Posted by: paywindow7 | October 30, 2014

River Run

A fast running river is the Deshutes. Mountain high snowmelt draining the Cascades easterly then north past Bend Oregon then more north for about a hundred river miles to the spectacular confluence with the mighty Columbia River. There it hangs a hard left west past The Dalles for the final dash to the Pacific. Running that stretch of churning tumultuous mix of rocks and water sometimes makes NASCAR appear tame. Typical water temperature is about 50 degrees Fahrenheit which is near 50 degrees colder than a human’s core body temperature and the instantaneous immersion in it created a shock that was stunning and my first reaction was to gasp and suck in air. Not a good idea since I was underwater and plastered to the underside floor of a faded yellow raft, held there, ironically, by my life vest. My face was pressed against the underside of the boat looking up through the thin, translucent rubber floor at faint shadows cast by the afternoon sun of the other three kamikaze paddlers that were still in the dry. They were jumping from one side of the mini-Titanic to the other looking over the side to see if and where the river was going to spit me out. I could faintly hear them calling my name as they tried to figure out where I was.

We had been rafting for the past week stopping occasionally to fish, rock climb and rappelle the mountains and shadowed canyons along and near the river’s course. The flat water drift was smooth and quietly tranquil between runs of turbulence, a time to just sit quiet to see and feel the beauty that is that place. A sharp focus of colors, depth and textures that a camera can never capture as the banks of the river flowed past.

We had just come through a class four rapid that had smoothed out below the falls and as we came around a bend we could see a plume of standing water. The white rooster tail stood about five feet tall in the middle of the river and there was plenty of room on either side to go around it. We all exchanged nods in agreement that instead of going around it, as rational thinking would dictate, we were going to go through the thing. I can’t say for sure but there may have been alcohol involved.

So we all dug in with our paddles to try and gain some speed to carry us through but it was wasted effort, the current already had us. Each of us rode and paddled sitting astride a corner of the wide inflated gunnels that made the raft, a raft. My perch was the right front corner, Pak was behind me at the right rear, Jude was across from him with Murphy to my left. As we plowed through the white standing wave our momentum also carried us over the rock that had created the thing and all at once I was looking over the bow and down into a deep hole in the water. We plunged into it and as we bottomed out the force of the drop caused the raft to bend in the middle and the paddle Pac had been using whacked me in the back of the head. We were held in that position for about two seconds then the river current took over again and spit us up and out of the hole and as the raft flipped back into its designed shape I went airborne. When I dropped back into the water the raft bulled me under and I was plastered flat against the underside transformed into the curious position of raft barnacle.

I tried to get a hand hold onto something at the edge of the rubberized disaster to pull myself out from under but my fingers slipped and clawed with no handhold to be found. The alarms belled and the red flags fluttered in my brain to warn that the rock we had just run over, just possibly, might not be the only one in the river and the next one we hit, due at any second, was going to smear me all over the bottom of the boat like a pizza supreme.

Then a paradigm shift somewhere in the cosmos swept me down deeper in the water and to the side and it was about then that my life preserver, and I use that term loosely, came alive and I felt launched toward the surface my right hand reaching high for air.

How he knew where I was I don’t know, that cosmos thing maybe, but as soon as my hand came out of the water, Pac grabbed it and we both pulled at the same time and I flew up and out of the cold over the gunnel and dropped into the bilges. I lay there for a few seconds, looking up at the curious movement of the trees on both banks moving in slow circles against the sky and I knew the boat was turning corresponding circles in the river, drifting out of control. Then we all heard it, a faint sound like a gust of wind in distant trees as the river flexed it’s muscles. Then the panic of reason jolted each of us and we all scrambled to our assigned seats and assumed the position as we approached another power run of river.

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Responses

  1. Absolutely, positively love this…your writing adds to the pacing of the event.

    Guess the gang was all wondering, “What about Bob?” (little joke there) 😀

    Who knew the diabolical tendencies of those darn life-jackets?

    • Thanks Laura. Yeah, those other “rafters” were really concerned I had bailed on my part of the raft rental and the life jacket looked to be way beyond it’s design quota of lives saved.

  2. Ha, ha, ha. I didn’t even realize I was holding my breath until “smear me all over the bottom of the boat like a pizza supreme.” and it burst out of me. Glad you didn’t end up pizza.

    • Thanks Terre. I guess the river had devoured enough humanoids that day and casually decided to just spit me out. Goody for me or they would still be looking for pieces to mail home.

  3. I am glad that things shift. Cosmos? Hmmm… I have read this about four times and by now, I pretty much have come to the conclusion that God had everything to do with deciding that HE was not finished with you yet! 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment.
      Yes, I know there is God. It’s not that I believe there is a God I know it. I pray daily for God to continue to direct what’s left of my life.my life.


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