Wild and Scenic Rivers Part Two with Greg Hatten and Pendleton

We continue our series with Greg Hatten’s Woodenboat adventures on rivers protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers act. In this installment, Greg’s team approaches the run of a lifetime. 

Greg Hatten's rig packed for adventure, including a Pendleton Chief Joseph blanket. Photo by Greg Hatten

Frank Church Wilderness

In June I took my wooden boat down the River of No Return in the Frank Church Wilderness of Idaho. The Middle Fork of the Salmon was one of the original eight rivers inducted into the Wild and Scenic program and the bill was written and championed by Senator Frank Church of Idaho. This trip was special for so many reasons – mostly, because I got to row it alongside some of the best guides and woodenboat river runners on the planet…the Helfrich crew.

Greg Haten in his wooden boat on River of No Return in the Frank Church Wilderness of Idaho. Photo by Greg Hatten

The degree of difficulty of rowing this river in a fragile wooden boat was at the high-end of anything I had ever rowed. From the very first oar-stroke, the extreme gradient drop and rocky rapids provided non-stop rowing action the entire first day. For the five mile start through Sulpher Slide, Hell’s Half Mile and the Class IV Velvet Falls, I had just enough time to catch my breath between rapids and cast an occasional glance around at the beauty and rawness of the river wilderness and steep canyon walls we threaded our boats through.

The absence of dams on this river gives us a truly wild river to run – where the river level and conditions are dictated by the weather, the snow melt, the vertical drop, and the rock slides which change sometimes every year. Nothing controlled or contrived about the Middle Fork – it is in it’s natural state – rugged and raw and almost “untouched” by a human hand.

Greg Hatten and crew in Greg's wooden boat.

Middle Fork

After ten years of unsuccessful lottery applications, my usual band of river runners finally drew a permit to run the Middle Fork in 2017. We planned for months and made preparations with more excited anticipation than any trip we had ever planned. A week before the June trip we got word that the unusually heavy rains and spring storms caused a river that was too high to run safely and an access road that was too littered with downed trees and rock slides to open in time for our trip. River was closed and the permit revoked.

Greg Hatten makes camp on the banks of the Middle FOrk of the Salmon RIver, with his cot, Pendleton blanket, and boats in the distance.n Photo by Greg Hatten

Looking beyond the disappointment, we appreciated the fact that the river is subject to the changing conditions of Mother Nature – which means that sometimes it’s just un-runnable.

A collage of campfire cooking and chow. Photo by Greg Hatten.

A dam to tame it and provide easier access is a terrible trade-off – even if it meant that we would have to return to the river of no return to run it one day when the conditions were more favorable and mother nature was more cooperative. We have the Wild and Scenic Act to thank for that – and we were all grateful for it.

“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)

A stunning photo of the Chief Joseph blanket by Pendleton, against the backdrop of a snowcapped peak and a river. Photo by Greg hatten.

Featured blanket: Chief Joseph

First woven in the 1920s, this USA-made wool blanket has been one of our most popular designs ever since. Chief Joseph led the Nez Perce tribe native to northeastern Oregon in the late 1800s. Widely admired for protecting his people and speaking the truth, he is honored with this design, symbolizing bravery. Bold arrowheads represent the chief’s courage, strength and integrity.

The Chief Joseph blanket by Pendleton Woolen Mills.

See all the options here: Chief Joseph blanket

Introducing the Olympic National Park Blanket!

A New Park Blanket

Pendleton is proud to unveil our latest national park blanket, celebrating Washington state’s Olympic National Park. See it here: Olympic National Park Blanket

Bed-shot-Olympic

The colors of this blanket pay homage to the Olympic National Park in our neighboring Washington State. This unique region is famous for its varied ecosystems—from rugged coastlines and dense old-growth forests to glacier-capped alpine peaks and lush rainforests.

THe Olympic National Park blanket, by Pendleton, next to a closeup of the blanket's lable, which features a drawing of a Roosevelt elk silhouetted by Ruby Beach, with wildflowers in the foreground.

This very special design uses a ground of heather grey with two bands of stripes in muted, natural tones. Fans of our national park blankets can attest to the fact that we don’t usually use heathered yarns in this group, making this blanket uniquely beautiful, just like the park for which it’s named.

