Everyone's been on those trips that just seem to be a series of disasters. One thing leads to another and before you know it - it's chaos. We experienced one such a trip several years ago in Wisconsin. Although the Snake does have some fun rapids on it, we were quite a bit downstream from them. We expected a fun, fast ride - nothing that couldn't easily be negotiated in an open canoe.
When we hit the river it was high - possibly the highest we'd ever seen it. It was early spring when the runoff from the melting snow fills the rivers. The water was fast and cold. I was paddling with my husband and our 55-pound, shepard/collie dog, Bud. There were three boats, six of us total on the trip, seven counting Bud. Our group included people of various levels of paddling ability, which always proves to be interesting. Our least experienced paddlers were a couple that had no white water experience, and they were going to paddle their lightweight touring canoe.
We had an exciting day canoeing and by the end of the trip the water was screaming. The waves were now constant all the way across the river! What a great time for those of us that were used to it, which included Bud the canoeing dog! But for the couple lacking any white-water experience, in their rather fragile boat, it was extremely nerve wracking. Close to the end of the trip the river gets very rocky, and very swift just before it dumps into a larger river. It was in this home stretch that our friends in the canoe lost it. Their boat turned over and they plunged into the icy water. At least we were all intelligent enough to wear life jackets and can all swim.
My husband, Bud and I were one of the first ones to get to the capsized boat. We pulled the woman out of the frigid water. In the meantime the other boat arrived and rescued the guy. At this point there was no way for us to grab the overturned boat, so we left the boat and headed for the shore. We hit the bank, jumped out, quickly made sure the woman was all right and told Bud to stay with her. We then hopped back into our boat and went back out to try to save the canoe.
This is where things started getting a little fuzzy - especially for me! Everyone was in a panic trying to quickly save the people and get back out to chase the capsized boat downstream. In the excitement, when my husband and I jumped back into our boat, for some strange reason he sat in the middle of the boat. This proved to be a bad idea….
We paddled up next to the run away boat. We actually got our hands on it, but since it was upside down there was absolutely nothing for us to hold on to. As we worked to try to coax the boat to shore, over the roar of the river, we could hear the rocks abusing it. Oh what an awful sound - metal crushing. Then the boat got away from us. A few strong paddles might get us back on top of it. Right! My husband was sitting so close behind me that he was within paddle's reach of my head! As he hurriedly swung his paddle around - SMASH - he hit me hard on the back of my head! (I later had to wonder - was this a Freudian slip?!)
I was immediately knocked unconscious and I slumped forward. My husband panicked. He pulled me back into my seat but he had to keep paddling because we were out in the middle of the fast water. I was only out for a minute or so. I came out of it and looked down and there was blood all over my lap. I could also feel blood running down the back of my neck. Now I panicked! If I hadn't seen the blood I might have thought I was OK. In the meantime my husband was paddling like crazy for the shore.
Bud had been not-so-patiently watching all this from the river bank. Now that we were headed for the opposite bank his patience ran out. We hit the shore, and as we started to evaluate the damage to the back of my head, Bud leaped into the water on the other side of the river. He was immediately swept away in the fast water. Doggone!!! We could see the wet couple on the other side of the river, trying to call him back. Although I was still dazed, I now had to think about him, not me. First we let our friends try to call him back to their side of the river, since he was closer to them. However Bud wouldn't think of turning around. The loyalty of a dog is an amazing thing. We gave up on trying to get him to go back and instead my husband ran down the river, coaxing and encouraging him as he bravely fought the cold water.
They were a long way down the river when Bud finally dragged himself out of the river. When he finally came back up to me his face said, "Wow, that was more than I bargained for!!" We were overjoyed that he was.
In the meantime the overturned canoe had finally been rescued. We did what we needed to do so that we were all in one place and excitedly exchanged stories. As it turned out my head quickly stopped bleeding, but I had one heck of a bump and a headache - and few choice words for my husband. Bud was wet - but happy to be with us and out of the river. We were all happy because together we'd saved everyone and everything.
The only ones that weren't too happy were the owners of the boat. Ouch. It had taken some nasty abuse in the river and the bow had a large gaping crack in it. It would end up a bit heavier after being repaired, but it would float again - just never, ever in fast, water!