What a great 3 days! Moving water is an activity that I have been working hard at to be part of our program and this fall it has finally happened. The reason I wanted it to be part of our program is three-fold; first, when canoe tripping you often come across small sections of moving water and it is important that people understand what is going on when deciding to run it or not; second, similar to rock climbing, it is an activity that forces students well beyond their comfort zone, which is where the greatest learning happens; last, it is so much fun.
We picked the best week for our clinic. The weather was great, mostly sunny and warm, and the water level was at its highest all year. There were 12 students and we were joined by Mr. Witmer and our 2nd instructor Aussie Brad. We started our afternoon on Tuesday reviewing the moving water strokes and then worked our way to where the current was flowing. Here we practiced getting out of an eddy and into the current while keeping the boat upright. Which worked for most, although everyone did participate in a swim through at the end of the day. Just something that helps everyone be comfortable and not shocked when they do end up flipping a canoe.
The focus for the 2nd day was to start running sections of moving water. Palmer's Rapids is great for this, as it is comprised of two sections of moving water, the bottom which is gentler, but longer and the top which is more powerful. After a quick warm up and practice of the skills learned on Tuesday, we learned how to ferry across the river and how to exit the current into an eddy. Now we were ready to challenge the lower section. After a quick scout of the rapid, with hearts and adrenalin pumping, we went down ducky style and enjoyed our first run. Everyone was super excited and very keen to portage back up and do it again. After a quick lunch, this is exactly what we did and spent the entire afternoon running the lower set, each time challenging ourselves further by taking eddy's and different routes. Although we had some dumped canoes, some swamped canoes and a few forced swims, everyone came from the afternoon with great confidence. Some so confident that they swam the top rapid for kicks.
The last morning was short and we made the most of it by getting on the water early (and having camp packed up already). We started with a couple of runs of the bottom section to get the blood flowing and then we finished by everyone running the top rapid. The top rapid is just like a good ride at Wonderland, the water is fast, the waves are big and the chance of flipping for our students was about 50/50. That said, they all went for it with the saying of the week, "just keep paddling". Things started off great, with the 1st two canoes getting great air and running clean lines. After that, the canoes still got some great air, but this was followed with a bit of wetness, as some canoes flipped sideways, others got swallowed by waves and still others just took on too much water and began to sink. It was at the bottom of this rapid that I saw why I wanted to have moving water as part of our program, everyone was smiling and super excited about their run.
It is amazing when you have fun, how much you can learn. It was also a real pleasure to work with such a wonderful group.