shimmied back out the portal, slid down the shale pile back to our boats and spent a quiet afternoon rowing through the beautiful rose colored walls of Marble Canyon.

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Marble Canyon – Photo by John Schroeder

That night, I reflected again about what the trip in 1964 meant to river runners like us.  That trip and those guys made a huge impact by shining a bright light on the beauty of the canyon.  Their pictures, their videos, and their words inspired millions of people to take a closer look at the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon and for the first time, many of them saw this place as much more than just a source for water.

The darkness in the canyon is filled with passion.

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Last of the Three Part Series by Greg Hatten

Running a Rapid in the Grand Canyon by Greg Hatten

Time for another guest post from our friend Greg Hatten, in which he replicates a run from the 1962 trek down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. This one is exciting, so hold on.

We scout the big ones – the ones you can hear for a half mile before you can see – the ones that sound like a freight train when you stand beside them.  The ground trembles.  Their names are spoken with respect and dread around the campfire at night and over coffee in the morning… House Rock, Hermit, Hance, Granite, Bedrock, Crystal, Lava…

1_credit_-John_SchroederIzzy & I Scouting a Rapid   photo credit:  John Schroeder

Just above Granite Rapid at mile mark 94, we pull our boats to shore on river-left, tie up, and hike down the river over unstable river rocks to “scout”.    It’s rated a 9 + on a scale of 10 by Larry Stevens in his River Runner’s Map and Guidebook to the Colorado River – one of the most difficult on the river.  Halfway down this rapid is one of the largest and most violent holes we have seen on the trip.  We stop at the midpoint of the rapid to have a closer look.  We watch, mesmerized, as water pours over a huge boulder we cannot see and then dives ten feet down with so much force it creates a wall of water that slams back upriver to create a turbulent cauldron and a suck-hole that we must avoid.  We are transfixed and for a long moment we can’t look away.   I wonder to myself, if a boat got sucked into that, would it EVER come out?

Scanning the river for a possible path through the rapid (the “line”) we speak a boatman’s language of laterals, V-waves, pour-overs, eddies, and cheater lines.  There is a seriousness in our tone this morning as we dissect the rapid and discuss what we see.  I love the banter, I respect the experience, I trust the judgment of these teammates.

Two days ago my boat was swallowed and flipped in an ugly hole at Grapevine – a Class VIII.  My boat took a beating and so did my confidence.  It’s on my mind as the hole in front of us thunders away and we continue to search for the “line.”

There are big rocks all the way down the left side which appear and then disappear with the crashing waves.  At this low water level those rocks would tear our boats to pieces… left side is not open today.  We look at the middle run but everything coming down that V-wave is getting sucked into the hole-that-must-be-missed, so it’s not an option either.  The only path we see at this level is a far right run where a ridge of water is formed by the current careening off the canyon wall.  The run requires a boat balancing act on a tight wire of white water that’s uncomfortably close to the canyon wall.

2_credit_Dave_MortensonPortola popping out of the hole – Photo credit:  Dave Mortenson

The hard part is getting up on that water ridge in the first place.  There is a hole above the ridge on the far right side of the river formed by the first steep elevation drop.  If you can put your boat half in the hole and half out of the hole, it will pop your boat out and fling it right on top of the ridge for a twenty second thrill ride to the bottom.  Hit the hole too far right & you’ll get sucked into it.  Skirt the hole too far left and you’ll miss the ridge and be swept into the V Wave and the big dangerous hole we must avoid.

We are all agreed – it’s a far right run.

After the scout, it’s a quiet walk back up to the boats.  We are alone with our thoughts and visualizing our moves and I pose the question to myself… again… “why am I doing this”?

3_credit_Dave_MortensonPortola riding the ridge  Photo Credit:  Dave Mortenson

Robb goes first – he’s been rowing since he was four years old and makes every rapid look easy.  He gives us confidence as he hit the exact line we talked about and has a splashy ride down the ridge.  Perfection.  He pulls into an eddy below the rapid and sets up for rescue as a safety precaution.

