On the River: Talking the walk | AspenTimes.com

On the River: Talking the walk

Tim Dudley

I shouldered my boat and walked a rapid for the first time recently.

This is no statement of bravado; the reason I’ve avoided it has more to do with choosing comfortable runs than chutzpah.

Still, that streak had included many Class IV’s, which is what this rapid ” Slaughterhouse Falls ” is rated. But something didn’t feel right.

I’d been watching Slaughterhouse grow since the snow began melting, seen a couple of kayakers grease it, rode down to it the night before and watched a few others walk around it.

But when the time came, the easy choice was to skip it.

I’d made that choice once before, on the Chatooga River on the South Carolina-Georgia border ” where they filmed “Deliverance” ” at a similar-looking falls called Bull Sluice. It was menacing, neither of us had ever been there, we hadn’t seen any others all day, and a nearby sign seemed to state the number of people who’d died there like McDonald’s signs count the number of hamburgers sold.

Then my paddling partner shamed me into it with a run as clean as it gets.

I don’t know what I did wrong, but I flipped after going over the falls. Luckily, I was spun a bit and washed through with little more than a bruised ego and cold torso.

Since, the power and danger of rivers has gnawed at the back of my mind and sometimes at the front of it. It’s like one solo paddler told us as he walked around Slaughterhouse recently: “I’ve got a daughter that I love, and I want to see her again.”

Smart choice. There have been a handful of river fatalities this year ” two more rafters died Friday on the Upper Animas River, according to The Durango Herald. There will be more.

Chances are better than good that we would have been fine on Slaughterhouse. I’m confident we could do it, especially after watching three paddlers take three different lines while we walked. But sometimes, you’ve got to swallow your pride when that bad feeling creeps into your gut.

I’ve got no daughter to keep me in check, but I’ve got a pretty cool cactus in my apartment that depends on me for water every now and then.


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