The Park

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…Diversity is the hallmark of Olympic National Park. Encompassing nearly a million acres, the park protects a vast wilderness, thousands of years of human history, and several distinctly different ecosystems, including glacier-capped mountains, old-growth temperate rain forests, and over 70 miles of wild coastline. https://www.nps.gov/olym/index.htm

Rainforests

Visitors to the Pacific Northwest are often surprised to learn about our rainforests. The entire area was once home to a huge rainforest that stretched from Oregon’s southern coast to southeastern Alaska. Why? Because of our bountiful, wonderful (and sometimes depressing) level of rainfall.

The Olympic National Forest receives 12 to 14 feet of rain per year, with temperatures that rarely dip below freezing or rise above 80 degrees. These temperate, damp conditions allow rain forests to thrive, nourishing an array of vegetation: mosses, ferns, Douglas fir, red alders, Western hemlocks and Sitka spruce. As in all rain forests, downed trees become “nurse logs,” fertile places where seeds grow, animals nest and insects burrow.

Hoh_rainforest

Olympic National Park is home to four rain forests; Hoh, Quinault, Queets and Bogchiel. Quinault Rain Forest is home to the world’s largest Sitka spruce. This tree is more than 1,000 years old, 191-feet-high with a 96-foot spread. Aside from the Redwoods of California, Quinalt holds the largest trees in America—and, a gorgeous lake! Read more about a wooden boat  trip to Lake Quinalt by our friend Greg Hatten here: Lake Quinalt.

Mountains

The Olympic Mountains are part of the Pacific Coast Ranges. They’re not especially high – Mount Olympus is the highest at 7,962 ft (2,427 m)–but its eastern slopes rise out of Puget Sound from sea level, making for a towering ascent. The range’s western slopes are the wettest place in the 48 states thanks to—you guessed it—rain! That 12 to 14 feet of rain we mentioned earlier.

Hurricane_Ridge

Hurricane Ridge, at a mile above sea level, offers an unmatched view of the Olympic Mountains. You can observe right there, or take off on hiking trails. You can even take an off-road ready rig up two narrow dirt roads–Obstruction Point or Deer Park—to take in some incredible views of snow-capped mountains.

Beaches

As part of its varied landscape, Olympic NP contains a 73-mile long stretch of wilderness coast. The rocky headlands, beaches, tidepools and sea stacks are wild and undeveloped. Ruby Beach—named for ruby-like crystals that are found in deposits of the beach’s sand–has been attracting artists and photographers for decades, thanks to its unique sea stacks.

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By Adbar – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27301905

Wildlife

We love our animals out here, and Olympic NP is full of them. Old growth preserves provide unique and safe habitat for several endangered species, including the northern spotted owl. Birdwatching in the park is popular, with over 250 species of birds. The mountain meadows draw blue grouse, woodpeckers, gray jays, and more. At the coast, keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles.

On land, several species are found only in the Olympic forests: The Olympic marmot, Olympic snow mole and Olympic torrent salamander. Cougars, bobcats and bears are just a few of the carnivores that roam and hunt these forests. For a full list, see here: https://www.nps.gov/olym/learn/nature/mammal-species-list.htm And don’t forget the ocean. Offshore, the waters that wash the beaches of Olympic NP are home to whales, dolphins, sea lions, seals, and sea otters.

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Other things to remember about visiting the area:

  • The Olympic peninsula was once one of the PNW’s best-kept secrets until a certain book series ignited interest in the area. If that’s your jam, Forks is VERY close to the park, as are La Push and Port Angeles.
  • If you would like to set foot on the westernmost  point of the contiguous 48 states, you can do it at Cape Alava, Washington (48.16974° N, 124.73004° W) during low tide, by walking out to the west side of Tskawahyah Island. Cape Alava is accessible via a 3-mile boardwalk hike from a ranger station in the park.
  • Dogs are not allowed in most of our national parks. But Olympic has dog-friendly trails where you can hike with your pooch, as long as you follow a few rules. Read more here: pets in Olympic National Park

So snuggle up in the made-in-the-USA warmth of the Olympic National Park blanket and start planning your visit. The Pacific Northwest wonderland awaits.

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Greg Hatten visits Badlands National Park

Travels with Greg

A dirt road in South Dakota, with a vehicle in the distance.

Ed. note: Our friend Greg Hatten took a small detour to Badlands on his way home from Oregon this year. And since our #pendle10park explorer has shown us so many photos of spires and stacks, we thought we’d share Greg’s beautiful prairie shots, as the prairie is a huge part of this beautiful South Dakota park. Enjoy!

