All photos: Priscilla Macy
Priscilla and I drove down in the morning to meet our OTT friends of old and new, did a quick load and were on the river before 11. Things went smoothly that first day, with Aaron and Priscilla telling me all the cool stuff about the river they had learned over years of guiding the Rogue. Near the end of the day we dropped off my kayak at the mouth of Mule Creek before lodging just downstream.
We woke early-ish the next morning and I headed upstream to get my boat and start hiking up the creek. Water levels were reasonable, but low-ish with the Rogue around 10,000 cfs at Agness. We got to the bridge where the stream forks and we continued up the West Fork, excited by the rapid visible from the bridge.
As we hiked upstream it became clear that portaging was not always going to be an option. Luckily it looked from the trail like everything went.
Eventually we hit out planned time to put in (9am) which corresponded to about 3/4 miles up the West Fork (I suspect there is harder whitewater above where I put in). Priscilla helped rope me into the gorge, then ran back down the trail with a throw rope keeping an eye/ear on me in case I reached a point where a vertical extraction was needed. The run was neat with clean, easy rapids in a deep gorge. The base of the gorge was often just over a boat length wide. I would call the run classic class III(IV). There was only one rapid I ran, where had the portage been easier I may have taken it. This was a class III with a log creating a hazard and tight move. Later on I was happy with the low flow when I had to portage over a root wad jammed into the heart of the gorge. Aside from those spots, there was only one other portage (easy) and wood was of no further concern and it was just neat drops at the bottom of a tight gorge. Just downstream of the root wad portage was the rapid at the confluence. This rapid was fun and I enjoyed the runout to the Rogue.
Jack be Nimble
I paddled down to the lodging location while Priscilla jogged, we met up with the rest of our crew about 10 minutes before our planned departure. I hopped on the raft as the oarsmen expertly negotiated the rapids between here and our second specimen to be examined for the day (Stair Creek Falls). Upon arrival the team set to work shuttling people/gear to where they needed to be and giving me valuable information about the issues with the drop. In the end it was decided I would run the upper 15 foot falls and steer clear of the lower drop. Some rope work was needed, but we had some good beta on access from Alan Bergman and before long all was set for me to run the drop. It was a straight forward lead in to a deep water boof, not very difficult but oh so fun!
Straight forward lead in
After the drop Priscilla helped rope me and my boat out of the canyon and we headed back to the Rogue and downstream to our take out. With the high water most of the rapids were reduced a class, but the large boils were neat to see and we moved along quickly. The most challenging part of the day was reining in a bladder at capacity for the last 20 minutes to the take out. The 3 hour shuttle was unpleasant, but was quickly remedied by a top notch film found at the OTT head quarters titled "Slammin Salmon", which was an hours worth of 90s raft carnage on the Cal-Salmon.
A parting shot looking downstream from the bridge at the Mule/WF Mule confluence.
If I were to repeat this run, I would continue hiking to where the stream forked again at "the ruins" before putting on. I believe this extra hiking would add more notable rapids.
Naming the rapid Jack be Nimble: A mule is the offspring of a male donkey (jack) and a female horse (mare). The line on the rapid was not a point and shoot, it require nimble maneuvering to keep from colliding with the walls. I don't imagine the breeding of two different species being straight forward either.