Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Day 38: Five hundred meters over the sea

I had a monologue worked out in my head about there being no rapids or even obstacles on any of the river I had yet traveled. If you fell asleep on the river the worst that would happen is you'd wake up beached somewhere further on.

I am happy to report that this is not true. Let me start in the middle, scoping out a rapid dropping two feet over fifteen. This is not especially large, but it was a significant change from what I was used to. Until the previous day I had seen only the barest hint of riffles, and no trees since early on the Bow. But now there were many trees that had been undercut by the current, now nearly blocking the river, but always leaving some three foot gap for me to dodge through. Some brief rapids flowed over stones, and these are wonderful because they are preceded by gravel banks that make for good landings.

Some of the stone rapids, like this one, look like they are kept up by human hands. There are gravel roads to either side, and boulders there which I suppose are rolled into place as the need arises. A higher, slower river provides water for irrigation and a natural boundary for the cattle.

Even the beavers have gotten into the act. They want to maintain a water level so their lodge doors are only accessible underwater.

Fortunately, there is enough flow in the river that I can go through or over all of these obstacles. However, I hadn't yet done anything quite as large as this rapid, so I was a bit concerned. Walking alongside and beneath it, I saw a rockfree channel of sufficient flow; all I would need to do was keep the canoe straight as I passed through.

I considered the principle of least regret. Would I be more likely to regret running, or not running the rapid? If I ran it, I could imagine myself capsizing, which would be a fair disaster. It would at least take time to clean out my stuff. But these rapids had injected interest into the trip. If I bypassed the rapid, I would miss out on the rush of excitement, and who could say if I would come across another one like this?

I decided to limit my risk. I had never lined a canoe down a rapid before, and this would make a good exercise for this procedure. Then, I at least learned something. I moved the boat over to the channel I had seen, and grabbed the rope attached to the bow. I slowly unreeled the rope, allowing the canoe to slide down the rapid under my control. The deed done, I was then on my way, and didn't feel bad about my decision, just about losing my third and last pair of sunglasses while examining the situation.

It's appropriate that on this day of such visible change in elevation, I fell to 500 meters over sea level. To put that in perspective, here are the day numbers for every 100 meters of elevation:

1000m: 1
900m: 3
800m: 5
700m: 9
600m: 17
500m: 38

If the progression continues, I might reach sea level in about eight years.

Day 38 ended: 50*36.791N, 105*02.588W

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