was a normal day at the office, when a former NRS employee
called and asked "Do you want to haul some gear... down
the Selway?" I quickly responded: “Sign me up -
and by the way, how much gear?” It turns out that a
friend of a friend had drawn a 16-person Selway permit and
had two spots left. That afternoon, I went home and explained
to my wife that we needed to find child care for the second
week in June "'cause we're going boatin’!".
the launch drew nearer, I checked the flow levels each day on the
NRS River Links page, getting
butterflies each time the Selway exceeded 12,000 cfs at the Lowell
Gauge. We were in for a full river with a brisk flow.
the details unfolded, I learned that my boat would need to carry
two kayakers’ gear, plus two passengers with their gear, plus
food for all five of us. I had run the Selway two years earlier
- also as a “gear pig”. Since I was now planning for
big water and even more gear than before, I upgraded my “weapon
of choice to” a 16-foot
NRS River Cat. I was glad I did. At the time we launched, the
river was reading 16,400 cfs at the gauge, and just under five feet
on the stick at the put-in. While the flow alone was very intimidating,
my uneasiness was compounded by the fact that I was hauling the
heaviest load I've ever pulled, and floating with a group of complete
strangers of unknown boating abilities.
first two days, my wife and I wore NRS
wetsuits and Black
Rock splash gear. This worked out well, since the first rapids
were small ones and the weather was fairly decent. Afterward, though,
the number of rain showers increased and so did the size of the
whitewater. By day three we both decided to upgrade to full drysuits.
the tributaries combined, the river widened and the rapids continued
to grow more powerful. An intermediate kayaker in the group was
sucked into a very large whirlpool and got spooked, and so decided
to strap the kayak to the back of my cat and ride on the cooler.
By the time the most difficult day of whitewater arrived, we had
our boats “dialed in” for optimal passenger capacity
and balance. I lined up and ran all the Class IV rapids perfectly
– except one. This one is the rapid I’ll remember forever.
was a relatively straightforward, two-part rapid starting
on river right and ending on river left, and divided by a
large pool with a wicked eddy line. I ran the first line correctly
and started to pull to the left as hard as I could. To my
dismay, I just couldn’t pull my big barge across the
river in time. In my desperation to correct my line, I neglected
to square up, inadvertently choosing a new line.
never do that again. As my cat fell sideways into the first hole
(twice the size of the 16-foot River Cat), the cat stayed upright
but completely submerged. After a few seconds (it felt like hours),
the cat recovered and all four corners rose out of the hole at once.
I guess all that cargo - cooler, dry box, four York Packs (one on
each corner), five 3.8 Bill’s Bags, plus three passengers
- actually came in handy after all, stabilizing the cat and preventing
just as the cat surfaced, it crested over the lip of the first hole
directly into another one that was just as big. I pushed and pulled
on each oar but didn't make any progress. Amazingly, all my passengers
held on as they watched the massive 25-inch-diameter tubes go under
river gods finally let us loose and allowed us to join the dumbfounded
group watching below. Many of my new friends said they’ve
never seen a boat make it through a hole that big - let alone a
cat. And I hope they never do again.
learned: if you miss the line you intended, make the decision to
run a different line before it's too late to do anything at all.
That just might be a good rule in life, as well as in rafting.
Former NRS E-Commerce Manager