By Kanako Iwata-Eng
For the Memorial Day weekend, Captain Bill Petty led the Team to Idaho’s panhandle near Avery to run the St. Joe and nearby rivers. Bill, Doug, Ken and I got there on Thursday, May 26 and found a free campsite on the river, five miles above the Tin Can Campground. While we were asleep, Jennie, Sasha and Masha successfully found us in the dark. Chris arrived on Friday. Masha, an injured kayaker, was mountain biking. Jennie, an endless source of energy, biked, explored, did yoga and played flute in addition to boating.
On Friday, May 27, fearing the water may go down quickly, we chose the North Fork of the St. Joe as the first river to run. The North Fork, a.k.a Little Joe, is a nice little river with crystal clear water and a remote feel. It was slightly boney at first, but it only got better as we preceded through mostly Class 2+ rapids. The hardest drop was “No Sweat,” Class 3. It needed a little zigzagging to maneuver. Bill was sweeping the end of the group, and when he has nobody to lead, he doesn’t pay as much attention. At the last steep part, he flipped and swam, paying for going through the winter without single roll practice.
On Saturday, May 28, we went to the Marble Creek. Bill had run this before with much lower water. Planning to run from the bridge at mile marker 9 to the Boulder Creek, we carefully scouted it from the road. The last mile was the steepest, and the water was moving fast. Considering the previous day’s swim, Bill chickened out, according to his words. Ken and Chris followed Bill. Jennie led Doug, Sasha and me through the first Class 3-4 section. Regrouping in an eddy, she was all smile saying, “Are you as happy as I am!?” There was one river-wide log, and Bill, Ken and Chris helped us portage. Above the Class 4+ section, Doug, recovering from a lingering cold, took out. I was debating, but finally decided to take out, too. Jennie and Sasha flew down. Later she told us, “It was a primo Class 4+, just like old days!” She also said the section had Class 5 consequences, and I decided me not running it was a good call. There is always next time. Ken and Chris joined us at the Boulder Creek and ran the Class 2 section to the Visitor Center.
On Sunday, May 29, Bill was back in business to lead the St. Joe’s Tumbledown section. All of us except Sasha had run it before but with much lower water. This section is mostly Class 3+ with one Class 4 rapid called “Tumbledown Falls,” though it is not a waterfall. The run started with nice Class 2 rapids, followed by a few exciting Class 3s. Soon we found ourselves at the entrance of the Tumbledown Falls rapid. As the river turns left and then right, I couldn’t see how other boaters did, but all went down safely, though some more elegantly than other. Per my request, Jennie coached me to hone my eddy-turns and wore herself out. Chris, Sasha and I ran the second lap.
On Monday, May 30, Masha and Sasha went to a hot springs with their friends, and the rest of us ventured to the Upper Mable Creek, a new run to all of us. It started with a narrow and steep Class 3+ section and then opened up. We had to portage over the remains of an old splash dam. At the end, the gradient picked up. At the last big drop, everyone went right to easily miss the hole except me going left and deep into the hole. After my flip and roll routine, we took out, ran shuttle and hit the road home, thanking one another for yet another great trip.