Monday, June 4, 2012

Mendenhall River Disaster - the Sinking of Banana Slug Two

On a Thursday evening, the sun shone and I suggested we float the Mendenhall River. I had read online that in a packraft, you should ride this particular river when the flow is at about 250 CFS (it is now running at 1000 CFS). If the river is running higher it's scary in a little raft. I checked out the flow rate online and fortunately the river was running much lower than average for the year, right at 250 CFS; we hadn't missed the brief window of opportunity.

We parked the car down by the Brotherhood Bridge bridge and rode the bus up to the Back Loop bridge. Then we hiked down the river to a good launching spot where we inflated the rafts and set out. As you can see from the pictures the first part was a rock garden.

We came around a curve and this eagle was sitting right where we needed to go. After he started flexing his talons in our direction, we got out of the boats and walked around. We floated some calm spots and paddled through rapids. At one point I saw Mr. X's boat take a deep lean to the left and I thought he might end up wet. I paddled hard through that rapid and looked up. Mr. X had slowed up to make sure I made that turn, and he was shouting something. I just smiled and nodded. He shouted again,

"Get to the shore! You're losing air!"

Sure enough my boat was sinking around me. I paddled hard and landed on a gravel bar in the river, just in time for the boat to gasp its last breath. When I pulled the raft out of the water, we saw a two inch slice through the tube and a 24 inch scratch on the bottom. Whatever I hit, I hit it good. Considering what to do next we both realized that our rafts didn't come with a patch kit as advertized.* We were up a creek without a boat! Totally stupid of us.

Where we landed on the river, we couldn't walk out; the river was deep. I rolled up my raft and stuck it in the dry bag. I considered swimming, but instead I climbed on the front of Mr. X's boat, and we carefully crossed the river to its edge, balancing and paddling gently.

From here it was just a short climb up the hillside, a stealthy walk through my boss's (!) backyard and a (very humbling) two mile walk to the car. 

*We contacted the company and they immediately shipped out the included patch kits. We now have repair kits in our lifejackets if we find ourselves in this situation again. A lesson learned. A good place to learn the lesson. 

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