Day 6: Balancing in the Bow

By Claire Carson

I woke up warm and cozy in my sleeping bag. We three girls got up, packed our stuff and left the tent. The day started off cloudy and buggy — although nothing like the first night at the campground.

Emily Dech and I had breakfast of freeze-dried eggs and ham, accompanied by fruit cups, although I enjoyed the wild raspberries and blueberries on the trail more. For my first time trying a freeze-dried meal, I expected it to be a lot worse.

After breakfast, the group washed dishes, brushed teeth and started packing up and hoping the guys would put away their granola and join us. Once we had our stuff in our packs, we untied the canoes and put them in the water, clipping the straps together.

Chet and Lucas almost lost their canoe — the rope somehow got untied from the back of the boat and Lucas was left on shore, holding a blue-and-white line, confused, while the boat bobbed complacently in the water. It took some maneuvering from the other shore, but they got the canoe back without sacrificing any gear.

When everyone was ready, we set off. We ran many rapids in a row, classes 1, 2, 1, 2, where we surfed and practiced ferrying, class 3 where we ate lunch and another class 3.

Surfing involves sitting on the top of the wave, the canoe pointing upstream against the current. To get in this position, the front person, or the bow, paddles forward hard to get momentum while the back person, or the stern, angles the canoe to drift in sideways.

When sitting, the front person has the illusion of not moving, but the back person is paddling hard to maintain the correct angle. Without the angle, the canoe will go sideways and float downstream, out of the wave, or, in a bigger wave, take on water.

On this rapid, the front people did handstands and balancing acts while the back people adjusted the boat. As someone in the front, I thought this was lots of fun. Brad, who paddled, might have had a different opinion.

Ferrying is a technique employed to avoid charging head-on into dangerous water. The canoe is pointed diagonally, either upstream or downstream. The back person maintains the angle to move diagonally across the river, while the forward person provides momentum, and grabs the eddies.

This was my first trip paddling any whitewater, and I thought the rapids were lots more fun than flat water paddling. I enjoyed scouting, planning the best path to take and which eddies to steer into and watching the rest of the group. Sometimes at the bottom of the rapids, the trail of bubbles curled back in on itself multiple times with the flow of the current, making swirled patterns like Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.”

Beside the next rapid, Emily and I had lunch of peanut butter tortillas, granola bars and trail mix. The day was briefly sunny, then changed went back to clouds.

We ran the class 3 we ate by, and all of us got big air. Aaron and Joe tipped, and later the guys went swimming — by choice. The group picked up the boats with the gear and brought them over the last class 3. We liked the pickups better, because they were faster than portaging.

Camp was a flat, rocky peninsula with small tide pools and marsh growing in the back. It was a small area, so the one bathroom spot we found had been obviously used, with bits of paper sticking out from underneath rocks.

When we arrived, it was still afternoon, so we napped. The guys decided to fish and have dinner on a teeny island; they waded their stove and food and supplies out. Lucas rescued Chet’s water bottle, and used dried apricots to catch walleye. Island cooking looked fun until the sprinkles started, on and off, and everything was waded back to camp.

Emily and I ate pad thai packets for dinner, and Emily Nagel joined us later for s’mores. The instructors pulled out condensed milk, which the whole group passed around happily. It began to rain, but we got out our rain jackets nonchalantly and finished the dessert, washing our dishes and brushing our teeth.

When the lightning started, however, everyone said goodnight and went into their tents. The girls continued “The Glass Castle” (Jeannette Walls’ memoir about her dysfunctional family), taking turns reading a story or two, then drifting off to sleep while the rain pattered on the tent.