We paddled west. A bear walked along a beach about a quarter mile from us. I started to paddle toward it and Erin said “no.” She was right of course. At the end of the lake, the river narrowed and the water fell. One set of rapids followed another. Where the river widened the water still moved fast, around one bend and then the next, through unbridled wilderness and beauty.
Then we came to big rapids. We scouted them, and found no portage trail. I thought we could paddle them. The river narrowed between a high shelf to the left and cliffs to the right. It poured with fury. But it looked deep, and I thought we would go in, and we would come out, hopefully still in one piece. No rocks was good. There was one rock at the bottom on the right. I couldn’t tell how deep it was, but the steep wave it threw up looked best avoided. We’d have to steer around it.
Erin wasn’t so sure, but finally agreed to try. She would go first, so that if something happened to her I could come from behind and try to help her. I took pictures as she went down, then followed.
I kept an eye on her, until she disappeared from view. I started to panic, and searched the fury for her, and could not find her. I did not focus on where my boat headed until the the big wave and rock on the bottom sucked me in. I sprinted to escape, with everything I could muster, and failed. The edge pulled me up and flipped me over.
My sprint had starved me of air, and as I tried to roll up one way, the hydrodynamic wildness pulled my boat the other, and I did not come up. I tried to get to the other side to roll, as wave train tossed me about, and I couldn’t make it. I wet exit, holding onto my boat and paddle. But I was downriver of my boat, the dangerous side. After a breath, I tried to duck underneath. But the currents underwater fought with my paddle and tried to keep me down. I let go of it and came up above my boat. Where was Erin? I watched my paddle just out of reach get tossed in the waves ahead of me.
And then I washed out. Erin, about 500 meters downriver of me, swam toward her boat. She looked fine. I reentered mine, rolled up with my spare paddle, and recovered my primary paddle from an eddy. Then I went for the girl. She hand rolled up in the water logged boat.
Erin was shaken up. She’d lost her paddle and her boat, and only recovered one. She worried that I’d be upset with her for losing my paddle, but I only felt joy that she was okay. She would never again listen to me when I told her that I think we can paddle big rapids, which was just as well. From there on, the river only got faster, and harder.
We looked for her paddle some, but it was lost. We now had two carbon Gearlab Greenland paddles and one Epic winged paddle. I took a Greenland and Erin the winged. The next rapids were not far ahead. We paddled up against the shore, and took out just above them. The portage would not be hard, and we’d make camp on the big flat rocks that looked over the river, singing a song of boat crushing majesty as it poured loudly, cascading down between rocks to flatter water below.
From this day on, the river was a new thing, a thing of constant portages, exploration, rapids, and fear. At least my back was better. Erin’s infection seemed to have completely subsided as well.
Check out pictures here!
GPS coordinates: 50.4954, -77.76319