Last Sunday, my boyfriend, myself, and our housemate Chris, went kayaking down the Rogue River, in Shady Cove, Oregon. I am middle-aged, an inexperienced kayaker, and suffering from a chronic illness that prevents me from exercising.
My boyfriend had just gotten into the water with me on an inflatable kayak for two, that appeared to be very sturdy. Earlier in the week, we had practiced paddling around on two different lakes, though he, unlike myself, has experienced the rushing waters of the Rogue.
I have no idea what I was thinking. I had total faith in my boyfriend’s judgment of my capabilities.
Boy, was I stupid.
We brought two cars, and parked one upriver, and one downriver, so we wouldn’t have to walk for six miles to get back to the car, laden with heavy gear.
We went to a great Mexican restaurant in town, that overlooks the Rogue, before we began our journey. My boyfriend ordered an enormous Margherita, which freaked me out immensely. He drank the vast majority of it.
When we started on the river, it was quite calm, and I enjoyed myself. I discovered that I am stronger than I imagined myself to be, and actually paddled consistently without injuring myself.
I don’t how many of you, who are reading my writing have been river rafting. I went once with my family and a guide in Colorado, 35 years ago.
We were laughing a lot, and my honey was fishing, which I thought was a really bad idea, especially after the Margherita.
We bobbed successfully through two level 2 rapids, It was fun. The waves were about 1-2 feet high, and we didn’t fall out.
Then, everything changed.
Our housemate was in a one-man kayak, and the river diverged into two channels. There was a small island with a pile of rocks and small trees covering it, in the center of it all.
Our housemate chose to go to the right, which was a narrow and quite ferocious passage.
My boyfriend said we should follow him, and then changed his mind, because the rapids on the left were less violent.
The water was rushing beneath us unusually quickly, because the level of the river was high due to scads of melted snow.
There was a moment of utter silence, as we realized that we were heading straight for the mini island in the center of the river.
This part of the Rogue, happened to be more advanced, and was a class three rapid, 5 being the most dangerous and difficult to manage.
We found ourselves perpendicular to the current, with the side of our huge kayak rubbing up against the edge of this poorly placed obstacle.
Each of us had the bright idea to use our paddles to push ourselves away from the rocks.
Very poor decision.
The boat flipped over completely, and I found myself sitting upside down in the boat, totally submerged in the rapids. I remember thinking something like this; “I guess I’m going to die here. I was hoping to live a little longer”.
Thankfully we both had life jackets on, and somehow mine yanked me out of the boat and to the surface.
The next exciting experience was floating down the class three rapids on my back. I continued floating down the river for quite awhile. I realized quickly that there was nothing I could do, but float, and hope that somehow things would end well…
My boyfriend and our housemate thought quickly, and just before I was about to pass the rock they were sitting on, shoved the large kayak in my general direction. I couldn’t grab hold of it, and began to panic.
Then, my alcohol free housemate threw me a rope, my boyfriend pushed my behind up, and I was pulled by our friend onto the rocks.
People die on this river. I am so fortunate to not have been one of them.
After 15 minutes of resting, we got back into our boats, and I began to shake violently. Talking about being traumatized!
We got to the boat launch which led to the lot where my car was parked.
“Where are your keys?”, my boyfriend asked.
“They are in your van, underneath the seat”, I answered.
Shit. Shit. Shit, and more shit.
My boyfriend tried hitchhiking back to his van, but no one would pick him up. We live in an area where there are a lot of racist white folks, who I’m sure didn’t like the look of my long haired, Native American, Spanish, and Mexican beau.
He walked for 6 miles in incredible heat, to get to the van, while my housemate and I worried that he’d been abducted by a highly unbalanced person, who had cut him into a million little pieces.
He finally got back to us, around 2 and one half hours after he originally left. The strange thing was, that he wasn’t even pissed at me. I think he was happy that I hadn’t drowned and was feeling sentimental and thankful.
I think it might be awhile before I try that again.