23 August 2007

The 2007 OregonSAGA Great Willamette River Tour

My new home geocaching group, Salem Area Geocachers Assoc., has been hosting their discussion forums on Yahoo! Groups for some time now, although we recently established a phpbb board. A couple of weeks ago, someone mentioned that they were going to make a geocaching float trip down the Willamette River, notably one of the few north-flowing rivers in the northern hemisphere, one upcoming Sunday morning. There are several geocaches along the river that are either only accessible by water, or at least more easily accessible by water. Many folks, including myself, immediately shouted “OOO! OOO! Me, too! Me, too!” There was such a response that the original poster decided to make a geocaching event.

Geocaching.com will not approve events for get-togethers specifically for the purpose of hunting geocaches, so my friend made this a breakfast event. People were free to come only to the breakfast and still be able to log the event. With that approved, we met at the nearby McD’s for breakfast, and then several folks continued on to the float trip. Taking all three of our kids out to eat, even fast food, is a bit of a chore, as is getting up and out of the house at an early hour, but we made it and managed to have a decent breakfast and chat with a few folks before heading out.

There were a few geocachers back home in West Tennessee who also liked canoeing, but I was never able to hook up with any of their trips. The Mississippi river is way too big to safely canoe or kayak, the Loosahatchie has been so channelized it’s kinda boring, and the Wolf is full of snags that would dump a newbie like me, so I was thrilled to get up here next to the Willamette, a sedate little river (except during high water, or so I’m told) perfect for a novice. I may even get my own boat. I’d prefer a canoe, though. Never felt comfortable with a kayak. Somehow I don’t cotton to the idea of a vessel that, when they teach you how to use it, the first thing they go over is how to right yourself WHEN (not IF, WHEN!) you capsize!

In any event, my darling wife was kind enough to stay on dry land with our oldest while the other three of us put out to sea. This small, one man trip turned into a six boat fleet! There were at least 15 of us out there! I had arranged to ride in the canoe with the trip leader, who is 6’ 9” and about 375lbs (goes by the geocaching name KenSquatch). I had never set butt in a canoe before, but I think I did okay for a first timer, though I was as much ballast as anything else. Our four year old, LilSpencersb, rode in the middle of our canoe, and Chicklet rode in a Kayak with another new friend, Dragon’s Passion for Caching. We drove up river about 15 miles from downtown Salem to Buena Vista, after dropping a vehicle at Independence, and finally got in the water about 11:30 AM.

Not too long into the trip, I managed to snap my paddle in two! The jagged end tore about an inch long gash in my right palm. I guess I was gripping it too high with my right hand and trying to push too hard in the water. Seems like we were trying to pass a certain Chicklet-bearing kayak at the time.
The caches we found were pretty standard fare, nothing spectacular, but fun and well-placed. One was soaked due to a substandard container (nothing beats ammo cans, but at least use a Lock&Lock). On the last one, MaryAnn's Island, my canoeing partner decided that my injured hand was not a sufficient battle wound to mark our journey and proceeded to fall off a fallen log, leaving two nice skid marks up one shin and a few other strawberries. It was also at that last stop that we found some solace in a patch of wild blackberries! Back home, they never seem to really get ripe and sweet, so there’s no reward to offset their thorns, and they are nothing but a nuisance. This patch was ripe and sweet, and we left it a little lighter than we found it!

We finished the trip with about a 3 mile section of the river, sometimes with a nice current, sometimes needing to paddle. We had planned to continue on to downtown Salem and a couple of caches there, but by the time we reached Independence, it was 4PM, we were tired and hungry, and just not up for another three or four miles. We disembarked there, where Ken’s wife and mine met us with the vehicles and a van-load of sandwiches I’d made the night before. They were a welcome respite after a long day on the river! (Note to self: take snacks ON the boat next time!)>

[My now-ex-wife] and Ken’s wife Debbie had found 7 land caches while we were on the river, a new one day record for [my now-ex-wife]. Timothy had been a little snotty all day, as he doesn’t like to ride much, but all in all, we all had a great day. The weather could not have been better! While Memphis was sweltering through several straight days of 100+ temps, it was overcast and about 70 degrees for our trip, nearly perfect, even a tad chilly on the water with a light breeze. It was the kind of geocaching trip that makes me remember why I love it, and one I’ll remember for years to come. It was so well received, that Ken says he’ll make it an annual event. Keep and eye out for the 2008 OregonSAGA Willamette River Tour.

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