I woke to the sun gently radiating its way through the mesh walls of our tent. Feeling the warmth on my cheeks, my eyes came into focus and I noticed the red and orange tones painting the canyon walls that surrounded our camp. I heard the river, as the current gracefully migrated downstream towards the ocean. This is where I want to be, with my wife, immersed in a truly beautiful and remote place on earth.
Little is comparable to the feeling we get when really out there. And nothing feels as remote as twisting your way through wilderness only accessible by boat.
Like most kids, I regularly fantasized about escaping into a world filled with adventure. In 7th grade I went on an overnight canoe trip, and as I grew older more opportunities got me outdoors. I quickly discovered that leaving the city and entering the wilderness was the best way of escaping the daily grind that so many of us tolerate. There really are places where adventure reigns, and I feel most alive when leaving cellphone range and bringing life back to the basics of food, water, shelter, and connecting with others.
We aren’t meant to live on concrete. We aren’t built to breath exhaust, while pressing buttons and connecting with others through a 4-inch touch screen.
Six million years of evolution got us here. Humans alone have been evolving for 200,000 years, and industrialization just happened some 200 years ago. Think about this. We currently live in an intense era of technology and politics, one that is defined by development and drama. And the 21st century is but a blip in time. Smartphones buzz, talking heads yammer, and an endless array of advertisements bombard us throughout our day. Sometimes we need a break. Sometimes we need an adventure. Sometimes we just need to feel like an animal again.
There are at least eight rivers in Oregon that offer an opportunity to hop in a raft and set out on a trip to remember. Of those rivers, I have three favorites—the Grande Ronde, John Day, and Deschutes.
The Grande Ronde. Flowing from the Wallowa Mountains in northeastern Oregon, the Grande Ronde offers an opportunity to really get out there. The closest town of any size, La Grande, is an hour away and only has 13,000 residents. This trip makes for an excellent 3 or 4-day adventure. It is a mellow river, boasting class II rapids and lots of wildlife. I have seen mountain goats drinking from the bank, otters swimming downstream, and countless osprey and bald eagles soaring above camp. There is a healthy population of bear and elk, and even wolves have been known to cruise the landscape. This place is raw. If you want a quiet wilderness getaway, look no further—just make sure to book a trip in May or June, as this river runs off snow melt.
The John Day. This federally designated Wild and Scenic waterway is the third longest free-flowing river in the contiguous United States. There is rich geological and cultural history along the banks of the John Day, and this is place to go if you are drawn to starry skies, day hiking, or just being engrossed in a truly wild desert ecosystem. The John Day makes for an excellent 3, 4, or 5-day trip, just make sure to book a trip for spring or early summer because this river is also seasonal.
The Deschutes. By far the most popular river in Oregon, the Deschutes offers a gorgeous adventure packed with rapids and blue ribbon trout and steelhead fishing. While more crowded than the Grande Ronde or John Day, the Deschutes is easily accessible and the perfect weekend getaway if you’re coming from Portland or Bend. The river runs year round, which makes it a great late summer or fall adventure. It’s hard not to feel totally relaxed and blessed amongst the desert cliffs and rolling hillsides.
Whatever you do, make something happen. Life is precious and fleeting, and far too often we find ourselves caught up in the day to day, looking out a window wishing we could get away. Well, you can. And I would bet my retirement account you won’t regret it.
As a final note, Cascadia Expeditions is a small outfitter, staffing excellent guides and offering a truly unique and fun experience that is founded on professionalism and safety. We would love to answer any questions you have, and would be honored to show you an adventure you’ll remember forever. Please don’t hesitate to give us a call, we’re here to help you get outdoors. Enjoy the seasons!