Music's Like a Snuggie for Your Soul


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Trip One

Well, whew, we survived two trips so far. They couldn't have been more different. 

Trip number one felt something like a journey through a butter churn. Physically it wasn't terribly strenuous, but mentally it was taxing as feck. The first trip of the year is always more difficult on account that things need to be gathered and checked and rid of dirt and dust and whatever funky patina has accumulated over the off season (in our case, in some of the boats, worms had taken residence- :oP ) 

We were stoked to deadhead (float down without guests) the first 50 miles, but our outfitter decided we'd jet-boat up with them instead. So we get to drive 9 hours to the usual take-out. Naturally, we get a flat tire which is usually no big deal, only the jack doesn't go high enough and it's dark. After an hour or so of scrounging, we finally find some log rounds to wedge between the trailer and the jack and get the tire changed. By the time we get to the river and find some place to camp we're already greasy and exhausted and the trip hadn't even started.

Thank God my fellow guide was extremely, incredibly, competent and a top-notch, grade A bad ass. I think of all the guides i've ever worked with and struggle to think of one that wouldn't have just lost it. In fact, i'm sure anyone else would've snapped and murdered the hell bitch of a guest we ended up with. I'd still be out there waiting for the coroner. It was a case of our first impression being oh so very, very wrong. On first inspection, this woman seemed fun and adventuresome, athletic and up for a good time. While she may have been fit, she turned out to be downright wicked. It only took her 50 some-odd hours to get under both of our skins.

We were already spread thin being there were only two of us to do absolutely everything. Then, much to our chagrin we were faced with a conundrum of the sort you strive to avoid at great costs. On our trips we practice leave-no-trace camping so we pack and haul everything out- ashes, food scraps, turds, trash, everything. So i'm setting up our fecal receptacle box dealywhopper (which we call the 'groover'), and i come to realize the lid is stuck. Crazy, fricking, stuck. I try everything i can including banging on the thing with rocks and a rubber mallet, to no avail. One of the guests asks Iris, my fellow guide, "is that banging i hear up there in the woods?" Ha. So Iris comes to my aid. She's never experienced anything like it either, so we began to worry something was really wrong and maybe the contents were under pressure. Being it was the first trip, we feared perhaps it sat all winter and festered itself into a terrible, volatile mixture. We pulled down our shades and prayed as we pried our ever-loving hearts out, but we still couldn't get the sucker off. So i'll be damned if we didn't acquire (he offered before we solicited) the help of one of our guests. Oh. my. gosh. It took the three of us grunting and sweating and cursing to finally, finally get the confounded lid off of the can. By the grace of God it was only stuck by mechanical forces, and the box was only holding a bit of water and no horrid, biohazardous materials.

So an hour later, we're able to commence with the normally-scheduled program (all this following a two-hour delay on account a couple of our guests arrived late) So we're, waaaay behind at this point and we still need to feed these people. Fortunately we have some snacks and appetizers to appease them in the meantime. When it's all said and done, we find ourselves feeding them in the dark (which is really saying something up here in Idaho a few days away from the Solstice). It was at least ten. We go to bed exhausted, sure that tomorrow will bring better things.

We start around 05:15 knowing in addition to preparing breakfast and the usual camp stuff, we still have boats to blow up and rig. The outfitter sent us with one dinky hand pump and a foot pump. Suffice it to say we satisfied our morning's worth of calisthenics. 

Of course nothing went together smoothly as they tend not to when feeling rushed. Our guests were antsy and the boat-rigging chore that usually takes 90 minutes turned into a 2-hour ordeal. Our favorite guest, Ms. Snatchy McSnatcherson continually expressed her desire to be out on the water, yet refused to lift a finger in order to expedite the process. She did however, stand in the shade and do bicep curls with her day bag. Later she told me, "I've done all this before. I'm really tempted to help you girls, but i'm just having too much fun watching."

We pushed off at basically lunch time. Iris told me when McSnatch situated herself in the back of her boat she expressed her gladness in reclining back and watching Iris' muscles while she rowed. We doled out snacks and apologized, but a head wind had already kicked up and we had to make a few more miles. Snatchy McSnatch declined our trail mix and various snacks, saying she'd wait until lunch to eat and proceeded to point out every last sand bar they passed along the way. Later she explained she has undiagnosed hypoglycemia so she needs to stop and eat every two hours. I'm not sure how Iris suppressed an eye roll in reply on account she has verified hypoglycemia as a result of her cancer and the lady had turned down everything we offered. We ended up camping at a toasty, rocky beach even while a shadier, sandier one existed nearby, so that we could placate our antsy McSnatcherson with a hike.

It gets hotter and drier as the river drops lower into the canyon. Where we camped it was basically sage and Ponderosa pine country, yet just up a creek nearby it's a lush, shady oasis of ferns and thimble berries and stands of endangered Pacific Yew trees (a species that's been over-harvested for a chemotherapeutic agent found in their bark).  We set up the kitchen and the groover (which, thankfully, after a lubing and a scouring was less of a bear to open back up) and got our guests set and chillin out in the shade with drinks at the mouth of the creek. It was a couple hours since we'd pulled in, but we still had plenty of daylight. I got the meat goin low and slow in a dutch oven and asked Iris if she'd mind fending for herself in camp for an hour or two while I hiked whomever was interested. She knew McSnatcherson would be into it and said, "YES, please take her."

