Yak Attack

A place to unwind and spend some time yakking.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Navigating the Green River con't

To pick up where I left off in yesterday's entry, L., Tee and I, along with another canoe pair from our group, gingerly pushed off the river bank, after L.'s canoe was bailed out, and he had on some dry clothing. His son, J., panicked during the capsize and pulled himself into C. and D.'s canoe, leaving L. alone with their boat.

Kneeling in the middle of his canoe, L. took the lead. We hadn't paddled far before we navigated a bend in the river, and landed in the current spiralling toward the largest deadhead (submerged logs in the river) we'd witnessed on the trip so far. "Deadhead on right; maneuver left NOW," L. shouted. Tee and I hurriedly paddled sweep strokes to move toward the left bank, but the current sucked us in toward the deadhead. We swept harder, and narrowly missed the deadhead. I reached out and pushed off one of the taller logs jutting out of the water. That was probably the wrong thing to do, but it was my first instinct and it propelled us further away from the hazard.

All three canoes successfully avoided capsizing over this deadhead. Our elated feeling didn't last long. As we rounded another bend, four teams from our group were pulled off in a little knook on the right bank. Four people were changing because they were all wet. One of the fairer boys was bright red; all of his blood rushed to his trunk and face, flushing his skin. We hollered to them, asking if they needed aid. They were all accounted for and with their buddies, so they told us to continue on. Later on, I'd learn how they capsized- -they hit the deadhead I pushed off of.

A few more minutes up the river, all the teams from both groups had pulled off on a wide, sandy bank to wait for those who had capsized. As we waited for the last four teams to motate upstream, the mood on that bank was grim. J. was understandably upset. He wanted to go home. Our wet feet were freezing now, due to our waiting. L. and J. were able to secure some more clothes, to begin to warming up their trunks and legs. I looked at my son and wondered what we would do if it was us that capsized. We can swim and had PFDs on, but would we keep calm and yet be able to react quickly? Would we think to grab for the canoe? Would we be able to overcome the debilitating cold of the water? The fear level within me rose to an unbearable point. How could I keep Tee safe, myself safe and make it to a safe place where we could get our canoe off the river?

I gave myself a mental bitch slap to calm down. Then I started to use the lamaze techniques I learned when I was pregnant with Rosie and Tee. That was the best bunch of FRNs I ever spent; I've used those techniques so much in the past 17 years that I could probably teach a class on it myself. Controlled breathing and limiting my focus to our immediate goal--getting off the river safe--helped me calm down. This was the turning point for me on this trip. If I didn't get a grip, I'd be a hazard rather than a functional member of my team.

When our group was finally ready to return to the river, I kept my goal clearly in focus. I controlled my breathing and worked hard at communicating with Tee. We were starting to get it; we had control of our boat and successfully navitaged several more hazards in the river. We canoed down two funnels (kind of like a baby water fall), both of us kneeling in front of our canoe seats to make our boat more steady. When we reached the part of the river where the banks have been cleared before, and more housing fronted the river, we breathed a sigh of relief.

The challenges didn't stop there, though. The wind picked up and kept changing direction. We had to employ different strokes to keep our canoe straight and stable. We did have the ability to spend more time looking at the scenery. A bike trail ran along the river at this point, and occasionally bikers would wave or call out a friendly hello.

As we neared the take out point, we were looking for the pink tape L. had strung up to alert us it was near. We never saw the tape on a tree at the fifteen minute mark, but spotted the pink streamers hanging from a bridge and waving in the breeze, marking the take out was immediately ahead. I saw a guy in a red shirt running across the bridge and heard three short whistles, alerting us to move forward to be the next canoe to come off the river. The man ran toward the bank, holding a camera. The man was Lew. He drove down to the park to meet us, and he was snapping all sorts of pictures of us paddling.

We maneuvered toward the right, but the current kept trying to pull us back toward the middle of the river. L. called to us to hurry and turn toward the boat ramp, or we'd have several more miles to canoe before we could attempt another take out. I don't quite know what I did, but I planted my paddle into the river bottom, the water was shallow here, and it whipped our canoe right towards the boat launch. L. grabbed the canoe and pulled us in. We had to haul ass, removing our canoe, to make room for the next boat to take out.

We made it! I was relieved, excited, exhausted and happy all at once. Lew wrapped me up in a huge hug and told Tee and me how proud he was of us.

He got some great photos. If I ever figure out how to post them in my blog, I'll put one up. Now, if only I could remember how we did all those strokes. We need a bunch more practice before we go to Canada =).

That was my Saturday. By the time we got home and put away our canoe and gear, the four hours of sleep I got the night before had been all used up. I laid down for a short nap, but ended up sleeping almost four hours. It was the best sleep, though.


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