The Accident

1 August 2019 03:14 

By seven in the morning the raft guides at Wind River Outfitters were busy getting ready for the day. The truck that hauled all the gear, a faded green Ford with a crew cab, was already loaded with life jackets, helmets, and paddles, all thrown in the truck bed. Three inflated rafts were stacked on the truck racks and already tied down.

Six more rafts waited to be put on the flatbed trailer, but first someone had to inflate them. Weston used an electric inflator, it looked like an over sized blow dryer; he inflated first the bow chamber, then the center thwart, then the stern chamber. As he stepped back after finishing each raft, Dave and Scott lifted the raft and carried it to the trailer, then set it down; soon the stack grew to look like some sort of oblong, black rubber layer cake. Tim and Nash stood on the front and back of the trailer, and repositioned the rafts properly, so each raft sat as tightly as possible. For the last two rafts, they helped Dave and Scott, who had to press the raft over their heads then throw it to the top of the stack.

Once done, Dave and Scott called a warning, then threw two ropes over the entire stack of rafts to Tim and Nash, who secured the rafts to the trailer with bowlines and trucker hitches. Dave checked that the trailer’s brake lights were connected to the Ford, and hooked the trailer’s security chain s-hook into chassis of the Ford.

The raft guides were between the seventeen and thirty years old. Some were still in high school or college, working during their summer breaks. Others worked for the season, then found work at the ski resorts as lifties or instructors; a few went down to Mexico or Costa Rica. Weston had finished two years at the state university. He wasn’t sure what he would do at the end of the summer.

It was halfway through the season, and the raft guides were tanned by the sunny, hot days. They wore t-shirts, shorts, and tennis shoes, which never lasted more than one season on the river. They had to be careful about their feet being wet all day, otherwise they might end up with a case of guide foot: red, oozing sores that made walking difficult. They were in shape, both because they were young and because of their work: long days on the river, paddling, lifting and stacking and carrying rafts on their shoulders, and sometimes pulling their crew our of the water.

Weston coiled the cord of the inflator and stored it in a locker in the warehouse. Wind River Outfitters occupied one long, rectangular building with a dirt and gravel parking lot. In the front were the offices and a store. Customers came in here, confirmed their reservations with Christine, signed the liability and release forms, and bought some sun screen or a hat with the WRO logo. There was a changing room and one bathroom, reserved for the customers. In addition to a few common outdoors essentials such as sunglasses, lip cream, and insect spray, the WRO store sold Feather and Viking paddles, and also had a Mad River canoe and Perception Quest kayak on display.

In the middle of the building, separated from the customer area, was a large room where the guides ate breakfast and dinner, a kitchen, and a small office which was used as a dark room. Dan, the WRO photographer, was in there now, getting his two cameras, lenses, and film, ready for the day. The guides ate at four folding tables with an assortment of chairs, no two of which were the same. There was an old television and couch off to one side.

The back part of the building was the biggest: an open area with two walled off rooms. The first room was a small kitchen where the junior guides prepared lunches for eating on the river. The other wall off section was the bathroom, with two toilets, two showers, and two sinks. In the bathroom was a poster of Bob Marley performing at a concert in Kingston, and a travel poster picturing an onion domed church in Austria.

The greater part of the back area was an open maze of bunks, chairs, and storage: stacks of rafting related gear: paddles with black plastic blades and silver metal handles, orange life jackets, large cans of glue for patching rafts, first aid kits, large orange water cooler, and white nylon rope. The guide bunks had foam pads and sleeping bags on top; guides hung their gear from nails driven into the wood bunk frames: life jackets (red, blue, or yellow, never orange), climbers helmets, and t-shirts. The sleeping area smelled like wet wood and plastic.

By 7:30 most customers were in the parking lot, ready to board the old school bus that would take them to the river. Weston was the lead guide for the day’s trip, Nash would be the sweep guide. In the kitchen the two junior guides, Herb and Pete, finished the lunch preparation; they would ride to the river on the bus with the customers.

All guides were ready except for Emmet and Jeff. Nash told Weston he thought the two had driven to a party last night up in Wilson, and probably after that had gone to the Howling Dog. If true, Emmett and Jeff would be hurting today. He went to the front office and spoke to Christine. She confirmed that all customers were there and it was a full trip. There were not enough guides for the trip.

Weston went looking for Hank, the owner of Wind River Outfitters. If Emmet and Jeff did not show up soon, Hank would have to guide one raft, and perhaps Weston could split up one of the other groups among the other rafts, but the customers would be sure to complain about that. Or maybe Hank could get someone in from town, although it was a forty minute drive to the outfitter and it was getting late. Any replacement guide would have to drive with his gear straight to the departure point.

Weston went into Hank’s office, which was in the front of the building. In the off season Hank taught American History at the local community college. He had started Wind River Outfitters a few years ago with another teacher, then had bought him out when his partner got divorced and needed money. Hank was on the phone explaining to a possible future rafter how the river was generally safe, although the minimum age was ten years old, and anyone going on the six hour trip should be in good shape, as they did have to do some paddling.

Weston leaned on the door frame and waited for Hank to finish his call. But as Hank looked at Weston and made the just a minute sign, out the office window he saw Emmett’s old compact car pull into the parking lot. He left Hank’s office and walked straight to Emmet’s car.

“Where the fuck have you all been?” Weston said this quietly to make sure none of the customers overheard. “Hurry up and get your gear. You guys ride on the bus with the customers. Help Pete and Herb with the lunch. We have to go get set up at the put-in.”

Jeff was just waking up in the passenger seat. “Sorry about that. Are you the lead douche bag today?” But Weston had already walked over to the Ford truck, where all the other guides were loaded up and waiting for him. “You know what, Emmett? I don’t feel hung over at all. Isn’t that odd?”

Emmett looked at Jeff. He felt bad for being late, but the promise of the party up in Wilson had been too much to pass up, even if it was a two hour drive one way.Their mistake had compounded when they stopped at the Howling Dog on the way home. The Dog was a biker/miner bar, open only three seasons because there was no heat. To enter the Dog was to abandon all sobriety.

“That’s because you’re still drunk, Jeff. You’ll start to feel worse as you sober up.” The day was supposed to be especially hot. That meant headache and dehydration. Emmett was not happy about a hot day on the river with no sleep and a hang over.

Two hours later they were on the river. Hank drove the school bus full of customers from the outfitter to the put in. During the trip Christine played tour guide and stand up comic, trying to keep the customers amused and occupied during the forty-five minute ride to the put in.

In the very back of the bus Emmett and Jeff shared two bench seats with Pete, Herb, the large lunch duffle bags, and two large orange coolers. Emmett had been right about Jeff’s condition; he was feeling worse as the morning progressed. It was going to be a long day on the river.

As the customers got off the bus, the raft guides helped them get their gear. The life jackets, barely dry from yesterday’s trip, had been laid our on some rocks, sorted by size. Some of the jackets were steaming as the sun warmed the dew and moisture out of them. A few of the women looked a little squeamish as the put their jackets on.

The guides engaged their usual chatter as they looked over the customer and helped them select and adjust their gear.

“Doesn’t matter which size life jacket you choose, miss, one size fits none.”

“These white helmets are all the rage in Paris these days. They’re not just for hockey. You don’t want to go on the river without one.”

“Orange is in this year.”

“Sir, those large paddles are for the guides. The crew uses these over here.”

Weston looked over the group as they put on their gear. There were forty-one rafters that day. The largest single group on the trip that day was a party of twenty-five nurses and medical technicians from the Regional Hospital.Weston could break them into five groups of five. Of the remain sixteen, there were three families of four, and two couples who had come together. That made it all easy: he could keep all groups and families together, and not have to put anyone in a raft with strangers.

Because his raft was the first through all the rapids, Weston wanted a strong crew; if they flipped over there was no one downstream to pick his crew. He was a good paddler, but as lead guide he had to be prudent. He had started paddling canoes as a child with his parents on camping trips, then progressed to kayaks. He had been down a number of difficult rivers in the West and some back East, mostly in West Virginia. His paddling experience, while not extreme, was respectable.

Weston decided his crew would be the two couples. The men and their girlfriends looked to be in their late twenties, fit, and three of them wore t-shirts that indicated they were a runner, a skier, and a former college wrestler. The fourth was a little on the heavy side, but looked strong enough; he wore a shirt from a golf course up near Jackson.

