Our family usually goes in mid July for our annual rafting trip but this year in order to go we had to do it in June. Me, Richard and my sister Sammy went up a day early to get a good camp site and to scope out the river. As me and Sammy walked down to Lunch counter look out we thought that it did not look that bad. We were joking as people were screaming going down calling them wimps. Because of all the rain the river was high and fast.
On Saturday we were so excited to go down because we have been waiting a year and 2008 was so much fun. But as we saw our boat, me and Sammy were stricken with panic. It wasn't our usual boat, it was smaller, much smaller. We decided to go for it anyway after all we weren't going to give up our chance to ride the Snake. As our small boat entered the water with 9 people on it we were swept off by the very fast water. The water was so fast and so high that the undertow was mean. The undertow was so bad that it would suck our feet under the boat thus making us go under. My aunt who comes with us almost went under three times if it weren't for me and my littlest sister grabbing her and pulling her back in. After that first run we all were shaken up and needed to recuperate.
Within a couple of hours we were talking about going down again, but this time it took some convincing to get some people to go. As we set off on the river my heart was beating so fast and I was starting to panic because of the first run, and I wasn't the only one feeling like this. By the third bend we were headed for the what is called the "Meat Grinder." We were neck and neck with another boat so we slowed down to let them go ahead, but by slowing down we were moved over to the right hand side but in order to get around we had to go all the way over to the left side of the river. As we started to paddle our way over there the strong current took us right into the middle of the "Meat Grinder."
*This is where it gets scary*
*This is how I saw things*
*And as everyone who has told the story has said they are the hero of the day*
As we headed in straight, from what I remember, our boat turned to the side and then flipped over. I was then underwater, when I popped up I was about 15 ft from the boat and I had the lead rope in my hand. I saw an empty boat and Dylan at the front hanging on. As quick as I could I made my way up the rope to the boat and started swimming to a dead tree across the river. We would have made it to the tree but I was concerned about my family in the water heading towards the next rapid. Me and Dylan (still the only one I have seen) made it to the tree using our bodies to take the hit not the boat. When we were on the tree three others climbed up. Once we were all up Dylan let out the most horrific cry for my dad, it chilled my bones. I said dad knows what to do we have to try and stay calm. The boat that was in front of us came over and it just so happens to be a boat full of off duty tour guides. The one main guy asks us if we are OK and then starts to yell at us and tell us how dangerous it is. I turned to him putting my back to my family, introduced myself, and directed any and all comments at me to relieve my siblings. He asked us if we were missing people and we said yes, two. We had two friends following us on Duckies (inflatable Kayaks) they each grabbed one and took them to the side. But here is the really scary part, my father who was already feeling under the weather bobbed up and down about 8 times never really able to catch his breathe. On the last bob he felt the kayak and our friend grabbed him right as my dad was about to pass out. (and if that happened we would be planning a funeral right now.)
The off duty guide told us to get back into the boat and he would take us around the next rapid and into an eddie where we could get on land. As soon as he said the words "get back into the boat" you could see everyone go white in the face. We did and as we made it to the eddie we saw dad sitting on a rock -- relief. The guy gave us two options, basically saying that he will not be there to save our asses again. We opted to get out and drag our raft out to the road. Dad was helped up and then I turned to Sammy and told her to run to camp because she is the fastest out of all of us. Sammy's friend Melissa stayed with me and together with the boys we got our raft (once deflated is about 200lbs) up a rock face. Where dad was resting and where the others found us.
This trip wasn't the best one we have been on but it will be one that stays with us. I am very grateful that my littlest sister was not with us on this run and my dad is still with us. We all joked around that next year we want to do the Green river (which is calm, class 1-3 rapids) which is totally different from the Snake river (class 4-5 rapids). But next year we will have our "normal" sized boat and it will be mid July like we are use to.
It was insane how crazy it was, but I do have to admit from my experience working in the ER I have learned how to stay calm in situations. I know for a fact if this happened a few years ago I would have been a nervous wreck, but I was able to stay calm and help others stay calm.
I am sorry it is so long but there are a lot of details to the story to try and paint the picture of horror we encountered. I will post pictures later.