Steph is next – he’s rowing the Susie Too – a remake of the original from 1962 and a twin hull of my boat, the Portola.  He takes the Susie Too over the first big drop and disappears.  His line is a little too aggressive – his boat is too far into the hole at the top.  The power of the hole grabs his right oar and almost pulls him out of the boat.  The force is so strong it springs the brass oar lock and releases the oar which is now useless in his hand.  He slams the oar back in place just as he gets spit out of the hole, a little sideways and twisted, but up on the ridge none-the-less.  A quick correction and he rides the ridge like a bucking horse although dangerously close to the wall.  Nice!!

4_credit_Izzy_CollettExploding wave   Photo Credit – Izzy Collett

I tighten my life jacket, put on my helmet, and row quietly to the other side of the river several hundred feet above Granite.  The approach to the infinity edge is slow.  Too slow.  Too much time to think about my disaster at Grapevine.  I snap back to the moment and reach the edge where I can finally see down the steepness of the other side and know for the first time that my alignment is spot on.

This is the nerve that Craig Wolfson talks about.  I’m lined up to hit one hole so I can miss a bigger hole and it’s only two days and twelve miles after almost losing my boat and my passenger in a hole that looks a lot like these.

5_credit_Izzy_CollettSliding down the backside   Photo Credit – Izzy Collett

I drop over the top and everything speeds up – now I’m racing for the edge of the hole on the right.  Half in half out – I hit it perfectly and I keep my right oar up away from the turbulence (thanks Steph).  I’m rewarded by a clean exit from the hole and a little air as I get deposited right on top of the ridge of water.  I ride the waves as they explode under my boat and shoot me down the other side.  The canyon wall is cozy and I feel like it’s inches away from the tips of my oars.  I go speeding by the hole-that-must-be-missed on my left. It’s so close I can touch it with my oar.

6_credit_Dave_MortensonSpeeding by the big hole – Photo credit:  Dave Mortenson

One more big wave at the bottom and it’s over.  In 20 seconds.  Wow…and then I remind myself – “THIS is why we do this!!”

That run at Granite restored my confidence – which would be tested repeatedly over the next 190 miles.  Three days later I would flip in Upset Rapid – Class nine.

 

7_credit_Dave_MortensonPortola flips in Upset – Photo credit:  Dave Mortenson

It had a bigger hole than Granite on the day it got me…but THAT’s another story.

8_credit_Dave_MortensonPendleton Blankets drying – Photo credit:  Dave Mortenson

You wreck a wood boat, you fix it.  You flip a wood boat, you dry out your blankets. And that’s how you run a rapid.

Coming up in Part III…read about night-life on the Colorado.  Ever wonder what it’s like to sleep in the canyon for a month or how we cook, clean, relax, and get re-charged for a challenging day on the river?  Read about it next week and enjoy some beautiful night-time shots in “Night in the Canyon”

 

 

Why We Do This: Historic Wooden Boats on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon

A heartfelt series of guest posts from our friend Greg Hatten begins this week.

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March of 2014 was a deadly month in the Grand Canyon for river runners.   The water level was well below average and even the most experienced boatmen saw water dynamics they had never seen before.  Low water created new hazards – holes were deeper, drops were sharper, jagged rocks that rarely see sunlight punched holes in our boats and holes in our confidence.

An accomplished group of nine kayakers just a few miles ahead of us lost one of their team mates to the river below Lava Falls.  There was a another serious accident in the group two days behind us midway through the trip.

Some of our wood boats were damaged, a few of our rubber rafts flipped, oars and ribs and teeth were broken, a helicopter rescue was required for a member of our team on Day 4. After 280 miles and 24 days on the water, we reached the end of the Grand Canyon and all agreed we were ready to do it again…as soon as possible.

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Who are we and why do we do this???   

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We are a band of wood boat enthusiasts who came to the Grand Canyon in March to re-run a famous trip from 1964 with our wood dory replicas, our canvas tents and bedrolls, our Pendleton wool blankets, and a couple of great photographers to capture the adventure.

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Fifty years ago, that trip played a crucial role in saving the Grand Canyon from two proposed dams that were already under construction.  If THAT trip had not happened, THIS trip would not have been possible and our campsites would be at the bottom of a reservoir instead of beside the river.  River running on the Colorado through the Grand Canyon would’ve been replaced by “Reservoir Running in Pontoons,” as most of the Grand Canyon would’ve been hundreds of feet under water.

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We are celebrating the success of the trip of  ‘64 and paying tribute to those men who left a legacy for future river runners like us to run the big water of the Colorado through the Grand Canyon in river boats.  We are brought together by Dave Mortenson, whose dad was one of those pioneers.