After everyone had a life jacket, helmet, and paddle, Weston climbed up on a rock and gave the his standard pre-trip speech: welcome to the river, please check your gear, listen to your guide and always promptly follow his instructions, if you fall in hang onto your paddle and float feet first down the river until someone picks you up, don’t splash other rafters by swinging you paddle at them (you might miss and smash a paddle into someone’s teeth, causing damage to the paddle), put on sunscreen and drink a lot of water, and for women there was no graceful to get back in a raft. They would stop at least twice that day: once for lunch, and once to scout the most serious rapid of the day, the Miner’s Sluice.

Weston assigned the groups to the raft guides. The group from the Regional Hospital he divided into five groups of five, and placed them with Dave, Scott, Tim, Emmet, and Pete. One of the families appeared to know Herb, so Weston assigned that family to him. A family of a father with two large teenage boys and a girl he assigned to Nash; Nash was the sweep guide on the trip, and it was good if he had a strong crew. The last family, the mother and father looking a little overweight, although their kids looked fine, he assigned to Jeff. Jeff was a pain in the ass, but a strong paddler, and even hung over, he could make up for any paddling weaknesses in his crew.

Last, Weston told the two couples they were with him; they all smiled and were happy to be with the lead guide.

The lunch gear was distributed among the rafts, stored in the bow, and secured in with webbing: Pete and Herb each took a cooler, and Dave and Scott took the large rubber duffles that contained hard plastic containers with all the food for lunch. An extra life jacket was wrapped around each cooler, and three of the guides put an extra paddle in the bottom of their rafts. Weston and Nash checked that they had their first aid kits, all their throw lines, and that the batteries on their walkie talkies were charged, and double wrapped in water-proof bags.

One by one the crews helped carry their rafts down to the water, then with the guide holding the stern of the raft, each crew member climbed in, sat down, then when all were in the guide pushed off from the bank and climbed into the back of the raft.

After he saw the raft trip was underway, Hank drove the school bus back to the outfitter, while Christine followed him in the Ford which pulled the flatbed trailer.

In his raft Weston put the men in the front section of the raft and the women in the back, near where he sat, which was all the back and in the middle. He told them it was better to have a bit of weight in the front: that kept the bow down and prevented them from flipping in case they hit a big wave. Also, he said, if someone was likely to fall out, as one of the women had said she feared, it was better if she were closer to the guide, so he could grab her life jacket and keep her in the raft. All this was true, but it also both girls were pretty, and it was nice to have them sitting close to him.

The first rapids, White Horse, were twenty minutes down river. As they paddled towards the first rapids, Weston, and most of the other guides reviewed the safety procedures. He had his crew practice paddling forwards, backwards, then one side paddling forward while the other paddled backwards, then switched. This gave Weston a chance to evaluate their ability, and make any adjustment as needed. He told them they could switch sides every now and then if their arms got sore or the one side of their butt got uncomfortable.

It was a hot, dry day on the river. Dragonflies, aliens from another time, buzzed by, inches above the green water of the rive. The only shade was close to the banks, where there were narrowleaf cottonwoods and junipers. Around the river banks it was flat, but the steep hills just beyond the banks gave the rafters a feeling of being in a canyon. Looking at the river bank Weston thought the water level was up a little bit from the previous day; he wondered if the Army Corps of Engineers had let out more water than usual that morning. The river averaged about sixty yards wide, sometimes narrowing and faster, in other places wide and slow.

The first three rapids went fine, mostly: White Horse, Ranger Rick, and the Grotto. After each Weston would turn and look behind to see how the other guides and crews were doing. On White Horse Pete’s raft got a little too close to Herb’s, and the two rafts bumped together, but no one was knocked into the river. On Ranger Rick Scott was a little left of the channel and bumped against a rock, but Weston saw Scott tell the crew in the left side to paddle forward and the right side to paddle backwards; the crew did this quickly, and the raft spun, then Scott made a deep strong stroke, and sent the raft back into the middle of the rapid. It was a nice, quick recovery.

