Saturday, September 30, 2017

Cowboy Tough - leg 3 (packraft)

(Photos by Kaori Funahashi and John Beard)

On to the Snake River!  I had been cautiously optimistic about this leg, which for me for a water section translates to "downright giddy".  I was really glad I had done the previous float trip to get an idea what to expect.  The river moves quickly but doesn't present a lot of obvious challenges (at least where we'd be paddling), so maybe it would even be fun.

Leg 3 - "Best packraft leg ever"
[19 packraft miles, class I-II river, no gain and supposedly 1000' loss (not really though), no portaging allowed]

John beat us to the transition area and got a photo of the paddle bags awaiting team arrivals:

He watched the lead teams fly through transition, pumping up their rafts and jumping quickly on the water.  Maybe a video of that would be helpful for us for future reference.  Teams starting down the Snake River in their rafts:

A little while later we arrived and Leslie got us checked in:

Hey look, a bridge across to the island, that's so helpful!  We had brought booties to wear during the paddle in the hopes of keeping our shoes dry, and we didn't need to dig them out quite yet:

Staking out a spot in the shade where we proceeded to strew stuff all over the place:

John had plenty of time to look around, get a photo of the mural under the bridge, ...

... get a photo of the overall scene:

Basically what I'm saying is that our transition was slow.  32 minutes from arrival to departure.  Which I guess isn't completely awful considering how much we had to do, but many teams were a good bit faster.

Part of the time was spent treating water to fill the bladders.  We were playing with the Sawyers filter system, and the part where you use the bags to push water through the filter takes a few minutes:

Inflating the rafts, getting stuff into dry bags, putting on PFD's and knee pads, loading up the sausages (the middle inflated tube in the rafts), trying to make sure the important items would stay dry before our overnight trek coming up.  We were happy to see that all our shoes plus the giant paddle bag fit into the sausages for easy storage.

Finally just about ready to push off:

And we're off!  See you in a couple hours, John!

One last view of the Tetons from the put-in bridge - very pretty:

The map of the river going south from CP01, showing all the braids and interesting "route choices" along the way:

I remembered many of the splits in the river and where to aim, which made me a lot more comfortable than I might have been.  We would have figured most of them out anyway, but I enjoyed having more confidence in the choices we were making and what we might find around each bend.

There were a couple larger obstacles like this submerged tree, but they were easy to see and avoid:

These "on the river" photos are from my float trip, pictures I studied before the race to try to remember the main splits.  E.g. go right at this spot:

This stand of trees was one of the landmarks I was aiming for:

Some of the river splits had equally deep channels so it didn't matter if we didn't go the same way as on the float.  In other cases there was shallow water in the alternate braid, meaning if we ended up here we'd be getting out of the rafts to walk them back to deeper water:

The best part of this packraft leg during the race was seeing a bald eagle - yay for bald eagles!  A big reason to smile.

From the float trip:

The current was moving quickly, which was great for getting us down the river without too much effort.  It also meant sometimes we had to make decisions a bit in advance to be in the right position.  It was nice to mostly know those decisions (as much as I could recall them) to minimize the hard paddling anytime we had to correct.

I was enjoying myself, hopefully not annoying Dave too much with my yelling directions this way and that when some of them were probably super obvious.

We reached an interesting split, where previously I'd been down the right fork.  When we neared this spot, Dave and I discussed it because it looked like the left fork was the main river flow.  OK, let's try to the left then (it had also been several weeks since my float and the river level had dropped a decent amount so things might have changed).

Except we didn't decide quickly enough, getting pulled to the right anyway.  No worries!  Except for a submerged tree limb sticking out from the bank...

We paddled hard and avoided it, but somehow managed to get turned around backwards so we got to see this wave up close and while pointing upstream:

Well that was exciting!  At least I knew exactly where I wanted to go from there - down that side channel where our lead float raft was heading in this photo.  The funny thing is that when we did this during the float, the guide said "huh, I've never been down this one before".  But it popped out back in the main channel just fine, so we repeated it in our packrafts:

More map, showing more braids as we continued down the Snake:

A little bit more excitement, Dave and I managed to slide into a long tree across part of the river, happily we didn't hit it fast and it was bare of bark and easy to push off as we worked the raft around the end of it.  It was a fun river, keeping us on our toes.

We went through a few small standing waves, getting some water in the raft here and there.  It was great having a big sponge so Dave could remove a lot of it from the not-self-bailing raft.  We took turns paddling and eating/drinking, enjoying the lovely weather and not being too hot (or cold) that afternoon.

In one of the last river splits, our rafts somehow ended up in different parts of the current.  Dave and I decided to go right, but that wasn't enough time for Tom and Leslie to follow.  Oops, well, we had talked about this possibility and planned to meet (or wait) downstream where the river braids came back together.

We initially thought that our boat had made the poorer choice because of a bit of shallow water, but soon we were back in deep water and moving well again.  Leslie and Tom showed up further downstream, telling a tale of finding a little whirlpool on their route!  They said it spun them around and made it hard to get out of.  They weren't sure they were going to stay in their raft, but they did, happily!

I snapped a shot of this little bugger during my float trip, maybe Tom and Leslie ran into something like this:

One section of unavoidable standing waves across the whole river, no problem, just a fun ride (and a bit of water over the bow):

John was waiting at the next bridge to get some photos of us coming by:

I had been warning the team about this huge submerged rock (since our float raft actually hit it in a slightly concerning way, and that was a much bigger raft), but it was easy to avoid and not an issue (also a picture of the bridge where John was watching for us):

Coming around the bend, past the take-out from my previous float:

The last several miles were billed as "the easiest part of the river" by my float guide - very few obstacles and no braids to deal with:

A scouting photo from the next bridge down - looks like we might need to actually paddle some:

I love this photo that Kaori took from the next bridge - Leslie had spotted the photographers and told us we should work on our best form for the cameras, but I couldn't help looking up and grinning:

I was having a great time, except toward the end when I really needed to pee.  We were almost there, it would be a shame to waste time stopping now.  But it was all I could think about for the final few minutes on the water.

View of the takeout on the gravel bar across the river (river left).  Photo taken from where I thought the takeout would be, on river right:

John had arrived to document the next phase of our journey - yay, John, that was fun!

Pulling up on the beach:

First stop = the bushes.  OK, now I can focus.  That still didn't help speed up this transition, especially since I was trying to keep from getting sand all over everything.  That was a losing battle and just slowing me down.  John was not impressed with our team's ability to organize our stuff.  We should probably practice this more.

Rolling up one packraft:

Treating water for the next section - and we needed a lot, so we wanted to get this part right.  At least I was using an inline filter and Leslie was using iodine tablets, so the Sawyers bag process took only half as long as it might have.

Lugging everything up the steep, muddy bank:

Trying to keep up with the team:

The paddle bag went onto a truck and we continued further up the road to find our first gearbox (in the process forgetting to leave the packraft repair kit in the paddle bag and having to return once more to this truck):

Leslie punching the checkpoint to officially put us into leg 4:

Total time after leg 3 = 5:53:13 (including both packraft transitions), back to 46th place (probably mostly due to those transitions).  Near the back of the pack, but at least we're not last!

No comments: