By Kanako Iwata-Eng
Despite the low water, the cold weather, or the put-in blockage, a fearless wiener roasters – on 11 hard-shell kayaks, a tandem canoe and a solo canoe - gathered on Saturday, March 2, to run the Skykomish from the Big Eddy to Sultan, Class 2.
Since the big snow storm in the mid-February, the Big Eddy boat launch area has been gated. We parked on the roadside of the Highway 2 and walked to the river sliding our boats on the snow. This year, WKC provided the food, and Bill Petty provided dry firewood and kindling from his yard. We divided up the load, and each boater carried something.
We had three newer boaters. The first Class 2 rapid comes up immediately after the launch. One of the new boaters flipped and decided to walk out. One kayaker helped him out, two waited for her, and the rest of us moved on, as we had a long way to go on a slow or no current on a short day of the early spring. Besides, I was sure they would catch up quickly.
The snow-covered Mount Index and other mountains with the blue sky was breath-taking. For most of us, this stretch felt easy and relaxing. The two remaining newbies were doing well, too. In 1.5 hours, we got to the roast side I had chosen when I scouted in a few days advance. The problem was that those three people who helped the walking-out boater hadn’t appeared yet. They were capable boaters, and I was sure they would not be in trouble. No, in trouble were the rest of us, because Doug Knapp who were behind had a big torch to start the fire.
I pulled out my emergency fire starter kit – a mini torch I bought at a cigarette shop (“the best $5 ever spent!”) and cotton balls covered with Vaseline. With the dry kindling Bill brought from home, my fire starter kit successfully started a fire in no time. By the time Doug showed up with his torch, some of us had already finished the first wiener. It turned out that the walking-out boater and a helper were disoriented and “ended up in Oregon” according to Doug. By the time they came back and asked for help, almost 30 minutes had passed since the rest of the group took off. About 10 minutes after Doug, two remaining kayakers arrived, too.
Some people brought metal skewers, but the rest of us skillfully made skewers out of twigs. The hungry bunch enjoyed the beef, chicken and veggie wieners with or without hot dog buns. The weather was nice, and it was almost hot to stand too close to the fire. Homemade desserts made by Kathy McGee completed the lunch. The crew was finally full. We threw a few handfuls of snow on the ground over the fire which died in a nice sound effect.
The second half was flatter than the first, and we exercised our forward-stroke muscle. There were a couple of log jams to get around. It wasn’t exactly easy as the water was so low that we had to get close to the logs. Both new boaters were caught by surprise as the shallow water pushed them towards a log jam, but they didn’t get in it. One swam right after the last log jam, but it was where we could see the take-out, and a quick rescue and her good-sport attitude didn’t make a dent on our fun memory.