BEATDOWN- An Essay
Every photo tells a story, but not many of them tell the whole story. The day this photo was taken on Punch Bowl Falls, I was dealing with a full-blown case of Giardia, and the only reason I know what happened four miles upstream was because I defied doctor’s orders to join this hike-and-huck mission on Oregon’s Eagle Creek.
Our put-in was Skoonichuck Falls, a 35-foot drop into a hard landing, followed by a 15-foot ledge with a catcher’s-mitt hole on river-left. My C&K homie, Scott Waidelich, was the first to swim, after he went deep and blew out his skirt. Austin Rathmann, who had gone first and made it look easy, was filming the beating and laughing. But what happened next wasn’t funny at all.
Christie Glissmeyer is a hardened Hood River local, and I was looking forward to watching her stomp this thing. But she didn’t get enough bow lift, and her red Nomad disappeared for a few seconds in the foam, then surfaced and went over the second drop upside down. Five seconds later it popped up again, empty. Nobody could see Christie, and I just remember reaching for a rope.
Ben Hawthorne threw the first line and came up short. Then I threw my bag into the curtain, hard. No pull. No response. Finally, Charlie Munsey scrambled down and screamed, “I see her; she’s okay and she can breathe.” Everyone almost hugged one another, but there was no break in the rescue action. After we roped her out of the cave, she still had to swim through another meaty hole. She went for it, got through, and Scott pulled her into the eddy, exhausted but safe.
We boated a lot more cautiously after that, through ledge drops, stacked holes, and all sorts of fun and pushy water. The next day I needed two pints of IV fluids, and as the cold saline crept into my veins, I realized I barely knew these people when we put on, but I had trusted my life to them, and they had trusted theirs to me. So don’t tell me I’m too sick to boat Eagle Creek when the level is right and a strong crew is on the case. I can’t explain to you the beauty of a canyon seen from river level, and I can’t tell you why anyone would intentionally step on to Class V rapids. You just have to be a boater to understand.
— Nick Hinds is an account executive at Canoe & Kayak