I never told you about the near-death experience. And NONE of you complained, so either you don’t care, or I have just been such a bad blogger for such a long time that you’ve given up. Well, I hate either of those options, so here goes.
I have been dying to try stand-up paddleboarding (see that? a FUNNY story) ever since I wrote about it last year, and low and behold, my friends Christine and Jeremy own three of them! Joe borrowed someone else’s (these Jackson people, they’re all like little personal sporting goods stores), and we decided to take a trip down the Snake River.
We walk right out of Joe’s house and hop in the river, despite the menacing clouds. As soon as we’re on the river the lightning and wind kick up. Joe’s already nervous because of the huge bolts of lightning and the metal paddles in our hands, but there’s no thunder, so I think it will be fine. I don’t want to stop, so I’m trying to calm his nerves. I do notice that the river’s a little wilder than I expected, but I feel confident. I’ve been kayaking. I’ve got this. I’m not worried.
Then there are the trees. Jackson had a late winter in Jackson and a LOT of snow, which, as spring melted it all away, dragged an equally large amount of downed cottonwoods into the river. This, along with the banks of rock that rise up in the often-shallow water, creates periodic river gauntlets. I make it through a couple of them, but then the river gets so pushy I’m not able make it over to the bank Christine had just paddled to. She climbs out just as I careen toward a bank of downed cottonwoods. Joe is yelling at me from behind, It’s OKAY! Just get off the board UP RIVER.
Rushing water all around, all I can hear is “up river.” I have no idea what this means, but it’s pretty obvious to me that I can’t get off the board DOWN river. My board has wedged itself into the trees, so there’s no room for me downriver. I edge toward the side of my board just as Christine climbs onto the bank of tress and Joe gets ALMOST within reach of me … and my board flips.
Somehow my board simultaneously flips AND re-wedges itself into the trees, trapping me underneath itself and pinning me against the limbs. Another problem: my life jacket. Now, no one else is wearing one of these but me, and I was so proud of my responsibility and foresight. HOWEVER, the river is shallow enough that I really ought to be able to put my feet down and WALK out. But my wonderful flotation device keeps pulling me up, so here I am, face smashed against the bottom of the board, underwater. Being drowned by my safety gear.
I’m not sure how it happened, but I get myself free and float down past the board, then pop up out of the water. And let me tell you, at that moment, I am SO PROUD OF MYSELF. I jump up, clinging to a log, the board and my paddle and GRINNING! I’m like the toddler who falls down the stairs, then leaps up, like LOOK at my NEW TRICK!
And then she sees the faces of her terrified parents …
Joe and Christine’s faces are horror stricken and completely devoid of blood. Joe is still screaming, this time saying that I have to let go of the %^$#&* board and paddle. I do, because now that I see how scared they are, I’m a little freaked out too. They chase down the equipment, and then Joe does a frantic inspection of me, my legs, my arms, my head.
What?! What’s wrong? His panic is contagious.
Nothing. Well, I don’t see anything. I just can’t believe you didn’t get cut my a branch. Are you hurt? Does anything hurt?
I’m FINE. I must have said this twenty times. No one’s faces show any belief. They’re just full of doubt. And fear.
I force everyone back on our paddleboards, using the very logical reasoning that we’d dropped the truck off WAY downriver. We have to finish. This works for about three more minutes, when Joe has had enough. He paddles to the side, throws his board onto the river bank and yells, You’re DONE! I can’t take it. Get off the river.
The lightning is getting closer, and I’m soaked and freezing. I know he’s right. Besides, he’s so panicked that I know it would be cruel to force him to go on. I also know my mom will be so grateful for his level-headedness, which tells me I should listen to him. I get off, leave him with the boards and run the whole way back to the house to get his truck.
I was sad not to finish, but I’ll go again. I’ll go in sunny weather and maybe give moderately STILL water a shot. I think I’m going to stick to my kayak for rivers. And skip that stupid life jacket. (KIDDING, Mom. I’m kidding.)