Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Gently down the stream

Drift-boat-style rowing is not as easy as I thought. I've knocked friends out of boats, spiraled back to the ramp on stillwater, and embarassed myself otherwise...
Photo courtesy Ben Pierce
Practice and muscle memory are necessary to overcome the counter-intuitivity of the "drift-boat stroke". Understanding how to read water (float-read, not fish-read) helps, but does not make rowing second nature on your first trip. Liz, for example, is an experienced kayaker who knows which lines to take, how to approach hairy stuff, how moving water reacts to paddle strokes, etc., but admitted it wasn't completely natural to turn the raft. It's sort of akin to learning to back a trailer; go slow, and if you turn wrong, do the opposite (hopefully there's time). Above all, stay calm and carry on; eventually the boat will do what you want. And, as everyone told me, you have to push the boundaries of your comfort level to improve. Check (with aplomb, if a little horn-tooting is allowed).

We floated a small, cliffy river that's only runnable during runoff. It was about the lowest flow we were told floating's possible (well below the 25th percentile), so there was plenty to avoid.We figured it was pretty regularly Class II, up to II+ at the narrower spots.

Calluses peeled from the trunks of my fingers by Saturday night; pouring a little beer over my endorphins had me floating again quickly.

We swiped some branches at a couple points, but that was as hairy as it got. I put us front-first through some gurgling tongues as I wanted, and now feel ready to take on some new water.

It was a tremendous weekend replete with good friends, spectacular aurora borealis, the float, and a rainy hike to the Devil's Glen. None of the water was super fishy, but everyone caught trout on flies, everyone charted new Earth, and everyone had a memorable experience. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily...

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