Editor's Note: Believe it or not, this is a true story, though I've
gotta admit I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't heard it first-hand from the boys themselves. The names of
the players have been
changed, and nobody was irreversibly drowned in the making of this
It was springtime and the Little White was around 3.4 feet. This is considered a meaty medium flow, which is fine because heck, catchin' eddies and scoutin' is for pansies anyways; besides, we had boat-scouted our way down Canyon Creek Oregon with only two or three swims, so this couldn't be tougher than that..
It's already growing vague, but the gist of the story is this..
So we put on and started rippin' downstream, no problem, over-rated like we thought. Buncha pansies around here, talkin about V-V+. Gimme a break! Soon it started to steepen up a bit with Gettin' Busy, not that big of a deal, until Joe Bob got pounded and swam; frickin' boat kept goin' as we chased it downstream and then the damned thing had the gall to run Boulder Sluice without Joe Bob. So we give it a couple of kicks and reunite Joe Bob with it. At this point Joe Bob is good-to-go even though he's rearranged a few boulders with his head and he's got a helluva lump on the side of his face, with a growing black eye and goofy-looking pupils, nothing a little paddling won't fix, I always say..
So we go
bombing down the rest of Gettin' Busy, no problem, Bill had run the creek before so he was out in front. We ran some ledges,
everything is going well until we get to a big ol' smokin' horizon line
(later identified as S-Turn Falls) Bill goes to catch the last-chance eddy
above the falls, misses, it and drops over backwards with one helluva
surprised look on his face. Goes DEEP, skirt blows, and then goes DEEPER.
Things get really dark, then Bill gets pushed to the bottom and stops. "Whew!" Bill thinks, "Well, at least I'm not going to end up in the hole I guess, except I can't... move..." Bill is stuck, pinned to the bottom by the force of the water coming down; at least he's still in his boat, even though it's full of water..
After some thrashing around Bill finally breaks loose and starts drifting up to the surface ("It's 'bout damned time I could use some FRIGGIN' AIR for Christ sake !!"), but then he pops up BEHIND the falls, rolls up, and gets out of his boat (I guess there's quite a room back there, who'dve thought it?) and proceeds to start emptying out his boat.
Meanwhile, back in the world of air-breathing
creatures, Joe Bob and Ted run the falls, and start wondering where Bill
is. A minute or so later Bill miraculously appears from behind the falls,
much to the surprise of Ted and Joe Bob, who had given him up for dead
and were trying to figure out what to do next. "That
doesn't count as a swim." Bill says triumphantly. "I rode that sucker up one side and down th' other.."
At this point Joe Bob
had swum a few more times, I forget, I think he swam five times
altogether, and he's not looking so good with his eye all swollen up like that. We're also thinking he might have a
few breaks here and there, but he's still hanging in there, even though he
looks all raggedy and f--ked up, like a friggin' Stormtrooper of
Below S-Turn everything is going well. Damn, this is one awesome run, except ol' one-eyed Joe Bob isn't quite right in the head anymore after swimming so much and he ends up in the gawd-awful hole at the Bowey Hotel ("I never saw it comin!"), gets re-re-re-pounded like yesterday's lunch meat, and while he's busy body surfing and showing off in the hole (I don't need a friggin' boat to play in a hole, boats are for pansies!), his damned boat takes off again and runs "unrunnable" right side of 20 foot Wishbone Falls and gets stuck against the wall. Trust me, that side IS runnable, his boat was only dented in four places!
So finally we get Joe Bob re-re-re-re-reunited with his boat in the pool below Wishbone, and we take off downstream, Bill in the lead. Ted misses mandatory boof at Horseshoe, ("I thought it was only recommended") drops into the hole, gets worked like a bug in a blender, swims, and ends up swimming around underwater for a LOOONG time. Finally the hole lets him go and he swims to shore just above Stovepipe, gasping for air and looking all crazy-eyed. Meanwhile, his boat and paddle crash down through Stovepipe and only the boat re-appears; the paddle is never seen again and there is no breakdown.
At this point Joe Bob still hasn't appeared, and then his paddle comes floating downstream through the gorge. Now, we needed a spare paddle at this point but this isn't what we had in mind... A few more minutes go by and Joe Bob still doesn't appear. Worried now, we get up onto the top of the cliff on the river-left side and start bush-whacking upstream.
Meanwhile, Joe Bob is sitting up in the pool at the base of Wishbone, feeling a little foggy but still thinking clearly enough to be totally pissed off that he just dropped his paddle and couldn't grab it before it floated downstream into the gorge. "Well, shit." he says. "I'll just work my way downstream at river level and see if I can find it." So while the rest of us are headed upstream on the river-left path above him, Joe Bob starts traversing his way down the gorge at creek-level on the river-right side (also known as the river-wrong side in this case), unaware that there isn't any way to get around Horseshoe on that side, (except in the water of course).
Soon Joe Bob finds himself stuck in the gorge above a horizon line (Horseshoe), no paddle in sight and nowhere to go. Except.. into the water. So Joe Bob jumps in, SWIMS over Horseshoe, flushes out, and somehow manages to get out above Stovepipe, where we are eventually reunited.
While regrouping, we manage to scare off a pair of local pro kayakers who show up and are seal-launching around Stovepipe; they take one look at our sorry asses and say: "DON'T FOLLOW US!". At this point Joe Bob had used up every bit of adrenaline his body will ever produce and is considering hiking out, but eventually he decides to tough it out and we continue downstream, because we're a team.. All for One, One for All.
Unfortunately Ted has no paddle so we end up towing him through the pools and letting him portage all but the easiest rapids, which he paddles with a stick we found for him. Thing is, it's hard to catch eddies with a stick so he swims again in a rapid upstream of Spirit Falls. Of course, we can't get his boat out in time and it disappears over Spirit. At this point in the trip we accept this as a matter of course, so we get out and watch as the boat pops out below Spirit and disappears into Chaos.
The boat ended up spending a half hour in the maw-chaw-chaw of Chaos, plenty of time for a leisurely portage of Spirit Falls, at which point it finally comes free and was recovered. Ted has had enough of the stick-paddling gig at this point and opts to hike out from Chaos to the road, which is about 500 vertical feet of poison oak and rattlesnakes; Big Fun I'm sure.
Now substantially humbled, we charge downstream through the remaining few rapids, tearing through Master Blaster, and out onto the lake. Fortunately Joe Bob survived the run, even though his boat was a total loss.
I don't know why this run is called the LITTLE White Salmon. There's really nothing LITTLE about it, except for the way it makes you feel once you get to the bottom of it, when you think about how lucky you were to be able to visit such an incredible place. We were definitely the only ones who were taken to school on this particular day..