In the Grotto Tim went up on a rock which had some water going over it, but not enough to float the raft and carry it over. Nash saw Tim’s situation, and from the smiles of Nash’s crew, Weston know Nash had told them to speed it up, they were going to ram Tim’s raft off the rock. Tim saw what was coming and told the crew to just hold on. Just as his raft was about to hit Tim’s, Nash reached out, his body parallel to the river and his ear almost touching the water, and dug his paddle deep into the river, slowing the raft enough so that his raft knocked Tim’s raft off the rock, but did not go up on the rock – like sending a pool ball into the pocket, but not the cue ball. Nash hit it perfectly: Tim’s raft slid off, and Nash steered around the rock and down the rest of the Grotto. There were yells and waves between the two rafts.

Between the Grotto and the Miner’s Sluice was about ten minutes of flat water. Once past the noise of the Grotto rapids, Weston cocked his head—he could hear the Miner’s Sluice; he thought he could, just barely. If so, the water was definitely up a little more than yesterday.

Weston explained to his crew that they would scout the rapid before proceeding down; there was a long ledge of rocks where they could park their rafts, then walk around to where they could look back upstream and see most of the rapid. Within a few minutes the crew heard the sound of the rapids, and they became quiet.

At the top of Miner’s Sluice Weston beached the raft on a raised rock shelf near the channel, which flowed down to the Sluice. He hopped out of the raft, then the crew got out, and he pulled the raft all the way on to the rocks. He’d once seen a raft that was not properly secured on the rocks, get pulled off the rocks by the strong current, carried around the corner to the top of the rapids and down the Sluice. It would have been funny except the crew of that raft had to be distributed among the other rafts, and it was his raft. Weston never forgot his embarrassment as he watched his empty raft go down the Sluice; he observed the raft went down the chute as well as any guided and crewed raft.

Weston walked carefully down the rocks, to the bottom of the sluice. When the rest of his crew arrived, he explained about the rapid. About one hundred years ago gold miners had used dynamite to blast this new channel, diverting the river into where it flowed now. The main part of the sluice was one long chute, inclined to about thirty degrees. It was only about fifty yards long, and fifteen feet wide. Their plan was to paddle around the two turns at the top of the Sluice, then carefully line up the raft at the top of the chute. At Weston’s signal, they would store their paddles in the middle of the raft, slide down into the raft a little ways, but still keeping one butt cheek on the side of the raft. Weston told them to keep their weight over their feet, one hand hold the raft line, the other you hold the person opposite you—that way if someone starts to go over, you can pull him back.

“So remember, do the one cheek sneak, like I talked about. Don’t go onto your knees. It’ll be really fast but lots of fun. We may pinball off one of the walls, but don’t worry about that. We’ll hit a couple waves, and there’s a big on at the bottom, so be ready for that. Once we get to the bottom, I need you all to quickly get you paddles. The raft will be full of water, but don’t worry about bailing it. We need to eddy up on that ledge over there.” Weston pointed to the spot at the bottom of the Sluice. That’s where he’d put his raft, and stand with his throw line in case someone fell in, or worse, if a whole raft flipped over.

“John,” said Weston to the crew who wore the wrestling shirt, “I need you to be ready with the bowline to hop out and hold the raft there for a second. We’ll be in the eddy so the water will be calm, although the raft is heavy because of all the water. Can you do that?” John nodded.

“What if we fall in?” said one of the girls.

“You’ll get a lot of water in the face, but it will be over before you know it. The most important thing is to try to stay in the middle of the chute, away from the rock walls. Also, at the bottom, although it’s calm, make sure the current doesn’t push you into the walls over there.” Weston pointed to a rock wall, which faced opposite from the bottom of the Sluice; in between the end of the rapid and the wall was calm water. The rock around the Sluice had sharp edges: the water had been flowing in the new channel for only a hundred years, not time enough to wear the stone smooth.

There was a shout; it was Dan, the WRO photographer. The Miner’s Sluice rapid was where Dan took pictures to sell to the customers back at the outfitter. The Sluice was the most dramatic rapid of the day, and was a quarter a mile from a dirt fire road. After shooting the pictures, Dan just had time to drive back to the outfitters, develop the negatives, and post proofs for customers to review once they returned to the outfitters after the trip.

