Tieton Eddy Repose

Tieton Eddy Repose
"So, this is the river." said the Rat.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Day in the Life of a Guide

A cult classic called "Repo Man" starring Emilio Estevez (Martin Sheen's son and Charlie Sheen's brother) gave Orion's whitewater raft guides one of their best quotes ever --- "A guide's life is intense. . . and sometimes under tarps. . . " The movie quote is simply, "A repo man's life is INTENSE."

In any event, guides of all stripes are survivors. Especially the serious practitioners.

They camp in tents, in vehicles, under tarps, under the stars, behind abandoned railroad cars, in broken down company vans. They dine on what is euphemistically referred to as 'roadkill' --- leftover food from trips --- and wash it down with 'animal' beer, which is otherwise known as Schmidt's, or Schmidty's, rhymes with *****, or any beer proffered them.

River guides hump heavy objects over torturous terrain, or labor up Sahara-like sand dunes with unwieldy metal boxes, in order to set up the kitchen, the communal eating area and camp in the ideal location for their guests. Day trips require offloading copious quantities of gear for anywhere from one hour to four hours of on -the-water bliss with a mere minutes of whitewater ecstasy --- assuming they can marshal their paddlers into a well-oiled drill team to be able to take, or even make it to, the big waves.

On overnight trips guides are on-call 24 hours and are doing something from dawn to dusk --- moving heavy things, chopping vegetables, worrying about boat tie-ups, boiling water, boiling more water, keeping water hot on the campfire. Guide's tasks are endless. Their responsibilities numerous. Indeed, "the crown weighs heavy..."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Leavenworth Wenatchee River Rafting

On a whim, I went to YouTube the other day and typed in "Leavenworth Wenatchee River Rafting". Imagine my surprise when I discovered a six-minute, produced video of a day with Orion on the Wenatchee River out of our darling faux Bavarian Village, Leavenworth.

The video was produced last summer by one of Orion's stalwart regular guests and was a delightful 'inside edition' to the nuts-and-bolts of a one day raft trip. I especially appreciated the humor, even in regards to well-tended, rental wetsuits with a limp rear patch --- there was some reference to an "escape hatch". We work very hard to stay on top of our rental gear (which isn't really rented, but comes with the package) but it is exasperating fussing with 250 wetsuits, both inside and out, to make certain of their total integrity.

The video producer is a guest whom, by memory, I only know as 'Scooter'. He calls himself on his website 'Vespa Boy'. As an organizer of day river trips, he has been terrific to work with and you can tell by the video he takes great pleasure in introducing friends to whitewater rafting as well as his impromptu productions.

If you are truly bored, go to YouTube and type in "Inflatable Monkey Rafting". I could have used Scooter producing THAT tiny piece of frivolity. Guides on a 'busman's holiday' once again.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

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.