Monday, October 12, 2009

Connellsville to Confluence 5

The You........ River is spectacular and great to be around but as I rode along it I could not help but remember it as the scene of one of the darkest if not the darkest episodes in Baltes family history.

The You ........ River is one of the best white water rafting rivers in the eastern USA and for reasons now repressed in our family memories we decided as a group to try white water rafting one summer about 15 years ago. It was one of those deals where we all saved our change for over a year and when it was all counted up we had over $300 and a burning desire to spend it on a family adventure. There were several Monica(pre Sassy)/Jeff/Russ/me discussions about what to do. Well we decided on driving to Ohiopyle Pa. and raft down the You....... river. We were pumped and it was going to be the best adventure ever. It turned out to be an adventure but far from the best of anything.

We arrived in Ohiopyle a day after some very heavy rainfall and according to the locals the river was running a couple of feet above normal and very fast. So with this info when we talked to a local river outfitter we made it very clear that we wanted to do the beginners plan. According to their brochure and the counter person this was an easy peasey Japanesey trip that we could "take our grandmother on". That was probably the truth but we did not get put on that ride. Instead unbeknownst to us until afterwards we got put on the advanced ride because there was not enough folks signed up for the easy ride.

There were only us 4 in our raft--no helmets and about 5 minutes of instruction from a guide who seemed irritated that he even had to spend time with us. We knew` we were in deep trouble --over our heads (so to speak) about 300 yards into the ride and the first rapids. We had no idea how to control our raft and we were at the mercy of the river. The other 6 rafts in our pod were way ahead of us, instantly and easily navigating the rapids while were getting the snot knocked out of us bouncing off every rock sticking out of the river.

The guide who was in a kayak ahead of us could see we were in trouble and came back to us. We hollared at him that we wanted to stop right now but he kept shouting instructions which were unhearable over the roar of the white water. We headed in to a particularly nasty stretch called something like diablo death hell hole (or where greenhorn/idiots go to die) and all we could hear the guide say as he paddled behind us was to "hold on". This was better said than done because in the first part we hit a deep hole and immediately lost Jeff and Monica(Sassy) over the side (actually Jeff flipped out over the front and was ahead ofus in the water).
It was a mess --Russ and I pulled Monica(Sassy) in and I moved to the front of the raft to try and pull Jeff back in but he was trapped between a big rock and the raft which was being pushed from behind by the rushing water. It was all I could do to keep his head from going under the raft. As I was kneeling in the raft I felt my knee explode which was actually the point of the guide's kayak hitting me thru the bottom of the rubber raft as he was swept underneath and trapped there for awhile. It was a real cluster ****.

Finally we pushed the raft to the right enough to get unstuck and although we lost hold of Jeff he was swept ahead of us through the remainer of the rapids (probably 100 yards) to calmer water. His life jacket kept him afloat and he was scared as hell but ok.

The details of what happened next is only spoken of in hushed whispers by the peoploe who were there. The guide who came close to drowning was justifiably crazy mad as were all of us. I after being crazy scared along with my knee swelling up like a watermelon went at it like 2 pissed off gladiators--the language was ugly at best and it lasted for a while. When we both settled down we could see that all this had happened within 25 yards of a large group of church people , mostly kids. You could hear a leaf drop in the surrponding forest.

When we could talk civally I said we were done and were not moving another foot down that river even if it meant walking out. I actually demanded a helicopter.We would rather die of falling off a cliff or getting eaten by a bear than being beaten to death by hitting rocks in that river. It was a standoff and despite the begging of the guide we were not moving. Finally that clown guide radioed back to HQ and another guide kayaked down and got in our boat and talked us through the rest of the trip.
What was stupid funny (as I look back) is that they had pictures of the whole scene which we have in the Baltes vault. These pics could probably win a Pulitzer if published.

The bike path is seperated from the river by about 100 yards of trees so there are not many places you can see the rapids, but you can hear them and as I rode along I recognized those rapids--I knew they were there because they sound exactly the same as when we were trapped in them. The were calling me but I ignored them--actually I did not completely ignore them --about a half mile up stream I walked down to the edge of the river and took a leak. Thinking to myself "take that diablo death hell hole!!"
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