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Eddying Out

Sauk River Update
The word from the Darrington District is good in terms of the bridge over the Whitechuck River leading to the Sauk River's old put-in. No longer will have to risk life and limb parking along the Mountain Loop highway to stage river trips on the Sauk.

I have no idea if the put-in has been restored as well, but, at the least, we will be able to hump the boats over the streamside boulders just downstream of the Whitechuck to access the Sauk. Hopefully, the Darrington Ranger District has plans to replace the porta-pottis as well.

Now we need for the Sauk River to regain its old disposition and nature of technical, boulder-strewn rapids with fun sets of challenging waves and hydraulics --- AND --- be navigable below 3,000 cfs at the Sauk, near Sauk, river gauge. Then, and only then, will the Sauk be back to 'normal'.

Creature Craft
I am not going to link to these latest and greatest water craft because I don't think they need any additional promotion. I am concerned however that, eventually, they are going to lead to some difficult situations, especially in reference to their commercial use.

If you are unfamiliar with these new "rafts", they are self-righting rafts with rollbars where you strap yourself into the passenger seats. I have only seen videos with two people paddling, but I understand there are models capable of handling 6 paddlers. Apparently, in order to be sure they 'right' themselves, the paddlers need to do some kind hip snap, not unlike what you do in a kayak, though I am certain it is not nearly as problematical, or complicated or as difficult to learn. In the videos I have seen, these craft are running incredible stretches of whitewater safely, though, again, not without some drama. For instance, several times I have seen the craft on their sides for harrowing moments. Which would mean, of course, someone is below surface strapped to the boat.

The other concern is that it would presumably be possible to have your 'seatbelt' fail in the midst of Class V+ whitewater not meant to be navigated by paddlers sans boats. Tumwater Canyon, for example. I understand outfitters are salivating over the notion that --- finally --- the whitewater of Tumwater could now be viable with guests in Creature Craft. I would suggest these outfitters consider long and hard the consequences of opening this non-profit, Pandora's Box of a whitewater safety nightmare. It is not worth it. The money is not there in abundance and there is really no need for the liability exposure.

The lure of fame, if not fortune, will be irresistible. The lunacy of running Tumwater with neophytes at higher water levels will, sooner or later, be tried. You can count on me to stay on the sidelines.

Orion Guide Training and River Rescue Course Pushed Back

Due to a fantastic opportunity to raft the Grand Canyon for the 12th time with an amazing party of long-time friends, Orion's guide training and river rescue course has been rescheduled from late March to late April. The course will run one weekend shorter but, otherwise, will be the usual high quality and excellent times as always.

It is also likely that a second guide training will run in the latter half of May.

So, for those of you who have put off doing Guide Training with the excuse that the weather was too daunting, 2009 is your year. Better weather is almost guaranteed with a start that is a month later.

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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 because...you 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.  …