Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Leave It To Me To Screw Things Up!

Rob and I navigating down a narrow canyon filled with
class 3 rapids - typical of the Black river
Photo: Ben Albert

Not everything goes as planned - as I too frequently seem to find out. In reference to my last post, I will have to retract the statement of my inaugural trip as it never happened; as you are soon about to find out. I did however get to paddle the Black river (upper & lower) on Sunday with Jim, Rob, & Ben and had a great time, - for the most part.

Despite the rain, once steaks, potatoes and beer found
its way into our stomachs, it was all smiles!
Photo: Ben Albert

Our arrival at the put-in on Saturday night was marred by the rain that decided to start when we got there. We quickly got camp set-up with a tarp and attempted to stoke a fire for our steaks. It all seemed hopeless at one point, but 4 cold starving guys huffing and puffing into the dying fire literally breathed new life into the pathetic flames and got a good blaze going. Hunger is good motivation, coupled with cold beer.

Merlin's convincing gaze that kibbles just
don't cut it when steaks are around!

The next day started bright and early with frost, as the anticipation for river running was all on our minds. The roar of the class 3 rapids along the narrow canyon beside our camp was reminder enough of the excitement and nervousness ahead. After a hearty breakfast, we rigged the boats, donned our drysuits, and pushed off from shore as the river gods were waiting to devour us.

All set to tackle the challenging but rewarding Black

Its always with nervous energy running the the first few rapids. Despite the fact we all recently paddled whitewater, we still had to shake the bugs of doubt out of our heads, especially since this river was much more challenging than the ones we've previously experienced. After getting through the first canyon and taking a few drops down some rapids, we were in our element. At least I thought...

Expecting the best, but preparing for the worst!

The same drop that put Rob and I through the spinner!
Nice job guys! I guess its live and learn!

The next rapid had a 2-3 foot drop followed by a couple class 2 tech rapids, but it was the initial drop that was a concern. Last week Jim's brother and girlfriend dumped when the curling wave spun them over. Jim & Ben wisely took the opposite side while Rob and I decided to challenge the tricky one. We totally knew what to expect and planned accordingly, but we unfortunately lacked enough speed. We made the drop okay, but didn't make it over the curling broadside wave which then held us there and spun us over.

The Black provided plenty of thrilling runs

The dump should have been harmless, except I used my left out-stretched arm to push off the ledge to keep us from going over. Well it didn't work and the instant the boat went over, the force pulled my body down below the locked arm against the rock. Yeah, guess what gave?! (if it worked I would have created a new whitewater technique - the low hand brace!) While floating/banging against rocks down the river, I knew there was something odd and painful regarding my shoulder, but my attention was focused on dodging rocks and getting to shore. Once I got out, I noticed my arm was still arched over somewhat awkwardly, so without thinking I pulled it over to only hear "pop!" "Oh, so my shoulder was dislocated!"

Here a clip of Jim and Ben running a challenging
canyon on the lower Black

We only just started our paddle and I didn't want to end it now. My shoulder ached, but I could move it, so I decided to continue on when the guys asked if it was okay. As the day wore on, I was more and more aware of the pain and the fact that I was losing my range of motion. I was still having fun running massive class 3 rapids, dropping down big chutes and navigating through mini-canyons, but I was getting to my limits of pain tolerance. We finally stopped to discuss the few, if any options and I decided to take my first ever Advil. The guys told me to stop being a sissy and take it. I knew they were right. We had over 15kms still to go and the only way I could do it was to down the anti-inflammatory painkiller. Wow, did that ever work! There was still pain, but noticeably less so, enough for us to continue on.

These crazy boys slid down a rock slide to get down this chute!

If I wasn't already a hinderance, 3/4's of the way down, I also realized the keys to the car was in the truck at the put-in! (only me!!) After another pow-wow, we decided to just finish the trip and deal with it at the end. Fortunately as we crossed Hwy 7, we saw other canoeist loading up and they ever so kindly agreed to drive Jim back to the truck! (I've always believed that paddlers are great people!) What luck! So the trip ended on a high note for our Black river adventure. However, that's where the good news ended. The pain medication was gradually wearing off and by the end of the trip, I was in agony again. There was no way Rob and I could continue on the Skootamatta river for the next 2 days. So we called it off and headed home after a nice meal at a local joint in Madoc.

How to deal with a torn neck gasket!

We all whole-heartedly agreed that we had an amazing time. The Black river certainly did deliver when it came to heart-pumping pure adrenline runs. It challenged us all to another level and pushed us to the limits. It is guaranteed that we will be back for more, whether on the Black, or the other half dozen rivers in the area. It was totally worth coming here! Thanks guys for making all happen!

Ben proudly displaying the repair
(cough!, choke!) job!

Update: The following day I went to ER. Sleep the previous night was torture. The news was not good - they confirmed the shoulder was dislocated, but I also fractured a bone above the head of the humerus. (probably was when it was violently ripped out at the odd angle) Worse than that, the ER doc thinks for sure I tore the rotator cuff, - just great! I'm going to see a shoulder specialist next Monday to confirm so I'm crossing my fingers. Unfortunately I'm now out for 4-6 weeks! Arrggghhh!

Jim and Ben perfectly lined up for this huge drop!

This is really frustrating and I'm just furious, just when things were looking up. Now I have 2 trips and a whitewater weekend that will probably go down the drain! What luck! After just getting over the stress fracture in my leg, now this, - what the heck?! I don't usually believe in superstition, but if what they say happens in threes, I'm not looking forward to it! (hmmm, maybe I should take up scrap-booking for the rest of the year? - nah, the scissor will probably kill me!) Anyone want to see a movie?!



PS. My brother's wife's water broke!!!!

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