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During my last days of summer vacation I received a message from Brent Lafay inquiring if I ‘d like to paddle the Deadwood River, a tributary of the South Fork of the Payette. “Meet at the dam in the morning. It’s a long day.” I invited a few friends and left my house at 6 am to make the three hour drive on dirt roads to the put-in. No one was there and I started to feel relieved that we missed the group as I knew it was going to be a long day on the water. My thoughts drifted around all the reasons maybe we should not go: cold water, late start, hard water, the info I had was held in pictures of the guide book descriptions on my phone, and of course all the wood . After all I did have my first day of teaching the next morning.

Just as we were about to leave the group showed up. Three different rigs from McCall all pulled in at once, all coming from different directions. We were on. The Deadwood is full of wood, as a matter of fact, all kids of wood: deadwood, driftwood, floating wood, just under the water wood, and as we paddled into the evening firewood. The drops you could run were amazing and I was reminded once again why I love the JK Hero. It is so stable and is a snap to keep on line.

Near dusk we had portaged dead wood seven times, paddled over dead wood four times, and rolled under dead wood once. We were able to run three of the bigger drops with one boof off a huge boulder right into the perfect center line. We were cold, tired, and hungry. I had invited two of my friends and my brother. All of who were freezing and ready to be done. I began to get that, we are staying on the river overnight dread. At least we would have plenty of wood for a fire! I’ve only not made it out as planned once in my over 20 years of boating. Now this was going to be my second…

I hoped that when Brent’s wife called the school district to tell them Brent was not off the river yet that she would tell them that I was with Brent. Boy, missing the first day of school… but I began to realize that it was better than paddling upon wood in the dark. (My other unplanned stay over on the river resulted in a radio message to a plane over head to call the Nezperce Superintendent as I was going to need a sub for Monday. Thanks again to the pilot for taking my radio transmission seriously.)

When we got out for our eighth portage I had on a skull cap and mittens but could not stop from shaking, nor could the others. Brent mentioned that it looked like the canyon was opening up. An hour later, just as I thought we better stop Brent raised his paddle in a cheer. As I came around the dim lit bend I too saw the bridge. The deadwood quickly became firewood as we began the two hour shuttle leaving our freezing friends at the campfire.

The next morning, my Superintendent greeted me with, “Late night on the water….”

Next time I’ll wear more clothes, set a shuttle the night before, and start at sunrise!