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Canoeing the Trinity: Rapidly declining fortunes

As the expedition season drew to a close, Miss Adventure and her bold party headed to the far north of California to survey the Trinity River by canoe.

As always, the true point of the excursion was to find something incredibly trivial to debate around the campfire.

Thus:  Whether Smokey, the bear, is named Smokey the Bear or Smokey Bear.

Miss Adventure was of the unfortunate opinion that his name is Smokey Bear. The F.B.I. (Federal Bear Institute) tried to settle this years ago, ruling that she was correct.Nobody asked Smokey, who was incarcerated at the National Zoo (1950-1976) on unspecified charges with no access to legal council.

Smokey was married to Goldie, whose married name may or may not have been Bear.
Shiver me timbers

Since this was the final expedition of the season, we sought to make it the most adventurous by styling ourselves as river pirates. River pirating requires:

1. A river.

2. The swirling maw of  death.

3. Friendly, formerly sea-going fishes jumping out of the water to
peek at your canoe.

Our lucky streak again held up as there was more water in the Trinity in October of 2003 than there has been in more than 40 years: Since the completion of Lewiston Dam which diverted up to 90 percent of the river into
the Sacramento River, which ultimately ended up with the Westlands Water District, near Fresno, for the irrigation of sassafras fields or whatever it is they grow down there.

Somehow word leaked that the bold explorers needed water for canoeing, so the salmon and the Hoopa Indians teamed up to sue the Trinity people who had taken the water. The Hoopas, it turns out, have an
ancient tribal tradition of serving free salmon pate in their casino.

The diversion is not undone but a lot more water was released to the Trinity this year to support the salmon migration and we were there o give them encouragement.

 Learning Curve
The trick of whitewater canoeing is one cannot learn whitewater canoeing unless (drum roll here please): One goes whitewater canoeing!

Which is what we did. Or at least it is what Brushy Bob did. Miss Adventure opted to miss this adventure.

"Why don't you go," she said. "If you live, maybe we'll both go."

This idea had merit; she could take care of the shuttle back to camp, and it would avoid the screams of terror, whining and cowering that she finds so objectionable.

 The part of the river in question was between Lewiston dam and the Trinity Alps near Weaverville. This area offered rapids no worse than Class II

The rating system is not perfect because rapids change with season and water flow.

We found a site facing the river that offered reasonable privacy. Other campers favored the opposite end of the campground probably because the hill offered shelter against the cold. It also was closer to the rest rooms.

The campground host - the source of firewood - was in a very unhostlike demeanor. We paid for firewood but it never came. Nor was he speaking to any of the campers, including us.

Woodhawk!
Luckily Miss Adventure is a talented wood hawk who conjured up wood from places where Brushy Bob had not seen even a stick of kindling.

The day following our arrival we set out to find a place to launch Tippy canoe. We found a good launch several miles upstream at Indian Creek, we scouted it in the morning, when no one was there and returned a few hours later.

Miss Adventure and I parted ways then and I approached my first rapid about 30 feet downstream.

This rapid split between a low-water rocky stream and a deep-water, wooded undercut bank.
I boldly chose neither option and landed on the gravel bar that separated the two and portaged to the deeper water.

After that it was apparent the art of river running involved instant decision-making, which I was undecided about.

Submerged trees and stumps are the principal navigation hazard.

Suckered by Scenery

My initial thoughts were, "Wait till Miss Adventure sees this!" The river was beautiful and the woods displayed their fall colors. Downstream
in a current requires little paddling. One need only to keep the boat straight. Seeing over the bow from the rear seat is tricky though, especially since I spent most of my time gandering at the woods and
the mountains.

Which had the effect of suckering me into the next rapid while I was busy sightseeing. Everything actually went pretty well and shooting rapids is a pretty exciting business.

The first minor capsize occurred at the end of a long rapid where the channel suddenly was split into two by a protruding rock. I took
the right channel, which was the right decision except for the submerged tree stump blocking it. My attempt at emergency navigation drove the
bow of the boat up onto a sand bar, which tipped the rest of Tippy into the drink.

