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.
Lesson 1: Push More (You Don't Have Pull out of Every Corner)
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Lesson 1: How to Punch Big Waves and Holes
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1. Anyone can survive for three hours without maintaining the core body temperature.
2. Anyone can survive for three days without water.
3. Anyone can survive for three weeks without food.
Of course these are debatable but the gist of it is true. What this perspective does is help you prioritize your actions. The first thing you must do is maintain core body temperature. Next, find water. Then concern yourself with food. Get obsessed with something else when you have no backup, and you may not survive.
Paddling Fitness: Core and Hamstring
Paddlers all know that WV has great rivers. The Cheat River has seven free flowing tributaries and many whitewater sections, including the famous Cheat River Canyon where the downriver Nationals were just held. Once a year, in May, boaters and environmentalists from all over the region converge at the Cheat Fest to celebrate the progress we've made in restoring the Cheat and her tributaries to their former wild glory. There are bands and activities and educational booths and a general feeling of joy in the air, each year, when the festival happens beside the Cheat River.
What happened to the Cheat? Coal mining happened. The coal of the region is embedded in sulfur rich rock that causes Acid Mine Drainage to spill into streams and kill all the fish. It takes very careful management to prevent spills and remediate acid leaks where they do occur. Thanks to Friends of the Cheat, this has happened. Friends of the Cheat has taken a gentle but active approach to building consensus among all those who hold a stake in having clean water and healthy fish in the Cheat. They deserve many congratulations for work well done.
Kayaking on this class V section will be permitted, and the management team there sounds quite reasonable about letting management evolve along with use. The use of this river section can be revoked if there is any paddling on Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, where boating is banned.
The run will start at Pothole Dome below Tuolumne Meadows and end at Pate Valley. Exact details about put-in, take-out, portage trails and landing/no-landing zone locations will be determined in the near future in consultation with the boating community, tribal interests and National Park Service resource experts. Boaters making the run will be required to carry their boats 3 miles to the put-in, and carry them 8 miles from the take-out at Pate Valley to the White Wolf trailhead.
Carrying your kayak 11 miles is hard. The info does not indicate that this section of river is a series of long slides over domes of granite. I do not know if anyone has been running it lately, but I do remember that Lars Holbek carried his boat most of the way and didn't want to do it again. I have HIKED down the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne on a 3 day backpacking trip, and it was spectacular. A backpack trip might be a good way to scout the whitewater before committing in a boat. Though it is possible that those California boaters think nothing of this stuff. Looks hair to me.
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.
I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.