“Who we are” is easier to answer than “Why we do this.” There are moments on trips like these, when we are at the crossroads of chaos – where adventure and wonder intersect with danger and consequence – and the outcome is uncertain. THAT’s what makes it an adventure.  I can only speak for myself – but here’s my shot at answering “why…”

I do this because the Grand Canyon takes my breath away.  The first time I saw it from the bottom looking up, I fell in love with this place and was absolutely amazed by the size and beauty of the canyon.  Everything is bigger, deeper, taller, more colorful, more powerful, more everything than anyplace I have ever been.

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I do this because the Colorado River tests my physical ability as a boatman like no other river I have ever boated.  This is one of the most powerful rivers in North America and when that strong current bends the oars I’m rowing and I feel the raw force shooting up my aching arms and across my tired back, I’m electrified and anxious at the same time.

I do this because the rapids on this river test my mental ability as a boatman.  My friend and veteran Canyoneer Craig Wolfson calls it “Nerve.”  Scouting severe rapids and seeing the safest “line” to run is one thing – having the nerve to put your boat on that line is another.  Most of the difficult rapids require a run that puts your boat inches from disaster at the entry point in order to avoid calamity at the bottom.  Everything in your “experience” tells you to avoid the danger at the top – but you mustn’t.  Overriding those instincts and pulling off a successful run is a mental tug of war that is challenging beyond belief.

I do this because of the bonds we form as a team of 16 individuals working and cooking and rowing and eating and drinking and laughing together for 280 miles.  We problem-solve together, we celebrate together, we look out for each other, and we find a way to get along when every once-in-awhile the stress of the trip makes “some” of us a little “cranky.”   Sometimes, we experience the most vulnerable moments of our lives together.  These people are lifetime friends as a result of this adventure.

 

And finally – I do this because it brings out the best in me.  My senses are better, my mind is clearer, my body is stronger and I like to think I’m friendlier, funnier, more generous, and more helpful down in the Canyon.  It makes me want to be this open with people up on Rim when I get back to my regular routine.  It’s hard to articulate but for me, the place is magic.

Greg Hatten

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Coming up…

Next….. You can read in detail how we carefully “scout” and how we the run the violent rapids of the Colorado in hand-made historic wooden boats made of ¼” plywood.  If we make a mistake we pay a heavy price – which you will see in “Running A Rapid.”

Finally…. You can read about camp life on the Colorado.  What it’s like to sleep in the canyon for a month.  How we cook, clean, relax, and get re-charged for a challenging day on the river.  There are beautiful night-time shots for you to enjoy in “Camp in the Canyon.”

 

Grand Canyoneers

Our friend Greg Hatten is back on the river and we will have great footage to share soon. He’s traveling old-school in a hand-built wooden drift boat, camping under the stars with a Pendleton blankets.

In Greg’s words:

Last year we honored the historic 1962 river trip on the Grand Canyon by replicating the boats (the Portola & the Susie Too) and the trip in every possible detail.  We took thousands of pics, and NW Documentaries shot hours of video.  

Guess what? We are doing it again…. we received a special use permit to return to the canyon and replicate the 1964 trip which was one of the most significant in the life of the Grand Canyon.  It was on this trip, led by Martin Litton in the Portola and PT Riley in the Susie Too and accompanied by the leading environmentalists of the day, that writers, photographers, videographers, and poets captured the story of the Grand Canyon was captured, romanced, and publicized globally. This put a STOP to the impending congressional vote on the Southwest Water Plan which would have authorized several dams and turned the Colorado River into a “trickle” –  destroying the Grand Canyon National Park. 

Today, those boats are known as “the boats that saved the Canyon” and that trip – which resulted in the book Time and the River Flowing by Francois Leydet and the short film “Living Water, Living Canyon” by David Brower and the Sierra Club are credited with preserving one of our National treasures. 

They are on the water now. More to come!

The Drift Boat Adventure for Kids

Greg Hatten, our drift boat adventurer, has been embarking on a new adventure, besides running the rivers of America in handcrafted wooden drift boats. He’s taken on grandfathering in a big way, with three little ones under two years old in his family.

