We survived. We didn't even huli (flip), which was good, because the water's still plenty cold. We had a fairly competent crew, at least in the paddling department, but camping with them the night before, it was antics all around.
Despite my protests, we spent the night on an island. The water was on the rise and the channel was knee-deep when we arrived. The Dodge Sport pickup we drove down in doesn't have great clearance so the three of us agreed we'd find another camp nearby. But, our friends were already set up there, and they eventually goaded us into making the crossing. (26, and still succumbing to peer-pressure- woop woop!) We made it, as we figured we would, but worrying we might not be able to get back over in the morning.
About an hour later another member of our boating party arrived. We saw car headlights appear on the far side of the island and immediately assumed it was another couple of our friends in a Subaru. We were all shocked when we realized it was in fact, another guy in an Audi TT. He has a PhD, but it didn't serve to suffuse the dude with a whole lot of common sense, apparently. He said it even stalled half way when the wake broke over the hood, and he and his friend had to push it the rest of the way. Morons, geeze.
Luckily i was able to roust my travel mates and we broke camp early. Despite our rapid exodus, the water had risen about two or three inches. As the pickup hit the deepest part of the water, steam came billowing up from the engine block. It was nerve-wracking, up to our headlights, but we made it across okay. I thought for sure, though, the Audi would be there for at least another week til the water dropped.
Lo and behold, with the help of our other friends in a pickup and a tow rope, the Audi forded the channel successfully, yet again.
Sort of irritating to watch people with nice things be idiots with them, but to each their own, i reckon.
I was relieved the drama was confined to the camp site because the river was running about 47,700 cfs which translates to about 3 billion pounds of water rushing by every second (3-4 times the average flow of the Colorado in the Grand Canyon). Even in the calm stretches, we were cranking right along at about 13-14 miles an hour. The waves were huge and curling, large enough to bury the whole front end of our 16' raft. The eddy lines were still formidable, grabbing our tubes and sucking them down suddenly like a massive river monster had taken hold. Without the weight we had in the boat to pile onto the opposite tube, it would've flipped us right over like nothing.
I love this river at high water, the same way i love a good thunderstorm. It's the greatest testament to the power of Mother Nature i've ever observed. I spent 3 springs working at a ranch on its banks and i'd spend my days out pruning, or in the flower beds watching floating logs and trees get tossed around like toothpicks. At the peak, the water races by at more than 20 miles an hour. The surging fills your ears, a low roar in the background punctuated every so often by the crack of boulders rolling into one another at the bottom of the frothy brown torrents. It's almost imperceptible, but if you stop and stand still, you can feel the tingle of the vibrations in the soles of your feet. It's hard to believe.
On our way home as we passed through a podunk town we saw a man digging holes in his yard wearing a Speedo. Thankfully, this is definitely not customary here in Idaho. It was terrible. Every time he jumped to bury the spade, the motion rippled through his gelatinous soft tissue like a million tiny waves. We circled back around to get a snapshot, but to your great fortune, we couldn't do it without being seen. While more likely he would've chased us down in a vehicle and shot us, i couldn't eliminate the image of being tackled by an old, sweaty man in a banana hammock from the list of possible worst-case scenarios. It's just not the way i want to go.