Chasing Ghosts in the Bighorns with Greg Hatten

A Bighorn Adventure

Editor’s note: What did you do over the long weekend? Enjoy the adventures of our friend and Pendleton ambassador Greg Hatten, who took the Bighorn blanket home to the Bighorn Wilderness. 

Greg’s Journey

The Bighorn Mountains of Montana are larger than life – just like the mountain men and trappers who explored them in the early 1800s.  Many of my favorite characters from that wilderness era explored the rivers, forests, mountains and meadows as they crisscrossed their way through territory that is now called Wyoming and Montana. On a recent trip west, I set out to chase the ghosts of Jim Bridger, John Colter, Hugh Glass and retrace just a few of their paths.

A camp cot set up on the banks of a river, with a wooden boat on the river, and a Pendleton Bighorn blanket on the bed.

Much of what I saw looked the same as it did over 200 years ago – especially the skyline with the snowcapped mountains that stretched high in the blue Montana sky.  I found a clearing and camped with a view of the mountains – it snowed that night.

Photo taken inside a handmade wooden drift boat, showing the Pendleton Bighorn blanket on the boat's seat, against a backdrop of Montana mountains.

I rowed my boat down the Bighorn River where the water was icy cold and clear. It reflected the blueness of the sky in a hue that I had only seen one other place…Crater Lake Oregon.

Photo taken from within a hand-built wooden drift boat, showing a folded Pendleton Bighorn blanket on the seat, and gear packed below the boat's prow, which is poised above the waters of Montana's Bighorn river.

One night, I camped beside a small stream running fast with snow melt in the Bighorn National Forest and the trees were so thick it blocked out the night sky but felt warm and safe next to the cold water.

A camp cot and folding camp chair on the banks of a rushing river, under evergreen trees. I Pendleton Bighorn blanket is on the cot.

It was a trip back in time and my boat was the time machine that took me there. Quite a trip – quite a place.

Greg Hatten

 

The Blanket

The Bighorn blanket, by Pendleton Woolen Mills. This design is a geometric pattern of navy blue, red, and tan.

Bighorn

In 1825, the Bighorn River called famed mountain man Jim Bridger to build a raft of driftwood and ride it through the foaming rapids. Part of the river was dammed to create Bighorn Lake, but the spectacular canyon it carved remains, named for the Bighorn sheep that travel its rocky, treacherous paths. Located in Montana and Wyoming, about one third of the park unit is located on the Crow Indian Reservation. One quarter of the Pryor Mountains Wild Horse Range lies within the Bighorn Canyon Recreation Area.

See it here: Bighorn Blanket

PWM_USA_label

 

Running Wild and Scenic with Greg Hatten and OPB

Editor’s note: Our friend and brand ambassador, Greg Hatten, will be featured on Oregon Field Guide this Thursday, March 7th. Greg was part of a wild and scenic river trip led by Jeremy Starr. Enjoy his words about what’s behind the episode, and be sure to tune in! “Oregon Field Guide” airs Thursday evenings at 8:30 p.m. and repeats Sundays at 1:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. In the Mountain Time zone of Eastern Oregon, the program airs at 9:30 p.m. Thursdays, and at 7:30 p.m. Sundays. Or watch it here:

Running Wild and Scenic with Oregon Field Guide

Enjoy!

A lit canvas tent glows beside a river in Oregon, as the sun sets.

Wild and Scenic Rivers

There are 209 rivers in the United States protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968. Oregon has 58 of those which, when added together, equal almost 2,000 miles of protected, scenic river.

The Rogue River was one of the original eight rivers inducted into the program and is one of my favorites in the state of Oregon. We run it at least once a year – me and the band of rowers I run with. Our group of river runners is diverse and highly skilled in the arts of rowing, problem solving, outdoor adventure, camping, knot tying, open-fire cooking, fly fishing, river rescue and other handy skills.

The Olympic National park blanket by Pendleton on a Therm-a-Rest Cot, made up on a patch of dry ground in Oregon.

