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Hurtling Toward Greatness (At Least In Oregon House)

Another expedition into the Wilds…

For literally decades I have wondered about the course of the unnamed tributary (pictured below) in Oregon House, California. Recently, on a trip to Oregon House with Brandon and Amanda, I made an offhand comment about my desire to explore this watershed and, although it was late in the day, we immediately decided that now was a good time to fulfill that desire. After all, there is no time like the present and who doesn’t love instant gratification? Now, Katie and I took a shot at a descent several years ago, but with the utmost reluctance were forced to abandon our operation due to extreme weather conditions and serious injuries. I vowed to complete the mission this time no matter the price…

The tributary I am referring to is crossed by two bridges – one along Rices Crossing Road and the other, larger section, by Marysville Road… The tributary drains into the Dry Creek watershed, but I knew nothing more than that. And it was haunting me…

The bridge along Marysville Road which was our access point…

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The river/tributary is the one with this view from Marysville Road…

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And this view on the other side…

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As soon as we got down below the bridge, we found a fair amount of new mining equipment. I was surprised to see this mining activity here, but I suppose I should not have been given the surge in gold prices and the ongoing decline of the dollar…

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The view back toward the bridge as we started downstream…

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Faces into the wind and starting our descent…

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Conditions soon deteriorated, which would send all but the most intrepid and determined explorers back… Here Amanda battles through an awful tangle of non-native, invasive blackberries and poison oak…

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One is soon forced into the deep water to make forward progress. At this point, Amanda (perhaps wisely) decided “fuck this” leaving Brandon and me to carry on alone…

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At some points, forward progress through the river is literally impossible. As such, we were forced to cut overland and then drop back down the cliffs into the river as we are doing here…

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The ecosystem changes dramatically as one proceeds down…

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The river has carved straight down to the granite bedrock in most places…

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This waterfall is bigger than it looks in the picture…

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Interesting plants along the way…

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Bloodied and exhausted, but on the verge of greatness… The waters of Dry Creek become visible. This channel leads up to Thousand Trails. And the waters of the Ames estate drain into that watershed…

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Old growth manzanita near the confluence…

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Success! It may not look like much, but this is the confluence of the two waterways…

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Simply achieving our goal was not enough though. We felt compelled to forge on downstream into the unknown… Which we did until we arrived back at the known (at least to me) – a landmark known by locals as “China Dam” I have no idea if this is true, but I was told the name originates from the Chinese workers that built the diversion dam around the time of the Gold Rush to access the gold beneath the location of the dam.

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The view back upstream from where we had just descended…

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This section of the diversion dam has collapsed…

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Time to head out to rendezvous with our support team. The way out is to go straight up this cliff…

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However, that soon gives way to this road. There is an old abandoned trailer near the top now. As we were ascending, we noticed a sketchy looking man standing in the doorway assessing us. I’m sorry I didn’t take a picture because the scene was remarkable. However, I wasn’t sure if we were stumbling across a clandestine meth lab or a serial killer’s den. So, I was in fight mode and not thinking of performing my duties as a documentarian. The gentleman turned out to be perfectly friendly (although I don’t know how he lives there) and so after a brief chat, we were on our way…

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Embedded with our support team again, we prepared to embark on a new expedition when an emergency phone call summoned us to the Ames estate. A forest fire was raging out of control and the fire response team was on the verge of collapse after five hours of valiant, but fruitless efforts battling the blaze. Reinforcements were desperately needed. Not a crew to ignore a call to arms, we rushed to the scene to assist with the evacuation proceedings and fire suppression…

Arriving at the front lines, none of us hesitated to plunge into the inferno…

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A refugee of the firestorm, wishing to return to her nest in a still burning tree…

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Brandon goes to work on a smoldering log in an effort to support a line of defense against the ongoing catastrophic forest fire…

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The “Hot Shot” fire team… Left to right – Justin Ames, Brandon Boers and Jimmy Ames. And, no, that is not a Hitler mustache my father is sporting, but ashes from the fire smudged on his face…

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The fire now somewhat contained, but not yet out, we were able to relax a little and revert to our natural immaturity…

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Brandon won our impromptu ax-throwing contest with this solid hit…

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Bold explorers one hour and fearless firefighters the next – a typical day of awesomeness…

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