Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Kayaking the Verde: Day 2, Pushed to our Limits

Last night was humid and hot, and it took me a long time to fall asleep. I felt rested enough upon waking though.  There's really nothing quite like the early morning hours by the river.  There are no sounds but that of nature: the birds calling, the lapping of the water on the shore, the occasional splash of a fish jumping in the water. The fresh air seems to hold promise.

Morning Calm.  My waterproof disposable camera takes mediocre pictures at best, but it's better than nothing!

I slowly stretch and test my stiff limbs. I think I can do this again.
After oatmeal with fruit and nuts, it's time to load up and hit the river.  We are hoping to paddle some 18 - 20 miles today.  That's a lot!

"Well hello kayak.  Hello river.  Be nice to me today."

"Oh, hello Handsome!

Isn't this a romantic, lovely weekend getaway from the kids?! A couple that sweats together, stays together? We should do this more often! Oh, and can your next treat to me be a massage?"

The morning was enjoyable, and actually quite fun, despite our feeling the need to keep a good pace.  I felt a little more experienced and started to love the thrill of successfully running a class III rapid.
The topography was becoming more mountainous. We paddled by a lot of cliffs and cacti.  Some parts of the river were all rock along one bank. I preferred the unassuming rock to the tangle of trees, roots, and brush.

Jari, in his big white ship, makes sure we all make it safely down a little chute in the rocks.

A calm stretch and some cactus sightings on the cliff side.

It was some time in the middle of this day that the river tried to beat up my beloved.  He was the first to approach a rapid, and headed down before I even got a glimpse of what lay ahead.  It was a wide and shallow rapid with a rocky, gradual descent followed by an unknown, as the river turned left and our view was blocked by brush.  I called out, asking if we should come on down.  No answer.
I hopped out of my kayak, stood up, and saw his boat floating upside down at the bottom of the rapid! 
I started heading down, walking my kayak down the rocks, eager to make sure he was okay. I looked up and saw him on the far bank, breathing hard. He signaled for me not to come down this one.  I hollered back to the others that they should walk too.
It turns out the river actually went in two directions at the bottom of this rapid, creating a whirlpool in the middle.  Dean got caught in it and some tree branches.  Thankfully he's a strong swimmer. 

We walked our kayaks down many more rapids that day.  Sometimes the river was too shallow, but more often than not, it was rushing and twisting through narrow sections of boulders or trees, making paddling through it impossible.

After hours of back breaking, slow progress through multiple impassible rapids, we came upon one stretch of of the river that was fast and fierce and completely blocked by submerged trees.  There was no way through on the water.  The guys decided we had to portage. Thankfully, they made the four trips for each kayak.  I was beginning to feel the effects of the last two days.

Each turn of the river brought another challenge with debris blocking our way or chutes too narrow and overgrown to paddle down.  We had no idea where we were.  The Red River was supposed to enter the Verde at some point, but it was either dry or we missed it in the heavy undergrowth.  Or worse yet, we hadn't even come upon it. Had we come 15 miles or 5?

We came to another nasty stretch of the river that plunged over a huge boulder and between lots of overgrown bushes.  Getting past the boulder upright required someone guide our boats past it, then point us straight through the bushes.  Dean volunteered to do this.  Since he was last and had to navigate past the boulder on his own, he got pinned there and filled with water.  After helping him dump his kayak downriver, we joined the others at the next sandbar.  It was then that I looked down and noticed my cell phone dry bag was gone!  The little buckle clip had come undone!  Our wedding rings were in that dry bag.  A quick search of the bank we had dumped Dean's kayak on proved fruitless.
We paddled on.

After a dinner break and an unsuccessful attempt to read the gps and determine our whereabouts, we decided to push on until dark.  We had too many miles to cover to allow ourselves a rest yet.

This section of the river was very green.  Finding a good camping spot might be a bit of work.
With brush on each side of the river and daylight fading fast, we had to decide if we should push on or bushwhack our way to a clearing.  Jari called for one more rapid, and low and behold, a sandy bank appeared right at the end of the run.

We got our tents set up just before dark.  This time, we set the four paddles into a tepee and tied them together.  We hung our tent to the oars with safety pins and rope.

Looks beautiful doesn't it?  It means I can sleep without worrying about bugs or critters crawling into my sleeping bag with me.

But before we can sleep, some things need attention.  Like my pathetic sandals. The soles have started coming off in the unforgiving rapids and I need them to last one more day.  I doctor them with gorilla tape and hope it will hold.  And look at my pathetic legs!

"Verde, I asked you to be nice to me today. Can't you cut some slack for the novices?"

The bruises are from yesterday's wet exit as well as one of today's rapids.  I was on the wrong side of my kayak when we were walking it down, because when I tripped, the force of the river rammed the boat into my shins. Luckily, they look worse than they feel.

We finally have an idea where we are, which is some 20 miles down river from where we started at 8:00 this morning!  We are incredulous that we have made our goal.

Sleep is a welcome thought, but I felt too sticky and gross to want to crawl in bed. I convince Dean to come take a dip in the river with me.  I had brought shampoo!
And a moonlit bath is not a bad end to a challenging day.

Given what's ahead, 4 miles to Sheep's Bridge then Horseshoe Reservoir after that, we all expect tomorrow to be a much better day.

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