Dan took his pictures on some rocks that came out from the left bank a little way into the pool at the bottom of the Sluice. Weston looked up and saw the other crews up on the ledges above, waiting for them. They were all talking excitedly about the rapid. Finally Nash showed up, and waved to Weston, which meant all rafters were now in. Weston told his crew it was time to head back to the raft.

Weston pushed his raft and crew out into the channel, and they paddled towards the turns at the top of the Sluice. For most rapids Weston was excited but never nervous, but for the Miner’s Sluice he was tight and intense. He repeated his instructions one more time to the crew, keeping his voice upbeat and steady. They would make a right turn, paddle for about ten yards, then a left turn would take them to the top of the Sluice.

“Okay, right side stop paddling, left side just one stroke forward.” He wanted to set up cleanly at the top of the rapid. Although he wanted his crew to have fun, he would steer around the first wave of the Sluice; sometimes he had hit that first wave directly, which was fun, but often that sent his raft to one side of the Sluice. He wanted a clean run, away from the walls, down the middle of the chute – that was excitement enough.

“Okay, looking good, both sides forward two medium strokes, then stop.” He spoke loudly now because of the roar of the river. He wedge his feet in between the rubber tube sides of the raft and the floor of the raft. With the first stroke from the crew, he applied some pressure to his paddle to start the nose around and towards the mouth of the sluice which opened up on their left. Then there was the second stroke from the crew, it was a little stronger than he wanted – his crew was nervous so they paddled harder. Although right handed, Weston guided on his left side, and for the Miners Sluice, this permitted him to steer and see everything at once.

Beyond the rapids, much lower down, he saw sunlight reflected off Dan’s camera lens.

Weston wanted just a little more space between the raft and the wall on the right. “Right side only a half stroke forward then EVERYONE IN.” He yelled this last part. The right side gave a little half paddle then everyone put their paddles in the boat, squatted down, and held on. Weston put a little more pressure on his paddle, and the nose of the raft turned.

From the top of the chute the Miner’s Sluice was a white, bubbling foamy slope of noise and water. Now the anxiety left him. The moment took over, it was all concentration, what he enjoyed most about the job and what he loved about white water paddling. A little more pressure on his paddle to fine tune their line, the raft just bumped the first wave on the left side, then shot down the center of Sluice. Perfect. The women screamed, which they would regret later when they saw their open mouths in the photographs back at the outfitter. The walls of the Sluice went by in a moment, and the raft hit the bottom wave, almost disappeared in the water for a second, then came up full of water.

“Okay, great job everyone. Paddles out, and paddle hard for five good strokes.” The sooner Weston got the raft turned and into the eddy, the easier it was on the crew. The raft was heavy because it was full of water, and Weston joined in the paddling. They got to the ledge, and John hoped out, slipped on the wet rocks, but caught himself. Weston scrambled quickly to the front of the raft, and he and John pulled it further on the ledge. He set his crew to bailing the raft, while he took his throw ropes over to his lookout shelf at the bottom of the rapids.

From his position Weston could look to his left, upstream, to the top of the chute of Miner’s Sluice, but he could not see anything beyond that. None of the other rafters could see him. When he was ready he waved to Dan, who could see both Weston down at the bottom of the Sluice and the rafters upstream. Nash saw Dan relay Weston’s wave, and yelled for the rest of the crews to get started.

The rafts set off, spacing out about twenty seconds behind each other. In the event of a problem, someone fell out or a raft flipped, twenty seconds was more than enough time for the river current to wash everyone and everything out of the Sluice, leaving a clear path for the next raft.

The preferred order of rafts was one of the more senior guides comes through next, maybe Emmet, Jeff, or Tim. He would then pull over and be ready to help Weston with any rescue. Next should come Pete and Herb: the lunch rock was a half mile downstream, and since it was mostly flat water to there, the junior guides could paddle ahead and get lunch set up. Nash, as the sweep guide, would be the last one down.

Weston’s crew had finished bailing out the raft, and had pulled it further on to the rocks. They talked about their ride down the Sluice while they waited for the other rafts to come through. Weston looked up and saw Emmet’s yellow life jacket and white plastic climbing helmet. His crew already had their paddles stored. Emmet’s raft hit the wave at the top, moved to the right side of the chute, but stayed clear of the wall. It hit the bottom straight on, with screams and yells from the crew. It was a clean, good run. Emmet got his crew going, and they paddled over by Weston’s raft. Emmet spun his raft around so his crew could watch, but he kept them in the raft, while he held on to a rope on Weston’s raft.

