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Digging deeper on a river adventure

Guest columnist Roberta Rodgers takes a trip down the St. Mary River

Roberta Rodgers

Guest columnist

Recently my daughter and I took a white-water kayak session. We learned about the various strokes needed to propel the kayak and more importantly how to roll the kayak in case of emergency.

Not being inclined to put my face under water I was apprehensive but the instructor was exceptionally patient with my concerns and walked me through the steps, breaking down the instruction to understandable pieces, a good quality in someone who is teaching people how to stay alive in moving water.

The second lesson was a trip down the St. Mary River. For those who kayak locally, need I say more? For those of us who are novice it is an unknown entity fraught with perils — at least that was my thought when the second lesson drew near.

I started the day with a degree of reserve but was continually encouraged that I could do this. I know I had a look of fear on my face when I left the shore at Matthew Creek and ventured out into the running water as we had been instructed to do. Heading slightly upstream and letting the current turn the boat, I kept the upstream side of the boat tipped up out of the water so the water did not catch the hull and flip the kayak and the contents. Good so far.

We were led down the river with careful guidance learning about eddys and how they are our friends. We learned how to cross the eddy line and traverse across an eddy. We moved along quickly, having to watch for rocks sticking up out of the water or trees newly deposited in the water (“trees and rocks and rocks and trees and water”). We were told how dangerous those items could be if we did not paddle hard to get past them. The top part of the curve is faster water than the bottom of the curve if you want an adventure.

Next stop we learned to swim in moving water, on our backs, our feet in front of us, and then we learned to throw the bag and rescue a person floating quickly down the river. If we ever need that skill we have it. Remember to plant yourself so you are not pulled into the water as well. I went for a swim on purpose, to be rescued. I was thrown a line which I caught and then pulled myself hand over hand to the shore.

All of the things learned so far were passed on by the instructor with kindness and directness from a solid knowledge base.

By now I was getting tired, not being used to this particular activity. We had some distance yet to go and the S-curve rapids were ahead. Those of us not proficient at rapids were given the option to walk past the rapids. The instructors took our kayaks and went through the rapids with confidence. I was glad to be able to walk as I watched the boats bumping and crashing into rocks along the way.

Once back in our kayaks we carried on to our destination. “Are we there yet?” came to mind — but we were not there yet, and that was okay because our fearless leader kept gently coaxing us down the river.

As I paddled along I was learning  valuable lessons about the river, about kayaking, about staying with the group, about the instruction we were given and about myself. In the face of fatigue you have to go on because you have no other option when you are in the middle of a fast-moving river.

We all made it to the trestle bridge safely.

This letter is to say thanks to Rob Porter and his helper Dan for their expert ability to safely deposit two novices back on to the shore of the St. Mary River and for teaching me about digging deeper.

Roberta Rodgers lives in Cranbrook