Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Lochsa, Day 2...rallying the Lochsa Swim Team

Day #2 started off fairly warm and with, as Jim said, "unlimited potential". We planned to run the middle and lower section, a 19-mile span with some of the best rapids on the river.

Yep, Joe documented our trip in HD video

Looking back on the Lochsa

There are a couple of unspoken rules that the group usually follows...generally, don't say things like, "This river is my b#tch" or "I own this river" or the like. Murphy's law usually strikes if this happens.

And, second rule, don't eat any cookies until the rafting is over for the day. Our friend Kevin has crumbs on his shoulder on the drive down. Bad luck!

Kevin ruins our karma

The van got shuttled down to the pull-out and the guides scouted the river. They told us the interesting news...they saw swimmers on the upper half...the calmer half of the river. Swimmers, by the way, are usually not voluntary...it means the boat flipped or dumped some people out.

Beat up truck at the put-in...foreshadowing??

Undeterred, we set out...Dan and I (and Mat, Joe, and Lisa) in the lead boat. John has done the Lochsa for 10 years...he is smart and keeps us safe yet knows how to maneuver the boat so that we hit the fun rapids, too. There are lessons on safety and speeches on what to do if you swim. I listened intently because on my first Lochsa trip, I didn't swim once. It was only a matter of time. Needless to say, I was a bit nervous...

Well, we were floating along and hit our first rapid, called Mile 129. We had breezed through it the day before. Unexpectedly, the river decided otherwise, and we stalled in a trough. A wave came up as we highsided and flipped us over side-to-side. Instantly, we were all thrown out of the boat with not much warning.

I got half a breath and hit the water...it was pretty disorienting, but I knew not to panic because my PFD would bob me up. I surfaced several feet from the boat and did the next thing...grabbed a paddle. The boat is your safety when you are in the river...shore or logs or rocks are generally not the safest. I flipped onto my back and tried to float while riding out the rest of the rough water. Dan was ahead of me and our friend Lisa was beside me. I tried to calm myself down and her, too. The water was cold but not bad through my 4/3 wetsuit.

The other 2 boats kicked into high gear and in about 90 seconds, we had everyone in the boat. It seemed like (and was) a long time but the flip was so unexpected.

I was a little shaken but fine. More like an overload of adrenaline!! The rapids after that seemed extra big!

We pulled out for lunch at Fish Creek and sat around in the rain. The weather was chilly, magnified by our swim.

Lunch spot...sorry for the blur but it was taken with the waterproof housing on Dan's camera


We got back in the boats and headed for the more "exciting" half of the journey...the highlight of which is Lochsa Falls. The Falls (like the rest of the river) is right next to the road and has a viewing area. People come out to watch in droves, especially on a holiday weekend. Everyone is hoping the boats get through but they are also hoping to see some "carnage"! Makes it exciting!

Lochsa Falls...doesn't look the big from up here!

A kayaker takes on the Falls

We set up to the left of the drop-in and the crashing of the waves was so loud. We dug in with all we had and almost made it through...but the river was not going to let us off the hook...we got pummeled from the left and went over again. This time, we were more tired from our first swim and I bobbed up under the boat. I had to wait a few extra seconds to re-surface. I grabbed two paddles while waiting for the boat to come get me, which didn't take as long as the last time.

Our other two boats made it through and only lost one of their paddlers. Bad luck for our boat, I guess!

Even though we swam and it was a bit stressful, we still had a blast!! Just like after any epic ride, when you sit around and trade stories about the day, we did the same...and then went to the falls to spectate. Joe purposely swam through Lochsa Falls twice (he's a water polo player, great swimmer, and he's done it before)...so we got to watch!

Joe swims the falls

Artistic shots

The take-out...Split Creek

Bridge to who-knows-where

Finishing up the ride

Another boat coming through to the end

Would we make it through Day #3 unscathed??? Stick around to find out!

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