I threw my leg out and kept the boat from going completely over, and said something like, "Gee, that was close. I'll have to be more careful."
Slow Learner

Which I was until the next capsize. That occurred while I was in the middle of congratulating myself on having chosen the correct channel and was confounded by a last-second, submerged boulder at the end
of the chute.

This was almost exactly like the first incident with worse consequences.
Tippy went over and swamped. This too was adjacent to a gravel bar. I righted Tippy and threw all the gear onto the bar.

Or most of the gear. Some stuff was busily floating downstream, which I slogged and fetched just in time to see the swamped canoe getting underway without me. I managed to catch her just before she got into
fast water.

This would have probably been a comical sight had any onlookers been present.
Can salmon laugh?
I thought I heard a few snickers.
I was getting hungry at this point and wisht I had a Snickers.

I was also wet but pressed on down river because it was the only choice available.

I regained my courage and things went pretty well for awhile.

Despite overwhelming evidence that I should do so, I did not tie my good shoes to the cleats although I had secured the camera in the dry bag and secured the drybag to the portage bar.

Sure Hon, I'll be careful

Near Douglas City the river makes a horse-shoe turn, the current is faster and the rapids nastier. I prepared for this with the bold plan of portaging anything I could not be sure of.

There is a wonderful rapid just below an old bridge abutment left from mining or ranching days. The channel divides here. The deep water
channel undercuts a bank about eight feet high. To keep in the clean water: Shoot over a two-foot drop, let the current take you into the
undercut and then kick out right at the last second into the backwash and the main channel.

I executed this perfectly and was just full of myself. I expected to be inducted into the Canoeists' Hall of Fame right then and there.
Into the Abyss
Unfortunately the exit from this rapid is the entrance to Lost Shoe Rapid, named here for events which had not yet occurred.

 Had I kept my courage and just zipped straight into this abyss, everything would have been fine.

Instead I tried to backpaddle into the eddy and get a better look at things. This did not work. The current sucked me into a downed tree. I ducked but a branch caught the bow and dumped me right into the foam.

That instant was an eternity: The moment when I realized this was really happening and there was nothing I could do to save myself.
I have had nightmares of this nature.

Hang on to your hat!
The shock of the icy water was so dramatic, I do not remember being washed down the rapid. My first memory is of floating down river in very deep water with the bow loop of the canoe in one hand and a wide-brimmed fedora clutched in the other.

I must have been a little disoriented. I knew where I was but some things around me did not make sense. One of my first observations was how well the float jacket worked; the second was what to do about
my predicament.

I tried to kick toward the bank of the river but the current was too strong and I was not about to let go of the boat or the hat.

My thought here was that: “Wherever Miss Adventure is, I know she does not want to see
a hat floating by without me being attached to it.
Marooned!

Here's where it got tricky: I was floating downstream first, followed by Tippy. My only hope was to land on a rock in the middle of the river, but I needed to do this without being pinned against the rock in fast current by an upsidedown canoe. I already had enough problems.

I managed the landing and got the gear up on the rock, and the canoe rightside up. It floated but was completely swamped and too unstable
to use. One shoe was gone, the bilge pump was gone and my army canteens were gone. The drybag and the paddles were still in the boat.

Being a little chilly and marooned, I was highly motivated to resolve the predicament. I tried bailing the boat with the remaining shoe, but that was not effective. Eventually I managed to dump the boat
without getting the gunwale underwater again. How this occurred I cannot say. I also had some scrapes and bruises that I noticed for the first time.

Squish, Squish, Squish
There was still some water in Tippy but she was safe enough to paddle.
I drifted downstream a bit then paddled upstream to a little beach
that was less than a half mile from our camp. I dumped the boat on the beach, got the soggy camera from the drybag, put on a soggy jacket and hoofed it back to camp in my soggy river shoes.

Miss Adventure wasn't at camp but I got dried out a little and went to find her. She was stationed at the final rapid near the take-out at the bottom of the campground waiting to take a photo when and if I got there.

We went back to the canoe, where she helped me get sorted out. It was too far to portage, so I negotiated the last three rapids without incident. For reasons that escape me, Miss Adventure declined my invitation  of a ride downstream

 Miss Adventure's Viewpoint
She had a different view of the expedition:
I was relieved that Brushy Bob was okay with going it alone and I would be the shuttle driver for this adventure.  I drove him and Tippy to Indian Creek put-in. Then worry set in. Telling myself the fact that he had much more experience with boating and water didn't quell the worry completely. I considered it an omen that he was so willing to strap on his life vest. As I pushed him off and snapped a picture or two. I thought, this is the last time I'll see this man in one piece.

