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By Ruth Gordon

We eddied out in the middle of the river. But the eddy was moving, Clay was talking and I was falling low, low, low in the eddy. Noticing he was falling back too Clay paddled away. I watched his line, thought it looked good and went for it. It certainly didn’t look like rocket science.

Escaping the Canadian cold I jumped the border in search of some much needed paddling. It had been, and I cringe, 2 months and I knew my psyche couldn’t take much more without a kayaking fix. I landed in Jackson country just after the New Year. Rock Island was fortunate enough to have water: some days in the dark of night and others at the crack of dawn (my entire first week we spent paddling under the generator powered lights).

A touch of rain that week and the locals were going nuts, ‘where are we going to paddle!’ Creeks were popping up all over the map. Clay Wright was leading the pack, scouring the gauges, quizzing other boaters. In the end we packed up the Sprinter (thanks Jessica) and headed to the Little River Canyon, LRC.

Billy Harris and I were the only paddlers in the group who had never been down the LRC. Clay took to telling me the lines and I soon realized I preformed better with a visual; scouting a rapid gave me significantly better results. A happy combination of the two and we motored our way down the river.

I listened with one ear as Clay babbled on about the next rapid where someone had died and lots of people had been worked and swam. Every river has those stories I thought. Then he turned to me, ‘Just follow me. We’re going to go right and boof right.’

From the get-go it was not good. I could hear EJ behind me saying, ‘go, gO, GO’ I didn’t make it up the eddy far enough and I didn’t make it to the boof spot, which was slightly upstream. Instead I dropped right into the horseshoe in the rapid know as ‘Road Block.’ It wasn’t pretty.

I held strong for awhile. Clay told me afterwards he thought I was going to make it out. But at the last second it grabbed my stern and sucked me back I tried to roll, waited for awhile and eventually pulled. I was feeling out of breath when I pulled but I didn’t get a breath for awhile longer. I don’t think it was record breaking but at one point I could feel my boat so I started to use it to pull myself to the surface, hoping to get a breath. One quick breath and back under I went. I have to admit I thought about all the Clay garble… death, swimming, long time under… I needed to be a ball, I crunched up and I felt myself make distance. I popped up an arms reach from the hole, but it was done with me. And I was exhausted.

Clay instructed me to swim. I processed the request but I felt so tired I didn’t know how to make it happen. Finally I lifted my arms and started flailing in the direction of shore. Luckily, the-little-brother-I-never-wanted, Nick came to my rescue. I latched on, very thankful for the ride.

Happily on solid ground I caught my breath and started the hike down to my boat. What an adventure! I hadn’t swum in a very long time. I felt tired, embarrassed that I had missed my line, but all in all, fine. Part of kayaking is swimming and as the saying goes, ‘We’re all .’

(sorry no photos or video to document this one, but here are a few shots Stephen took that same day)

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Ruth and Clay Scouting
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Ruth Pinball
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Ruth Scout