So the last week, DW and Misty have been out in Oregon, having a good time, seeing the sites. Last weekend we camped outside of Prineville at the Ochoco Lake campground, operated by Crook County (a pretty great place I must say). We hiked Smith Rock at dusk on Friday and ran into a retired homicide detective who showed us photos on his digital camera of a giant rattlesnake ready to strike that he’d seen on the trail… great. Supposedly they come down from the rocks at dusk to the river (and trail). We also had an awesome dinner at the Terrebonne Depot — highly recommended. We also hiked to Stein’s Pillar, a great 2-mile out trip to a viewpoint of a giant spire coming out of the sage brush, lots of wildflowers on the trail. We stopped by Painted Hills and had a chance at some cool photo opportunities with an oncoming storm.
Then Sunday we drove to Maupin to do a whitewater trip on the Deschutes — a great time and good idea until the guide asked if we wanted to swim through the last rapid, a Class 2, in our life jackets. Seemed like a great idea at the time, until I got in the water (52 degrees). I also swam out into the middle of the current to get the full effect of the waves — a brilliant idea. Rather than riding the 3-foot standing waves, I kind of went through them — drinking a significant volume of the Deschutes in the process. I was treading, trying to keep my head above the water instead of relaxing, wasting energy, and not paying attention to when I was supposed to swim back to shore. I was further out than the rest of the crew and floated past the soft water when Katie yelled for me to swim. My brain wasn’t really working right — the cold water was getting to me. I started swimming toward the bank to my left, but the current was just taking me downstream into the next rapid. The guide was standing on the shore with the throw bag asking if I needed it (shit yes, throw the rope). He made a great throw and I caught it and he swung me back into the bank. I just stood there a while with the guide, a 20-year old kid who had simultaneously saved my life and nearly killed me.
I’ve always respected the river and considered that one day it could take me or my brother down. I think about it a lot when I’m just about up to the top of my chest waders and my toes are slipping as the gravel underneath them washes downstream, trying to get to a better position on a winter steelhead hole. But that experience really helped reinforce the fact that I’m not nearly invincible, and a clear head and caution should prevail on the water. I also got the sense that death can be a really stupid, flippant event if you let it. Which is scarier than the river.