Monday, October 08, 2007

Run River Run

My advice to anyone thinking whitewater rafting in a ducky (inflatable kayak) would be fun....DON'T DO IT!

I have done a little bit of whitewater rafting on the Rogue River in Oregon. Almost every year. Not hard core but II's and III's and depending on the flow of the river, sometimes even a IV. Never was I thrown from the raft. Never did I feel afraid.

When in Colorado this summer in a great little historic town, Salida, which is near the Arkansas River and home to many rafting companies, the hubs and I decide to go whitewater rafting. Sounded fun. On the day of, he decides it would be fun to go in the duckies. Now, I am always up for adventure and even though I wasn't keen on the idea, being the trooper I always am, said okay.

That was the first mistake. However, the number one thing I did that day was something I had never done in any of my rafting trips. And that was to have a guide. Don't ask me why.

The guide goes over the if you flip, fold your arms keep your feet up and ride it out drill and we were soon on our way. The first rapid was classified as a III-IV, Hubs becomes a swimmer and I however, make it over the small fall and felt pretty triumphant. We go a little further in II-III level rapids and it's a little scary but I'm doing good. The guide then has us get out and scope out the next one, Seidels Suckhole and Twin Falls. Did I say we had two guides? A guy and a girl. The girl decides she isn't going to run it and would wait and have the guy come back and help her carry her kayak around the river to where we would be waiting.Ummmm, shouldn't that have been a clue that the novices shouldn't run it either?

Okay, so that was the plan. Follow the guide. Number one take the falls at the far left then the far right, NOT DIRECTLY OVER THE FALLS. That's really not an easy thing to do when the river is running as fast as it was. I make it through the suckhole, meanwhile, the hubs is a swimmer again and rides around the falls (excellent choice) catches up to the duckie gets back in and the guide tells him to wait around the bend for us to catch up.

My turn on the falls. I try and follow the path the guide took and make the far left side of the first fall just as he does, but the second one I can't paddle hard enough to get to the right. I see I am going over and paddle hard to straighten up and take it head on as that was my only shot. Right over I go, perfect. Until the big back wash and splash at the bottom tosses me out like a paper doll. Unfortunately, I landed in deep water with the backwash pounding me down under the water even with my life jacket on. I am doing everything I can to try and push myself up out of the water, but when I can get my head up there is so much splash that I'm just sucking in water and then pushed down under again. This goes on for several minutes and I realized I wasn't going to make it out. I was trying everything I could to push myself out of the backwash so the current could take me downriver, but couldn't get out of the hole I was in. I was ready to give up, but told myself to just keep trying don't give up. I was thinking how upset my daughter was going to be when she found out. We were supposed to be to her house the next day.

Meanwhile, the guide sees me fly and the raft go down river and thinks I did too. He paddles over to get my raft and oar and realizes he can't see me. He thinks I have gone around the bend where the hubs is hanging out. He said out of the corner of his eye he saw the top of the red helmet for a second shoot up and then disappear. He quickly got out with his kayak and got up above me and ran that portion of the river again and was able to get close to me. I popped up just at the right moment to see his yellow kayak and grabbed on. He is yelling at me to swim and kick my feet. But I am so fatigued it is all I can do to hang on. He then tells me I have to let go or I am going to flip him when he goes over the next small rapid. I look down river and know I don't have anything left in me to swim. I then see a big rock and know I would have to grab it on the side and hope it wasn't to slippery, or that I didn't get caught under it. I let go in time to grab the rock. I can't tell you how great it was to cough and choke and breathe in air and hold that rock. I held on for about 15 minutes trying to figure out if I could let go and make the swim downstream that I needed to make through the rest of this section of rapids.

I decided to pull myself up over the rock and climb a series of big rocks to get to the side of the river. So, up and over I went and around to where the guide was waiting for me. I then got in the duckie knowing the only way out was down the river.

So, there is the hubs waiting on the side of the river around the bend in a nice little shallow pool. I was a little pissed that he didn't realize that something was wrong when we weren't coming down the river. "Yea, I was a little worried, but I couldn't get back to see what was going on."

I almost drowned. I had to be rescued!

I'm still a little pissed about that!

So, then when that adventure is over and we are in the van being shuttled back into town, I realize my knee, shins and arms are killing me. I look over myself and I am nothing but bruises with a knee swollen up like crazy. I guess I was being pouned into the rocks and didn't even feel it. Thank heavens I didn't feel it, or I am sure I would have quite given up.

I have since found out that 5 people had drowned this summer, more than they ever had. I am counting myself lucky that I wasn't number 6!