Not knowing how fast he would be traveling, I stopped at the little store and found out they don't sell firewood.

Not wanting to miss the grand arrival, I hiked to the area we had visited the day before. It had a nice beach, picnic table and a large, graffittied rock smack in mid-stream (The very same rock he was marooned on later).
A Kodak Moment

The rapid curved down from up river and was a beautiful sight from the beach. I was to photograph this major event and, as I sat there, I wondered if a better spot might be farther downstream. I moved downstream and settled on a rock jutting into the river just above the take-out site at the campground's swimming and beach area. I had a view of the straight section of river and a busy little rapid from which Greg
will be merrily floating down any time now.

Watching the sun's rays dance upon the ripples mesmerized me - it was so alive! Movement is constant and changing. Then suddenly the dance was over, the sparkles gone, shadows covered the water. The sun had dropped behind the ridge.

"Any time now," I said.

I counted the number of partly submerged rocks in the little rapid. "Don't ask," I whispered to the river. "He's just being careful."



While I waited, I sent Abigail (loyal dog-type person) back to camp to make a couple of salami-and-cheese sandwiches.

Suddenly I heard a bark behind me. There she was, but without the sandwiches.

“What is it girl?” I said.

“Woof, woof, woof,” said Abigail.

"What is it Ab," I repeated. "Is little Bob drowned in the river again?"

WOOF!" Abigail replied.

Of course, this is an embellishment of what really happened. Abby cannot make salami sandwiches without getting mayonnaise all over her little paws; she's pretty good with grilled ham-and-cheese though.

Hearing a noise from the path, I looked over and coming down the trail was a very soggy, wet profile of someone slightly resembling Brushy Bob!

My jaw dropped as I took in the sight of dripping shorts and disfigured hat. Wait now! He is NOT supposed to be on land! This is all wrong!
Doing the Math

I slowly put 2 + 2 together saying “Oh My!” I really had hoped and almost believed it would go without a hitch (So much for optimism).

And, he was laughing! Later I learned that if I had stayed at the first beach to photograph him, I would have had front-row seating to the disaster. Funny how things work out.
Brushy Bob becomes Soggy Bob


Miss Adventure used her magic to fetch up enough wood for a fire. This was good because it was cold at night, and a certain person in that vicinity was in a damp condition.

Miss Adventure did get some canoeing in the next day when the pair mounted a salvage expedition upstream. Below lost shoe rapid is a graveyard of lost shoes, Bic lighters and other paraphernalia.
Sure she will!

Miss Adventure has vowed to get her feet wet  on the next river adventure or perhaps the one after that. That would be good. Abby and Soggy Bob need the ballast.   
 


Notes on Smokey the Bear:

1. Smokey the cartoon bear was born in 1945.

2.Smokey the real bear cub was rescued from the Lincoln National Forest fire in New Mexico in 1950.

2. Goldie, his mate at the National Zoo, was a cub orphan from New Mexico. She was sent to the National Zoo in 1961.

3. The pair did not beget any little smokeys but they adopted Smokey ll who filled in as Smokey after the original bruin died in 1976.

4. We do not know the fate of Goldie

5.Smokey was actually rescued by soldiers from Ft. Bliss, Texas who were pressed into firefighting on the Lincoln Fire.

6. Since 2005 is cartoon Smokey's 60th anniversary, there is an abundant supply of Smokey knick knacks for sale at federal ranger district offices. Much of it is really cool.

7. Before Smokey was named official spokesbear in 1945, there was considerable debate in the Dept. of Agriculture about whether the spokescritter should be a wide-eyed, Bambi-style  doe or a cute bear.

8. Had it been the doe, think of the impact this would have had on Southern Law enforcement.

9.Federal Rangers (and Smokey) look the way they do because the U.S. Army originally managed the first national parks. Hence the uniform is pre-WW1 Army field dress
*Story taken from the archives of the Wolf Creek Gazette.

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