In the Badlands National Park, there is a Wilderness Area where bison, coyotes, prairie dogs, and snakes make their homes. You can be a guest there and share this space with them – at least for a night or two.

Prairie with prairie dogs

Look closely; there be prairie dogs in this photo.

Bison through the rig's window

Ed. note: We love the bison here, but we also love the national park stickers on Greg’s windshield. These were an enticement to the early motorists traveling from park to park. Like this (this is not Greg, though):

A photo from the 1920s, a woman shows off her national park visitor stickers, which threaten to block her windshield!

Now, back to Greg’s story in the present day.

It’s the primitive camping area at Sage Creek in the North Unit of the park and if you take the rutted dusty “rim road” on the north side of the Badlands park you will find it – tucked between the gentle bluffs and rolling hills of buffalo grass in South Dakota – just southeast of Rapid City and the Black Hills.

Greg's rig parked at Sage Creek.

As I pulled into the area, it was a warm day for October and the only signs of life were a couple of bison calmly grazing who didn’t even look up as I rolled by in my FJ Cruiser pulling my little wooden boat. A ring-necked rooster pheasant was quite a bit more shy but still curious about the sound of loose gravel crunching beneath the tires. My window was down and I took a quick photo just before he put his head down and disappeared in the tall grass.

Making camp.
Camping with the Badlands National park blanket by Pendleton

While there are no rivers to “float” in the Badlands, I was towing my boat through the park on my way to the midwest for a little off-season repair work. I’m so used to camping next to the boat on the river, it somehow seemed to “fit” in this rustic setting. If nothing else, I figured it would be a nice wind break for my campsite. I picked a level spot for the tent that was in-between buffalo “pies” that were stale and crusty and no longer smelled. The canvas tent blended with the terrain and when camp was “set”, I pulled out my lap-top and did some late afternoon writing as the sun set and the temperatures started dropping.

A susnet over the proarie

Greg’s post has a lot of beautiful photos and much more story. Read the rest here: Find Your Park in a Wooden Boat: Badlands

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A Woodenboat Adventure: Greg Hatten in Rocky Mountain National Park

Greg Hatten runs the rapids at Rocky Mountain National Park

Our friend Greg Hatten…

…took a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park this year. The trip brought him some memories, some nostalgic and some frightening moments.

Says Greg:

Rocky Mountain National Park was established in 1915 and is one of the most visited parks in the entire National Park system. It’s located in north central Colorado and has so many incredible natural features it can take days to experience them all.

It was the first National Park I ever visited and when I was 10 years old Smokey the Bear seemed real, the Park Rangers in their pressed wool uniforms and flat brimmed hats were super heroes, and the park itself was an outdoor paradise just waiting for me to explore each year on family trips.

Gear includes a Pendleton blanket and mug

With all the beautiful waterfalls, hiking trails, snowy peaks, and colorful meadows of the Rocky Mountain National Park, the feature I most wanted to see on my recent trip was the headwaters of the Colorado River.

In Rocky Mountain National Park, the 1,400 mile Colorado River comes to life as a babbling little brook several hundred miles upriver from the Grand Canyon. A few weeks ago I trailered my fully restored and freshly repainted Portola across the plains of Kansas toward the headwaters of the Colorado River.  I had a lot of miles to think about that experience.

Greg;s beauriful wooden boat, a replica of the original Portola, by a lake.

Since it was before Memorial Day, the park area seemed to be just waking up from winter.  A few of the campgrounds were opening and most were unoccupied, new park rangers were still training for the upcoming season, and patches of snow were as numerous as the visitors were sparse.

Camping by the river
Campfire cookery

The river snaked its way in lazy “s” curves through a valley that seemed to have 1,000 shades of green and then it rounded the corner and disappeared into a deep, dark canyon in the distance. We set up camp on that scenic stretch of the Upper Colorado River just outside Rocky Mountain National Park with towering bluffs on one side and dramatic peaks on the other.  The flat valley beside the river had a rough-hewn log fence that ran the length of the river and when we set up our cots and canvas tents, it looked a little bit like a civil war encampment.

Tents, river runners, and sunshine
Closeup of the label on a ROcky Mountain blanket

More information

There are adventures galore in this post! You can read the rest here at Greg’s blog:  Greg Hatten at Rocky Mountain National Park

Pendleton for the National Parks: SHOP HERE

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