When I woke up I knew I only had 2.5 miles to go to meet the main fork of the Owyhee river. I made short order of those miles and when I got to the confluence I was stoked to see the river was flowing. Break out the packraft!
I put on the water and it was as good as I could have imagined. The cliffs were towering over the river and I was floating along giggling at how difficult the last few days had been, and now how easy the float was.
Just in time for lunch I realized the water seeping out of some rocks were warm springs. No soaking pools, and some barely warmer than the water, but warm springs none-the-less. I pulled over where there were a few small streams, and lay down in the shallow cascade feeling like a million dollars.
There were several more warm springs before the big one – Three Forks warm springs. Right before I got there I noticed a man on the bank. I surprise him when I said hello. He was out with his grandson – Ron and Gavin had been hiking and had even tried to hike a bit of the canyon near Anderson Crossing the day after I was there. This was their first time here, and were camped out for a few days. I explained my adventure with them and it turns out Ron is a member of ONDA and he lives over in the valley! And he hadn’t even been aware of the Oregon Desert Trail.
I was approaching the Three Forks warm springs when I saw more people. In fact they were kids tubing. When I saw cascading waterfalls I knew the soaking pools were up off the river, so I pulled over I made my way up. What a blissful scene. Warm water, deep blue pools, amazing. I enjoyed my soak but there were other people around and I was enjoying my solitude, and even though I considered camping there for the night it was only 3 p.m. so I decided to push on.
I passed the Three Forks boat launch and the other Fork of the Owyhee (which was barely a trickle). I knew I had a Class IV+ rapid around the corner called the ledge. Because the water flow was so low I wasn’t sure if the rapid would be just a bunch of boulders I could navigate in the slow water, or if it would be something I would have to walk around. I have lots of experience scouting rivers with Kirk, and am comfortable in Class III. I’ve run Class IV before, but would definitely not on this trip as I’m by myself. I came into this trip feeling confident I could figure out the best course of action.
When I got there I could see a horizon line and lots of large boulders so I pulled over river right to scout. It didn’t look like the boat could fit through any of the rocks so I decided to go to river left and double check from that angle. Once I was on the other side of the river I could definitely see none of the channels were big enough for my boat, the water was just too low. So I began a slow process of walking and lining, climbing over rocks, and walking in the water to get my boat past the impossible rocks. I thought I was done but there were more, in fact the rapid seem to be about a quarter mile long before I was in calm water again. All in all it took about 45 minutes to get through that section, so it gave me some perspective on whats to come.
I floated just to while longer until I saw a sandy bench under some trees where I decided to make camp. I am exhausted but exhilarated that I made so much progress today and have started my packrafting portion on the adventure. There are a number of notable rapids coming up, but I will take each one as they come, and do what I gotta do to keep going forward.