We went white water canoeing on the weekend.
It wasn’t exactly intentional. My lover’s work had a family picnic and had rides for people who wanted to do a raft float down the river to the picnic site. We had just bought a canoe (best suited for lakes) and decided to give it a go.
I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve gone canoeing. I’ve loved each time and so wasn’t worried. Usually my cartographile husband looks up maps of the routes and checks the water levels so I didn’t do any of it.
The work group left late and the raft launch was a little downstream of where we launched the canoe. We paddled upstream for 10 to 15 minutes while waiting for rafters. Most of the rafters were really confused and asked why we were trying so unsuccessfully to paddle upstream. Every few minutes someone would ask if we knew what we were doing and didn’t seem satisfied with the answer that we were just waiting for them.
(Photo credit: James Tworow. Not the same river we were on, but in the same area)
C-minor started out by throwing all of her toys overboard and then trying to stand up and reach for them. Once we got moving she then tried to grab sticks floating in the water. It wasn’t really helpful.
Then we hit our first stretch of rapids. Since canoes are more stable if going faster or slower than the current we began to backpaddle. However, that means the person in the front (me) has to steer. I would have liked some practice steering at all, let alone doing it backwards while approaching some large rocks at a speed I hadn’t gone before.
We decided to turn the canoe around and just paddle upstream so the steering wouldn’t be backwards. At this point the rafters passed us and were once again concerned that we didn’t know what we were doing. I think this was the worst part of the trip for my more experienced partner. The comments that is, not the manoevering through rapids while going down them backwards, which is a strain on the neck at least.
(Not my picture either but this is the same river)
The sun was getting lower and the glare on the water made it hard to look for submerged rocks or shallower stretches. I said to aim us for the left side of a pier because the glare wasn’t as bad and I could look for rocks. However, as we approached, the current wasn’t running parallel to the pier, but was pushing us against it. As we were being pushed hard and fast towards the concrete pile, my lover called out for me to backpaddle. Instinct took over and I paddled forwards as hard as I could. In our fight against the current and even against each other, my partner’s paddle broke. The shaft snapped right in the middle.
(Photo credit: By Larry He’s So Fine. This may not be the exact pier)
We slipped past the concrete pier unharmed but with only one paddle for the rest of the trip. Since I hadn’t looked at a map, I had no idea what the rest of the river was like. I had no way of knowing that we’d passed the most difficult parts or it wasn’t just my incompetence that made it tricky. I had small children who wanted us to go faster or reach out for objects they dropped in the frigid mountain runoff river. I also knew that there had been a few deaths downstream of where we were from inexperienced rafters.
(A picture of downstream where the deaths occurred, taken from a newspaper)
Because of that I was relieved to see our destination point about 2 or 3 hours after we started. There I learned we had gone through some class 1/2 rapids. I also learned that another woman had decided not to take their canoe down the river because although she loved to canoe down rivers, her husband had mostly done lakes. She said it only takes one partner to put the rest in danger.
While I was feeling guilt that I had potentially endangered my babies’ lives, my partner was exhilarated.
We will do the river again another time. After we get better paddles and I have more practice. Likely without the kids.