Liz, Erin, Melisa, and I floated the Weber on Thursday. We picked up an air mattress, a tube, and two one-person Sevylor rafts from Wal Mart. Unfortunately, Wal Msrt was out of paddles of any kind. I had one kayak paddle in the car, so we wound up buying some plastic kids gardening toys to use as paddles. Awesome idea!
The forecast called for 90 degrees and we had the time, so we decided to put in an exit earlier than usual. The extra section of river winds through some farms, past some abandoned cars in the water, over a couple of big rapids, before meeting up with the normal put-in near the Rock Gardens. An extra hour of floating and some fun rapids. Awesome idea!
We geared and cocktailed up and launched our various tubes, rafts, and floating beds, drinks and “paddles” in hand. Lifejackets onboard, but not on enough to mess up our tans. Awesome idea!
We survived the first big rapid, but quickly ran into trouble a few turns later. This early in the season there are a few more bushes along the banks than usual. Much like nuclear reactors and bullets, Inflatable objects don’t react too well to bushes. Around one of the first sharp corners, I narrowly avoided a bush on the far side of the river. My kayaking paddle successfully guiding me away from the pokey bushes. And while Liz’s plastic rake and shovel looked paddle-ish, it did not perform like a paddle in crunch time. She was swept into the bushes, flipped out of her one-person boat, went underwater, lost both non-paddles, momentarily losing her lifejacket while her boat got hung up in the branches. She eventually caught up to her lifejacket and swam to shore. I pulled off too, then waded across the river, dove, grabbed her raft and wrestled it away from the bush. Unfortunately, it was ripped in a couple places and could no longer hold air. One raft short, Liz jumped on Erin’s twin air mattress and we headed downstream. Awesome idea!
We all somehow survived the second big drop on the extra section of the Weber, but ran into trouble on the last turn before the usual put-in. The first new obstacle of the season presented itself as tree blocking half the river, directly following the S-Curves. Again, I used my kayak paddle to narrowly avoid the tree, but the girls weren’t as lucky. Liz and Erin flipped on a bush right before the tree. They lost all their paddles and were washed downstream directly into the downed tree. At about the same time, Melisa had crashed her tube directly into the roots of the trees. She was tossed overboard, losing her sunglasses and her lifejacket that was tied to her raft. Liz hit a log caught in the tree’s roots with her head, got dragged under water and stopped by grabbing branches of the tree. Erin got washed into a small section of the river on the left side of the tree, scraping up her arms and legs before stopping near the bank. Melisa, without a lifejacket, got dragged underwater, under the tree and got her hair caught in the branches. She managed to kick her way out of the tree’s hold, but then got pinned up against the trunk of the tree, stuck in the middle of the river with Liz. I hiked back to the scene as Liz was trying to free Melisa’s raft and lifejacket from the tree’s roots. Just as she reached out to grab the tube, the log that she had hit with her head broke free and they were both washed downstream. I managed to tightrope walk through moving water down the tree trunk, out to the roots and was able to free the tube and lifejacket. Somehow, the tube and all three girls survived. We lost a hat, three pairs of sunglasses, our last three poor-man paddles, a few beers, chap stick and a little of our sense of invincibility. We debated calling it a day, but decided to push on, leaving our ripped raft, three river-water-filled cocktails, and a few warm beers on the bank. One corner before the start of the usual float, we had three rafts, one paddle, one stupid plastic rake, one pair of sunglasses, one hat, and two-plus hours of rocks, bushes, rapids, and bridges ahead of us. Awesome idea!
Liz and Erin, floating on a slowly deflating twin air mattress, took the kayaking paddle. I took the rake. Melisa, with the best range of motion on her tube, used her arms and feet to paddle. We actually did really well through Rock Garden and the Duldrums. I ditched the kids toys in favor of paddling with my arms. And we managed to pick the right slot under the Croyden Bridge. The rest of the trip went well. Liz and Erin flipped a few more times. We had a couple close calls on the Big Bridge Pillars. Melisa flipped on the last rapid. But we managed to avoid losing any more rafts. Liz didn’t hit her head again. Erin didn’t get dragged through any more underwater trees. Melisa didn’t almost drown again. I didn’t have to rescue any more rafts.
Great day on the Weber again. Liz’s head is no worse than usual. Erin’s scrapes will heal. Melisa needs new chapstick. They all need new sunglasses. I’m a little sunburned, I guess? But all in all a fun day. Looking back, I think a lot of problems would be solved by either avoiding the extra section of river or by picking up some real paddles. We’ll probably take that into consideration next float… probably. Awesome idea!