In my first season of white water kayaking (2010), I kayaked 95 days. Three of them, on three different rivers, were bad ones, where I got significantly hurt, shaken up, or both.
I spent most of 2011 in shoulder rehab, healing after surgery repaired a snowboarding injury.
This year, 2012, I went back to all three of those rivers, and ran them without incident.
One of those rivers was the Dryway section of the Deerfield in Massachusetts. I blogged about that, when it happened. I revisited that river this past June and blogged about it here:
The second river that spanked me in 2010 was the mighty Ottawa in Ontario. I'd run it earlier that summer with no problem, but the second time I went there I had trouble with my roll and was exhausted by swim after swim. I re-ran that river in July and blogged about it:
In 2010 the third river that taught me a lesson gave me a hematoma the size of a grapefruit requiring an ultrasound and I still have a scar on my shin from it. My swim that day was on the first rapid and it was so bad I just got out and went back to the car with my boat. I never even ran it.
That river was the Lower Gauley in West Virginia.
In 1999 someone died in that spot where I swam, because there is a rock you can get stuck under and drown. Fortunately I'd been instructed to swim to the center of the river if I came out of my kayak, and that probably saved my life. This is a dangerous river, in general. One of the rapids I ran three times this weekend killed someone as recently as April.
You don't mess around with the Gauley. You either Bring It, or you Go Home.
Here are some pictures. I'm the one in the pink helmet.
To get down to the river on Friday and Sunday we had to take a set of rickety stairs down a 1000 foot cliff. Carrying our boats.
Here are some photos from the section where I got hurt two years ago:
There were also some calm spots on the river where we could turn around and watch other boats coming down:
Overall it was an excellent weekend, even with the 10-hour drive on each end. It's a beautiful river, and a big white water festival where you are guaranteed of seeing old friends and making new ones.
My scorecard for the weekend? Two runs in my big creek boat (74 gallons). One run in my little play boat (55 gallons). 5 combat rolls. 0 swims. AND NO INJURIES. (I'm most pleased with that last one, actually.)
I'll definitely be back again when I'm an even better boater, and run the more challenging (and even more fun) lines. I'm in no hurry to push myself beyond my limits. I don't have anything to prove.
And also very fun from a Spark People perspective is that I got into a conversation with Stephanie at the hotel desk, and she ended up joining this site!
She would like to be able to do more outdoorsy stuff and she lives in the perfect area to do it. Maybe next year I'll see HER in a kayak, too!