(see blanket here)

A Trip to Remember

A few months ago, on the 50th Anniversary of that legislation, we invited Oregon Public Broadcasting to join us on a tribute trip as we tipped our hats and raised our glasses to the river runners who came before us on the Rogue and charted a course we are privileged to follow every Fall.

For this trip I was privileged to row a replica boat with a design that originated in the early 1940’s – on loan from Roger Fletcher who helped build the boat that’s a perfect twin of the original double-ender on display under the shelter behind Paradise Lodge on the Wild and Scenic Rogue. Rowing a boat with such a history on this tribute trip was pretty amazing.  (I returned it to Roger after the trip in the same shape as when I picked it up – whew).

A wooden drift boat, part of a historical display, up on blocks in a shelter.

 Taking Off

As we wrapped our hands around the worn handles of our oars and pushed off from Graves Creek on an early morning last October, we were immediately swept into that “other” world of white water, jagged rocks, technical rapids, steep green mountains, and a connection with history. Our boats became time machines once again and took us back to an era where the boats were wood, the bears patrolled the river banks and otters barked at intruders. These wild and scenic rivers plunge us into a wilderness which seems as untouched and raw today as I imagine them one hundred years ago.

Morning on the river: a canvas tent and an empty wooden drift boat on a river at sunrise.

Since the winds of the west blew us together fifteen years ago, our group has rowed thousands of river miles and several thousands rapids. There is a rhythm to our routine which is second nature and familiar even though it can be months between trips.

The Oregon Field Guide crew of three had their own rhythm, having shot thousands of hours of outdoor footage together. Their heavy cameras and assorted gear was as weathered as our own river gear and showed the signs of being dragged up mountains, down rivers, and through forests all over the Pacific Northwest.

A group of river rafters eat breakfast on a riverbank, near a fire.

Both groups meshed well together from the very beginning. We shared a mission on this trip to connect people to the Rogue River and celebrate its history. We wanted to pay homage to the river runners of the Rogue even before there was a Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. We hoped to take viewers back to a time of wood boats and wilderness where they could smell the campfires and feel the dew at first light on the river.

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(see blanket here)

Frozen

So when I was asked the question, with a microphone in my face and the camera’s rolling, “Why is it so important to keep these wild places wild?” imagine my disappointment when I opened my mouth and nothing came out. I froze. In my big moment to drive the point home and talk about why these rivers should be protected I stumbled and stuttered and could not form a complete sentence with all the points rattling around in my head.

Greg Hatten steers his wooden drift boat through the rapids on the Rogue River.

photo by Dave Zielinski

I wanted to talk about how small and vulnerable we all feel when faced with the challenge of rowing a difficult rapid in such a wild and remote place. I meant to compare the vulnerability of our boats to our wild rivers and remind people that if you take your eye off the ball for even a second when rowing a boat you will lose it. Same with these wild rivers. Take your eye off the river and someone will be there to exploit it with a casino, a helicopter, a dam, a tram, mining rights, and any number of things that would compromise its character and make it less wild.

Greg hatten steers his wooden drift boat through a gentler part of the Rogue River.

photo by Dave Zielinski

Conclusions

These wild and scenic rivers are beautiful, natural, rugged, and incredible reminders of how spectacular the wilderness can be when it is undeveloped. We need these wild places as sanctuaries to visit and connect with nature in a state of raw and wild beauty. Selfishly, we want these rivers to stay wild and scenic so we can challenge our skills as river runners and outdoor enthusiasts in an environment that is primitive and demanding.

Greg Hatten steers his wooden drift boat through the rapids on the Rogue River.Greg Hatten steers his wooden drift boat through the rapids on the Rogue River.Greg Hatten steers his wooden drift boat through the rapids on the Rogue River.

photos by Jayson Hayes

We want to be able to pass this gift of unspoiled wilderness along to our children’s children – so we will continue to keep our eye on the ball to preserve our boats and our rivers just like the river stewards who came before us. When the Oregon Field Guide camera was rolling I was unable to find the words, but am quite sure the pictures and video will have a far greater impact than anything I could’ve said anyway.

You’ll have to watch the program to find out!

Greg Hatten

An evening outdoors shot, with a lit canvas tent, and an empty wooden drift boat by the shore of a small river.

