The huge water wasn't the only story that day, though. In the middle of the run we had a boater take a swim. The boater made it to shore quickly and without incident, but the boat headed downstream into one of the most challenging sections of the river.
After thinking "wow, that looks big down there - do I really want to dive into it blind?" I decided that yeah, I definitely did and peeled out of the eddy in pursuit.
I was immediately faced with a wave train that was large enough to allow multiple paddle strokes on the face of each wave. I'm thinking the first wave was close to 10'. The huge waves made for good scouting, though, and I was able to spot the empty boat ahead. I caught up and was able to flip the boat, but found there were no good eddys around. So, we kept floating downstream at an amazingly swift pace.
About now is when Jeremiah caught up with me (he was in his playboat). We struggle to get the boat, which was submarine-ing despite its floatbags, into the small eddys that we came upon. All the while, we tried to take turns watching downstream and calling pourovers and other hazards as we approached. As we worked our way down Widowmaker and the Steps, this teamwork saved our butts because it was impossible to wrangle the huge flooded boat and read the river at the same time. I swear the boat was intentionally fighting us, getting caught in every eddyline, bouncing the wrong way off every rock, and diving deep at every opportunity. I think the two of us got it at least partially into 3 eddys, but it refused to stay long enough to secure it.
Soon Jade and Caleb joined the effort and we started making real progress. All of us were now working together in what became the finest example of teamwork I can think of. We had people watching and calling the river ahead while others took turns using their momentum to coax the flooded boat where it needs to go. It still did its best to resist, and it required about 5 hand-of-god flips to keep it upright. We pushed, pulled, bulldozed, and towed it towards eddys. On one, we got it in and Jeremiah jumped out of his boat to secure it while we tried to hold it in. The boat subbed under the pushers once again, and headed back into the current like it was radio-controlled. Seriously - the Army could use that kind of evasive maneuvering equipment.
Jeremiah, now out of his boat, was running along the rocky bank trying to keep up and hopefully grab it the next time we got to shore. The remaining three of us kept at it and eventually Caleb was able to give it a final Herculean shove into an eddy where we pinned it down and got it out.
The total chase encompassed around 1.5 miles of continuous whitewater. We navigated huge waves, nasty holes, eddylines that would suck down a creek boat, and plenty of big rocks. I think it's the most physically exhausted I've been on a river. Unknown to us, however, the eddy we finally got it into was about 200 yards from the first calm stretch of river all day... That's luck for you. I got the first portion of the rescue on helmet cam, but then the battery died so I didn't include it in this video. Watch for scenes from it when I get the Blooper reel together, though.
For now, enjoy the video, and I'll post more as I finish them!
|From Colorado May '10|