Greg decided that for Christmas, he’d build his grandkids a rocking boat just like his own boat, at 33% the size. He worked with his boat-building buddy, Roger Fletcher, to make it happen.

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The results? Beautiful.

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The boats are carefully hand-built in the same way as the full-size drift boats for which Greg is so well-known. That is a lot of measuring, cutting, shaping, joining, sanding, staining and sealing. As Greg told us, “I only know how to build boats one way.”

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Greg also adapted the classic children’s poem, “Winkin, Blinkin & Nod” by Eugene Field to reflect his passion for drift boating (and Pendleton blankets, it seems). He published copies for each of the grandkids, and the books and boat were quite the hits.

So please enjoy these photos of Greg’s grandkids enjoying their new boat. Information on the rocking boat and book can be found at the Rocking Boat website.

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Greg Hatten says Hello.

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We mention Greg on this blog fairly often. He’s a wooden boat crafter and enthusiast, and he’s also just a great guy with infectious enthusiasm and tremendous knowledge of the rivers and byways of the American West. It was amazing enough that wooden boats ran the the Grand Canyon in 1962; it was just as amazing that Greg and his crew built wooden boats by hand and ran it again fifty years later.

Here’s a recent note from Greg:

It’s been a winter filled with rain, snow, and presentations on the Grand Canyon trip. I’ve been speaking A LOT & having fun doing it. I show my audiences the little video I created to tell the story. I was fortunate to meet Martin Litton and his wife last month down in California. He’s 96 years old & still remembers a lot of the details from his “river running” days. He gave me a number of old videos of his original trips from the early 60s. It was a memorable day.

Greg’s projects have a real connection to history and devotion to authenticity. We like to think Pendleton has some of the same.  Here is the video. Enjoy!

Canvas and Wool on the Rogue by Greg Hatten

Enjoy a guest post from our friend Greg Hatten about his further adventures with canvas and wool as he takes his wooden boat down some of the most beautiful and challenging rivers of the west.

The wild and scenic section of the Rogue River in southwestern Oregon is a national treasure.  It’s a 35 mile stretch of rough and tumble river filled with extreme white water challenges, breathtaking outdoor beauty, abundant wildlife, and in the month of October – it’s filled with laughter from my favorite river rats for a few days of camping, fishing, river running, and poking fun at each other.

It’s always a slightly different group of guys – not everyone can drop out of life and into a canyon for four days and be completely cut off from work and emails, cell phones and text messages.  Though the group represents a mixed bag of professions – doctors, lawyers, realtors, builders, and businessmen,  work is almost never a topic for discussion.  We’ve run hundreds of river miles together and spent hours around a campfire but  I can’t tell you the specifics about what they do for a living or the location of their offices.  On a trip like this, what you do for each other on the river is more important than what you do for others to make a living… it’s just one of the many reasons I love this annual adventure.

Gear is often a subject of discussion and sometimes derision.  If you’ve got the latest camp gadget (that actually works) or the newest line of clothes from Patagonia, you’re gonna have a good campfire.  If you’ve got a leaky tent,  if your scotch is second-rate, or your flies are not producing fish – you’re gonna hear about it.

This year, instead of a nylon tent & down sleeping bag, I slept in a “throw-back” canvas cowboy bedroll with just a Pendleton wool camp blanket to keep me warm.  When rain threatened, I put up a light-weight canvas rain fly by David Ellis strung between two of my 9’ oars.  The weather forecast was for daytime temps in the low 70’s and nights to get as low as 38 degree’s – Friday showed 50% chance of rain…  the campfire forecast was a heat-wave headed my direction if the nights got too cold or the canvas rain fly didn’t hold up.

One of our most seasoned river runners is fond of saying “there is no such thing as bad weather… just bad equipment”.  Fortunately, the weather was good and so was my canvas and wool “equipment”.  Our night-time temps never dropped below 40 degrees and the little bit of rain we got each night was perfectly repelled by the canvas rain fly over my head.  I stayed dry and warm every night!

Canvas and Wool go together like Wood Boats and White Water.  The “throwback” approach to camping was a perfect fit for the Wild and Scenic section of the Rogue River and is the only way I’ll camp in the future.   Around the campfire, canvas and wool was a “hit” and the only “heat” I caught was about the second-rate scotch I brought for this trip.

If you want to experience the authenticity of canvas and wool camping yourself, we can help.

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