Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Sunday, May 16

We slept well last night. Maybe the wine had something to do with it, or maybe my frontal cortex was just too overloaded from the conversations the night before. Coffee was first on the agenda. I was in charge of the French press. This can be a daunting chore when you are not sure which dry box it was packed into. After searching through the last one, I finally found it and fired up a pot of water on the portable propane stove we had.. I placed seven large tablespoon heaps of Columbian coffee in the bottom and filled the press up with boiling water. The top with plunger went on and I waited five minutes. Slowly I pushed the sieve down with the plunger handle, trapping all the grounds below. With a full cup of steaming, stout coffee in my hand I was ready. The aroma finally reached my frontal cortex and I found the muffins.

This morning we had to travel 18 miles by river and deal with Ross Rapid. The white water was a class two with a long wave train. They describe it as such because of the long path of sinusoidal waves against the cliff on river left.

We stopped at mile 45, another old mining area they call Honaker. Here they found gold dust in the river back in the 1800’s and thought it originated from the area. Unfortunately it was merely trace amounts that had actually washed down from the San Juan Mountains in Colorado. Nevertheless they spent a lot of time building a trail that switch backed its way up the steep canyon wall to haul in supplies. Nobody made a dime on the venture, but for us it was a worthy lunch spot. We spent an hour hiking part way up the trail afterwards for a precarious view down the canyon.

Chang, the New York Times photographer was on my raft and was anxious to get ahead in order to get pictures of everyone going through Ross rapid. He was the one I was most worried about, when he showed up in Salt Lake City with two large suitcases and a duffle bag filled with photography equipment. Dave and I both thought just how the Hell are we suppose to get all that stuff on the raft. Ten thousand dollars worth of camera equipment was a tall order to keep bone dry.

Within an hour we were lining ourselves up on the left side of the river for the rapid. Chang noticed a group at the top on the right side scouting out the waves. I was too busy watching the rock cliff on the left side race by as we worked our way down the wave train. At the bottom there was a large rock in the middle of the river, once past that the object was to row as hard as you could to get over to the right side. A camp site was there and a nice spot to walk back up river to watch people coming though. We managed to get it over to the shallow water there and Chang jumped out with a few cameras to run up the side of the rapid for the best view. I was stuck holding the raft and talking to a very drunk river runner, who must have belonged to the group at the top. Our group had also collected themselves at the top on river right to survey the best route for the canoe. Preferably not straight down the middle where the waves were the highest. It was decided that Dave would take the other raft down next followed by the Ducky and last the canoe. With all the inflatables at the bottom, I could borrow the Ducky in case the canoe ran into trouble.

Art and Todd proudly agreed to take the canoe through Ross. Dave and a few others stood by the side with throw ropes in case they needed a line. I took the Ducky out to the middle of the river in case they went swimming. We all watched in anticipation as they lined themselves up on the right side of the wave train, in an effort to avoid the large waves that would flood the boat. From my angle I saw how the strength of the current swept them into the main flow; it was now only a question of time until they would fill the canoe up with water. Sure enough I watched them slowly sinking deeper and deeper into the waves to that inevitable conclusion. The canoe slowly rolled over on its right side and both were spilled out into the turbulent water gasping for air.

I was waited in the middle of the river to offer assistance. There I saw Todd holding on to the capsized canoe and Art trailing behind. I positioned myself in front of the floating mass and collectively we floated along together as we tied the bow line of the canoe to the inflatable kayak. Getting them over was another problem, the mass just pulling me along the river as well. The current was quite strong. Finally after a combined effort of them swimming and me paddling we reached the shore a half mile later. Todd touched ground and was able to stand up and pull the canoe up against the rocks. That’s when we noticed Art still floating out in the river; he yelled back that everything was fine, just a banged up knee.

Dave was already in the process of rowing the raft after him, so Todd and I turned our attention to righting the canoe and getting out the water. They had lost their bailing bucket somewhere in the rapid. Leaving us with no other choice to get the water out than to lift up the entire canoe and flip it over in the air. This took several attempts with the soft mud at the river’s edge. We found ourselves sinking up to our knees. Finally after the third try we managed to get most of the water out and Todd hoped back in to join the chase after Art, who was still bobbing along in the middle of the river.

I pulled back out into the main stream of the river and ran into Matt, the New York Times reporter, who was now trying to negotiate the raft I left up stream at the bottom of Ross Rapid. He had a worried look on his face, the idea of managing something that handled like a bus didn’t appeal to him so well. We switched and I took over the raft. By the time we caught up to the rest, Art was climbing aboard Dave’s boat with some bruises. A mile later we were at the camp site on river left, tending to the wounds of the day.

Single malt scotch was given to the patients and soon we were dinning on another Dutch over dinner of Thai chicken.

Richard Boyer

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