By Laurel Archer
(from Paddle Quest:† Canadaís Best Canoe Routes)
Weíre not stopping as we close in on Hopiís Hole, Class III+/IV.† My mouth tastes like a desert.† The kayakers are yelling, ďJust keep left!† The hole is on the right, but donít go too far left!† Thereís a ledge Ö blah, blah, blah Ö.Ē† I canít hear the rest over the roar of water rushing down a canyon.† Thereís a mass of waves taller than me, numerous boulders, and one big drop as far as I can see.† Iím backpaddling hard to avoid Hopiís Hole, which is the size of a truck, when I encounter a herd of boulders.† ďWhere did they come from?Ē I ask myself.† I try to cheat by going to the left side.† Big mistake.† I get turned sideways, and just barely make an eddy, where I regain my composure.
Everyoneís gone and I have to make a tricky ferry to get out into the main flow.† I catch Brad and Matt, who is in the rescue kayak, a long minute later.† Brad suggests that I just head down the guts of the rapid the next time.† I nod in agreement and look down at my knees to see if my bailer is going to be big enough.
We run some fun, technical stuff for several kilometres.† I can feel saliva in my mouth again.† Still, Iím concerned about keeping up to the rafts.† They donít need to eddy out and bail or stop and get refocused.† I wish we had Roy all to ourselves.
The continuous Class III sets get tiring.† My eyes feel strained as a result of constant vigilance.† One small error in judgment and Iíll be upside down.† Since Brad is following Matt, an expert kayaker from New Zealand, I follow them.† This helps my confidence.
Suddenly, just before a crucial manoeuvre has to be made, my bow kicks out.† Iím heading for a big boulder with a large hole behind it.† I back-ferry with all my might and make it safely into the eddy, where I bail like a paddlewheel.† I think Iím the clown in this rodeo.
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