Thursday, June 28, 2007

Best Days: First trip to the Green Narrows, Aug. 2005

My first river experience was on the Lower Green when I was ten years old. I remember sitting at the put-in with my purple Dancer XS and watching the water release from the section above. I didn’t know anything about the section above except that that’s where the water came from. Fifteen years later I found myself standing at the same spot and staring upstream once again waiting for the water, only this time we called the area where I was standing the takeout, and not the put-in. I remember thinking that my kayaking was coming full-circle.

I was paddling with three of my best friends that day – Mark, Eric, and Israel. It was Israel’s second time on the Green but Mark and Eric were Green regulars, and even comfortable enough on that section to run it in a Topo-duo later that summer. (As an aside, their run through Gorilla was priceless. As they drove through the Notch, Mark, in the front and weighing about 140lbs, tried to catch the eddy. Eric, in the back and weighing 200lbs, wanted to go direct. The bigger boy won out and they went direct. The bigger boy also rolled them up at the bottom.) But I digress…

The first rapid we scouted that day was Frankenstein. Mark explained the line to me as Eric made it look easy. Israel went next, blew the line, and got hull-pinned over the ledge on river left. Mark and I scrambled down to his boat to try and free him. Israel was calm and had his head above water, but after many attempts, Mark and I could not budge his boat. It was at this moment that I looked downstream and saw Eric wading up the rapid like an aquatic Hercules with muscles bulging and a determined look in his eye. He bent over and picked both Israel and the boat up, and threw it over his shoulder using some sort of modified dead lift. (It should be mentioned that Eric lifted weights twice a day, and was built like a brick out-house) Both he and Israel swam the last part of the rapid. It was a pretty exiting start to our trip. We had only made it through two rapids before someone got pinned (usually it takes us about five rapids before that happens).

Anyways, we paddled the remaining rapids without incident until Chief at which point Eric in one of his dyslexic moments described the line completely backwards to me. I couldn’t see his whole line, but I could see enough to realize that he was doing the exact opposite of what he had described to me. I was forced to remember the picture on American Whitewater that showed a boater running the left line at Chief. Whoever that boater in the picture is, I am forever in your debt because I took your line (or what I assumed was your line) and it worked wonderfully.

Of course this brings us to Gorilla. Mark went first and ran it direct, and Eric and I eddied out after the Notch. I’m rather fond of that eddy, and I would have liked to have stayed there a bit longer. In fact, I’m willing to label that my favorite eddy on any river. Eric, who had been in that eddy 100 times before, did not want to chit-chat though and pealed out and over the drop. It was at this point that I realized I should have taken a look at the actual waterfall, and not just the Notch when we were scouting. Nonetheless, I had a great line, although I did get held up in Speedtrap for a bit. After finally making it out I paddled over to Eric in the river-left eddy. After some congratulatory words I turned to look back up at Gorilla when I felt myself getting pulled back into Speedtrap. (As it came out in the car ride home, Eric had actually pushed me back into Speedtrap). I surfed some more and did a few of those weird rolls where you’re pinned on your backdeck on dry rock. After escaping the hole for the second time I was too tired to reach the eddy again. I would be running the next two slides blind, which I felt comfortable doing at that point. The first slide was fun, and I went deep into the hole at the bottom of the second slide. I remember thinking that I was under water for a long time. I rolled up, cleared my eyes, and much to my astonishment found myself staring at a naked women on the rock in front of me. The first thought that popped into my head was, “Am I dead?” I quickly realized that she was not indeed an angel and I needed to catch an eddy to regroup, which I did.

I honestly don’t remember any of the other rapids that day, although I do remember having a great time on all of them. Occasionally I make it back to the Green, although not often. My returning trips have all had memorable moments, although none as memorable as that first time.

For me, kayaking has never been about what I’m paddling, but who I’m paddling with. I can have an equally fun time on the Lower Green, the Upper Green, or the Narrows if I’m with good people. The good people from that first trip down the Narrows have all moved on to other things in life – Israel is going to law school, Mark is in nursing school, and Eric is a helicopter pilot in the Army. I don’t get to see them very often anymore, but I think of them every time I visit the Green - and those memories make me smile.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So true, So true... It is about the journey and who you take it with, and in the long run it is the people and the faces that make us smile.