Tour de Powerhouse on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River – Part 2
Story continued from ~ Tour de Powerhouse on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River – Part 1
Bicycles are not allowed in the wilderness, but at one point they were.
Remember Ron’s lasting impressions?
Well, he left one this day.
As we were rigging our boats at Boundary Creek, and Ron was tending to the guests, an unsuspecting cyclist caught Ron’s attention. Before he knew it, Ron had him convinced that the first 10 miles of the trail were far too rough for a bicycle and that a better choice would be to let us float he and his bike on a raft for the first ten miles or so.
There are folks in this world who are good at what I like to call “answer questions”. These are those questions posed in such a way that you are somewhat simultaneously given an answer which you feel somewhat obligated to automatically agree with, whether or not you really do.
Example: Let’s say you’re enjoying your Thanksgiving dinner at a stranger’s home and the man of the house looks you in the eye and says, “isn’t this the best turkey you’ve ever eaten?”. It would be very difficult to come right out and say no. Even in disagreement, the best negative response you’re likely to offer would be to fill your mouth with a fork full of turkey, grunt, nod and look away. Ron was a master at answer questions.
The poor guy with the bike didn’t stand a chance, even if he had no desire to participate in the notion, his bike was loaded into the raft and he was wearing a lifejacket before he could get the turkey swallowed.
Whereas Ron’s 8-day Middle Fork training crash course worked well for some, for others, not so much. Quite frankly, when it came to rowing a boat in a whitewater situation, some got it, some didn’t. At least not as quickly as others, let’s say. The bike and biker happened to be loaded on a boat captained by a “some didn’t”.
Regardless of our individual skill, we launched our fleet of four boats. Running lead and supervising Cowboy was Ron. Grizz in second, the biker boat third, and I was in the rear. The Ron/Cowboy and the Grizz boats both had guests on board, including ( in the Ron/Cowboy boat), the only black woman I’ve ever been on the Middle Fork with, and Paul. We negotiated the rapids of the first 9 miles or so without event and we had even learned that the name of Stevo’s unknown mile 6 rapid was Velvet Falls.
The next rapid would be Powerhouse.
I’ve never heard anything officially about the source of the name but I’ve always assumed it referred to the cabin and the waterwheel that was jutting out into the river on river right. Powerhouse is essentially two rapids with a very short calm section in between. The first section “Waterwheel”, is typically uneventful. The second, the true Powerhouse, just the opposite.
First of all, it’s one of the longest rapids on the river, AND has big waves, lots of sharp rocks, lots of regular rocks and just when you think that was enough, the entire river makes a 90° bend to the left forcing anything afloat into the wall on river right. The usual plan is to run the first stretch, Waterwheel, without event, passing the waterwheel and the cabin on river right, oohh and aahh a little bit, hit the calm, compose yourself, enter Powerhouse somewhat river left and stay river left, dodging the rocks, sharp or not, trying to hit the waves as straight as possible as to not take on any more water than necessary, because as Ron would always tell the guests; ”that water weighs 8 pounds per gallon and Superman couldn’t row one of these boats full of water”.
Now, having done all of the above, you are only left with the task of keeping your somewhat Superman boat from slamming into the wall at the bottom.
I might add here, that one of the lessons from the eight day course that was driven home continuously, was that, in the event that you were going to hit something with your boat, it was extremely important to hit it head-on with the bow or stern. The theory here being that by doing so, your boat being an inflatable raft, would simply bounce off the hazard and allow you to continue on your merry way rather than plant your boat broadside and all the ugliness that such a move creates.
Till now, I had witnessed the biker boat from behind for approximately 9 miles without much todo.
We had been through some pretty major stuff including Sulphur Slide, Ram’s Horn, Hell’s Half-Mile, Velvet Falls, The Chutes and more. Even the bike seemed to be enjoying the ride bouncing here and there in the stern of the boat.
Like little ducklings we all cruised through the Waterwheel single file with no problem.
It was about now that the Biker Boat begin to deviate from the plan. Ever so slightly at first, but soon, left became center, center became river right. Bad Ducky!
I know I had a grand total of two trips down the Middle Fork and was working on number three, but it was at this moment that I first realized that the cliff wall at the bottom was actually a cliff wall on river right for more than half of the rapid. I believe it’s fair to say that the crew of the Biker Boat had the same revelation at almost the exact time that I did.
It was also about this time that I noticed that the bike didn’t seem to be having as much fun as before.
Watching as this segment of Ron’s “Best Crew Ever”, artfully implemented Rule Number-1 and slammed into the wall bow first, was quite a sight to behold. Almost as impressive as a couple of seconds later when the boat whipped a 180 and slammed stern first into the wall.
It is important to note that the bicycle didn’t fit as neatly into the raft as one would have hoped.
I also noticed that unhappy bikers and unhappy bikes don’t behave themselves the same as when they are happy.
Over the next couple of minutes I may have witnessed the greatest example of Rule Number 1 being exercised, as the Biker Boat took turns swapping ends, bow then stern, bow then stern.
Good news however, after several good stern shots the parts of the bike that were sticking out beyond the perimeter of the boat seemed to have been modified enough to allow the bike to calm down a bit, seeming to now be cowering in the rear of the boat.
Read the final part of this blog series: Tour de Powerhouse on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River – Part 3