Another Saturday, Another Beating…

The thing about beatings is you never get used to them. Except you sort of get used to them. Jesse Pinkman

The Logging Road Cyclist enjoyed the little regimen of biking along one of the rivers he used to paddle and letting that morph into a story from the glory days. Or the salad days (which, TLRC, ever anxious to increase his reader’s erudition, will point out is a saying taken from Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra).

The Quartzville story got TLRC in mind of another beating that he took at around the same time. Since biking is still a bit dicey for TLRC, and the roads around Crabtree Creek pass though clearcuts that are horrific even by his standards, TLRC figured he’d cut to the chase, omit the ride, and just tell the story. He begs his readers to be tolerant; this blog will still be mainly aboout biking. Probably.

That winter, one of TLRC’s common boating partners was JC (a different one). JC was a grad student, father and as bad a drunk as TLRC was at the time. Another new generation boater, JC had cut his teeth in the Appalachians and was trying to fit in with the Willamette Valley boating scene. It irked him no end that the Upper Echelon was fine with a paddler from the Jurrasic like TLRC, but that he was having to prove himself. TLRC, still slipstreaming on his steadily diminishing rep from the Golden Era was happy to pull JC along with him, but he was getting tired of the whining. TLRC was especially put off when, while doing an Upper Echelon run of Canyon Cr. that was top-heavy with big-name locals, TLRC had brought JC along, and JC was steadily complaining to TLRC to hurry up lest he, JC, get blamed for slowing things down when in reality it was a pretty scared TLRC who was taking too long to scout, etc.

But in general, JC was an amiable enough partner. He was more than competent; safe; knowledgeable; and most importantly to TLRC, JC was loyal. If TLRC got jammed up somewhere he knew that JC would do whatever could be done to bring TLRC back home. And that is really at the bottom of the whole thing. They paddled together a lot for a couple of winters.

Early during the first of those winters, when TLRC was still feeling his way back into a kayak, and slowly realizing that he wasn’t ever going to be a very large dog anymore, he and JC went up to run Crabtree Cr. It had the reputation as one of the sort-of-standard class III runs coming out of the Cascade foothills. Perhaps they went up there because they knew it would be stomping after the big storm they had just had. This seems likely because they generally were after bigger game that winter.

They found their way through the maze in the clearcuts to the North Fork and put in. It was small and very high and very woody. In a little while they had picked their way down to the confluence with the South Fork, and things got really big for such a small stream. JC took off over towards river right and once he was clear, TLRC followed, but more out in the center.

TLRC has a vague memory of a large hump of water left of center in the river. At the time, he didn’t think much of it, mostly because it didn’t look like much and he was pretty solidly focused on all the wood that could be in the river.

Cresting the hump, TLRC instantly shifted his focus from theoretical wood to the horribly real reversal hidden behing the hump. This thing was  absolutely huge and tossed TLRC in a quick backwards flip as soon as he entered it. Pulling himself into a protective rolling posture, the next thing he new he was upright through no intention of his own. Taking what he could, TLRC grabbed a brace on his weak left side, hung on, and assessed his situation, which was very bad indeed.

The upstream face was higher than head-high. He could hang on with his left arm bent at about 90 degrees, which wasn’t awful, but then the hole was violent enough that his boat was bouncing up and down about a foot at a time. TLRC reached into the usual bag of tricks…

He worked his way forward to see about getting out of the right end of the hole. He got there and it was too high to climb out of. Sliding back from that, his upstream edge caught and he was down, somehow flipped forward end-for-end and then righted, this time on his right side. This being his strong side, he backed up, flailing carefully and took a run at the left end of the hole. Same result. He tried to foward end-for-end out. He tried to backward end-for-end out. Each time TLRC wound up inverted, then flipped up. Somewhere deep within his lizard brain, TLRC was congratulating himself for being able to pull all this out of his hat after all these years; that he was staying pretty calm and had a plan. But that was, to say the least, the upside. The downside was that TLRC was rapidly running out of strength and air, and that sometimes he was simply getting flipped over by this violent reversal just because. Swimming was unthinkable.¬†Between all the wood, the lack of eddies, and the very fast but shallow and bouldery streambed, a swimmer would either get pinned or beaten to death in short order. TLRC decided: if he didn’t wash out the next time he flipped over, he’d roll up, pop his spraydeck and see what happened. Not really a decision per se so much an an acceptance.

Soon enough he was over again, and not through his own agency. The usual harsh wash cycle disoriented him and he tucked. A sudden calming gave him hope and up he went blinking like a mole trying to find where he was.

Just below the hole as it turned out, getting sucked back in for another go. TLRC backpaddled away and quickly turned to see what he was drifting into. This was hard, since, having just been pounded into hypoxia, TLRC was seeing very double.

His four eyes were draw to the right bank, where an oblivious JC was scouting the next riffle, just below. TLRC scrambled over and jammed his boat up on the bank and sat there trying to re-oxygenate. TLRC had gone through the usual time-warp that getting really, really stomped in a big hole induces, and as a result, was pretty miffed that JC, who had only gone through, like 30 seconds of real time, hadn’t noticed that TLRC had been hole-riding for a few days…

As it happened, JC was looking downstream because what was there was what typified the day’s outing: a river-spanning log about six inches above the water that was too shallow to roll in. Thre were no eddies. Had TLRC swum, he would at worst been toast, and at best bludgeoned.

After all this, the rest of the run was nerve wracking. Any riffle whose bottom was out of sight had to be scouted, and just to be sure they never got slack, most of them had killer, or at least wounding wood in them with no place to roll underneath and no place to to stop. It was truly wierd to be boating class V on a class III run.

For the next few days TLRC pondered how ironic it would have been had his ticket got punched on little, out of the way Crabtree, after everything else he’d managed to skate through.

One thought on “Another Saturday, Another Beating…

  1. It is wonderful to see TLRC return! The glimpses he gives of the the recriminations and self-effacements of his own internal dialogue, are so familiar that I have to laugh. Thanks.

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