We had quite an adventure on the John Day River this past week. The river was quiet and serene and peaceful. The beauty of the cliffs and canyon was incredible. The stillness and silence in most areas was total, and wonderful. Occasionally there would be a bit of fast water, cheerfully gurgling along, rippling over the smooth rocks and sand bars. Our plan was 47 miles of peaceful river floating and camping with good friends.
We saw no one else but lizards, chukars, a snake, a wild goat, and 4 fishermen with a dog. Evidently, this was because the rest of river-loving humanity interpreted “20% chance of rain” more wisely than we did. We believed in the odds–that the 80% chance of no rain–would hold for us . . . we floated 8 miles down the river. We set up a lovely campsite on a black sand beach, and enjoyed a terrific spaghetti dinner with salad, garlic bread and wine. We sat around our flourescent lantern (campfires being prohibited in the canyon) talking until late. As we said goodnight, we noticed that we could not see the stars in the dark sky . . . the wind was picking up . . .
The first raindrops plunked down around 2 a.m. It continued, light but steady, a gentle drumming on trees, river, rocks, and tents. No one slept well.
The rain let up a bit around 6 a.m. The sun even peeked out. We decided that we would head for the next take-out place, the ranching hamlet of Twickenham, Oregon, approximately 5 miles further downstream. We had breakfast, loaded up the rafts, and headed out. The sky was ominous. There were a couple of booming peals of thunder that echoed off the cliff walls. The danger of flash floods and lightning strikes was real. We rowed as quickly as we could. The scenery, even in the rain, was breathtaking. We all emerged safely from our adventure, a bit disappointed but still grateful to have had a chance to see this beautiful remote wilderness. We are planning another trip in the future, to see all of the 47 miles of river we had set out to explore. This time with sunshine.