Monday, July 4, 2011

Whitewater Here & Now - 7/4/11

I'm sitting in the bow of this canoe, craning my neck to see how the rafters ahead of us are running the line. Ken's in the back, and we're both paddling backwards gently, slowing our approach to the monster waves in front of us so the rafts will be clear when we drop in.

My gut's cramping up a little, and my heart rate's definitely trending upwards. I can feel that ache in my palms that says "quit choking your paddle to death, Lucas!". I ease my grip & take a deep breath. Feel the cold water sloshing over my toes, and hope we don't get too much more than ankle-deep when we pound through the beast in front of us. Five, six big waves, a hole to miss on the right, just after the pour-over from the rock - oh, my god, look at that hydraulic! DEFINITELY miss that, then punch left through the wave train, try to miss that next big washed-out eater, and then stay upright until the train ends. We're drifting closer to the tongue, the start, the big drop.

"Okay, paddle ahead!" Ken's voice reaches me even as I'm taking that first stroke. We're a good team. I'm getting a surge of adrenaline, increasing those butterflies and making my hands shake. I need to move, do something, or I'll just get dizzy, so I'm paddling ahead, concentrating on pulling the bow into the perfect place. Damn, this water's pushy, the river's high, we don't have as much time to manuever, it has to be perfect. Wish we'd brought the smaller boat, it turns quicker, but it's less stable, well, too late to think about it now, right?

The bow's dipping, the first wave is rising over my head - god, sometimes I hate being in the front! I can't see what Ken's doing, although I can feel him back there, and I'm always staring right into the scariest parts of rapids, no breathing room. Ken's yelling "Okay, keep it straight!", and I'm holding a brace as I get whapped in the face with ice-cold river water. Shake my head without moving the paddle as we get whipped towards the right - there's that hole, motherfucker! I'm pushing away from it and bracing as we arc over that first wave. The bow smacks down in the trough. Time to make the next move.....

"Now LEFT!"

I'm throwing a cross-stroke across the bow to pull us radically left, and I can feel Ken's steering brace from the stern. All that water gives us a huge push on our left-side ferry, and we're suddenly zooming across the face of the next wave, quartering it, a little scary but we have momentum, it'll be okay, we're just going take on some water, aw shit, that lip's gonna.....

"Pfft-!!" I'm blowing silty water out of my open mouth and shaking it out of my eyes again, feeling the water in the bottom of the boat sloshing over my ankles now - shit! - as we surge into another wave. The extra water makes us heavier, less manueverable, so I'm digging into the face of the wave as we rear up it, keeping us moving ahead. Sliding backwards on that daddy would be unthinkable, so I'm not thinking about it. Move, move, move-! Brace, brace, BRACE when that cross-current slamming off the shore threatens to tip us sideways, makes a scary slosh. I'm feeling the thigh-straps bite into my legs when I throw my whole torso into another life-saver with the paddle.

"NICE, honey!"

Holy crap. Two more waves, no problem, almost there, just stay upright.....I'm feeling a second surge of adrenaline, the one that eradicates the fear. Almost there, then we can pump out the boat and set up for the next one. I'm feeling lighter now, grinning hugely even as the cross-chop is threatening to swamp us. Flipping on the last happens. I'd hate to swim, it's cold and fast, it'd be a bitch to retrieve the boat and pull it to shore. My paddle's staying in the water, we're almost there...

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