Thursday, June 12, 2014

River Crossings and Me

Crossing rivers. Always the bane of my existence. In wilderness, there are very few bridges; there's pretty strict guidance as to when there should be one (though this is sometimes ignored for convenience). I learned how to cross rivers as a young wilderness ranger: walk upstream from your intended landing point. Shuffle your feet along the bottom of the river. Use a stick or poles. Still, I've nearly been swept away. Boots, hanging around my neck, have fallen into the current. I know the power of rivers.

So you search for logs, but these can be a blessing or a curse. The movement of the water beneath can cause you to freeze in terror. The logs can slope upwards, or, worse, down. Or, like this one across the West Fork of the Wallowa, can turn icy from frost and high water.

Still, I was determined. There's something about being one of the first to see the lakes emerge from winter that I love. Horseshoe Lake was in my sights, a mere three mile climb from Six Mile Meadow, and only this log stood in my way. Plus, there was a wilderness ranger camped nearby, who also intended to do the hike. Old ladies had to represent!

My camp/river crossing shoes. I know, Crocs! I avoided them for years, but I have to say, now I get it.
Walking across the log was out of the question. Ice coated its surface. A slip would mean a tumble into deep, fast water. So I crawled. As I did so, I heard a heart-stopping sound, the sound of something falling out of my pack. As I watched, my water bottle slid into the current and was gone.

Daaarn. Though it was a Smartwater bottle that I had re-used many times (these bottles are great for backpacking. They are lightweight and fit well in pockets), I hate the thought of littering. But what could I do? Going after it meant certain death. I crawled on, reaching safety with a sigh of relief.

The lake itself was shrouded in white and it took a little route-finding to stay on the snow-covered trail. It was worth it, despite the log that awaited me on my return. The wilderness ranger was still at camp! Ha ha! The old ladies rule once more!

16 comments:

  1. I'm not a fan of river crossings either. I'm not ashamed to admit I've butt-slid over logs to get across rivers. And yes, old ladies do rule!! :)

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    1. Butt sliding is totally acceptable in my world.

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  2. River crossings scare me, too. My partner walked jauntily out on a high log crossing a creek in the Copper Country while the rest of us slopped across downstream in sandals. He tottered and fell, scraping sort of badly. Lesson learned? I doubt it. Stay safe out there.

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  3. I like to casually mention to people familiar with New York City that I've waded across the Hudson River. Of course, that was quite aways upstream from the city, but is was the same river.

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    1. Love it. Of course this reminds me of the intern we had one summer who came back to camp wet and said he had tried to walk on water but his faith was not strong enough so God made him fall in. Okay...I guess..

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  4. In river crossing class, I'm always the first one to point to a nearby bridge when the instructor asks "where is the best place to cross?" I don't like river stuff either. I'm just not a river person. I really dislike rafting, even.

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    1. I'm not a big rafting fan either, even river kayaking isn't really my thing, I am too busy being terrified. A gentle current yes.

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  5. And what about when your feet are numb by the time you get to the other side?
    But I guess you can just tell yourself it's refreshing right.
    Love the crocs by the way, I have a pair that's at least 10 years old, they make great camp shoes.

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    1. Oh yes, the river dance of pain!

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  6. I hear you! I always take forever finding my crossing point, deciding whether to rock hop, log cross, plunge through shoes on or take time to change into my Crocs (yep another late adopter). Watching my friends dance across logs or rock hock like Gene Kelly make me green with envy.

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    1. Same here, I'm envious. just not that brave!

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  7. In my part of the world we don't have your glorious, long, wilderness trails, so every stream has a crossing. Last year I crossed the country to Perth and my cousin took me on a hike in the hinterland beside a delightful, wild flowered edged, gurgling stream. There was no requirement to cross it but when we happened upon a fallen tree trunk resting from bank to bank, we JUST HAD to test our nerves and cross over and back. Crawled across, but was able to slowly step back. Such fun.

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    1. In Tasmania I hiked the Overland Track, there weren't any stream crossings but I have to say that was one of the highlights of my life so far!

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  8. Forgot to add, your lake reflection is stunningly beautiful. It is wonderful to be able to see where you hike.

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  9. I always try to do what's safest, but each person's comfort level is different. I carry treking poles and while I frequently don't use them when hiking, I have been glad often enough that they were there. River crossings fall in this category. I have been out with people who are too freaked out by logs to cross on one, but I've seen that same person fall while wading across in their boots and get banged up pretty badly while I crossed on the log using a wading pole for extra insurance. I haven't tried crocs, I carry SOLO flip-flops for water crossings, but I've seen a man hiking out in his crocs after his hiking boots chewed up his feet. How heavy are the crocs?

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    1. Crocs are amazingly light. I'd say a few ounces at most. Kind of bulky however, they pretty much have to flop off your pack somewhere. Poles are awesome for crossings, I agree.

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