The lunch crew raft guides came next. Pete came down cleanly, but Herb’s raft bounced off the left side once, but otherwise came down fine. Weston signalled them to proceed to Lunch Rock and get the food set up.

Scott came down next.

“Why is that guide sitting in the front of the raft?” asked a woman from Weston’s raft. Scott had indeed put himself all the way in the bow, and was guiding from there. Weston said Scott liked to do it from the front; the women laughed and the men grinned. It was unorthodox, but Scott claimed for the Miner’s Sluice it was better to guide from the bow: his weight helped keep the bow down, and using draw and cross draw strokes from the bow got the boat into the proper position faster than if he had done it from the stern. Dan complained that Scott got in the way of the customer’s photographs, but Hank said Scott’s record on the Miner Sluice was perfect, and besides, Scott’s crews almost always bought their rafting photographs because their guide looked so whacky in the front of the raft.

Tim came next. He came into the last turn a little fast and hit the right wall at the top of the Sluice. Because of the speed of the paddlers and the strong current, the raft hit the wall hard. Everyone stayed in, but the raft spun around and was going down stern first. Tim didn’t attempt to correct the raft, but instead, and not unlike Scott, he simple steered the boat from the stern, which went down first. Meanwhile his crew had performed perfectly: they braced just inside the raft, one hand on the raft line, the other hand holding the person opposite, but the whole way down the Sluice they looked upstream, to where they had just been. Dan’s photo would later show Tim facing the camera but the backs of all the crew. They hit they bottom, Tim spun the raft around, and they headed down river.

“Was that intentional?” said John. Weston laughed and said no, but at least everyone came through fine.

Dave came through next. It was a clean run, but as the raft hit the bottom wave, Dave bounced out of the raft, feet in the air, then over his head, and into the river. His crew was still looking forward and had not noticed Dave’s absence. Dave managed to climb back into his raft, but not before he crew turned and saw what had happened.

Weston laughed, but stopped as he looked up to see the second to last raft start down the Sluice. Jeff has set up cleanly at the top, and it looked like he was going to hit the wave at the top of the Sluice square. Weston never hit the first wave full on, but it might be okay except the two kids were still in the front of the raft and the parents were sitting with Jeff in the back of the raft. Weston never had a chance to yell, not that Jeff could have heard or that there was time to do anything.

The raft hit the first wave. The bow, with only the weight of the two children, went straight up in the air; it might have come back down, but the stern was weighed down by the three adults, two of them quite heavy. The children fell back to of the raft where their parents had been. The adults fell back into the water. The raft flipped over and came down on all of them.

Holy fucking shit there are kids trapped under a raft in the Miner’s Sluice. “Emmet, get your raft out over to the far side right now,” but Emmet was already paddling his raft out into the pool at the bottom of the Sluice.

At the top of the Miner’s Sluice, in the last raft Nash had seen the bow of Jeff’s raft pop up in the air, but then lost sight of it. He wasn’t sure what happened, but told his crew to backpaddle for a few strokes to put a little more distance between himself and Jeff’s raft. They were committed, and could only delay their entry into the Sluice.

Jeff’s raft was upside down going down the chute. Weston did not see Jeff, and assumed he was caught under the raft. He could stay there as far as Weston was concerned. The woman appeared on the far side of the chute, between the raft and the wall. She started off in good position, on her back with her feet out in front of her, but as she went down the chute the current pushed her sideways and into the left wall of the rocks. Weston heard her cry out.

On the opposite side of the Sluice the husband was flushed down the chute face first, almost like he was body surfing, but at least he was not near the wall. Weston could throw him a line if need be, but he was still waiting to see where the kids were.

Nash’s raft was now at the top of the Sluice. He saw Jeff’s upside down raft bouncing down the rapids. He wasn’t sure who was where in the Sluice, and hoped the current would clear everyone and everything into the pool at the bottom. Nash saw a couple flashes of orange to the left side, so he leaned his whole body weight onto his paddle, and shot down the right side of Sluice, the side of his raft just inches from the right side wall.

