Wow, it is not every day that you get walking pneumonia, nor is it every day that you get to run the Thompson. I had been feeling bad like I was fighting a cold off as I sat across from Joyce listening to her tall tales of 20 foot waves on the Thompson.
"OMG!!!! It is the best river ever. My favorite. It is not a matter of IF you will flip, just when. And it may take you four or more attempts to roll, but swimming is not an option on that river. It is H U G E. When you roll... no worries, just sit there and feel the boat hit the crest of the wave, then hip snap. It will take you awhile to get it, but keep trying. AND Do not eddy out, the whirlpools will eat you. It is a formidable river, but you'll be fine." - Joyce Stuart, kayakista extraordinaire.
So I call Shanna... "What Ugh?@. you have never done this river before? Why? I am sh$#in my pants. Joyce is talking about 20 foot waves with laterals slappin you silly. Idamay can't even claim she has run it because she swam all the big rapids out of the shoot. She flipped at Frog, the very first rapid! And I am getting sick. Man, I want to be top of my game for this thing. Should we go? Are we ready for this? Seriously"
Needless to say, I did nothing to calm Shanna's nerves. Now both of us were freaking out.
Next thing I know, I am packed and crossing the border listening to Dale's story of shipping an entire semi and it's contents bolt by bolt to his work in the MidWest after trying to cross from Canada back into the US years ago. They were detained for seven days because someone forgot a piece of paper. They had to fly home after the detainment. Meanwhile parts from the semi and cargo were being rejected by shop staff because they were being sent by the customs house COD and they did not realize it what it was.
Six hours later, my cold is already rearing its nasty head and I am worrying that I won't be able to run the river the next day.
We slept in a little town called Hope that looked like it hadn't progressed in fifty years. Sweet people, cheap eats and a freezing cold motel room that later turned into a sauna. The drive to the river from Hope is amazing and I would recommend driving it in the light to experience it.
The morning greeted me with a full blown cold. The day before I was hoping that the cold was just an excuse so I wouldn't have to face my fear about this river. It could have been my out. But when faced with reality, I pouted and went to try and sleep it off instead of risking getting sicker.
Shanna, Dale, and Don ran the river that day. They were invited by the Ontario Kayak Club to a Canadian Thanksgiving. But they declined and came back and ate Tomato soup and toasted cheese sandwiches with me.
Shanna came back to the cabin with a big, wild eyes. "Oh no becky, Who cares about Frog, who cares about the cutting board, it was that other rapid after the Frog that was crazy. No one even knows it's name. That wave picked me up and threw me."
At that point, I could tell that Shanna was secretly hoping I was not going to feel good the next day so that she didn't have to run it again. But, I shattered that hope and rallied the next day. I felt horrible, but I went anyhow. I just promised myself that I would not try to surf the Frog so that I would keep all of my energy to run the river. As soon as you know you are going on a river like this, fear sets in. It becomes your job to control it, keep it hidden, and stay focused on what you know how to do.
Needless to say, my cold later turned into walking pneumonia. But it was worth it. I learned two lessons...
1) Stay out of the water when you are sick
2) Bring potentially two boats to the Thompson next time. The play boat for the Frog and a river runner for everything else. 14,000 cfs of water on a little Jackson Kayak is a lot of fun, but holy cow, it throws you around, it stops you when you are full speed, and good luck catching waves baby, ain't gonna happen. I was missing my Dagger Animas from the Hells Canyon. That thing sliced through waves and I could catch the green waves.
One time I was following Don on a rapid and were cruising pretty fast towards the end of a big wave train, the next thing I know, it was like he hit the e-brake or something and did a complete 180 and was moving up river... not on purpose mind you. He was not trying to Eddy out. I flew past him laughing, like oh wow.
Granite on the Hells Canyon @24000 cfs was still the biggest wave I have ever been on. It felt like 25 feet, something that could throw my 12 foot boat on end without a problem. But the waves on Thompson were big and they didn't stop. They were huge. And, it is my understanding that the water level was quite low for this river.
Check out the video I made. The boyz are surfing the frog, appropriately named for how it throws the boat up and down in a frog like movement.
This rapid is one of the easiest rapids on the river. The line is generally on the right and it has some pretty big waves down that entire line.
I am eager to go back and surf the Frog. Next time, I want to make sure that I have a few hours just for that.
Note: I have a typo in Dale's last name, it is Bonson.