First Descents 2, Day 3 On The Water- The Hardest Part

They didn’t want to tell us or we would freak out. That’s my guess. “This is going to be a challenging stretch of water,” Pleeza says. We had a hydrology class in the morning after breakfast and it actually taught me a lot about what to look for on the water and how to handle the current and rocks. Or so I thought.

When we got to the put in, we left our boats and walked over to the first section of rapids. The skies were cold and gray and the water churned below. The river arced to the left, then right and out of sight. We talked about WORMS- Water, Obstacles, Route, and I can’t remember what ‘M and ‘S’ stand for – things to consider when looking at the river. OK, so most of it went right over my head. It was Crabs’ play-by-play orders after my first toss that made sense.

On the very first rapid, the one we scouted, the one I confidently hit, I leaned right, hugging the rock, just as Captain O explained to our ‘class’ this morning. Trouble was Clicks had zipped up on my left and bumped the bottom of my boat sending me upside down. In an instant my boat was right and my head was out of the water. Konvict was right behind Clicks and had Hand of Goded me. That means he reached over and flipped my boat upright. And it did feel like the hand of God had reached down and rescued me. After that, there was Crabs next to me; keeping me safe, explaining what I was seeing down river and how to interpret it for the path I wanted to run. Little good it did me. The next rapid sent me swimming. A wave had hit me sideways and I failed to square up (get the nose of my boat at a 90 degree angle to the wave) in time. I was upside down pulling a total brainfart. I know how to roll just not when it matters. So I pulled my spray skirt and swam out from under my boat. My redemption was climbing back into the kayak while it was still in the water. Captain O and Crabs were holding it between them so I crawled in. Pretty slick but no one seemed to notice. We had a lot of swimmers today.

I stayed dry the rest of the day. No more flips. Actually, I stayed dry all day thanks to the NRS suit the company sent my way. So very thankful. If the water was any colder we’d be skating instead of boating. They sent me a pair of their Maverick Gloves as well. Even if I didn’t boat like a champ, I looked and felt like one. Despite the clouds the scenery along the river painted that wilderness picture you’d expect. Occasionally we’d hit a section where the highway buzzed overhead but for the most part we paddled deep canyons with steep forested hills and rock walls stretching up as high as Marriotts.

At one point we were chilling in an eddy on river left when I spotted mountain goats on the outcroppings above the river. I called to the campers to look up. Sometimes you get so focused on the waves and ripples you forget to look around. We stayed a little bit longer after that.

The staffers didn’t tell us about the river because they didn’t want to frighten us. Good thing. The river kicked our butts anyway but we all made it through safely, exhausted and full of smiles.

After cold cuts again by the river we headed into the park for ‘alternative craft’ day. I shared the SUV with Spoonburg, Symbol, Konvict and Gomez and the laughter was non-stop. Whether it was comedy on the radio or comedy from Spoonburg, the jokes were flying. Konvict’s driving too added to the squeals. When Spoonburg spotted a black bear and her cub, we pulled a super fast U turn, cutting off a truck that was thinking about doing the same thing. Boy was the driver pissed. But we were first in line to snap photos of the bears.

We parked at Logan Peak Visitors Center, hiked a ways up the glacier and hauled ass back down on sleds. I stayed in the car last year and waited. This year, I participated. Something about the group this year was different. I felt welcome and encouraged. Last year at FD1 there were cliques where I felt I didn’t fit in. This time around we were all part of the same clique. It was a riot. Plus, I appreciated the extra leg workout. Sitting in a boat all day doesn’t do much for your quads.

By the campfire tonight I got the Spam hat. Each night the campers pass awards around- the Spam hat for the biggest goofball of the day (which I think should have gone to Konvict but it has to go to a camper), The Captain America Hat (for on land achievement), the silver vest (for on water achievement), and the Nemo Hat (for the biggest swimmer of the day). I was proud to be known as the clown. Apparently I was going nuts on the sled I shared with Clicks. He was the one who passed it to me. The evening ended on a high-note for me. The day did too.

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