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2008 WA/OR BCL Rendezvous


It doesn't get any better than this.

It just doesn't get any better than this!

The WA/OR BCL Rendezvous for 2008 was successfully held at the previous year’s location of Emigrant Springs, OR the last weekend of June. Activities went generally as planned and everyone appeared to have a great time. The weather was sunny and warm and the facilities were again very nice. Typical of organizing large gatherings, there were some challenges. As everyone is well aware costs are rising -- gas prices are way up making travel all the more difficult. Food costs are increasing. Outside prize donations were down (though we still managed to put together a nice selection). At about 35 people, rendezvous attendance was half of last year. Even the regular campground population was smaller than normal.

Those that did make it were rewarded with multiple presentations from Wes Holmquist and Bob Schimpf about packing in Wyoming (including with the family having a young handicapped girl Wes fabricated a travois for), llama packing in general, i.e., how to handle pack llamas on the trail, and the new Ccara registry. They performed cursory screenings on all the llamas, sharing their impressions regarding conformation and Ccara characteristics. Noel McRae narrated a video presentation on packing in the beautiful Goat Rocks area of the Cascades. Scott Noga presented a 15 minute video on llama packing in the Wallowas (the rattlesnake ridge ranch web site has a shortened low-res version). Debra Langley-Boyer presented backcountry camping tips while minimizing the impact to the wilderness, and taught some artistic felting techniques with llama fiber.


Poker run

The poker run was moved to the morning and seminars to the afternoon due to forecasted daytime temps of 85F, which made the outdoor activities more enjoyable. People seemed to be more relaxed and the pace was a little slower than last year. There were some new-to-llamas people, including one couple with a llama and two young camels. They brought their llama to rendezvous, and have since purchased another, since everyone knows one just isn’t enough.

An informal presentation was made to the park campers in the main amphitheater by Scott Noga of Rattlesnake Ridge Ranch and Ellen Pollick of Exotic Animal Rescue, assisted by others, including several llamas, some in full pack gear. It is an opportunity to educate. A few of those present paid a visit to the community building area to see more.

Credit for a successful rendezvous again goes out to all the contributors – the kitchen and clean-up volunteers, the presenters, the donators, and all the participants. All of it together contributes to a fun and worthwhile annual event.

There were some hurdles. Serious illness forced cancellation of a planned presentation. (The person is recovering.) A week and a half before rendezvous the park staff discovered they had mistakenly double booked the community building reservation, having us scheduled for the weekend prior to the date we applied for. The proposal was for us to be bumped and moved outdoors to the group camp area. This created some tense moments while that was being negotiated with the staff and park manager. Meanwhile, concern was growing about the trail conditions for the planned pack trip to Main Eagle following rendezvous. With conditions uncertain, Monday, the week of rendezvous, a scout trip was made up the trail revealing uncleared deadfall and snow a couple of miles in. The camp meadows were still covered in snow. This is highly unusual for the end of June, but the heavier than normal snowpack and much cooler Spring left all of the north, south and west Wallowas closed. The only known alternative was East, to the Imnaha River valley – about an extra hours drive from the originally planned location. A notice was issued to all the registrants regarding the change in venue, which resulted in many canceling their plans for the pack trip and some for rendezvous. Eighteen people and many more pack llamas and goats were expected originally but this dwindled down to six people and nine llamas.


Sunshine gets a kiss on the Imnaha Trail

Joyce O'Halloran and Julie Waters (of Joyful Llama Ranch), and Debra Langley-Boyer accompanied us -- all very experienced packers/campers. Debra was accompanied by Jessica, a 13-year-old new to llamas (switched from horses). The drive there (and home) was relaxed and uneventful. We met Raz Rasmussen of Wallowa Llamas and his party at the trail head (on their way out) and we camped there overnight. Grass was plentiful and several deer passed through camp. The mosquitoes were rather bothersome that day (though I've experienced much worse) but the weather was great. Raz reported the mosquitoes at the interior campsites were not bad -- he didn't even use a tent but slept under the stars. They were most always present but with a bit of bug band repellant I didn't receive any bites. We did encounter ticks though, which is more of a concern with llamas. In addition to the repeated application of bug repellant, half were treated with CyLence beforehand. The trail in was quite challenging, with numerous log jumps/step-overs, shallow creek crossings, and some bushwacking detours, but the llamas -- some very green -- took it all in stride and didn't cause any difficulty. We camped at Imnaha Falls the first night, about five miles from the trail head. The camp area was a lower grassy plateau near the river, below the trail. River rapids were nearby where the water carved it’s way thorough a narrow rocky channel. Other grassy camp areas exist nearby in the upper elevations, with small streams passing through, but the lupine was more prevalent in these areas.

The next day we all trekked to Deadman Crossing and River Forks. Deadman Crossing has a broad shallow access to the river, covered mostly in grass, and a slightly elevated camp area with logs situated around a large fire ring. This is probably the nicest camp area for a group that isn’t too large. Further on, the north and south Imnaha rivers join together. Crossing the bridge over the north fork leads to a large grassy meadow surrounded by trees, with plenty of space for large groups to camp. At 7 miles this area can be easily reached from the trail head in a single day once the trail is cleared.

The third day we relocated to Blue Hole so the hike out to the trail head the next morning would be shorter for an earlier start of the drive home. Blue Hole is an S-shaped rock canyon the river passes through, only two and a half miles from the trail head. One can stand high above on a rocky precipice overlooking the turbulent water. A couple of camp areas exist here at different elevations but river access is via a single point. The grassy areas were relatively free from lupine.


Overlooking the Imnaha River

A mounted trail maintenance crew passed through during our stay, so the trek out was free of dead fall -- no detours. The scenery was beautiful, many flowers were in bloom, and the river flow was high. Despite conditions elsewhere in the Wallowa wilderness, there was no trace of snow at all. A few thunderstorms passed by during the four days but we received only very light rain briefly a couple of times, once during the night. Daytime temperatures were warm, and night was cool but not cold. The weather was real good. We didn’t once tear into the back-up freeze dried provisions – subsisting on only "real food" the whole time. Eating all we could to lighten the load, there was enough left over for several more days.

More stories have been added to the lore. We’ll let Debra tell of her water bug llama, Carmella, who enjoys nothing more than a good backcountry swim -- oh, and she enjoys sharing that pleasure too! What a character...

Photos and video clips of the 2008 WA/OR BCL Rendezvous and the Imnaha pack trip have been uploaded to DropShots at http://www.dropshots.com/RebusCom and are linked to the rendezvous information on the http://www.rattlesnakeridgeranch.com website.

What’s in store for next year? Although Main Eagle would be a great pack trip to take in conjunction with next year’s rendezvous, the reduced attendance this year may force a change of venue for next year. (It may be time for a change of scenery anyway.) We will be looking at alternatives – possibly in the central WA Cascades. New seminars are planned, including wilderness survival techniques. Keep watching the website for details as they shape up. http://www.rattlesnakeridgeranch.com

Scott & Gayle Noga

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Last modified: 15 May 2012