It was one hell of a weekend, that's for sure! On Friday, I headed out to the N. Fork Nooksack, it was at 750 cfs, one of my favorite flows. Jeff, PJ, Trip, and I met up and had a fantastic canyon run, we were all pumped to be back on the water. Over the last few weeks, I've met a lot of the local kayakers and I'm glad they're as stoked as I am to get out together this winter and paddle. Snow dusted mountains, a thick layer of fog, and fall-colored leaves...the beauty of the Nooksack at this time of year is difficult to beat. Later that evening, my friends from Leavenworth (Tom, Lubes, Brett, Chance, Troy, Jay, Brittany, Matt, Olivia) arrived and we decided to head into town. We drank some beers, made plans for the weekend, and well...danced our asses off! Saturday morning we woke up to the smell of coffee, eggs, and banana pancakes (thanks Brett!), and well a little hungover. We began to make boating plans for the day and decided Horseshoe Bend at 580 cfs was good to go; I love this river and was stoked to show it to them. After scouting, we geared up and the boys and I hit the river. Our first lap on the Bend went well, Bench Drop had a log in the boof so we weren't able to run that line. Chance and I went for the center line and the S-turn, while the rest of the guys took the far right line. We arrived at SAT and the low water posed some heavy obstacles, several piton rocks and many technical moves...this rapid is not a place you want to roll or swim. We all took different lines and I somehow managed to hit the eddy at the bottom of the rapid first. When I looked up stream, I saw a throw bag fly across the river. Matt had lost his paddle and was stuck in a rock eddy in the center of the rapid. After rescuing Matt, we arrived at the takeout and all agreed a second lap was definitely in order.
On our second lap, I bow stalled on the log sticking out of the Bench Drop boof. I had come in a bit too hot, rolled over, and tried to roll up as I got pressed up against the granite face of the S-turn rock. I was stuck and couldn't roll, so I jammed my knee through my skirt and swam. I made it into the far river left eddy and my friends had already retrieved my boat ever so quickly. I was a little shook up, but I got my head together and committed to every stroke through SAT. I think it's safe to say we all took different lines through this rapid both times. I found myself pushed left and went with it, then ferried and boofed hard to get center again.
As I exited the rapid I noticed a paddle and float bag, Matt had swam. I eddied out and went to help. He was okay, but we couldn't find his boat. Unfortunately, we found it pinned in between two rocks in the bottom hole of the rapid. We were chasing daylight as it was and had about an hour to attempt to get a line on it and z-drag it out.
We all worked together to get a line anchored across the river, then Tom live baited himself into the hole to carabiner the rope to the boat...he was successful!
Then we set up a z-drag and were able to rescue the boat, it had a small dent in it, but we were all pleased it worked out. At this point pizza and beer were far overdue, so we headed to Chair 9, pizza had never tasted so good!
I came to realize today as I've begun to regularly kayak Class IV and dabble in Class V, I am fortunate to constantly boat with people who are passionate about kayaking, who are better than me, and generously share their knowledge. I learn quickly through constant encouragement into water that is a bit over my head and those who help me push my limits. If I mess up, it gives me an opportunity to refine my technique, choose my line more carefully, or learn to hang in longer in order to avoid swimming. Today I gained confidence back in my ability to navigate difficult water quickly and adapt on the spot; fully trusting myself. Overall I feel lucky to paddle with the people I kayak with. I can't wait to see where we go as a group as we continue to follow our passion for paddling, for now, I'll see all you Nicks on Canyon Creek and the Lewis River in 2 weeks!! #shegoes