 

Wild & Scenic Rivers Part One with Greg Hatten and Pendleton

Note: Please enjoy this guest post from Greg Hatten, of WoodenBoat adventure fame. He took some Pendleton blankets along on his latest river runs. Here’s his write-up!

The Painted HIlls blanket by Pendleton, at Oregon's Painted Hills. Photo and hand-built wooden boat by Greg Hatten

Wild and Scenic Rivers Act

“The great purpose of this act is to set aside a reasonable part of the vanishing wilderness, to make certain that generations of Americans yet unborn will know what it is to experience life on undeveloped, unoccupied land in the same form and character as the Creator fashioned it… It is a great spiritual experience. Unless we preserve some opportunity for future generations to have the same experience, we shall have dishonored our trust.”
Senator Frank Church (1957-1981)

In 1968, Congress passed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and President Johnson signed it into law. The primary goal was to “protect and preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations.”

Eight rivers were inducted in the original group and, now, fifty years later, there are over 200 rivers in the program. The state of Oregon has more protected rivers than any other state by far – with over 50 included in the program.

In honor of the 50th Anniversary of that legislation, I’m running several of the classic rivers that are under its protection in 2018.

Buffalo National River

I started in the Midwest with a spring high water kayak run down the upper section of the Buffalo National River in northern Arkansas. It’s 153 miles in total but I only ran a short section where it runs through the Ozark National Forest.

Greg Hatten's wooden boat on the trailer at the entrance to Lost Valley, before he takes on the Buffalo River.Greh Hatten's wooden boat waiting on the banks of the Buffalo National RiverA woman stands on a rocky outcropping, taking in a view of the Ozark Mountains. Photo by Greg Hatten

This run features a steep gradient drop, whitewater rapids and dramatic topography that includes sink holes, caves, beautiful limestone bluffs, numerous hiking trails and spectacular views of the Ozark Mountains.

Running the Deschutes River

In late May, I went out west to join up with my river running buddies for a fly fishing and camping trip on one of our favorite Wild and Scenic Rivers in the north central part of Oregon – the Deschutes. On my way through the state, I stopped just short of the river to see the Painted Hills in the John Day Fossil Bed National Monument. The Pendleton blanket I had chosen for the trip was the Painted Hills blanket and I was amazed at how the accent colors of the blanket matched the vivid hues of the hills so perfectly.

Painted Hills in the A pile of Greg Hatten's gear, including the Painted Hills blanket by Pendleton, at the John Day Fossil Bed National Monument

A rafter on the rapids of Oregon's Deschutes River. Photo by Greg HattenThe attraction of this river is the incredible native redsides that come alive in May when the hatch of large salmon flies sets off a feeding frenzy that is amazing to witness–and so much fun to fish.

A redside in the hands of a fisherman. Photo by Greg Hatten

It also features the Class IV White Horse Rapid which is the scene for probably more boat “wrecks” than any rapid in the Pacific Northwest. Another attraction of this trip? The elaborate meals cooked beside a rushing river on open fires and Dutch ovens by some of the best river chefs in the great outdoors.

A collage of campfire cookery delights. Photos by Greg Hatten.

 

RIver running gear in Greg hatten's wooden boat, including the Painted HIlls blanket by Pendleton. Photo by Greg HattenI have several more Wild and Scenic Rivers to run in 2018 – stay tuned for periodic updates.

Greg Hatten

See the blanket

Thanks, Greg! Here’s the Painted Hills blanket.

See it here: Painted Hills blanket

The Painted Hills blanket by Pendleton Woolen Mills.

Rising from the dry plains of Eastern Oregon, bare earth undulates in folds of scarlet, ochre, and yellow. These are the Painted Hills, whose brilliant stripes inspired this design and were created by oxidized mineral deposits in layers of volcanic ash. Adventurers who want to take a road trip into the past can see the hills, visit the nearby John Day Fossil beds and explore the ghost towns of this remote part of Oregon’s landscape. 

• Unnapped 
• Ultrasuede® trim; twin is felt-bound 
• Pure virgin wool/cotton 
• Fabric woven in our American mills 
• Dry clean 
• Made in USA