The real reason I was motivated to complete these documents at the age of 50 is that I can tell that I am losing cognitive function. It shows up in many ways, and people routinely fight me on this observation, saying that I'm fine, it's normal aging, blah blah blah. Let me just say that I used to be very smart, and I'm not any more, and I know the difference. A minor example is that I make more mistakes in typing, for example I switch "their" for "they're" and vice versa. This is a mistake that I used to find utterly mystifying, and now I am doing it.
The other day I updated my lifetime river log with the rivers I have run this year. I've done 20 new rivers around Oregon this year! But the shocker finding was that one day in July when I went paddling on the Lower Wind, I could not remember what had happened when I logged the day. All I remembered at the time (a few days after the actual day when I logged it), was that I had planned to go paddling with Todd. I did not remember where we went or what happened.
What happened that day was that I hit my head, again, and had short term memory loss as a result. I have had many traumatic brain injuries over the years, from biking, skiing, and kayaking. This is the reason that I want to donate my brain for research. I suspect that my brain will prove that recreational sports participants can also suffer from CTE = chronic traumatic encephalopathy. It's not just for football players anymore.
On that day I flipped over at the top of a rapid known as the Flume, and was battered on my head and shoulders as I floated through the rapid upside down. I was afraid to try to roll up because getting in position to roll puts you in a more open and vulnerable position, so I "went turtle" which in this case simply means to tuck tightly under the boat and get my elbows in so nothing gets broken. I rolled up at the bottom of the rapid and was dazed but otherwise OK. And yes, for you who do not know me, I was wearing a top notch helmet. There is no helmet that can protect your brain from the knocking it takes when your whole head is getting walloped around.
This was the third time I'd floated through that particular rapid upside down. It is a steep, fast, shallow and rocky rapid....brutal, really. One of my three upside down runs I didn't hit a thing. Twice I've been beaten silly. I vowed after this day to not run that rapid at low water anymore. It's much easier at higher flows and that is the only time I will attempt it. Unfortunately the portage is difficult and dangerous too... so I may not go on the Lower Wind as much anymore. Too bad because I do love the waterfalls.
Something else happened that day. I've thought of it many times since my memory of the day returned. At the end of the Lower Wind run there are four major drops, three falls and one slide, not in that order. We'd run the first 12 foot falls without incident and were running the tallest single waterfall, about 18 feet vertical. It's so high that you can't see if the person ahead of you made it, so we just wait a few seconds between boats and then go. Todd went ahead of me and I waited probably eight seconds, then committed to the drop. When I crested the horizon line and could see my landing zone at the foot of the falls, he was swimming in it.
He had plunged too deep in the hole below the drop, gotten caught and held, and wet exited from his kayak in the hole. It took him a while to surface and start floating downstream. When I saw him I was already mid-air and headed straight for him. I was afraid that the bow of my kayak would plunge into the water and hit him in the abdomen, rupturing his organs and killing him. That didn't happen. Thankfully I'd hit a good enough boof from the top that my bow skipped off the surface of the water and I went right over his head. But the trauma of believing that I was about to kill Todd has not left me. I am going to require a better signalling system for running blind drops from now on. I need to know that the landing zone is clear. We have had trouble at this drop before and still we are too casual about it.