Last
Saturday at my hubby’s urging, I went to Chattooga Section III. I had
offers for other rivers but my heart was on Chattooga that day. I
prayed all week about hooking up with a trip and after several delays
that morning found my way to the put-in above the Narrows. It was
2’5″ and sunny and breezy. Within 5 minutes, two open canoes
floated down and graciously accepted my company with a ride to the
car at the end.

Drew
and Ryan were in the Old Town canoe. Drew sported a ski jacket,
cotton T-shirt and flannel shirt, cotton shorts, and a sufficient
helmet. Ryan sported a cheap orange horse collar life jacket, a
child’s bicycle helmet, a cotton T, cotton shorts. Ryan said he had
been down once before at lower levels, “But I have a map!”
David was properly outfitted in a Dagger canoe, and so was his dog
Fritz — complete with a doggy life jacket. He was self taught and
knew nothing about reading the river — like eddies, peel outs,
etc.

I
set up ropes and told them the lines. Drew and Ryan pitoned at the
top, side surfed, front surfed and made it down upright. Ryan said it
was the most fun he had ever had in a canoe — that surfing stuff!
But Ryan was injured. He said his belly was bruised and he was in
pain. He boasted that Drew was a surgeon and I asked Drew to check
him out. Drew said he may have a pelvic fracture but they really
didn’t treat those.

Their
Old Town canoe was cracked on the inside also. I advised them to take
out at that point. Drew agreed, but Ryan and David wanted to go on
down. So I set up ropes three times through the Narrows and they all
made it upright. At the bottom of the Narrows some local kayakers I
knew breezed through and invited me to paddle with them. I declined,
feeling nervous about leaving these brave guys at the mercy of the
river with no experience whatsoever.

Ryan
said they would portage Second Ledge. I cleaned the ledge and then
helped David and Fritz when they capsized at the bottom. It was then
I asked the locals if they wouldn’t mind sticking around to help
these guys down. They laughed — all but Figgy. He waited a little
further downstream.

I
could read my way down, but these guys had terrible boat control and
needed to be hand fed straight down. After David and Fritz were safe
— thanks to some rafters — I looked back to see Ryan jump out of
the canoe about 20 feet above the ledge in the middle of the river in
what appeared to be chest deep moving water! He couldn’t hear me
yelling. I started back upstream. By the time I got there, he had
walked the canoe to river left and returned to get Drew who was
standing in moving water also!


Ryan
had tied a 6 ft. piece of rope onto each of their life jackets to
hook them together and was walking Drew across the top of the ledge!!
I instructed him to untie the rope and stuff it in his trousers. Then
I yelled at them to get each other’s life jackets like they showed us
in river rescue classes and they made it to river left — cold, wet,
bruised and bleeding.

Drew
took off his T-shirt and flannel shirt and I gave him a heavy poly
pro shirt. Then he pulled a HUGE full washer load sized plastic bag
stuffed with cotton clothes — extra blue jeans and T-shirts and
flannels — out of the Old Town canoe and pulled out a rain coat. I
made him roll up the hood and stuff it in the back. It kept him warm.
Ryan said all the rest of the way Drew kept commenting on that great
shirt and how warm it was! I asked Ryan what in the world were they
carrying. He said he thought it would serve as a second air bag!
(They did have one token air bag.) They also had a HUGE dry bag full
of food and other supplies!

I
was worried that Drew had a tibial plateau fracture — a break on
the front of his shin. He was in pain and walked slowly. The bruises
were AWFUL, and there were pieces of flesh missing on his legs,
although not much bleeding.

Figgy
helped watch out for them and we made them a canoe sandwich. Drew
suggested that I could make money making a map of the river showing
where all the rocks were and how to get down. Just above Fall Creek,
Drew and Ryan spilled again above a BIG undercut rock. I yelled for
them to abandon the canoe and SWIM to the other side.

I
righted the canoe and looked for the bailer. NO BAILER! Having prayed
for them all the way down the river, I prayed again and the angels
must have helped push that totally heavy boat to the shore. As they
hiked to the boat (limped I should say), Steve — one of the kayakers
— commented, “Why, that other guy isn’t even helping!”

I
told him I thought he may have a broken bone in his leg. It was then
he realized how badly injured these guys were. The kayakers all
pitched in and we put them out at Fall Creek.

At
the Bull, I was to hunt down their ride, a younger brother and his
girlfriend. I found them and we headed for Fall Creek. When we
arrived, Drew had on blue jeans and looked exhausted. He jumped in
the van and elevated his legs. The younger brother and David finished
carrying up the gear.

In
the back of the van, Drew had a lap top computer out with some
satellite locating device. Fancy thing. He boasted that he never left
home without it. I suggested to Ryan that maybe they could take it on
the river their next trip and it could tell them the loss in
elevation. Drew said they actually did make a water proof one! Inside
I just chuckled. God had his hand on this crew!

It
doesn’t end here, though. The younger brother and his girlfriend were
star-struck after watching kayaks at Bull Sluice. They had kayak fever
and asked all kinds of questions about getting started. I left them
with oodles of club information and private instruction information.
Somehow, I’m quite sure they won’t be following the others’ examples.

by
Carol Meyhoefer
From The Eddy Line, June 1998