I remember when I first got a kayak here in Spokane. I remember shivering in an empty parking lot waiting with anticipation as each passing car gave me hope for a ride that probably wasn’t coming. I had spent the previous summer leading off site trips for a summer camp, two of which included paddling the Wenatchee river near Plain, WA. Having handled myself just fine in an inflatable kayak on the Wenatchee and excited to get out in my new boat, I thought I would take a run on the upper Spokane. Now, the upper isn’t too formidable a river section (only class 2), but in the old flatwater boat I was paddling, with no spray skirt, no partners, and the weak November sun dipping below the trees, I quickly got in over my head. I eddied out to bail water from my sinking craft, portaged around the scarier features, and generally avoided any wave I could. Yet the hardest challenge of them all came later when the whitewater calmed behind the impoundment of Upriver Dam. As frightened and freezing as the whitewater had been, the last five miles of slackwater slogging was worse. What was meant to be a few hours of fun on the water became an epic struggle once the current stopped, pushing my adventure later into the night and calling into question whether or not my shuttle driver would be there at the end. That day revived in me a reverence for the power of a river and the enduring value of the buddy system, but more than that it taught me the value of free flowing river.
In the end, I borrowed a phone, got a ride, got warm again, learned to handle whitewater, became a raft guide, got a whitewater kayak, and never took my lake boat out on the Spokane again.