As a long time Middle Fork guide for ECHO, it was a little embarrassing that I’d never floated the Rogue River. It’s not because I didn’t want to. I’d been hearing stories about the wildlife, the scenery, and the rapids since I first arrived in Idaho to guide for ECHO on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. It’s just that I’d been so busy loving the Middle Fork that I never wanted to leave Idaho, but at the end of last season I got the opportunity I’d been waiting for.
I had just wrapped up a full season of guiding on the Middle Fork when I got the call from the ECHO office. There was space for me on a September Rogue trip. It was short notice. I had already packed up my summer gear for a winter in storage, but I realized I wasn’t ready to wait another year for a multiday river trip. So, I said yes, and it has been the act of saying yes, of trying new things, that has made all the difference in my life.
ECHO has been running trips on the Rogue River for decades. There is a wonderful history of fun and excitement at ECHO’s guide house in Oregon known as the double wide. Some of my favorite people in the world call this magical place their second home.
I was tagging along as an assistant boatman on this Rogue trip which meant I was responsible for my own boat but would carry no passengers. This gave me a chance to learn the river, and right off the bat the Rogue was strutting her stuff for me. On the first day, I saw a black bear close enough to kiss, watching me with a smile as I floated by. I saw bald eagles and ospreys, and I gasped with delight when huge salmon leapt out of the water right next to my raft.
There’s a playful, competitive spirit between Rogue guides and Middle Fork guides because we have mutual respect and love for each other and the wild and scenic rivers we call home. I had the privilege of working with superstar guide JR on this late season trip. JR has floated the Rogue hundreds of times, and he still smiles like a little kid up and down the river. Even after a full summer of working day after day on the river, JR’s energy made me feel like he was excited as I was to be there. Plus, he’s a magician in the kitchen. Under his leadership and spirit, we made hand-rolled sushi the first night to go along with our grilled salmon. Amazing.
The Rogue is different than the Middle Fork. It is smaller, greener, denser somehow. The rapids aren’t as varied as the Middle Fork, but they are legendary in their own ways. I was excited to see some of the places I’d heard stories about for so long, and like all rapids I’ve ever run for the first time, I was super excited and focused running the mid chute at Rainey Falls, and timing my move at the top of Blossom Bar.
The Middle Fork of the Salmon is my home, but I hope the Rogue crew will invite me along on another trip this summer, and I hope some of those Rogue guides come spend some time with us Forkies in Idaho.
Towards the end of that late season trip, I finally got to float past Tate creek — a place which must have been named for some distant relation who said yes to opportunity and adventure and ended up in Oregon from our family’s beginnings in the southeast.