Monday, May 22, 2006

11 Miles of Raging River

Sunday, May 20th was my six month anniversary of not being on a raft.

The morning began overcast at Camp Lotus. A few geese and ducks were roaming about the camp ground. The morning was moist from heavy dew or an early morning rainfall.

I woke in my tent, stretched, fixed my glasses, and took a walk by the water.

She was a swirling, green ribbon winding through the canyon and taking shoreline because she expanded beyond the banks.

The South Fork of the American is my home river. She is where I took my first rafting trip in September of 2002 and she is gorgeous.

We met up at 8:30 in the morning, a few of my Project GO family members, Friends of the River friends, and newcomers to the river. We arranged shuttle, cars, take-out, and readied our gear.

People arranged, we met up at Chili Bar and prepared boats. Pumping of tubes, putting on of wet suits and splash jackets this seems familiar, just from a long time ago.

Saturday night I drove up for the season opening party and reconnected with my river family. A nice bonfire, a walk about the camp in the dark and said hello to the river under moonlight. I reconnected with this part of me.

After the safety talk I knew that I was in for an amazing day. We launched and immediately ran into a kayaker who was in stage 1 of hypothermia. He was separated from his kayak and swirling in a large eddy. We three boats were to the rescue. Dana captured his kayak and another boat pulled him out of the water.

The churning of this water was impressive. Normally the river flows no larger and 3000 cpu, but she was up to 7500 at the beginning of this run and we estimated with the little waterfalls flowing into the river that some of our rapids were flowing at 8500.

I saw this at Fowler's Rock, normally a tricky rapid marked by a large boulder in the center of the river. The rock was almost covered in water. Insanity.

We glided over some rapids, but were pushed and pulled by huge boil lines between raging and less raging water.

I started boat right, behind the bow paddler and moved up to the bow and for a few minutes actually took the stick and guided us for a few miles.

That was crazy for me.

I wanted to get over the fear of flipping a boat, because that is an event every river guide has.

I struggled a little on the rudder, but guided us down and felt confident reading the water. It's amazing what glasses will do for you on the water.

The woman who introduced me to Project GO was on my boat: Sarah Schwartz-Kendall. She's encouraged me from the beginning, and I got her approval as I returned the guide stick to her.

I breathed a heavy sigh of relief as high waves lapped the side of the boat and I took my place at the bow to agressively pull those waves to me. I helped pull our blue SOTAR up and over waves that were HUGE in comparison to our kid trips over the summer.

Did I mention that it was raining?

A gorgeous, steady rain bathed us as we bounced and tossed along the water. Our way was populated with swallows that danced along the surface of the water and the river canyon was a gorgeous green. Ahead of us was an amazing mist that indicated the water was actually warmer than the outside air. That was a little hard to believe...but here I was at home with 11 other people, yelling in victory through intense water and wave trains and focused on the calls of our guides.

FORWARD! And I saw how our team effort evaded rocks and submerged trees and rocks.

I learn a little bit more about water when I am on her...every time a little bit of her secrets are revealed to me.

So now I am SORE and satisfied, pumped up with some arnica montana to relieve the soreness, but am SO excited about this rafting season and feeling more of my strength and letting go a LOT more of my fear.

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