By Lenore Sabota
Here are the steps that went into what became a U-Turn paddle trip this afternoon. Right from the beginning, we noticed the river had changed. Different channels. Trees down. There was significant flooding in December and several high-wind events and an ice storm since we paddled this section last fall.
- First steps in risk management were not paddling solo; dressing for possible immersion; going with someone intimately familiar with the river.
- We approached each potential problem area cautiously, such as when we were about to round a corner.
- We stayed close together.
- If a spot looked tricky, we discussed which line/route looked best before committing.
- When we got to the final obstruction, we checked various options. The only possible spot to cross was in the middle, but we could see a log just below the surface that looked likely to prevent us from crossing, and potentially could flip us.
- The water around the tree was fairly deep. We might have been able to climb out on the branches but if we fell, there was danger of being trapped under the downed trees.
- Even if we got over the obstruction and got our boats over the obstruction, relaunching on the other side looked dicey.
- Even if we could get back in our boats on the other side, we already had encountered many changes in the river, and there was no telling what was ahead.
- Thanks to a GPS we had with us, we knew we’d only traveled a little more than a mile and figured turning back was still reasonable and feasible.
- On our return trip, we moved very cautiously in one of the other deadfall places, and we had to get out on a gravel bar and drag our boats around a shallow area where current funneled through narrow spots. You can’t get enough “bite” with your paddle in shallow water to counter the current.
- We knew there was another tricky, shallow part we had maneuvered through shortly after we put in. I already knew of a previously scouted place we could take out and still drag our boats back to the parking lot.
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