So i scored the sweet hiking gig. Everyone else was content relaxing so McSnatchy and I slipped on some shoes and headed up the trail. It was a delightful reprieve from the sun we'd endured in the open canyon. Cool air wafted up from the riffles in the creek as we made our way up the narrow drainage. A new care-taker (one of my friends) lives in a cabin three miles up and had the trail in the best condition i've ever seen it. McSnatcherson kept lamenting that i should've just let her go by herself earlier so she'd have time to hike farther. I'd already explained to her that we couldn't in good conscious let her go alone. (Although now i realize it may have been in the interest of the common good if she met her fate with nobody to save her out in the back country of the second deepest canyon in the U.S.) We trod out a good six miles round-trip and headed back in time for me to help Iris serve dinner. I felt bad for stranding her and foisting everything but the meat detail on her, but she's a superhero and had everything under control.
When we plodded in Iris asked her how the hike was. "It was alright. Kind of overgrown."
"How were the Yew trees?"
"Okay. Kinda barky. It was sort of dark- hard to take pictures."
After she walked away we both exchanged looks of mutual sentiment- Oh my God. Forget this bitch.

Thank the lord our trip wasn't the usual 5-6 day duration because neither of us were equipped to spend another minute with this woman. Every morning she stripped down and stood shin deep in the river and scrubbed her buck naked body in front of everyone, even while it was possible to do so around the corner out of view. She tried to convince me to cut my hair short, "It's so easy. My hair is really soft. I'll only charge you a dollar to pet me." Oh boy! 

We never stopped going. At one time one of our guests asked when we got to take a break and Iris and i both agreed it was when we were out on the water rowing our boats. We'd be busy preparing a meal or setting up camp and McSnatcherson would ask us to catch crickets for her to fish with. We'd be slicing vegetables for lunch and she'd come ask for the Gatorade mix which we gladly set out for her and she'd say, "I'd like 3 scoops please." So we'd scoop the mix into her water bottle for her. She'd shake it up and if it wasn't to her liking, she couldn't possibly add another by herself, so she'd ask us to scoop her one more. (We're not a fancy schmancy outfit. The trip was sold as an affordable wilderness adventure with cowboy coffee and rustic camping accouterments.) At the next lunch we had granola bars out at the end of the sandwich bar and we both stood and watched as she crammed handfuls of them into her pockets until they bulged out like she was wearing a pair of chipmunks. Twice around the campfire she tipped her chair over into me blaming the sand for the instability as she out-and-out mashed and groped me. 

I'm just so grateful she didn't ever ride on my boat. I have no idea how Iris didn't kill her. Once the trip was over and all the other guests had departed, McSnatcherson puttered around the ramp for what seemed like forever before she tipped us with her hand-made twig and dental floss fishing pole- cricket and all (because, she said, she knew we'd want something to remember her by).

As we de-rigged, Iris told me that all day the lady sat behind her and criticized her rowing. The last section is full of big eddy lines, whirlpools and boils that toss our big 18' boats around mercilessly at this high volume of water (running about twice what the Colorado is right now  in the Grand Canyon). Even the very best boatmen are going to get swirled or sloughed inadvertently into at least one or two of the eddies. The hell bitch would tell Iris she could see it coming from a mile away each time they were going to get caught by one of them and maybe they'd get there faster if she would just stop rowing. The girl is my idol. There's no way in Hell or Heaven i'd have the kind of self-restraint not to hurl the vile woman off the back of my boat and watch one of the whirlpools suck her down and shut her up forever. I'm sorry, but i really mean that. 

I felt so bad that all our other great guests had to put up with her. Two of them were teachers and i could've kissed them when they lined her out at one point in time for being a petulant wench. It's so sad how just one person can be so poisonous even while the overwhelming majority of the group is pleasant and gracious and easy-to-please.

I thanked my lucky stars again and again i didn't end up with a dud of a partner in the deal. We're like B.F.F.'s now. When i revealed to one of the guests, they were shocked to learn we'd only just met. We made a really great team. I kept having visions of what a disaster it would've been, in addition to the rest of it, if we hadn't gotten along. I can't imagine her concerns though, at the potential of having to deal with everything and a seizing crew member. I'm sure it crossed her mind. It definitely crossed mine. Fortunately, it was so stressful, it may have served to prevent anything from happening. (Which isn't to say stress isn't a trigger, it's just the coming down from it that gets me. I don't ever have issues during tests or high-pressure situations, but later i can almost count on it when things aren't dialed in well pharmaceutically.)

Plus, nothing of great consequence went wrong. Our runs were solid, the weather was prime, the stars were spectacular and the high volume water was big and awesome. We didn't run out of beer, the groover didn't explode and i can be ever grateful i'm the kind of person that can experience neat places and cool things and find joy in them. I'm so glad to not go through life constantly underwhelmed and disappointed like our snatchy, vicious, sociopath. 

I have more pictures, but they're stuck on a camera i forgot to pack the USB cord for. I apologize for the bitching and moaning. With any luck i'll get a post up about trip number 2 along with the pictures off my camera. Here's a phone pic of the sunset from last evening near our trip headquarters.


  1. Wow. I had no idea this was what you do -- so intense! Where to next?

  2. Just incredible! Some of it in a good way, some in a horrible way. I can't believe you didn't drown that bitch.


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