Sunday, May 11, 2014

Flipping on the White Salmon

This weekend Emily and I got our first rafting trip in with friends from work.  Susan, a co-worker and guide at Wet Planet on the White Salmon River in Washington took us for an quick afternoon run down the very fast flowing river.  It was a beautiful, warm day and we had a bit more excitement than was planned…. click the title to read more…


This weekend Emily and I were invited on a short afternoon trip down the White Salmon with our friend Susan from work.  She works part time at Wet Planet in Husum, WA guiding commercial trips down the river and knows her stuff so we weren’t worried at all going at high water levels with her.  She also had access to all the gear at Wet Planet which was a huge advantage for all of us that went.  Ben had asked if we wanted to go after Adam and Sarah’s wedding but we were tired and needed to sleep in that day instead.  

The day turned out to be sunny and beautiful.  It was Mother’s Day and I had debated going up Mt. St. Helens in a red dress again this year but with a chance of it being cloudy and Emily not sure she was ready we instead opted for the rafting trip which turned out to be the best choice for us I think as we ended up having quite the adventure and made a bunch of new rafting buddies along the way.  We heard later that Mt. St. Helens turned out to be beautiful but Emily and I agree when we have a choice we always do something new.

We met Susan and the others at Wet Planet at 11am.  In our group was Thomas, Matt C., Jason, Daron, Lucas, and I from work with Lindsay (Jason’s fianc√©), their friend Adam and friends Katie and Laura.  When Susan showed up she opened up the Wet Planet garage for us to grab gear and I took the time to purchase a sunglass croaky strap which proved to be a really great decision later in the day.  We also took the time to walk up the road to check out Husum Falls under the bridge.  It looked huge and there was no way we would be going over it when the river was as high as it was.  

Once dressed, we all piled into cars and headed up the road to the put in where Susan gave us a brief talk on river commands.  I set up the GoPro on my helmet and we all hauled the rafts down a railing system through the woods to the river below.  I held on to Susan’s raft while she scouted a rapid and decided the first one was a bit too big for us.  It wasn’t too hard for us to then walk the boats down along the shore past the big rapid to put in safely below it.  Even below the rapid when we got on to the river we immediately found ourselves in rapids.  In our boat was Lucas and I in front and Emily, Laura, Katie, Daron and Susan.  Jason’s boat followed us down the river through the rapids.

The White Salmon runs through an old collapsed lava tube system from Mt. Adams and you can occasionally see it in the shoreline walls.  The river was really fast and was very high so we moved quickly through the big wave trains getting splashed pretty good in the front with Lucas.  It was a nice day out and about 70 degrees so our farmer john’s and splash jackets kept us pretty warm despite getting wet.  We passed by a beautiful waterfall dumping into the river on the right just before we entered a rapid called “stair step”.  This is where the fun began…

Susan yelled out that we seemed to be too far left so we paddled like crazy to get to the right and I honestly thought we were in a good spot going over the rapid but next thing I knew I was being thrown to one size and everyone was dumping out.  It caught Susan by such surprise that she didn’t even yell out to high side it.  I got tossed into the rapids and came up with my paddle only to find another paddle loose in the water next to me.  I’ve been in this situation before so I didn’t panic and tried my best to get back to the upside down raft which Susan was already climbing on top of.  

Suddenly Daron popped out of nowhere in front of me and grabbed onto the side of the raft right as we got churned through the bottom step of the rapid.  The raft shot out away from me but thankfully I turned around to see Thomas and Jason’s raft right behind me.  I handed them my paddles and they pulled me like a fish.  I then tried scanning around for Emily but the water had pushed my contacts back in my head and I couldn’t see much so I called out to make sure she was ok.  After a few calls I heard someone say she was fine so I grabbed a paddle and helped us get to shore quickly.  In the mean time Em was the last to be pulled out of the river onto the backside of the upside down raft and they were riding the last few rapids upside down.  

When we got to shore the river was still pretty strong so while Jason was throwing Susan a rope bag I grabbed the ropes of his raft and wrapped myself around a big tee on shore with arms on each side grabbing the rope and using the sturdy tree as an anchor with my body, knowing that once they had the rope it would take a couple people in Jason’s raft (Thomas and Jason) holding the rope to stop the upside down raft from moving down stream further so I knew I had to make sure we were all anchored to shore or both rafts would be pulled out.  It pulled hard but not unbearingly so.  I still kept a death grip on the rope though as my wife was still on an upside down raft near the middle of the river.  

In a short time both rafts were securely on shore and we all had a good laugh about the spill.  We had lost a pair of glove and two paddles.  On paddle we got returned to us later by another rafting group but we never found the other or the gloves as far as I know.  Daron’s glasses were smashed to her face which was pretty funny and apparently both her and Emily had been under the raft for a few moments when it first flipped.  Katie had never been rafting before so it was certainly an experience for her.  Susan still seemed pretty surprised at how fast it had happened.  I think we all handled ourselves just fine and no one seemed too shook up by it.  My GPS actually turned off when it flipped.  It still worked, but it got knocked so hard it shut off.  


From there it was a quick 20 minutes further to the takeout at Wet Planet where we all unpacked and had a few beers and honestly, the best pulled pork sandwich I have ever eaten.  Everyone was excited to see my GoPro footage which I later shared on Facebook in the form of a fun movie of our flip.  I really enjoyed rafting with Susan and look forward to more trips with her.  Maybe it is time that I really dive into the sport of rafting… it certainly is easier on the knees than mountaineering… and in times like this… just as exciting.

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