Greetings from NRS. If you’re anything like me, you are some place where not many rivers are flowing, or the temps are cold, or there’s a combination of the two. I’ve been lucky enough to boat a handful of days so far this year. But, for the most part, I’ve done a lot more waiting to hear about my annual Idaho four rivers permit lottery rejection notice and wondering when the snow will melt. Anyway, I noticed our last few e-newsletters were a little short on the stories side, so I thought I’d see if I could come up with something to help entertain myself and all of you.
As I mentioned, I’ve had a handful of days on the water so far this year. Heavy rain and temps near 40 degrees brought the Potlatch (our closest somewhat whitewater river) up early this year. The first day we made the 45-minute drive down to our Class II after-work standby, we found it brown and pretty high. The banks were covered in ice, and there were chunks of ice floating in the water. I was relieved to find I had left my drysuit liner behind and having just discussed winter boating safety with Clyde, I felt it was best not to go boating without it. After watching Kurtis and Galen spend 15 to 20 minutes getting into their gear and slogging down hill through brush and snow to the put-in, I was content to be driving shuttle instead of getting on the fast, cold river with them.
|At lower flows, when there are eddies, you can get into, or a surf wave with a good eddy, runs on the Lower Potlatch can take an hour or more. I think the boys spent about nine minutes on the water to cover the two or three miles of river. As I followed along side them, at one point the speedometer in the pickup showed 12 miles an hour. Depending on who you ask, the river down there is somewhere between Class I and Class III. Another buddy ran it earlier that day, managed to find one of the two holes in the stretch and invented some new freestyle moves that involved getting hit with chunks of ice while stuck in said hole. He made it out just fine. Not in his boat still, but fine…. I’m even proud to say I remembered all my gear the few other times I’ve made it down there so far.|
Gabe surfing it up in style at the Trailer Park Wave, Spokane River. Where's the other blade
of the paddle, you ask?
I’ve also been up to the Spokane River, just below the Post Falls Dam, for a little park-and-play at a wave usually called Trailer Park. Surfing up there is always nice. You can usually expect to see the same 3 to 5 local folks who make a daily trip when the wave is in, even if it’s 30 degrees outside. Most of the regulars at the play spots on the Spokane live in the area. From Moscow, it takes us around an hour and a half to get to the parking lot where we leave the pickup, before ferrying across the river and carrying our boats up the bank to the play spot. I don’t know why we spend three hours in the car to spend three hours or less on the water, on a day where getting wet sounds like a horrible idea to most people and even most boaters. Playboating on days like this isn’t something you can do if you don’t have the gear. A drysuit or a drytop and pants are mandatory, as are helmet liners and Toaster Mitts.
Even on warm days, I’m not a great playboater. I’m pretty happy to manage a spin in the one direction I can spin to. On days that are cold and cloudy, I’m trying as hard as I can to avoid flipping over. As much as some of you are wondering why I go, I wonder how folks like Erin, Kurt, and NRS team member Jud Keiser can spend as much time looping and getting wet as they do. Boating in Idaho this time of year isn’t something you can do without the right gear.
Executing the cross body C1 paddle stroke, in the froth
and foam. ©Kurtis Perkins
|Thinking about my last sentence, I realize that you can never go boating without the right gear. Depending on where and what time of year you’re boating you might have more or less gear, but you always need at least a boat, something to move it with and a PFD to make sure you float a bit if you end up out of your boat. We sell all that and of course a lot more, but I have to say that it’s not all about the gear. The equipment we sell can make the experience more enjoyable and even possible at times it wouldn’t be safe otherwise. But being on the water transcends the material things required to be there.|
When I started writing, I was tired of talking about gear all day and really wanted to express how much more there is to boating than just the equipment. But as I got further into this piece, I realized that no matter how much more than just the gear there is, there is no escaping the fact that the sport doesn’t exist without the gear. Even in the long gone days of home made boats, sprayskirts life jackets and military surplus rafts, you still had to buy the materials to make your equipment.
Whitewater, to me, is all about contradictions. Whether your adventure takes you to wilderness or just your local wave, there is a special quality to time spent on a river that words, or at least my words, cannot capture. It is time spent in another world, a world beyond ordinary, where cares and concerns cease to exist and there is only the moment. The moment ends. You flush off the wave, or you get to the takeout. Back to the world you bought your gear in, real life, the ‘grown-up’ world.
If I said that I had read the Wind in the Willows, I’d be lying. I keep meaning to go get a copy, but never seem to. But I think that most of us have read the part about the value of messing around in boats.
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