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Every Spring, I feel like a homing device gets activated in me that says “Go as soon as you can to Southern Oregon”. In 1995, I went there to the Rogue River to be spend a summer as an AB (Assistant Boatman) at Sundance Expeditions. There I rowed boats on the Wild and Scenic Section of the Rogue River, learned how to kayak, and helped out with the Kayak School. Living in a tent down by the river surrounded by huge blackberry bushes and wild critters, I fell in love with the Rogue and kayaking. The following Fall, I went off to medical school – a giant shock to the system after a summer on the river – and luckily for my sanity, I was able to come back and work at Sundance every summer during Medical school and even after. So as a result of that early indoctrination, it feels not only completely natural to go back every year but also very necessary! I miss the Rogue and my good friends that I made at Sundance when I don’t go back, if I miss a year.

     So this year, after Team Trials in Buena Vista, Colorado, I headed to Oregon. Even though it has been a cold and wet Spring on the East Coast and West Coast as well as Colorado, when I got to Oregon it was sunny and warm! Snow was still topping many peaks and the melt had scarcely started due to previously cold weather. After a few warm days and looking at Flows of the Rogue as well as local creeks, we decided to head to the Middle Fork of the Applegate. It was a hot and sunny Saturday and two of my original kayaking instructors Chris and Hayden Glatte were up for the run and my good friend and former coworker at Sundance Margie Glatte – she is also married to Hayden. I often think back to how lucky I was to come to Sundance and meet Chris, Hayden and Margie. Their instruction and friendships really propelled me forward with my paddling, and I think all the time of what great teachers they were, and what I have tried to carry with me in my own teaching.

    The drive to the Applegate meanders over a ridge line back into the Siskiyous and passes the Applegate reservoir and then follows a dusty road up to a beautiful and knarly looking waterfall. We put in just below the waterfall. The middle fork of the Applegate is quite continuous especially in the top section. DreamFlows calls it continuous class III+ but I think there are a couple of class IV rapids mixed in as well. One rapid leads into the next right for the first two miles. It’s important to pay attention to the eddy service as there is a nasty undercut rapid that is often portaged near the middle of the run. Three of us portaged that day except for Chris, and it was easy to put in below. The action starts right up again and there are a number of rapids that have semi blind lead ins but clean run outs. In between, are beautiful flowers, trees and moss along the banks along with an occasional glimpse of snow covered peaks. Clear cold pools form here and there and swirly metamorphic rock forms the river bed.

     Closer to the bottom, are several more complicated pool drop style rapids with some definite moves that you have to make.  At higher water levels, one of them has a very nasty hole and that can pluck unsuspecting paddlers out of their boats. The beautiful, intimate, and pristine nature of this creek is exceptional – especially since there is a dirt road next to the river and not a 5 mile hike in! In addition to that, we saw no one on the river. About 10 minutes after we finished our run, a small raft pulled up which was also impressive to see!

     This kind of paddling with the real wilderness feel and easy access is one of the things that draws paddlers back to this area every year and keeps me coming back as often as I can! There is simply nothing like it!