Twas Just Right Before New Years
At NRS it’s impossible to escape the enduring urge to go paddling; even in late December with snow on the ground and holiday cheer in the air. Most offices in the United States have a large portion of their workers out on vacation during the holiday season, and NRS is no exception.
Darren dropping over a small pour-over.
The closest river to us here in Moscow is the “Mighty Potlatch”, a small river that’s mainly paddled in the spring during run off. But every now and then, if there is enough rain, it will jump from almost nil to 1-3 thousand CFS, providing a much appreciated playground for local paddlers.
I awoke the next morning at 7:23 a.m. in a semi-panicked state - I was late. What should I do? Stay home or…run to Kendrick to see if I could catch the guys on their second run? Go to Kendrick! I jumped in my pickup and sped off, thankful I had loaded all my gear the night before. As I drove past the city park, I wasn’t surprised to see no one there, so I headed up to the take out spot. I drove along the river, continually struggling to keep my eyes on the road and not on the river. I thought back to the first time I had paddled the Potlatch two years earlier. It was here that I received my first taste of whitewater kayaking, performed my first river roll and surfed a wave for the first time.
The winding canyon road made me snap out of my nostalgic thoughts and back to reality. Before I knew it I passed over the bridge that marked the take out, but to my surprise, no one was there. I headed upstream to the put in, but no one was there either. “I guess everyone decided to stay home. Well, it’s cold and the river might not have been that good anyway,” I consoled myself as I headed back downriver. As I rounded a corner, I was very surprised to see Tyler pass me in his Jeep. I quickly stopped, turned around and drove back to meet him in a small turnout. As I pulled in, I saw he was in full boating gear; dry suit half-on with the arms wrapped around his waist. He told me he had driven to Juliaetta, a nearby town, to see if I had inadvertently stopped there.
After a short discussion, we hopped in our rigs and drove to the take out. While dropping off the shuttle, Tyler noticed two river otters playing and swimming down the river. I was surprised to see them in such a small river as the Potlatch. I unsuccessfully tried to coax them to the shore but they were wary of the tall guy making funny noises. With the river otters gone, we loaded into my truck and drove to the put in.
”Sweet, this is going to be great,” I thought to myself as I put on my gear and Tyler pumped up his MaverIK. I heard him say something and turned around to see him staring at the pump with a bewildered look on his face. “Its not working, I should have checked it before I left.” After a few minutes of investigation, we found the problem (dry/frozen O-ring) and fixed the pump. Tyler continued to pump, but much to our dismay, we heard a faint hissing noise coming from the one of the tubes. At first Tyler thought it was a valve but then he found a goat- head thorn had wedged itself between the side tube and the floor, puncturing it upon inflation. I was starting to wonder if we had really made the right choice in coming up here. But it’s amazing what you can fix with a combination of electrical and medical tape! After Tyler had patched the pinhole, which amazingly enough held, we slid into our boats and finally headed down the river, admiring the ice covered rocks and playing in the river foam.
Eddying out below one rapid, I thought back to a previous trip when a group of us got piled up too close to each other while running this same rapid. At one point on the line you need to grab one of two eddies in order to make an easy ferry and, to miss a log that sits 1-3 feet out of the water. By the time I arrived, both eddies were full. I missed the ferry and bumped into the log at the bottom but was able to lean and push my way around without getting stuck. My buddy behind me wasn’t as lucky. With nowhere to go he hit a rock going pretty fast, which caused him to do an inadvertent splat move, gracefully followed by a 1-point window shade. He then floated underneath the log upside down (whew!), and rolled up before the last few holes and waves at the bottom. A good reminder why you go paddling with buddies. One, to help you in case of trouble and two, to tell everyone else what happened.
As I continued down, I thought back on other experiences I’ve had on this river. The spot were I took a swiftwater rescue class from Charlie Walbridge and the two small, unnamed rapids where the importance of wearing a helmet got banged into my head. It was too bad we didn’t have the whole day to continue our short adventure, but we did hurry up and get in a second run.