Sunday, April 7, 2013

Whitewater Clinic - 5

The river water was indeed cold. I was grateful for my full Stolquist drysuit, and the two- piece fleece undergarment I wore. When I went to change into dry clothes, between sweat, rain water that had crept in, and what I picked up from two swims, I poured about a pint of water from each bootie. Even being wet under the drysuit, I never experienced a chill.

Looking downstream from the launch.  You can see the river gauge,
which was at 2.45 feet when this picture was taken.  The record, a
couple years ago, was 21 feet, which took it almost to the deck of
the bridge.
We had about an hour break before the catered spaghetti dinner complete with tossed salad, a couple cheeses, two spaghetti sauces, a choice of breads, and drink. Immediately after dinner, Ed opened the evening meeting, which included the awarding of $ l, 000 in prizes, which built up to two $100, and one $300 gift certificate. “Before we start that, however,” he said, “I have been getting glowing reports, raves, and praises from instructors about one student, so we have a special gift for him. Also, he’s 69 years old, and drove nearly 500 miles (a bit of an exaggeration) to get here. Jim, how about coming up here.” The age thing reared its head again, and certainly any real praise was for my swimming form, since out of ten or so rapids, I had demonstrated it twice. Anyhow, I was surprised to receive a Seychelle Water Filtration bottle, which allows you to drink water directly from any body of water. It is a $30 gift that will produce 100 gallons of pure drinking water after removing a lot more impurities from the water than I can reasonably pronounce. For anyone from the club that may find their way to the blog, I thank you all.

You can see how steep the bank is from the river, so the outfitter
copied a ski-lift to get canoes and kayaks up from the river.  The
heavy continuous chain has steel hooks, which you can see if you
click to enlarge the picture.  The bow is suspended from one hook,
the the stern from the other, and the lift takes the load up the hill.
You just meet your canoe at the top, and lift if off.
It rained almost all night, but Sunday cleared early. Much had changed on the river. The level had risen to 3.5 feet, and was reportedly still rising as the rain flowed down out of the mountains. The rapids were stronger, islands and gravel bars we had stopped on yesterday were now being paddled over. By the afternoon, the clouds moved on to finish the day with a bright, clear afternoon. Lisa and Colin convinced Ed that I was not planning on pursuing whitewater paddling, and that I should be moved to a boat more like what I intended to paddle myself, so they put me in a Buffalo tandem, a sixteen-footer that Colin and I paddled together. While I still ran the whole river in a kneeling position, the difference in position was infinitely easier on my old knees than the whitewater boat. I only took one swim this day, but unfortunately took Colin in with me. As I came over the first Class II, the canoe started to rotate in the aerated whitewater, and I tried to pry the stern back around to straighten us out. Instead, I felt the canoe sliding sideways and tripping over the paddle, and in we went. It was a bad place to dump, and we spent quite awhile in the cold water before finding a footing, getting the canoe emptied, and climbing back in. We used a canoe-over-canoe rescue method. I stood precariously teetering on top of a boulder in water above my waist while holding Lisa’s canoe to stabilize it. She and Colin slid our inverted Buffalo across the gunnels of her boat until it was completely clear of the water and empty. It could then be rolled back upright and slid back onto the water. The good news was that the rest of the run went without a hitch. The bad news was that within another a couple hours we would be done, and I’d be bidding farewell to everyone that had made the weekend so challenging and rewarding. By the time we got off the river, the rain-swollen river was already dropping, and was back down to 3.1.

It wasn't until I left Sunday afternoon that the skies brightened
to give us a view of the beautiful mountain scape.
What’s the bottom line? As for learning, I learned quite a bit that will not only apply to whitewater paddling, but will transition to and improve my flat-water paddling as well. Then, Lisa and Colin asked me several times if I was having fun. I felt excited, nervous, apprehensive, tired, sore, and several other things, but while standing and looking down yet another rapid, another unknown challenge, I had trouble getting my mind around the idea of FUN. Standing at the end with a big smile on my face changed the perspective entirely. Looking back over the weekend and what we had done, you know what? I’d had a ball, and I’d recommend such an experience to anyone.

I've spent the last couple days helping my son build a fancy fence around the backyard of their equally fancy bed and breakfast.  Beyond this, we're sitting out a few days of simmering severe thunderstorms and likely tornadoes.  If we can keep the roof on the garage, Buddy and Ibi will wait patiently until we're ready to hit the road again.

No comments:

Post a Comment