Tuolumne After a Storm, Day 2

Posted January 14, 2006 by Robyn Suddeth

The next morning began with our hike back into the canyon. We were all hoping that the water had gone down enough to ensure that our journey out would be by boat that day instead of foot. Once back to the rafts we were happy to see that everything had remained intact. The river, however, still raged with all its might. The Clavey itself had gone down quite a bit, though, which meant that we might be able to get across its currents and take a sneak route down the right side of the rapid. Again, all the guides scrambled to higher ground to get a better look while we sat nervous at the water’s frothing edge.

I will never forget the speech Brian gave our boat when he came back down. At first he just let us know we were going to try the right side. (This was just a ploy to get us all in the boat before telling us the whole story.) Sitting in the eddy above the run, we were given this explanation of his logic: “Well, if you go left there’s a 99% chance of flipping, but if you do flip the swim is not awful. If you go right there’s only about a 40% chance of flipping but if you do I would just conserve energy for that really awful hole you’ll go straight into. Don’t even bother trying to swim away from it- you won’t make it.” OK so the hundred butterflies in my stomach instantly turned into a thousand, but we all got a nervous little laugh and boost of adrenaline out of the whole thing. Brian a master of psychology???
Well the start of the run went well but about half way through it seemed like the back half of the boat was going to clip a ledge hole we were trying to miss. I was so determined this not happen that I didn’t heed Brian’s well-thought-of “Hold On!!” and kept right on paddling. Of course when the boat did clip the hole I lost all balance and started falling right towards Tessa and the low side of the boat. (By the way- really sucks when people do that if you’re trying to keep a boat upright!!) What ensued was perhaps one of the best moments in rafting I had all season.
Tessa had seen me coming, and instead of moving out of the way to save herself she squatted down inside the tube facing me, braced herself, and gave me a huge hug right there in the middle of Clavey. Thanks to that hug, we both stayed in the boat and my carelessness didn’t amount to the horrible experience I was dreading. As soon as the rapid was over Tess exclaimed, “I hugged you in the middle of Clavey!” We had a cute “aawwww” moment before the next rapid snapped us back to attention.
Every boat had great runs the whole rest of the day. It was really incredible the way those guys rowed. I kept looking at how easy and graceful they made it look (except for maybe some grumbling here or there) and just hoped that I would soon be able to understand the water and find the same harmony with it they had shown us.

As we hiked the boats out at take-out, I looked around and really felt that any of these people would be comforting to have around if something big ever goes down. But more importantly, I loved the elation and happiness apparent on everyone’s face throughout the day and the sense of accomplishment we all shared at that moment… this life on rivers is as much about the amazing people drawn to them as it is about the beautiful canyons themselves. Spring was beginning to look even better than I had imagined.


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