Dear Rogue River Trail Runners,
Below are a few notes from our adventure.
Our incredible trail run and outdoor experience began at the Galice Resort, just outside of Merlin, Oregon, near the Rogue River trailhead. Having been on a Mediterranean cruise ship the past few weeks prior, I hadn’t acclimated yet to a resort whose pleasures centered solely around running water, bathrooms and comfort food, valuable commodities in the wilderness area we would be visiting.
My friend Dave and I showed up to this adventure in bad shape, each nursing leg injuries that we tried to magnify by hiking excessively the day before at Crater Lake. On top of that, (but in the name of science and research), we also tasted a couple of local beers the night before, which I know kept me from getting good sleep. A brilliant start!
I aggressively entered the resort and separated the runners from the fishermen and hunters and introduced myself to two of our group – Nick from Minnesota, and Robert from Texas. As the runs unfolded we would see only glimpses from behind of the strong running Nick. Robert was no slouch, and Dave remembered that we saw him the day before Forrest Gumping up the side of Crater Lake, which he confirmed. (That he was running, not that he was Forrest Gump).
We then met the rest of our running group, all at once – five folks from Toronto, Canada. I’m convinced our great northern friends could not have found a better delegation to come down and get rogue with us. On the trail Stacey later told us that her husband Mike had covertly set up the trip, a move that would have covertly triggered a divorce in my house. Stacey was tough and enduring on the trails, steadily leading our little sub group mile after mile throughout the run. Brent was an equally strong runner with a tremendous laugh and wonderful sense of humor (I say that because he seemingly always laughed at my material, which of course was very funny. It was!). Michelle was another strong runner who I can’t thank enough for watching over me and offering me her magic potions, probably when it looked like I couldn’t continue, which was a few times. Karen rounded out the group, and now gets my esteemed “warrior label” – she accomplished what no real self-acclaimed “I only run a little bit around the neighborhood” person could do – she completed this challenge with grace and no worse for the wear! I never stopped to think that maybe that’s one big Canadian neighborhood she was referring to!
While Dave made one of many Galice Resort bathroom visits – I think he’ll eventually come to appreciate this being in the official documentation, I met Jenn Shelton, the famed ultramarathon specialist, who would run with us. “Jenn, I’m Rick, from New Jersey.” “Hey, Rick, I’m Jenn.” In answer to “where are you from” she told me she lived out of her van. I later learned that this was not a Chris Farley “living in a van down by the river” answer, but more like a “live and train in Italy six months of the year and travel from airport to airport via van the rest of the time” reply, like “I’m running with you guys this week and then I’m off to Kilimanjaro next week.” As jet setty as that sounded she admitted later on that her lifestyle sometimes threw her personal possessions out of whack, like how she owned just one fork, versus four pair of cramp-ons.
We then proceeded to the trailhead, where we met Carley, and were introduced to her “stretch and name recognition” ice breaker. Fun, and best to know the names of the people you’re yelling to for help. A quick hello to guides Andy and Mike, who I’ll talk more about later, and we were poised to go. Pete presented some basic survival guidance for getting through the first day, like how to run like $&@$ from a bear! Actually, that’s what I heard – Pete put forth a logical survival strategy. He then talked about two things not in my original welcome kit – rattlesnakes and poison oak. After hearing about how I jumped over a rattlesnake sometime that first morning I have a feeling Pete may incorporate something about that into his next talk. As it turned out, my luck exceeded my stupidity on this one and I didn’t get bit.
Everything I read regarding the sheer beauty and rugged wilderness of the Rogue materialized and played out over the next three days. Words or pictures can’t capture the majesty. I will also never be able to describe the feeling I got when I was running solo along a three foot ledge, a thousand feet off the river, and saw bear droppings on the trail, reminding me they weren’t far away, and that I didn’t have a lot of escape options. That’s not to mention the bobcats and other creatures lurking out there, more things you can’t jump over.
Momentum River Expeditions, you out did yourselves with that first night location! We set up camp along a stunning bend in the river, where level three rapids provided great background sounds, as well as a healthy reminder of how we had to respect the running water. For those who still doubt any of this story I have a picture of me in my tent.
Let’s get to the food – OMG! Andy and Mike set up an unbelievable “kitchen” on the river, and over the next few days continually out did themselves with wonderful spreads. We had all kinds of fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses and dips, hot tomato soup, shrimp and beef fajitas with hearty potato’s, Brie French toast with syrup and sausages, and melted chocolate for dipping fruit, and more. The passion and eagerness to please is what really got me – the guys treated us with humble pride and thoughtful presentation! Andy carved his pineapples so that you could remove a slice, like a drawer in a cabinet. He toasted his almonds to garnish the French toast. His soup came with toasted bread and optional gobs of butter, scallions, and other accompaniments. Folks, this kitchen consisted of a table and minimal equipment, set up on a river! Everything got to camp via raft! I’m leaving out too much and not properly describing my level of amazement and satisfaction here! If I can get this story published, don’t be surprised to see Andy’s “carved pineapple on the Rogue” presentation someday in Gourmet magazine!
I can’t say enough about how Pete and the team made this experience all about “our” experience, and about “our” adventure. The team couldn’t do enough for us, and did it with great modesty, seemingly relishing the background so that the river and our experience would be the main event, not them. They also watched us closely, and were always around the next corner – to the point where I wouldn’t be surprised to someday meet Pete’s identical twin or triplet brothers. I’ve been in the business world a long time, watching people try and fail to develop a service model anywhere close to what the guys pulled off in the wilderness. For me their kindness and caring made the adventure complete and gave me a satisfaction and long lasting impression that I’ll never forget!
What fun we had off the trails! Some will return home talking about how they ran a little in between games of corn hole. We enjoyed playing the card and clue game called “Taboo” around the campfire. Who can forget Jenn’s “lots of dots, not feathers, plus victuals “ clues leading to Indian food? And how about my faulty eyesight, causing me to describe “bicycling,” when the word was really “bikini.” And then there was the lights out singing of “Country Road” – performed ten times! A special nod to Robert for some great guitar playing – another sensitive guy who told us he didn’t want to be “that guy” for stealing the show. Priceless!
Jenn and Carley were amazing – world class athletes, who like Andy and Mike and Pete, encouraged us and made it all about us, and gave of their world class hearts, so that we would have a world class time.
To my friend Dave Butterfield, who once told me I gave him the gift of trail running – he returned that gift, and more, by finding us this wonderful experience. Thank you, Dave!
So that’s my brief recap, which will inadequately try to describe the last three amazing days on the Rogue River, and the beautiful new friends I’ve made. I loved everybody on this trip and hope we can stay in touch.
A special note to Andy – if your French toast goes viral, ultimately offered on all the store shelves in America, I’ll eat it every morning, after my run.
All the best,
Rick Vegh, October, 2017