An introduction seems in order.
I’m a person who makes decisions on a whim, so long as the decisions are easy to make. Eat the donut or don’t. Take the dog for a walk or stay inside. Go white water rafting in a suicidally deflated raft or walk all the way back to the car to pump it up once more. Simple decisions.
I could not help but think, as I was dragged underneath the frothing water, that somehow the situation could have been avoided. What had come to pass was a perfect storm of errors and accidents compounded by our group’s lack of experience on dangerous water. I was unofficially nominated as the expedition leader for this ill-fated voyage due to my prior rafting experience. That experience, which took place over 3 years prior to the events of this story, was on a raft the length and width of a school bus that was also equipped with a motor and a 16 year rafting veteran at the helm. If I could give that rafting experience a flavour, it would be vanilla. Neopolitan at best. I was (and still am) barely more qualified than my cell phone to be leading any sort of river expedition. Less so, I would think since my phone can apparently survive for 2 hours underwater and I cannot boast the same feature. My newly crooked nose and rattled bones serve to remind me of the arrogance I displayed to the river and my swift comeuppance. Because I feel compelled, I now recant my tale to any who will listen, like some sort of modern Ancient Mariner.
While walking the 30 minute downhill trail to the river, our group met a photographer walking his dog. When we set out on our journey, he took some photos and yelled about how “awesome” we were from the shoreline. I remember thinking while underwater vaguely about how stupid our last photo alive would look. Four guys in lifejackets and bike helmets leaning out over the river in the saddest bright yellow raft to pose for the camera. We may as well have ridden an overlarge coffin down the river for all the safety the raft provided. Even in flat water, you could feel the rocks beneath you with your feet. Yet we pressed on, having already commited a whole hour of our time to seeing it through.
The last nail in the proverbial coffin wasn’t the underinflated raft, the subpar scouting of the river hazards beforehand, or even the fact that half our group was wearing sandals (a complete fashion faux pas when it comes to rivers). No, the mistake that nearly drowned us all is most definitely the moment our front and starboard paddler was using two hands to take a selfie just ahead of the class 4 rapids. This presented a unique problem in that with both hands occupied, my friend was out of hands with which to help paddle the raft to the safety. Instead of coasting through the rapids, our raft hit a fallen tree wedged between a few truck sized boulders that was obstructing the first vertical drop of the rapids.
The water rushed overtop the underinflated rear of the raft, flipping the whole thing back asswards and downside up. I smashed my face into the trunk of the unmovable tree of obstruction (roll 4 or higher to escape), dislodging it slightly from it’s previous position. Another friend of mine, Jordan, had less luck, bashing his helmet repeatedly on the tree before skinning his ankle down to the bone on the underwater rock face. Luckily he made it out of the worst of it and was pulled out of the river by the hero of our group, Andrew. Unfortunately, Jordan had decided to wear flip flops on this adventure so he was forced to walk an hour back to civilization on steep trails in a loaned pair of socks.
I don’t think we’ll be reliving this particular adventure again. After losing all of our paddles and gear and nearly our lives, we went home and woke up the next day sadder and wiser men.
50 min write & photoshop.