Saturday 7/23/2005

It's around 7:00 AM and the morning is already hot and only promises to get hotter. The skies are clear with a few fluffy white clouds passing slowly by. The weather man says it will hit 95 degrees today which means we will have to take plenty of water and sun screen on our trip today.

We are going on a 21 mile float trip on the Yellowstone river today. Our granddaughter, who came to stay for the weekend, will accompany Mary and I along with three other friends on our day of relaxation.

We have decided to start in Springdale and float down to Big Timber Montana. The upper part of the river by Springdale is where we ran into the MONSTER standing wave that almost sent us to our happy hunting grounds two years ago. The river is running swift and I am looking forward to challenging the monster again.

For those of you who do not know what a water standing wave is, it is when water that flows over an object creating a tall wave that doesn't move. Hit one of those babies and it will lift and throw your boat or raft. Two years ago we met a family that hit the same wave we did that day and they almost lost grandpa who was trapped under the boat after being capsized.

Three weeks ago when we left on vacation, the river was very high and the color of chocolate milk. The river today is back to an emerald blue color and clear as a bell. I just love the water when it is this color. The sun has warmed it to some where in the 60-70 degree range. The fish should be in the deep holes trying to keep cool and I have my trusty pole with me.

The float is going well as we are assisted by an almost gale force wing blowing us down the river. I hate the wind when it blows constantly as it almost always does in this part of the state. The wind has all but cancelled any chance of a good fishing day but the sun is warm and the drinks are cold so who can complain much.

As the river level drops, the more white water we will experience and today is a relatively good day for white water. I always sit in the very front of the boat and help steer the raft and Greg, who owns the raft, sits in the back and steers that section. Together we make a pretty good team and have learned how to take the white water without to much trouble.

Once in awhile we see other boats on the river, most of them fishing or kayaking but most of the time we are left to the quiet and solitude of being the only floaters on the river. Ducks and geese are plentiful and fly in lazy patterns or rapidly walk on water to avoid our approach. It is amazing how close we can get to these creatures. They do not appear to be afraid but avoid us none the less. Deer graze along the banks of these waters and we are treated to seeing many of them as the young ones scamper around playing and eating. "Keep eating boys, I'll be back this fall" I am thinking, "deer season is only a few months away".

We are almost at the first of two GET OUT points along this stretch of the river. This means we will encounter the killer wave soon. "There it is" someone says. It is now time to saddle up and put on our life jackets, re-secure our gear and ready ourselves for the challenge of taking the wave head on.

There are two channels in the river, the right channel avoids the wave while the left channel takes you right down the throat of the beast. The height of the wave is deceiving to most boaters and lulls many a boater to a wet ride as the are tossed overboard. Today is no different as the wave appears smaller than usual, about three feet tall.

We are going over our last minute precaution as we make the approach and aim the raft so we will hit it dead center. The moment has arrived, the bow starts to dip just before contact, the height of the wave has suddenly grown much taller and WAM. I am flung back as I hold onto the hand rail ropes and turn to see Mary and Elayna fall of their seat and tip over backwards. The boat is now standing perfectly straight up in the air as we are about to be tipped over backwards and thrown into the thrashing waters.

 As I watch Greg in the back fighting to keep us straight, I know the only way to prevent a capsize is to get more weight over the front of the raft and bring the bow down the other side of the wave. I stood up and leaned as far as I could over the bow when the front end suddenly came crashing down the backside of the wave into a rather large rush of water that came over the top of me, the raft, our gear and left the raft filled with river water. I look back and see Greg GRAB Anne, who is headed overboard, and help her stay secure.

No one spoke for a few seconds when Greg says with a smile on his face "Man, I looked at you and you were standing straight up in the air at almost a 90 degree angle to the river". Damn I wish someone had a picture of this. It was another few seconds when we all relived the incident and wanted to go back and ride it one more time that day. As the waters drop, the rollers will begin to grow and that wave will get larger. I know we will be back to challenge it again this year.

We decided to pull over and empty the raft as there was to much water to bail out. All this with the second half of the trip to go. The second half was wide slow water that meant it was time to relax, fish and enjoy an occasional bald eagle now and then. We were gone 12 hours that day and everyone headed off to bed as soon as we got home.

I love Montana and dread this time of the year when the rain stops and the wild fires burn more of this beautiful state. Natures way I guess.

Summer is not over and neither are the adventures.

Stay tuned.


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