When we put in this morning it was snowing, and the flow was just over 1700CFS and rising. It had been raining at the takeout. We put in at Iowa Street, because the usual putin has "no trespassing" signs all over it, but apparently everybody else put in there anyway. The Iowa Street putin was challenging in the mud and snow, what with a steep boat lower through a forest to reach the water's edge, but we made it, and we were warm by the time we got our boats to the river.
The group was five, myself the only female. The TL was Drew, a 29 year old handsome fellow who mas muscular dystrophy, and walks by wearing braces. He's a strong paddler, though. The other three paddlers were all middle aged gents, one, John, is an MD and interesting to talk to, but a grimace-faced splatter-paddled energizer bunny in a boat. Another, Jerry, is overweight enough that he doesn't need a sprayskirt, and sexist enough that he doesn't have to say anything for me to know it. On land he has a sense of humor, but in a boat he is a dud, perhaps because he's scared shitless of embarrassing himself in front of a female. The last, Chris, is 24 years sober and has taught elementary school for 19 years, and has that Mr Rogers voice. He was a bartender and drug addict for 20 years after his Vietnam experience. His favorite word is "appropriate". He was the next strongest boater after Drew.
All four of the men swam, in turn. The water was rising. The weather was cold. The last swimmer was Drew. He got worked over in a stout hole and flipped to get out, then didn't roll. He let go of his boat and paddle and made it to shore quickly. The water was continuous and class III+--IV for the last 1.5 miles, and I was unable to get his boat to shore. I almost had it there several times but there weren't any eddies and I couldn't seem to get it stuck in the rocks. My hands weren't working, either. I had about 1 minute when I took my hands out of my pogies before they became blocks, and then it took at least two minutes back in the pogies before they'd start working again. Meanwhile I'm running continuous whitewater and trying to avoid getting tangled in the rope that is streaming from inside loosed kayak. It was continuous and challenging enough that I was unwilling to use my waist belt to attach the swamped boat to my own. I was the only one on the river today in a playboat--everyone else had the good sense to paddle something with more volume. I was fine just taking care of myself, but rescuing a boat in that water without assistance was more than I could do. Chris was with me and trying to help, but he couldn't seem to do anything useful about the boat either. Jerry and John weren't around.
Eventually the boat pinned in the rocks at the top of the last rapid before the takeout. I saw the paddle go by and chased it, finally got it, and took out. I got to where I could see what was happening. Chris sat on the rocks watching the pinned boat until the others showed up. They all stood on shore and scratched their heads, and eventually gave up without having tried to get it. I wanted to go down there and direct a rescue, but I didn't. I knew my direction would be unwelcome. Pretty soon Drew showed up at my viewpoint and said that he'd hurt his shoulder, and he didn't give a f(*k about the boat anymore. We were all cold, and ready to get into our dry clothes. I asked the men if they'd be willing to make an attempt to retrieve the boat using my idea, and they were not interested. I could not do it alone.
My idea: two ropes, one attack swimmer. Two shore-based belayers on each rope. The swimmer has one rope on his life jacket, one in his hand, jumps in and swims to the boat, clips a rope to any available loop. Belayers on shore pull the swimmer in first. Then pull boat free and in. Done. Takes 10 minutes. But no one was willing to be the bait, including me. I was the only one without a dry suit. After trying twice to rally a crew for the rescue, I gave up. I left them arguing fruitlessly in rain about what signals they should use. I have never boated with a slower moving pack of men.
We changed into dry clothes. Got pies at the pie store. I went back and looked where the boat had been pinned one last time before we drove away: it was gone. The water is still rising. It's up to 2000 now. Extensive flooding is predicted in the region for the next 2 days. The boat is on its way to the Pacific. Drew has some strange idea that his river kharma is so good that the boat will find its way back to him. I think no matter his kharma, the odds are slim.
I won't boat with this particular pack of men again. I was frustrated all day long with how slow they were to leave eddies, and how long they sat around just making sure that they had lots of room in the river. I paddled at the back of the pack for a while so that I could see if they were really surfing, as they claimed, but it was not true. They were just fricken slow. And pretty weak paddlers. They didn't like me back there watching them. And I won't do it again.
Remember: don't boat with any combo that includes: Jerry, Chris, John. Esp not Jerry and Chris together. Drew is OK, and John is OK if backed by strong boaters. He needs to see a video of himself grimacing ...to begin to get a hold of himself.
Drew, he's a fine young man. I looked up muscular dystrophy after getting home and it turns out that the most common form is X-linked and that most men who have it die in their 20's. He's 29. Female carriers of the gene are more likely to develop dilated cardiomyopathies later in life... When we (Drew, John and I) talked about death on the drive home, about home wakes and home burials, about the Baby Boomer's guilt and other such things, Drew was very interested. I like him. I wonder how much longer he will live. He seems so vital now. He was very upset about his hurt shoulder. He uses his upper body to play, so an injury there is a great loss to him. I do not know how long he will have to rehab it.
I feel pretty sad and guilty about the lost boat. If I were really hot shit I'd have gotten it to shore 10 times. I'd have gone down there when it was pinned and talked those men into rallying for a boat rescue. I'd have done more good for Drew. But I'm not hot shit no mo. I'm weaker and more poorly equipped than the rest of them. And I'm unwilling to risk my neck for anyone else's gear. Maybe for my own. But only maybe.
Tonight I have frostnip on my hands and feet. They are VERY sensitive to both heat and cold. I think they'll be fine in the morning, but that was a pretty good challenge. I have no desire to do that again.
Tomorrow we may go to a hotsprings......but maybe not. I just checked the gage and the creek at Breitenbush is almost up to 5000 CFS. It has only been that high once in the last 3 years. The springs may be under water. It may not be worth the drive. The road may be impassable. So we shall see. I will make the executive decision at 10am tomorrow. If the creek is still high or the road report is bad, I'm going to ecstatic dance instead. G'nite all!
EDIT: 12/12/10 email from Drew who has the best river kharma around:
> Hey, just wanted to let you all know that my boat is safe and in the hands of the Hood River Sheriff. I am going over tomorrow to pick it up. I hope to find out more details on how they ended up with it...
> Can't wait to do that run again! Wow, still my #1