Weston started breathing again when he heard the kids’ yell and one was laughing. The children had been hard to see because their white helmets and faded orange life jackets blended in with the foamy white water. They were not under the raft, but instead behind it. They bounced down Miner’s Sluice, hit the last wave feet first, got a face and mouth full of water, but they were fine.

Emmet stopped his raft in the middle of the pool at the bottom of the sluice. As the children floated near his raft, Emmet grabbed each child by the shoulders of the life vests, and pulled one then the other into the middle of his raft.

Jeff has come down the Sluice under the raft, the middle thwart banging against his head. His back and butt had scraped over a few rocks, but he didn’t think there were any cuts. He had heard the woman cry out, and once the got to the bottom, swam out from under the raft over to where she was. He pulled his raft with him as he swam. She had made her way over to some rocks near the bank and was holding her left leg.

The man was washed down into the pool and came so close to Weston that the guide just reached out and grabbed on to the man and swung him around to where he could stand on some rocks. Just as Weston pulled the man over, Nash’s raft exited the Sluice into the pool. The raft just grazed the back of the man’s life jacket. Weston had never seen a raft go straight down the Sluice so close to the wall and not hit it.

“You okay?” The man was a little stunned, put his hands on his life jacket, meaning to check his torso, then legs, and told Weston he was fine. He looked over at Emmet’s raft and saw his kids were fine. Weston got his crew in the raft, put the man in the middle, and paddled over to check on Jeff and the woman.

Further down the river, just beyond the pool at the bottom of the Sluice, Dave saw what happened and paddled back up into the pool. Along the way his crew picked up three crew paddles and Jeff’s guide paddle. There were a couple of nurses from the Regional Hospital in Dave’s raft, and they paddle over to the left bank where Jeff was with the woman.

Weston and Nash examined the woman’s leg. Her knee was scrapped, and just above it was a small but deep gash. They cleaned it out with some fresh water from a metal water bottle, then Weston applied an antiseptic wash. They then put on a sterile pad and ran tape around her entire leg. He thought the gash would need stitches.

The man and the children gathered around and watched. They had been in good spirits despite the accident, but when they saw her cut, they now worried.

“Weston, you want me to stick around?” Dan yelled over. Dan had packed up all his photography gear and was ready to hike back to his truck. Weston nodded. Dan might have to hike back to his truck with the woman, and drive her back to the outfitter.

One of the nurses from Dave’s raft joined them. “We’ve had a few cases of giardia lamblia at the Regional Hospital,” she said to Weston. “Probably the sooner you can get that looked at, the better.”

“I can hike out with her to Dan’s truck,” said Jeff. “Then we can get that looked at.”

“Or I can go along,” said the nurse. “I’ve done this trip before and we just did the most exciting rapid. The rest isn’t as exciting. And you need your guide for the rest of the trip. I’m happy to go.”

“Thank you, yes, that’s very nice of you,” said Weston. He turned to the man and woman. “I think you should get that looked at right away. You can hike back with Dan and this nice lady here, and have that looked at within a few hours.” The woman nodded and said she was fine, but agreed to Weston’s suggestion. She was in good spirits, but Weston could tell her leg hurt, and she was trying not to worry her husband or children.

Weston turned to the man. He didn’t want to pull the whole family off the river. “There’s no reason you all can’t continue down. There aren’t any more rapids ahead as serious as the Miner’s Sluice. I think what happened there was we misjudged the weight of the kids in the front, and that sent the raft over.” Weston wanted to address the issue of the flipped raft, but didn’t want the man to lose confidence in Jeff, although it was probably too late for that.

The man looked at his wife, and she said, “Yes, you all go on and have fun. Don’t worry about me. I’ll leave a message at the outfitter if I’m not there when you all get back. Or my sister can drive out and pick you all up.”

Dan, the woman, and the nurse left the river and hiked up towards the road. In his raft, Jeff put the man in the front left side with one of the children on the front right. Jeff sat in the back right side, opposite the other child. Weston, Emmet, and Dave followed in their rafts. Nash brought up the rear.

The woman remained in the Regional Hospital for two weeks. For several days she was in intensive care. After applying a broad spectrum of anti-biotics, the doctors killed off whatever had infected her, and she was released.

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