Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: Sep 2013
So, I was fortunate enough to accompany OB1 on his 3 day run and it was a blast. I thought I'd throw down a quick trip report for anyone else looking to squeeze in a quick trip down the road.
First off, my first thought when this thread was posted was why? Take your time, enjoy, yada yada. but as I followed it and offered some ideas, it began to grow on me. In the end it was a perfect little trip and a great way to get on the water. I'd do it again in a heart beat. I would still prefer 5 or better yet 6 days but that's getting harder to put together. Don't over look the sprint, it was way more fun than I would have guessed.
Flows were running in the low 200's at eagle creek and low 300's at eden and dropped slightly over the three days. The weather was spectacular, cooold the first night at camp baker, then much warmer the next two nights. Has anyone else noticed this? The coldest spot on the whole river is Camp Baker? I forget it every time but it's always way colder up there than anywhere else. Anyways back on track.
OB1 experienced catastrophic tube failure on his cat two days before we put on, so he trundled off to rent a boat the day before our launch. While he was rerigging his whole world my wife, a buddy and I rolled from Bozeman to camp baker. We got there just before dark and dumped the fully loaded boat into the river and set up camp. We toasted ob1 and his bad luck next to a fire and hoped him safe travels in the morning, they were coming down from great falls.
We ended up picking up our own permit, not being sure what OB1's thresholds were going to be weather wise and that ultimately worked to our advantage. It allowed us to pick two sites per day, giving us flexibility in case things took longer than expected or if weather rolled in. So we grabbed sheep wagon (rm 18.4) and lower sunset cliffs (23.6) the first night. Paradise bend (39.5) and lower ridge top (45.5) the last night.
ob1 showed up right on time at 7, we rigged, did our prelaunch pep talk with the rangers and hit the water a little after 9. The upper 4.5 miles can have a bit of dragging and can be great fishing so we took our time. I was hoping to be to scotty allen (rm 12) by about 1 but at noon we were just leaving indian springs. So we switched to pushing mode (fishing at marlin speed) and got to scotty allen about 2, where we discussed our timing and all decided we could slow down and fish a little more. We roughly planned on being in camp by about 6-6:30. Fishing picked up and we kept up decent speed and rolled past sheep wagon at about 5 all agreeing we were good to keep moving. We rolled into sunset at 6:40, disembarked and heated up the chili.
A bit on our rigs. I ran my 15' sotar, with two passengers. I kept the back seat open for a fishermen and it worked great. I adore the set up I have. Almost all of our gear is under decks, we had three large drybags stacked on the back bench and that was it. tons of room and rigging in the morning was a snap.
OB1 was running his newly rented outlaw. Seemed like a good little boat but I can see the concern with two piece floor. I didn't row it or ride in it so we'll all have to differ to him for details on the boat. OB1 brought along his father so he ran one passenger in his 14'er. We preplanned and cooked all of our meals, so prep was fast and simple and dishes minimal. I'd say my kitchen was about 3/4 of our normal extended overnighter rig. Other than that we had our normal camp gear; chairs, tarp set ups, two tables. So we really weren't running light.
Camp time wasn't extended my any means but we had a nice relaxing time by the fire and hit the racks fairly early. In the morning we didn't hurry, had a nice breakfast, messed with some rigging and fished a little and shoved off at 9:40. Fishing on Saturday was really good and I think everyone boated plenty of fish. We figured the three of us boated over a hundred fish throughout the day, mostly stripping or dead drifting streamers. We basically just floated, no real down rowing, no real back rowing, we just went river speed. Aside from a friendly stop for shots with happy crew from Western Montana College, all went smoothly and we rolled into Ridge Top about 6:30. At this point my wife was schnokered; obviously the shots had not been as necessary as she claimed. Needless to say she provided most of the entertainment for the evening.
Next morning we were up pretty early trying (and failing) to beat the wind. Ridge top is a normal last night stop for us, so we weren't too worried about mileage, we just wanted to beat the forecast winds. As always the stretch from rattlesnake to the cottonwoods at the sheep ranch (about 7 miles) was very windy. Fortunately it occasionally blew down river, only occasionally though. We fought our way to the ramp by 2:30 and were on the road by 4. No issues to note along the way, we did pull a t-post from the rock garden above rattlesnake "rapid". It cold have been a boat ripper, but is now high and dry.
The rangers are pushing bear gear and will be requiring IGBC certified gear next year, including fences. No DIY cattle fencing unless you get it certified. They stated that many(most, all, ??) of the forest service offices will have certification programs for retrofitted gear. A dry box in and of itself will not be considered bear proof unless it's certified. They are pushing the fences as being more cost effective, which is most likely true.
Since there is another thread on shuttles I'll throw in my opinions on shuttles and running your own. First Smith River Shuttles has done a great job with us for several years. You get a very clean, detailed and well cared for vehicle at the take out, well worth the $120 in it's own right.
As for running your own, I really only think that would work if you had folks coming from either direction. We thought long and hard about running our own and am super glad we didn't. Our situation was perfect. I could have dumped the boat, gear and passengers at camp baker and hit the gravel road and met ob1 at eden. It was the best opportunity I've ever had at running it ourselves. But as I did the math I figured it'd eat 4-5 hours of time to round trip the shuttle. That's time I'd rather spend in camp, prepping, rigging and getting to know folks. What ever you do drive the gravel road on one leg or the other if at all possible. It's one of my favorite drives around. Just check with the ranger, camp host at eden or a shuttle company, it can get pretty soupy.
Anyways it was a great trip and I'm very glad I went along. Thanks OB1 for letting me come along.
Yesterday's gone on down the river and you can't get it back. - Agustus McCrae