I woke up early today and went to the shops to get some provisions. We legged it out of the hotel and drove to the meeting point for the rafting trip, which was about half way between Roseberg and Crater Lake.
We arrived just before 10:00 for the briefing and to meet all the peeps. The guides were the standard fare - twenty something stoners who looked like they hadn't had a shower in a few days. But they were all very nice and really enthusiastic. These moments are always tense because you worry about which guide you are going to get and who else you will be sharing the raft with. One of the dudes looked a bit brain dead, so he was out. The girl who seemed to be the leader was entirely too chirpy and I figured if I had to spend five hours on a raft with her I would probably end up smacking her in the head with my paddle. But the other guide seemed pretty cool. He was a young, small guy who was keen but didn't say too much. Perfect!
They gave us some instructions and then we drove about ten or twelve miles up the river to the starting point. We chose our vests and helmets and then scampered down the embankment to the rafts. More instructions. Now I was a bit nervous. Who would be on our raft? Who would be our guide? It's all very random and usually comes down to standing in the right spot next to the right peeps. A few of the group were getting rowdy and acting like fools. I slowly shifted to my right, away from them.
In the end, we got lucky. Our raft was good - there was five of us plus the guide. Myself, Paulo, a couple and their friend. Our guide was Nick (the young, small guy), who it transpired, only graduated high school in 2004 and is just 20 years old! He was really chilled out though and we had a great time.
There were three rafts in total because the group was so big. We did two sections of the Umpqua River for a total of thirteen miles. The day was divided in two - a couple of hours before lunch and then a few hours after lunch.
The morning was fairly easy - kind of like training. there were a few rapids but a lot of very still sections. I sat in the front on the right hand side and took to my duties straight away. You just have to listen to the guide, watch the other guy in front and paddle when he paddles. It was quality!
We traveled down the river and all of us chatted, getting to know each other. Nick didn't seem interested in having us work too hard but he knew the river well and instructed us well in the tougher sections.
We stopped for lunch. More chats and some great sambos lovingly prepared by the guides.
The second part of the day kicked off and we finally got into some decent rafting. There were a lot more rapids in the second section and some of them were quite big. There are names for them as well, like 'Alligator Back', 'Frogger I', 'Frogger II', 'Eifel Tower' and 'Pinball'. We had a great time. The only thing is that because Nick was so chilled we didn't really go into the rapids as fast as we probably could have. And we didn't do much work at all in the calm parts. But, he knew every section of the river and we had the craic. There were a few sections where nobody in the raft said anything and it was great. It was so quiet and peaceful. The scenery was amazing and you could just chill out and get lost in your thoughts.
Back at the meeting point, we said our thanks and goodbyes, changed and were back in the car driving down 5S - again! We drove to Grant's Pass to try and find a bed for the night.
I haggled my way into a Travelodge for a decent(ish) price since we didn't have any coupons. We cleaned up and watched some of the Phillies-Braves game.
Once again we went out looking for somewhere to eat. As usual there was nothing going on. We pulled into Ric's Corvette Bar & Grill and remarkably they had called last order and closed the kitchen at 8:00pm! We ended up going to Angela's Mexican Restaurant which wasn't too bad. The food was OK and our waiter was a nice guy who kept referring to us as 'amigo' and 'senor'.
We were both really tired so we went back to the room and relaxed with some tele & wifi. The time is flying by and we are one day closer to the end of the trip, which is now starting to loom on the horizon...