Horizon Line- Last Chance Rapid on the Cal Salmon River

February 4th, 2006 Robyn Suddeth

I realize I’ve blabbed on quite a bit about this recent trip to the Cal Salmon, but there are a few more stories worth sharing. [For some previous posts about this trip, check out: Whitewater Rafting in January, High Water on the Cal Salmon, and Cal Salmon Pictures] This account is actually the description of just a few moments in time, but they are the kind that can define a day and that most boaters can relate to…
To Set the Scene:

We’re drifting slowly up to the infamous Last Chance / Freight Train combo- dubbed by many as the two scariest rapids of the Nordheimer Run. The water surface here is flat, the only indication of its growing strength being the increasing speed with which our boat is being pulled toward that misting horizon line up ahead.

As we float closer to Last Chance, my eyes are anxiously seeking out a final eddy; that last calm place before the point of no return where we can catch our breath, or change our minds. Smokey and Adam are discussing their plan, and decide to scout the rapid and probably run a high water sneak route along the right-hand side.

A few seconds later, however, Smokey threw the whole conversation out the window as he drifted past that point of no return I had eyed outs moments before, and then entered the middle (rather than right) side of the rapid.

I said, “Guess we’re not going to scout,” as my hands gripped tighter on my seat. Adam pulled hard on the oars to give more room between the two catarafts and also give himself a moment to look at the rapid that two seconds before he had agreed to run right. He quickly decided not to go messing around with his own plans, and followed Smokey down the middle entrance.

After an incredible amount of whitewater, some strong pulls through huge diagonals, and a harrowing second in which I wasn’t sure the bottom hole was letting us through, we cheered the fact that we were still upright and composed ourselves for our run through Freight Train. Adam said, “Here we go!” and I thought to myself… Well, guess it all flows downstream afterall.

About a half hour later we were through all the whitewater. All of us felt refreshed from an amazing day on the river, and were in high spirits as we floated toward take-out. We started joking about the experience above Last Chance, Adam asking Smokey “What the hell was that all about?! We said we were gonna scout, run right…Two seconds later you’re in the rapid running center!” As the laughter and teasing continued, I felt a great appreciation for that special connection we all have with each other out on the water.

Adam Walker, Brad Riley, and Smokey PittmanIt occured to me then that those discussions above horizon lines don’t necessarily matter as much for the decisions made, but rather for the time taken by friends to look at each other and say: “We’re in this together.”

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