By Bob Menard
I was getting out of my boat after fetching someone's paddle following a swim at ledge drop [I will let that individual confess for them self]. As I was getting out, some nearby campers excitedly ran down to the river, and asked how far we were going. Not really understanding the nature of the question, I asked why. "We lost a cooler." I inquired further "how did you lose a cooler?" ..."our canoe flipped" ..."where is your canoe?" ..."it's also downstream" ...not really sure what we could do with a large cooler, or recreational canoe, I told them at best we might be able to tow them to the nearest bridge and dump them there... If we found them near the take out, we could bring them back to our camp, and I gave them directions there. I jokingly advised them that 1 beer (or ice cream) per person involved in such an effort was the typical finder's fee. They agreed with a smile and headed back to their tents. A few moments later Kyle came by with a pair of bright blue reebok shoes he found in an eddy up stream, "Do you think these are [his]?" [referring to our groups' swimmer] ... "nah, that doesn't look like his style.... but those campers up there lost a canoe and cooler... might be their's" ...Kyle whistled up to them, holding up the pair of shoes... and again they excitedly ran down to the river to claim their missing stuff.
We continued on down stream, and just as the first bridge came in sight we also stumbled upon their canoe, stuck on a rock on river right... but appeared to be in pretty good shape. Kanako and I jumped out on some rocks, and we got a rope attached to the bow. Sasha towed the rope over to the other side of the river where Bob and some other folks pulled it off while Jon nudged it from an eddy above. Once all the water was dumped out the discussion became "what do we do with it now?" ...the bridge was within sight, but there wasn't a super large eddy to pull a heavy recreational canoe to. We could just leave it there, and let the campers hike up to get it... but chances are those knuckleheads would try to paddle it out, and get themselves in trouble again. John volunteered to tow it to the bridge so long as someone from our group jumped out to grab it when he got there. Once we were half way there, the campers appeared over the bridge, and were down by the water ready to thank Jon for his efforts. I didn't overhear the entire exchange, but I'd like to think something like a very polite "please don't do that again" was said.
Once the canoe was out of the water, we continued again. As we approached a gravel bar with 2 channels, most of us were going right, along with most of the water... but a few folks went left, which seemed way too shallow to run. "What the heck are they doing?" you could hear a few people mumbling "you can't get through over there". As it turns out, someone spotted the cooler, intact, and still sealed up. The investigation began to see what kind of beer was packed. The non-alcoholic kind turned out to be the answer. No beer, but there was aloe juice, and some kind of Russian black currant soda stuff and a bunch of food. There was probably another 1.5 miles to the next bridge (out intended take-out for most of the group). The new debate started... do we bother? Do we get it to the other side of the river and hike it up to the road? do we push it the 1.5 miles to the take out? Jon was up for the challenge, and viewed this as good rescue practice. Water was dumped out of the cooler, and the bottles of not beer were distributed among a few boats to lighten the load. Jon towed it up stream, and then released it into the right channel pushing it into place. I kid you not, at the immediate next bend in the river, no where near the road, the campers were riverside again, looking to see if we found their beloved cooler. We handed it off, and offered the bottles of not-beer from the kayaks, which they insisted we keep as a thanks. It was getting late, so we continued downstream... but it was only then that the questions popped up in our heads. What else did they lose? Where were their paddles? How was their timing so perfect? Why did they have this giant cooler of food in the river in the first place? ... these will have to remain some of life's many mysteries.
Ledges on the Salmon Cascade section
Almquist to the rescue
Definitely NOT one of ours