Yesterday Darrel dropped two friends off down the road at one of the Chena River’s put in sites. Their plan was to spend a couple of days floating down to the Nordale Bridge and we’d pick them up. Sounds simple doesn’t it?
About 5 hours after they were dropped off we got a call. They had been dumped in the river three times, everything was wet, they weren’t sure where exactly they were, one of them was stressed and having a meltdown and well, things weren’t going as planned. There was some mention of a stretch of rapids coming up. We were told they’d call back in a few minutes. Here’s the sound we heard over the next two hours. Tick tock. Tick tock. Tick tock.
After 30 minutes we called the State Troopers just to find out if they had received any calls of folks in trouble on the river. Nope. Nothing. We explained the situation but said we’d wait a bit longer. Tick tock, Tick tock. Tick tock.
Darrel and I set a time limit and after waiting two hours for that call back we phoned the Troopers again and told them we were concerned and the decision was made to start looking for them.
Now the Chena River is considered a Class II river depending on the water level. Up until recently we had plenty of rain. More than rapids or riffles though, the Chena is well known for sweepers. Those downed trees lurking at or just below the water’s surface waiting to pin boats and people and drown them. So while it can be a fun float, it’s a serious one.
The water, like all rivers and lakes around here, is cold. How cold you ask? Well after a few minutes of immersion it makes your body parts ache. Potentially deadly cold.
Oh yes, and it’s the wilderness. No getting out of the water and walking to the campground or the road. People have died on this river and in the woods surrounding it.
At 11:38 p.m. the phone rang. It was our friends. They had gone further downriver and made camp. Their stuff was drying. One was tending to some minor wounds sustained courtesy of a sweeper that in addition to banging him up, ripped his shirt right off his back. And yes they had seen an airplane that kept buzzing their camp. Aaarrgghh.
We phoned the Troopers to say we had heard from them and our friends did the same. Good ending to a story. Maybe. When I see them later today I am going to kill them! Maybe the Troopers should be on standby.