Thwop-thwop-thwop-thwop!

Last night there was at least one helicopter going up and down the Palouse river, very low and very slow, over and over again. I could hear the tail rotor wash, which is unusual.

It was out again this morning at first light. I spoke to a neighbor on the way out the door and didn’t know what they were doing, but he did notice that our local fat cop was down by the river. While I was driving in this morning my wife left me a phone message. She’d heard on the news that they were looking for a kayaker who’d failed to return home last night. Dang.

My son and I have floated that river in a canoe, and although it’s a very small river there are lots of rocks and things that can snag you or flip you over at the worst times when the current is strong. Then again it’s very shallow most of the way this time of year, such that you could usually stand up if you were dumped out. But this is November and it’s been COLD these last few nights, getting WAY down below freezing. There are also places where brush and trees overhang the water.

I’ve found no updates since around 8:30 AM Pacific. If they haven’t found her by now, someone needs to get down on that water, up close and personal.

Hopefully she’s holed up at a friends house, or warm and snug in a tent, and it’s just that her phone isn’t working. There are plenty of cellular dead zones around here.

Update 12:51 PST; I got a call from my daughter, and checked on line to verify. They found a body. I just don’t get it. It was really cold last night. You don’t get wet in that kind of cold and last for very long unless you’re wearing one of those insulated dry suits they use for diving in ice water, and you don’t go kayking for miles on a river if you plan to stay dry. Something’s not right with what we know so far. Official weather report says it was down to 14 F in Palouse, but down on the river in still air like that it’s going to be the coldest place for miles around. Tragic, and sad. I guess we could all tell stories of how we did some daring thing or other, just for fun, where it could have turned out very bad but somehow didn’t. I was hoping this would be one of those stories, but alas…

3 thoughts on “Thwop-thwop-thwop-thwop!

  1. Keep us posted, please. Maybe she couldn’t tolerate the thought of coming back to “civilization” and facing Obamacare.

  2. I tried whitewater kayaking a couple years ago a little over and a year ago and loved it so much I have been paddling year round this year. Wearing dry suits with fleece layers underneath is very common for kayakers depending on the water temp, and they work remarkably well. I after missing my line in an rapid, took a swim in 38 degree water with the air temp in the low 20’s and I stayed toasty warm in my dry suit. But in my classes, they stressed over and over again that you should not kayak alone, just like swimming or SCUBA diving, or really any activity that is potentially hazardous.
    My heart goes out to her family.

    • Just to be clear; the Palouse River, or that portion of it where she was kayaking anyway, doesn’t really qualify as “whitewater”. My son and I floated it in higher water in the Spring, in a 17′ Grumman lake canoe, and it wasn’t too hairy even though he had almost no canoe experience. There were a couple of what you might call hairy spots (for a lake canoe), plus we got hung up on a gravel bar for a bit. Although he’d been bugging me to do this float for a couple years, Son never asked to do it again. I saw it happen to him while we were on the water– that realization that, although you thought beforehand that this was going to be a picnic, you are in fact in real danger and there’s no turning back.

      Any way you look at it though, even a small, relatively mild river can kill you pretty quick.

      A lot of people in town knew the woman. She was a city council member, and worked at a local market.

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