Monday, July 30, 2012

Salmon River Trip, Day 4

The day started with a bang, the river part of it, that is.
Right out of camp, we approached Big Mallard Rapid, a class 3 to 4 rapid. The description deliberately says "Don't feed the Duck! At flows below 5 feet, and we were at 1.7, a giant hole at the bottom of the rapid emerges. It is possible to run right of the hole, but it is easier to hug the left bank and thread the improbable looking slot at the bottom of the rapid, left of the giant hole."
With that in mind we approached the rapid with trepidation. Several of our party ran the rapid ahead of us with no problem. Mike and I relaxed. This was definitely the biggest rapid on the river so far. We ran through the wave train at the top of the rapid and I began to see where the hole was on the left. I didn't want to point or say anything to Mike in case I distracted him. I also assumed that Mike could see the giant swirl of backwater. The next thing I know, we are sweeping past the hole and just as I think we're clear, the boat goes vertical with one pontoon up in the air. I through my weight to the high side, the boat rights itself and floats into calmer water. I turned around to look at Mike and say something like "Holy Shit!!" But Mike wasn't in the captain's seat. I took a quick glance in the surrounding waters and saw him swimming toward the raft. Without thinking much about saving Mike, I hoped into the seat and grabbed the oars. The water was still rough and I steered towards the rest of the boats. In the meantime, Mike hoped into the boat, adrenaline pushing him out of the water with ease. He had a shit-eating grin on his face. I guess the hole grabbed his oar and yanked it away from him. He kept a hold and went out of the boat with it. The story has grown in size and complexity over the days and to hear it retold you would think we flipped the boat, drowned and were resuscitated only to find all of our stuff washed down river and we had to swim the rest of the way out.

Mike jumped back into the driver's seat and took us through Little Mallard with ease. Next up, though, was Elk Horn rapids, a series of three closely linked rapids with a different hazard each. The first rapid was the initial drop and had a tight squeeze between a rock and a hole. The second part had two large holes on the right and left side of the bottom of the rapid and the third had a large rock in the very center of the river. The trick was to avoid the holes by going river center and not moving to the right or left to avoid the large rock too soon. Mike ran it perfectly.

I rowed the next series of rapids, Growler, Don't Lose Me Now and Whiplash. Growler and Don't Lose Me Now were nerve racking class twos. But after successfully running them, I was confident for Whiplash, a class two in flows lower than 7 feet, piece of cake. I was so wrong, the name says it all, a sharp "s" curve caused all of the water to rush down the center of the riverbed and crash into the canyon wall in a series of waves. I pointed the bow of the boat towards that wall that the water was crashing into and started to row backwards. I was nearly clear of it when I misunderstood a comment from Mike and got us back into the flow of water. Before I knew it, the pontoon was rushing towards the wall. I became flustered and couldn't direct the boat correctly. The pontoon went right up on a rock and Mike McBride's extra paddle came loose and lodged the boat on the low side. Mike pushed off the rock with all his might to no avail. If he didn't have the strength, I certainly didn't. I thought that I could help by dislodging Mike's paddle but the boat tipped even more drastically as I shifted my weight to the low side of the boat. As I returned to the high side, Mike go the boat free and we were in a back eddy heading right for the wall again. I grabbed the oars and desperately tried to avoid the wall. This time, I was able to avoid the wall and float to the end of the rapid safely. I was really shaken and I can't imagine how Mike got the boat off of the wall. I could have never done it alone.

I stayed on the horse though, and ran China Bar Rapid and eddied out at Rhett Creek Camp. This camp had a great beach and fun rapids  and a giant eddy. The day was desperately hot still so Mike and I tossed a Frisbee in the water. That was a hard task though because of the three labs that wanted to play too! We gave up and just played fetch with the dogs. It is so fun to watch Rosie, a chocolate lab, swim. She is an Olympian swimmer and always gets to the stick or pine cone first. Gus is a young man in an old man's body and he  gets tired easily. He follows for a couple of meters but backs off. Nala waits at the bank and grabs the stick from Rosie when she gets into the shallows. Sometimes Nala and Rosie swim side by side. Rosie a bit ahead of Nala. Its funny to see their heads move in sync in the water.

We started up a game of beach volleyball which I was miserable at. Most of the folks wanted to play an actual game which was a lot less productive than volleying. Mostly, it was serve and ace over and over again. This quickly became old and we switched to bocci ball, which also quickly became old due to my miserable abilities and the fact that one or two people managed to bonk the balls out of play every time for the win. Chris, my teammate and I retired to happy hour well before the game was over. We had spaghetti from Tim and Lucy for dinner. It was very tasty! I went to lie down for awhile to rest my back and fell asleep almost instantly. I hadn't intended to go to bed but before I knew it, Mike had joined me and we were both in for the night. I woke up a couple hours later and moved outside. It was too hot in the tent and the stars were a spectacular sight.

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