We get to our put-in point on the Klickitat River on Tuesday morning, and right away I see that there’s been some kind of miscommunication here. Rather than the gently burbling water I expect, what I see are clearly class 5 rapids, maybe even 6. How high does the scale go? Because these are off the charts, a maelstrom of frothing water. My god, they really ARE trying to kill us!
Spanky: Okay, so as you can see, these are some nice calm….
Me: Class 5 rapids!
Spanky: Umm no. Right here I think we’re at a 1, maybe a 2.
Hmm, I’m skeptical, but so be it, I’ll let the instructors have their little delusions. We learn about eddies, the calm spots that we can eddy into and relax and chill. I love eddies, their calmness and predictability. Eddies are my friend, so easy to manage (note: more foreshadowing here).
We then get our starting out instructions, for handling this obvious Class 5 rapid in front of us.
Mrs. Robinson: So you want to head towards that rock on the other side, then let the current take you to the right, but the most important thing to remember is to NOT look at what you’re headed towards but rather where you want to go, down the river. I repeat, don’t look at the rock or tree, but down the river.
Of course I take these words to heart, and after I bypass the rock, go straight towards the tree, locking it in with a laser beam focus.
As I hone in on it, pulled in seemingly by tractor beam, I’m thinking, hmm, a tree. Should I try to grab its branches and brace myself so that I can then push myself away? In the back of my head the laws of physics seem to dictate that that would be a really stupid idea (rapidly moving object + static object = sheer stupidity), so I then wonder if I can duck under it. As I’m pondering this existential dilemma, holding my paddle delicately in front of me, I hit the branches and bloop go under.
Two minutes in and I’m already going swimming.
Story of my life.
I panic slightly as I find myself in some tree branches and bumping up against some rocks, then attempt a feeble t-rescue, then start yanking at the spray skirt pretty much right away. Of course, the key to kayaking, as with life, is to surround yourself with people who can help you navigate the rapids. And so, once I stop flailing about, I realize that plenty of help is at hand, and just like that I’m okay again. I got this. And I do. I pop up, grab onto someone’s kayak, and get towed into an eddy so that we can drain my own kayak.
And now that I’ve gone under for the first time, I’m a pro at this swimming stuff. Swim Team Captain, that’s me! Oh sure, Navigator tries to usurp my exalted status, but to no avail – she only goes under two times to my three. Nice try Navigator!
At one point later in the day we pull over by a bridge, and I hear Twinkletoes saying something about “so you can walk to the top and then get up and jump off the bridge…”, and I figure he’s joking. That’s before I see GI Jane up there, getting read to jump off. Well okay then, why not? There’s something about FD that makes the seemingly crazy or impossible seem totally doable and logical. Like bridge-jumping. Makes perfect sense to me!
I head to the top, clamber up onto the bridge rail, and after I look at the distant swirling water down below for way too long, I jump, and immediately realize why people jumping off really tall bridges usually die. Because you feel how quickly you pick up speed, and hitting the water is kind of like hitting cement, or at least soft cement. But it’s awesome, and I’m grinning as I swim to shore, just as I’ve been smiling like a fool all day long. This is the BEST!
That day’s award truly goes to Vineyard though, who wasn’t going to jump, as she noted “I can’t swim very well” – but then decides what the fuck, and jumps anyway. I think that’s the motto for the week – saying fuck it, and doing things anyway. Life’s too short to do otherwise.
That evening I realize my true purpose in being at FD: to serve as a warning to others. Because there we are talking about other FD camps and activities, and we’re talking about surfing, when I pipe up: “Oh yeah, I tried surfing in Costa Rica – it was great – at least until I clotheslined myself with the surfboad.”
Mrs. Robinson: That reminds me of something –I’ll be right back.
She comes back with the waiver form from Wet Planet for all of us to sign, stating that if we’re foolish enough to drown or maim ourselves, we won’t hold Wet Planet responsible. See, never let it be said that my stupidity doesn’t come in handy.
We have another amazing meal that evening prepared by our chef Molle, who is making healthy foods that taste wonderful. That’s another thing – it’s weird to be so spoiled and pampered, as I’m just not used to this. Sure, I have friends and family who’ll help me out when things are dire, but on a day-to-day basis, I’m used to fending for myself with pretty much everything: cleaning, fixing, cooking, getting shit done, figuring things out, etc. Here anything we need we’ll get help with. It’s almost bizarre, but hey, who am I to argue with it?