Ashland, Oregon gave me my first experience with Couchsurfing (www.couchsurfing.org), and I’m happy to say it was a great one. The couple I stayed with were roughly the same age as my parents, and they reminded me a lot of the old Montana hippies I grew up around every summer as a child. They go river rafting and pick wild mushrooms in the hills and have that same giant collection of books my folks do – the kind that’s a mix of Oprah Book Club novels with obscure plant books and a few from whatever genre has titles like The Girl Who Fell from the Sky.
In fact, all of Ashland reminded me of Montana. The rolling hills on either side, the festival, the fly fishing, the fact that everything closes at 9PM. The Rogue River was on my list of things to do and see in Oregon, though the recommendation never came with any specifics on where I should go to enjoy it. I was a little worried it was the kind of knowledge only people in the area would know, and I was afraid I might miss it. I was relieved when I came across a couple viewpoint spots along the river on my way down to Ashland. I hoped that seeing the old lava flow features and the natural land bridges were what people meant when they said I should see the Rogue.
But then of course my Ashland hosts, David and Kerry, have their own inflatable raft and offered to take my on a float down the Rogue River itself. For those who’ve never had the opportunity to go rafting down a gorgeous river, the way it generally works is you have two vehicles: one is towing the raft and gets parked at a public boat ramp up stream. The second is parked downstream, so when you arrive you can use it to go get the other car, and come back to pick up the raft. We dropped off Kerry’s adorable Mini Cooper at our pull-out point, and after a brief detour to go on a nature walk for members on the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy, we took the truck up river to start our float. We were about 90 seconds down the river when Kerry realized she’d left the keys to the Mini on the backseat of the truck, and we paddled full steam to get over to the shore as fast as we could. We met an old man trying to start up the engine on his fishing boat at his private dock, and asked if one of us could walk up his property to go back to the put-in spot and get the keys out of the truck. “Sure,” he said, “Just pull up on the side of the dock there.” He pointed to the north end of his dock, then turned back up to the house and yelled “Norma!”
David and I stayed at the dock with our new friend Ted, while Norma drove Kerry back to the rest area to get the keys out of the truck. According to Norma this sort of thing happens to them about five or six times every summer, and we’re welcome to walk through their property if ever this happens when they’re not home. When told that we would never be forgetting the car keys again, Norma replied, “Well you just don’t know that!”
With keys in hand, we continued our float down the river, talking politics, my trip, and the giant ornate houses along the river that were built by a man with “Vegas money.” When we’d hit some rapids, David would start calling out commands to the two of us in front for how we should paddle. Kerry was smiling and I thought she was going to sprain something with how often she rolled her eyes at him. Such is marriage.
I couldn’t help but smile myself, remembering my worries about missing the river. Here I was sitting in it, basking in the hot southern Oregon sun. David mentioned he had this dream of floating the whole length of the Rogue one day, from the head waters up by Crater Lake all the way to the Pacific. Two days after my float on the Rogue and four days after my day at Crater Lake, I was driving along the Oregon coast and saw the end of the Rogue River as it spilled into the ocean. So I guess that was my Rogue River journey. Hopefully David will find the time to go on his.