The weekend our climbing team summited Mount Baker for their grad climb we were rafting the Methow. With such a big team not all of the instructors could make the climb, so Kyle, Ian and I had bowed out before we could get kicked off. We had other options, other places to be.
I had been looking forward to the Methow. Located in the foothills of the Northeastern Cascades it promised a very different landscape than the other rivers we had rafted so far. A more open, desolate, desert environment. The club had reserved a campground at the nearby Alta Lake State Park, a place I hadn’t visited since I was a little kid. I was excited for a nice day of rafting, a great cookout and camp out and the opportunity to test our car tent for the first time.
Let’s talk about this car tent. As you may or may not know one of our big commitments after finishing the PCT was fulfilling Kyle’s life long dream of owning a Toyota Tacoma. Of course, the ultimate goal is to put a camper shell on it and call it home, but seeing as we can’t afford the camper shell yet we had been looking for alternative ways to camp in the bed of the truck. Kyle, ever the dogged researcher discovered a tent made by a small company called RightLine that sets up in the back of the truck with the tailgate open (that was the key to our dilemma, with the tailgate closed the truck bed is too short for Kyle to lay down in). It was weirdly cheap so we figured why not give it a try? The Methow was to be our first test.
We woke up in the middle of the night to drive out to Eastern Washington. It is amazing how far apart everything is in the gosh-darned state. But when you drive around at 3:30 in the morning here is very little traffic, so that is a plus. We arrived at the group campsite right as everyone else was starting to mill about, making breakfast and packing up for the day. We set up our tent, feeling very pleased with it, and threw our rafting gear into one of the cars that would be part of the shuttle. I was planning on using my wetsuit that I had bought off a fellow club member for the fist time and I was a bit nervous. The water was still really cold, hopefully I wouldn’t freeze.
Then the shuttling madness began. Shuttling cars is literally the hardest part of rafting as far as I can tell. Out in the middle of no where, with virtually no cell phone service cars were whizzing every which way, half of them heading to the put in and the other half to the take out, despite the fact that everyone had been told to go to the take out. We all stood around the take out with our fingers up our butts, not knowing what to do. Finally we gave up and stuffed everyone into as few cars as we could, heading up to the top. Once there we hopped out and began prepping boats.
Since the last couple of rivers we have been on have been technical or big water we haven’t gotten to paddle. I was excited to finally get back behind the guide stick and continue learning how to control a boat. I offered to go first. It was a blast. I still managed to turn the boat completely the wrong way a couple of times but I was starting to understand ferry angles a little bit better (don’t even ask me to explain them here, I can hardly comprehend of them in real life). We made it through a couple of mellow rapid sets and nothing terrible happened. I was already sore and sweating profusely, but feeling good about my progress.
Then Kyle jumped on the guide stick. I could tell something was wrong right away, he was pretty stiff looking, not as powerful as I know he can be. He ran a couple of large wave trains well, although he did send our trainer and another trainee for a swim in a very random section of river. I was actual thankful for the experience of having people dumped out of the boat, it was a good reminder of how to rescue folks out of the frigid water. After that was when he admitted his back was hurting pretty bad. I looked back at him worried. His back had been tight all week. Between our weekend adventures and his manual labor job his body doesn’t get a lot of down time. He said he wanted to keep paddling, but no more than five minutes later he was handing over the guide stick when he back actually started spasming.
Luckily lunch was right around the corner and with Evan’s help I managed to eddy out on the beach. Poor Kyle couldn’t stand or sit comfortably. We pumped him full of pain meds and sent him to sit princess, or more accurately lay princess in one of the oar boats. My heart broke watching him go. Not only do I know that he hates everyone fawning over him, but I also know how much he hates missing out on learning opportunities.
The rest of the river went by in a blur, with us whipping by big holes and blasting through great wave trains. It was a really fun day, but whenever I was having a good time I would look around to see Kyle, twinging in pain and feel a shot of guilt.
We enjoyed a leisurely night on the beaches of Lake Alta, BBQing burgers and watching a movie about the incredible superpowers of owls put on by the Park Rangers. But we decided to head home the next morning instead of rafting another day. Kyle’s spasms had slowed but sometimes you have to make the decision to rest instead of to play. Plus, we had a big weekend the next weekend and what mattered to us the most was to be in prime condition for what lay ahead.
The next weekend was Memorial Day Weekend, and we were finally planning on pulling off our long anticipated Mountain Marathon.