Skip to main content

River Rafting Pastimes

No reason to be thinking about rafting with fresh snowfall on the ground in Leavenworth, except I just received an invitation to compete in a nationally-sanctioned horseshoe tournament to be held in Petaluma, California, in the spring after finishing third in my division at the World Senior Games in St. George, Utah.

I started throwing 'shoes on a Green River raft trip in the mid-80s.  The Green is a tributary of the Colorado, and this was one of those "busman's holidays" river trips where guides come together following a season of harrowing, heart-warming and hubristic experiences to . . . unwind.  Despite being an expatriate Texan living in the Northwest, I had never thrown a horseshoe in my life.  As a matter of public record, the only horse I ever rode I paid twenty dollars an hour for the privilege to do so.

I cottoned to throwing horseshoes from the outset.

Unlike slow pitch softball, you could be competitive in horseshoes with a beer in hand.  Now, I don't consume alcohol to excess, but I have attempted to play third base with a buzz and that has to rank fairly high as one of the dumbest things I have ever done.

Horseshoes is competitive, but it is also very social.

I liked the heft of the shoe in my hand and I liked the concentration required to be competitive.  It helped that I pitched on my slow pitch coed softball team, since the motion is similar and the official distance is almost identical.  I was pre-accustomed to trying to drop an object close to another object at forty feet.

Of course, what really sealed the deal for me was the ease with which horseshoes could be packed up and carried along on a river trip.  The shoes and the posts are as heavy as cast iron metal, but --- hey! --- river rafters cart cast iron Dutch Ovens down the gnarliest of rivers as our primary means of cooking.  Another heap of metal is not an issue.

Other than horseshoes, I suggest a game I learned long ago --- from the era of Stewart Brand and the age of New Games --- called Hunker Hawser.  All you need is a forty foot length of dry tubular webbing, two stable objects to stand on and two willing competitors.  Place the "platforms" fifteen feet from one another, or so, have the participants start with each holding the webbing in hand while mounted on the "platforms" (which on a river trip could be ammo cans or buckets).  Each contestant should have an equal amount of excess webbing to be fair.

The objective is to pull one another off their platform by tugging or releasing.  It is similar to the technique you might use fishing and like fishing you don't fully let go of the webbing as you wouldn't fully let go of your fishing rod.

In any event, I was the master of this riverside game with its combination of balance and sly cunning, until I ran into Jasper Hickman.  A former All-State lineman and a bear of a man, Jasper was an immovable object on a bucket and coupled that with a fine sense of how to 'play' his opponent.  Suffice it to say, if Washington river runners had their own All-State accolades to hand out in regards to Hunker Hawser, Jasper would earn one without any doubt.  He was unbeatable.

Consequently, on a river trip, I am going to stick with horseshoes.

Popular posts from this blog

Spring River Guide Training

Time to sign up if you want to be a guide, or if you just want to feel comfortable on the river on your own.
Only a few weeks away from our annual seven day guide training odyssey on the Deschutes River in north central Oregon and - as the senior instructor - I am beginning to feel the undertow of another river season.

Orion's guide training course kicks off every whitewater season and is comprised of seasoned and salty veterans, women and men, wide-eyed whitewater neophytes, those who revel in the adversity and those who are challenging their ordinary state of being, whatever that may be.

It is a time for ditching cellphones and the comfort of our creature habits.  Sharing and laughing and looking one another in the eye.  Being physically present have to be to deal with the circumstances of being out amidst the elements.  Setting up tarps in windstorms and cooking over fires.

It will be a memorable trip.  Even for those of us participating in it for the 40th time.

River Rafting is Good for You

I have been rafting for a long time.

My first rafting experience was in the fall of my first year in college.  As a matter of fact, after matriculation, it was the very next thing I did.  The river rafting trip, regarded as my wilderness orientation to Prescott College, was a month long affair.

One month in the wilderness after having spent the majority of my life in well-ordered suburbs where my primary contact with the outdoors involved sports.

You can imagine it was an eye-opener in a number of ways.

My wilderness orientation, which took place over four decades ago, brought me serendipitously to this place.

Overnight raft trips are the single easiest method to 'leave it all behind.'  The 'behind' we referred to leaving used to just mean the traffic and the stressors of modern day life, ringing phones, the hustle and bustle of humanity and bills coming due, responsibilities to uphold.

Now, we are saddled with the ubiquity of always being connected to what is going o…

The Phenomena of People

I do not have a river story for you this week, but I had a visit from a good friend from Bellingham and our reunion reminded me of one of the other reasons I have persevered with this little cottage industry.

I wrote a story a few years back titled "Why I (Continue to) Raft" and the gist of that column was that I realized how much I enjoyed getting people out on the water and watching the transformation.  It ended with the brief tale of my very young nephew from Dallas who floated the Skagit and - at first - was terrified of the moving, darn-cold-if-you're-from-Texas water.  And, despite being on a trip surrounded by a large Y group of boisterous Northwesterners who could not get enough of swimming, it appeared he would endure the trip and be ecstatic to see the takeout and a warm, dry car.

When we were halfway down the river, his entire attitude did an about face.  And by the time we hit the takeout he WAS ecstatic, but not about being finished and back to dry land.  …