By Janelle Eklund
Rescue operations for securing our raft from the grip of the root wad and river changed in an instant. The river flipped the whole raft upside down, carried it around the tree limbs and on down the river. The crew from one of the other rafts acted instantly, jumped in their raft, and gave chase for ours. Diane and I decided it was time to leave the safety of the root wad and get to shore to follow suit with the crew of the cataraft. We walked to the end of the tree to cross the shallow channel to shore. The bottom of the river was hidden in the heavy glacial silt. Knee boots worked well for 6'2" Paul when he crossed but would it work on a 5'1" frame? There was no choice so I proceeded and was delighted upon reaching shore without getting wet. There were six of us now on the cataraft.
The river took mercy on us and slightly lodged our overturned raft in shallow water about a quarter mile down river. The raft that was in hot pursuit got there in good time. One person jumped out of the raft, sacrificing his feet to wetness, grabbed the overturned raft, and strained to keep the river from lifting it off the bottom of the shallows and carrying it further downriver. In a very short amount of time we were all there to secure the raft, attach a flip line and turn the raft right side up. It took five of us to flip it over with all the gear still under the gear net. Rower, Diane, was in tears about her tactical error. We consoled her and told her we were just glad we were all OK.
The next step was to stop and camp for the night and dry out all the gear that got wet from lightly closed dry bags. I had become too lax in closing my bag all the way. For one thing it was a little too full and another - I thought nothing like this would ever happen! So much for thinking. Lesson learned.
We found a gravel plain a few miles downstream. To get to it we had to line the rafts around a little island and across a shallow bar. Our raft was first and Diane and I unloaded while the other rafts were lined around. I wrung all my clothes and sleeping bag and draped them over accommodating bushes letting the sun be the dryer. Book and first aid kit were also laid out. The rest of the day was spent turning everything on the dryer. The wind cooperated with the sun so it was not too unlike a real dryer. By the end of the day things were mostly dry. A lot of stuff in our cooler was water logged and ruined. The dry bag with breakfast food, TP and paper towels also succumbed to water. We meticulously unrolled the paper towels and laid them out on the gravel to dry, weighted down with rocks. The TP was a lost cause - a big disaster! Dried paper towels would become TP. That night I wore my long johns and socks in my damp sleeping bag and was snug as a bug in a rug.
Before retiring we took a short walk up the drainage behind camp, greeted the plants and drank in the beauty of high mountain peaks - hopefully planting the mind with sweet dreams.
To be continued
From my light to yours-
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.