By Bill Peckham
The trip was a 100% success. The only disappointment was that one of the dialyzors, Jim, wasn't able to go due to illness in the days before the start. We were able to fill Jim's two spots at the last minute; Megan and Sasha didn't know they were going until three days before they found themselves running rapids on the Rogue. Dan and Connie drove in from Salt Lake City on Sunday, both he and I dialyzed the night before the trip so we could take the first night off (both our machines went down the river in their air travel cases).
The other seven members of our twelve person party (we had 19 total, three people just happened to have signed up for the trip before I picked the date, plus four guides) were a great mix: Doug, Kathy, Cheryl, Lauren and Kyle all came in from DCI. Kay from NxStage (previously working at DCI). And Gary who runs RenalWEB. Our group got along really well, no doubt assisted by the copious amounts of alcohol that also went down the river .... but, what happens on the Rogue, stays on the Rogue. In this post I'll just overview the logistics and dialysis component.
I drove down to Grants Pass on the 17th and dialyzed that night in the hotel for the forth night in a row (I dialyzed the fifth night too). On Sunday while everyone else arrived during the day and into the evening, I stopped by Rogue Wilderness Adventures (RWA) to meet up with Scott who would be leading our trip. Scott took one look at the NxStage's metal air travel case and knew exactly how he'd pack it to take it down the river. From that moment, until we were hauling the rafts out of the river at the end of the trip, the RWA staff were consummate professionals. If you're going to take a trip down the Rogue, with or without a dialysis machine, the guide service is no place to cut corners. Go with the best, most experienced service you can find; on the Rogue that's Rogue Wilderness Adventures.
Scott used some straps and the metal frame that's lashed to the large inflatable raft to create a cradle for the travel cases. In this way the frame could hold the two cyclers side by side, suspended about 3 or 4 inches above the actual raft floor. It was perfect. Aside from the NxStage cycler I had to keep dry the NxStage dialysate warmer. Scott had a solution for that too. I have the original foam packaging and together, the warmer and its packing foam, fit perfectly in a water tight ammo box Scott had on hand. It was as if the box was made to hold the warmer. The rest of the dialysis supplies (and personal gear) fit in various dry bags - waterproof duffel bags, able to hold about two carry on sized pieces of luggage.
We started down the river Monday morning with four inflatable kayaks and four rafts, one guide per raft. The guides: Scott, Gina, Keith and Mike are awesome. Mike's raft had a pile of dry bags and provisions. He stayed ahead most of the time getting to the lunch spot or to the lodges before us. Keith's raft had the cyclers and room for up to three people to ride down river, no paddling required. Kyle used the perch at the front of Keith's raft to shoot a lot of good action video of the rest of our group running the rapids in the two smaller rafts and four kayaks. We took turns between using the kayaks and paddling in the rafts.
The inflatable, one person kayaks are a lot of fun. That said, I am a terrible kayaker. I fell in the water twice just trying to get into the things and I was the only one who wiped out twice in the white water ... I think there will be video of me going over backwards in the first rapid we came to, an easy rapid that I found a way to make a lot harder. Aside from the kayaks the other exciting way through the rapids was in Scott and Gina's rafts, which were propelled by the paddling of the passengers, up to six at a time. I'm sure Scott and Gina could have gotten through the rapids using their long oars at the back of the raft but we provided their turbo, paddling forward or back at their command.
Having to paddle also meant that you had to perch on the raft's outer pontoon, exposed to the rapids breaking from all sides, but those riding in the front saw the most water. With temperatures in the high 80s/low 90s the water felt refreshing. During a few stretches we floated the river in our life jackets. Three people swam (on purpose (not me)) a rapid, but for the most part we only swam on the flat sections. RWA does not condone jumping off of rocks into swimming holes but if I did jump off any rocks into a swimming hole it would have been at a little swimming hole on a creek just up river from Paradise Lodge.
The lodges were outstanding. The first lodge Black Bar, is rustic with about 10 cabins and a main building strung along a forest path above the river. There is an upper and lower Black Bar lodge, we were at the lower, but I believe they have about the same amenities - hot showers, hard beds and lights off between 10PM and 7AM. The main cabin had a deck that we dragged a couch onto and from there we recounted the day's adventures while being refreshed by cold beverages. Inside two large tables could seat the whole group for dinner and breakfast.
As nice as Black Bar is, Paradise Lodge is a whole other level. Paradise has over 50 beds in five or six structures. We had the Garden House that is across the cow pasture/landing strip from the main lodge. It has an assortment of rooms with four, two or one bed. I don't know what I expected but this was ideal. In addition to being able to sleep 14 or 15 people the Garden House has a large conference room with couches, a long table and recliners! Dan and I set up our dialysis right there, I couldn't have been more comfortable.
I admit to some nervous excitement as I set up my machine for my treatment Tuesday night. We had run Blossom the big rapid of the trip, just before arriving at Paradise. To keep the cycler dry I had taped the seam of the travel case; between the tape, the slings Scott rigged and Keith's expert handling of the raft I really had nothing to worry about, the machine worked without a single hitch. I dialyzed Tuesday night and took Wednesday completely off. Dan dialyzed both Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon.
Wednesday was a free day - we stayed at Paradise all day. I hiked up to the top of Deak's peak over looking the ranch and the Rogue River valley. It was a treat to have a day just to relax and hang out without any electronic communication. I wondered if our highly connected group would miss 24/7 email access but after the first rapid I don't think anyone gave email or the "Bundle" another thought (well maybe a few thoughts).
Dinner is family style in the main lodge. Wednesday night after we had finished eating we took turns giving our personal highs and lows of the trip. No one had any lows to speak of, the mosquitoes got an (dis)honorable mention but even they weren't that bad. It was a fantastic trip that proved you could take the NxStage cycler down a river on a raft, this trip was a proof of concept. With planning, a little ingenuity, and electricity there is a world of travel opportunities. If it could be done in 1983, we ought to be able to do it in 2011.
A few additional notes on the logistics of traveling down the Rogue with the NxStage cycler.
- Selecting a great guide service is critical - rely on people with experience.
- I had dialysate delivered to the guide service a few weeks before the trip so they could take it down river a little at a time.
- Consider worst case scenarios. While the Rogue is remote we did know that we could come out early if something happened disrupting our ability to dialyze.
- I planned ahead for "what ifs?" by noting my cycler's serial number and figuring out how to initiate a cycler swap from the river.
Just as with the cruise the cyclers preformed flawlessly but a little planning brings piece of mind.