Frozen fingers and wet


Since the water was cold and the air was cool, I was extra careful not to turn over. We made good time and enjoyed the trip since it was the first time any of us had paddled in the winter. George and I carried extra clothes in our dry bags, Steve didnt plan on getting wet.
A stiff wind began to blow up the creek as we paddled through the thin shadows made by the naked trees along the bank. The sun was at its all time low in the southwest and reflected off the water into our eyes. I remember seeing through squinted eyes the white caps being blown off the choppy water as we pitched through shoals. We all made it with no problems until we got to the halfway point at David Thrashs cabin. There is a waterfall just above the cabin that can be trouble. I found this out last year. George was following me in my canoe. I had already gone over and was pulled up at the cabin. George flipped like he was on a round log and popped up gasping for air. He held onto the capsized canoe until it washed up where I was. I helped him get out and we poured water out of his boat. Steve paddled up dry and asked if everything was OK. George was cold and wet but otherwise in good shape. He changed into dry wool clothes in the cabin and was ready to get going.

There is another set of rapids below the cabin that caused problems in the past. George and I paddled through them this time without any problems. Steve made it all the way through but for some reason he got sideways and tipped over at the end. He got wet from the waste down but managed to claw his way onto the top of his capsized canoe. Steve didnt have any dry clothes and it was getting late. The air temperature was now colder than the water. I felt cold and I wasnt even wet. Looking at Steve dripping wet with visible vapor puffing from his mouth when he talked made my head hurt. The sun was still shining bright, but only between the long shadows that were slowly covering the creek.
By the time we got to our second day sand bar campsite we were all beginning to get rather stiff. Steve and I got out and walked around to check out the condition of the camp. My legs were numbing and needed the flow of blood so that the feeling would come back into my feet. The air on the bank was freezing cold compared to the air just above the relatively warm water. I got even colder after getting out of my boat. I was concerned about Steve developing hypothermia, I dont see how he avoided it.
The day was beginning to yield to evening and the wind finally died. I seriously thought about building a fire in the bottom of my aluminum boat, something to generate a little warmth would be great. The mud bank at US 231 waited for us at the end of the trip. Sometimes the air feels like it is coming right off a glacier; wet, penetrating, bone cold. This was the way it felt now. No amount of exercise would warm us up. The chore of loading our canoes with frozen fingers and wet ropes went slow. The heater in the Suburban ran on high all the way back to Goodwater, but that only penetrated the first millimeter of skin. A hot cup of coffee following a hot shower finally cut the chill, and later we sat around and relived every minute of the trip with our families.

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