Garrett and I make it a point to get together every couple of years or so for some kind of outdoor adventure. While I was stationed in Alaska, he came up for some river rafting/fishing on Willow Creek and the Kenai river. The Kenai float was more uneventful than we hoped in many ways, mainly fishing. The good news is that we didn’t get eaten by a grizzly bear, so that’s a win in our book. The Willow Creek float, however, made up for the lack of excitement on the Kenai.
The 12-mile trip, which neither of us had ever done, started out just fine. However, within a couple hours, both of Garrett’s oar locks had snapped, and he was relying on some crudely wrapped rope to hold his now extremely range-of-motion-limited oars on his boat. It was the most frustrated I had ever seen him. Not long after the second oar lock gave up, a man with no oars floated by on a small pontoon boat like the ones we were using. We were so perplexed at his situation, which he informed us was intentional, that we failed to adequately listen to the instructions he called out as he drifted off. “When the river looks like it wants to go right, go left. Then, when you see this happen again, go right.” Or, at least that was we thought he said. It seemed ominous, but the fishing was fun and the river was beautiful.
About dinner time, I decided to call my friend Kyle, who had grown up on this river, to find out where about we were since it would be getting dark in a couple hours. I could tell by the panic in his voice when I described where we were at that time that we were in a bad situation. “Dude, you’re only barely halfway done. You’d better get a move on it!” As we were leaving, I had a chance to save Garrett, rather than the other way around for once. Of course, I might have been pulling him out of the frying pan and into the fire.
I heard him cry out for help and saw that he was being forced by the current under a small log jam. I made it over and managed to pull him back and away before it continued to suck him under. I then told him what my friend had just told me, which at least helped Garrett get his mind off of what had just happened. As we continued on in a panicked hurry, we must have missed the first “go left” point because the left turn we took ended up with us portaging our boats and gear (flop, flopping in waders) around a half-mile of treacherous log jams and then dragging our boats a couple miles down the trickle of water that existed on that skinny braid of the river. Darkness was upon us and steady rain had been falling for a couple hours, meaning that we were soaked and in danger of the rising water once we were back on the main river. We ended up missing our take-out location, which we didn’t realize until we came upon the Parks Highway bridge. This meant more than a mile hike in the pitch black in bear-infested Alaskan wilderness back to where the van was parked. I had the .44 mag and was the responsible party for this debacle, so I made the trek and picked up the most annoyed Garrett I’d encountered. The upshot was that a friend was letting us stay at his cabin that night, which had a hot tub (or so he said).
As we pulled up to the cabin, we could already taste the Blue Moon and feel the hot water that awaited us. As it turned out, the “hot tub” was literally that – a tub. It was a Jacuzzi bath tub just big enough for two people who wanted to be very close to one another. After what we experienced, we almost didn’t care … almost. We discussed taking turns, but decided to just go for it and never speak a word of it to anyone, ever. The only reason I can speak of it now is that it didn’t end up happening. The water that came out of the faucet was less water than it was rust, and time didn’t make it any better. In the end, we settled for showers and sipping a brew in the living room. Not quite what we’d hoped for, but then again, nothing that day was.