One Sunken PBR Can At A Time
We reached the river shortly before noon. We got our stuff together, tied it down, blew up our two-man kayak and ate a quick tuna fish sandwich. Diamond Jim gave us our safety briefing and we cracked another beer to celebrate the finishing of the safety briefing and yet another for the unbelievably professional packing and boat launching. We punctuated most any "accomplishment" with the cracking and clinking of beer.
A note on the kayak; it was a very nice one, with leg straps, helmets, life vests with knives on them, paddle jackets, paddle gloves, paddles and wet-suits. Dane-O and I quickly got into a nice rhythm with our paddling. We surprisingly fit very well together as paddling partners. I took the front position while Dane-O took the steering job.
Prior to getting into the boat, we had talked about the rafting arrangements. The Asbestos Kid and Diamond Jim were going to be in the big raft while Dane-O and I felt a bit more adventurous and decided to take a two-man inflatable kayak. I had asked The Asbestos Kid (who I incorrectly assumed had done this float trip before since he had lived here all his life and because he acted as if he went on weekend float trips every weekend) if it was a rough water trip and he assured me it was just a float, no rapids. I had been somewhat dissappointed when he told me this because I thought I might get a little bored just floating down the river with no rapids.
The first portion was smooth with a few gentle ripples. Dane-O and I got into a rhythm and then took every offshoot we could find on the river. The Asbestos Kid, subsequently dubbed "Princess," was laid out in the raft with a beer in hand. Diamond Jim looked the dubious cap'n of the ship. Dane-O and I were like two little kids who just got their first set of water wings in a wading pool. I had been in a ducky kayak before this, but I hadn't ever really done any kayaking. At least I had been white water rafting a few times before, Dane-O hadn't ever really been in much white water at all. I knew this was going to be fun. Crack another beer!
At some point I noticed the rapids were actually getting to be of a size where we were starting to have to paddle and steer, navigating our way through them. I yelled back at Diamond Jim whether or not we were going to go into any real rapids. He yelled back something that sounded vaguely like a couple of Bass Doors. Which was funny, because it sounded suspiciously like a "couple of Class Fours" which is a designation for the difficulty of a rapid in rafting.
He yelled back again that something called White Horse was coming up. I started realizing he was talking about a rapid coming up. My limited experience with water sports, the good kind, was that rapids with names were of a certain respectable size and magnitude. Diamond Jim, with a smile and nod of confidence explained Whitehorse up ahead was a class four rapid. We stopped and scouted the rapid ahead of time. The sky had cast over and the wind was starting to pick up. This was getting me pretty cold. The rapid was rather intimidating. I am pretty sure anyone with experience wouldn't have had an issue with it. Diamond Jim told us to hang right and then follow into the center of the river and ride it out. Seemed pretty straight forward to us.
Once we hit the rapid, I don't really remember seeing that much, the water kept flying over me and into my face. I do remember being in a hole where I couldn't see over the other crests of boiling water. We did pretty good going through the rapid, but it was unnerving. The raw power of the river is oppressive when you are going through one of those rapids. We passed through Whitehorse and moved further down the river to our camp.
The rest of the afternoon passed nicely with rapids stretched out and smooth but steadily flowing deschutes in between. The landscape was a stretching, rolling desert around us. The Deschutes River sits in a narrow canyon with crumbling basalt columns and ridgelines. The rock is all choss, I saw a few that could be climbable, but the vast majority of it was junk. It wouldn't be worth the trip to raft down, hike up and try to find something in these pockets of cliff's here and there. I had packed my climbing shoes, but I didn't think I was going to get an opportunity to use them.