By Kristin Brown
The flows on the Hood were nothing significant that day, around 4.5-5 ft, which on the makes for a nice float and some playboating. For those of you who haven't paddled it, the Main Fork of the Hood is a Class III river with several waves you can catch on the fly, tons of good eddy practice and one mandatory portage.
We had about seven or eight people in the group, including Ray and Linda, and the day was going well for me. I had only been paddling for about 6 months and this was my favorite run to date. Linda was having a little bit of a tough day with her rolls but I was sure she would warm-up and get into the flow of things.
About half way down the run we came to the dam. This isn't a low head dam, but rather one that all of the water goes into and eventually comes out the other side after running through the power turbines. Before the dam are huge orange buoys with a cable connected across the river, which is great because you have plenty of notice that the dam is coming and you need to get out and portage. The portage is pretty easy, up a slight hill and across the road that the dam management has put in and right back into the water directly below the dam. On this occasion we had an additional obstacle to be aware of - The Fish Counter.
A fish counter is a large, square, metal contraption that pulls fish in and counts them (don't ask me how, they look more like fish killers than fish counters...) before spitting them out downstream. These devices are always anchored right in the main part of the current, and they look positively ominous as they suck the water into a large, spinning metal wheel. This particular counter was anchored on river right near a small island just above the dam.
The lead in to the portage is a fun, relatively large wave train, and when Linda got into it she flipped. I knew she had had some difficulties with the earlier so I started her way, along with Ray and several other of the boaters. Bob got to Linda before me, because I flipped and took a second to roll back up and get after her again.
It's amazing how little attention you pay to the good line when you are worried about getting to your friends in what you view as a "safe" environment. Well, with her safely on the little island on river right I went after the boat with Ray. Ray and I started pushing it but then he decided to use his tether which was attached to his life jacket. I continued to paddle along side Ray in case he decided he needed help.
What happened next still chills me. I realized we weren't going to make it to the island with the boat before we reached the fish counter so I shouted to Ray to release the boat. As he attempted to engage his quick release, the boat slid under one of the pontoons of the fish counter. Luckily Ray found his release before he too was swept under the pontoon. The boat was immediately swept into the counter, where it disappeared. We waited for several minutes, but the boat never emerged from the other side. One of the other boaters (Adam) paddled over to the fish counter, pulled his little Eskimo playboat onto the back of the counter and walked on the pontoon to the front to see if he could free the boat. After a quick look we realized it would take a bit more than one person as the boat was pretty solidly wedged in the counter.
Adam tries to get a line on Linda's boat...
We used throw ropes and carabiners to pull the fish counter closer to the small island and eventually Adam was able to attach a carabiner and a throw rope to Linda's boat. With two groups pulling we eventually separated the boat (a WaveSport Micro X) from the fish counter. We weren't sure it was worth the effort when it emerged though, as it was badly folded in around the cockpit.
Linda's boat, fresh from the fish counter.
We were optimistic that a little sun and warmth would make the boat good as new, but first we had to get Linda (and the boat) to shore. The first group of paddlers left the island and drug the boat across the river, ending up on the left bank. After some deliberation Ray decided to carry Linda on the back his boat and he set off across next. Linda had her paddle and was going to try to swim with Ray's assistance across the river.
I was following as back-up. Once in the current we weren't going anywhere fast, but the buoys above the dam sure were approaching quickly! Eventually I yelled at Linda to lose the paddle, hoping this would help her and Ray's ferry angle and speed. No luck. The dam was very insistent that we pay it further homage, I guess the paddle just wasn't enough!
When Linda reached the buoys I yelled at her to grab the cable, which she did expertly and held on for dear life. Unfortunately she couldn't get herself to shore because one of the huge buoys blocked her from getting there. I went to shore and grabbed my throw rope intending to get her and then drag her in. My throw was horrible. It actually got tangled in the dam building's stairway guard. (Note to self: practice, practice, practice!)
Luckily Ray is fearless. With a bit more momentum this time he swept out and got her on his boat again, this time they reached shore quickly and with little difficulty, luckily since there was little room for error at this point.
Well, the boat was 'healed' after a little while in the sun, though it was retired after this voyage. The paddle recovered by some locals that were at the dam, and the next week Linda bought a new Infrared and is boating like a madwoman to this day.
Just thought that I would mention that I have been boating 13 years with about 500 river trips and rarely have I found the dedication to a sport I have seen in Linda Law. This was exemplified on this Main Fork of the Hood River trip. She could have ended her trip then without anyone questioning her judgment but she got back into her damaged boat and continued down the river.
This took guts, determination and skill to put into prospective a situation and find a solution to a kayaking event. She has been one of my best boating partners and events like that have made Linda and others that boat with us better kayakers. We have chosen a dangerous sport that fits our personalities. It is our job to assist each other in times of need.
'Coup' (pronounced ' coo ') in French means 'large' or 'big' and the term was used to describe a victory over another tribe, ie: "We have counted coup on that tribe many times." Counting coup could alse be done if a brave successfully stole a horse etc, from another warrior.
The bottom line is that Counting Coup signifies an important event in the life of a tribe, or in this case, a warrior..