The Saratoga Sun -

Down the river, up the hill


It was early, like it always seems to be for things like this.

I had a vague idea of what I needed for the day, since I’ve been once before; warm stuff that’s not cotton for under my dry suit, gloves, my dry suit, fresh clothes for when we get off the river, and so on. It wasn’t warm outside, so I grabbed an extra wool sweater and stuffed it in the dry bag.

Lunch was my job that morning, and with all the produce we had just gotten I decided to throw some stuff together that basically reflected a lunch we would feel like eating. Since I hadn’t planned completely ahead of time, we didn’t have enough lunch meat and Rob would later on eat disgusting patchwork turkey-and-kipper-snacks wrap, which he insisted was not that bad.

Anyway, we managed. No one overslept, the boat was assembled, and I was trying to keep our cargo as trim as possible for the infamous walk up Six Mile Hill after we were done rafting Northgate.

The hill is nothing to joke about, especially when you’re carrying a lot of stuff and everyone is after a float. The first time I had gone along with Rob to do Northgate Canyon, the water was pretty low and after I told people we had done it at less than 1,000 cfs, some were a little shocked that we even found it worth it to lug all the gear up the hill at that water level. This time, it was at about 2,000 cfs, more or less anyway, so I assumed it would be worth the hill this time.

It’s probably always worth the hill just to be outside and doing something active in fresh air.

Anyway, cargo can only be so light for one of these trips, I’m learning. Rob’s boat is also incredibly heavy. I was calculating how many people we had versus how many boats and how much stuff. We’d each have two trips, I figured. I drank a bunch of water in preparation since I was dehydrated the last time and felt like I was going to puke by the third trip up.

In general, I think it’s always better to take these trips knowing what you’re getting into, and most fun trips require climbing up at least one hill. Since one of my favorite outdoor activities is hiking, I’m used to hills, but I also have some trouble with pacing.

I have a tendency to get pretty excited about what’s at the top, or to forget how far I have ahead of me–both of which lead me to start off, guns blazing, and then get tired a lot quicker than I planned. When I’m carrying heavy stuff, like a backpack or a bunch of river gear, I have to consider that the trip will not be better if it’s shorter. It will just make the next few uphill climbs a lot worse. I learn a little more about the importance of proper planning each time I step out of the house.

And even though I (thankfully) love being on the river, I couldn’t help but dwell about those terrible three trips up the hill last time. Since I wanted to enjoy the trip and not worry about cleaning up at the end, I decided I’d have a plan of attack. If I took long steps, one per second, I bet I wouldn’t wear myself out quickly enough to worry.

It probably isn’t even the hill alone, though it is the kind of hill that faithfully gets worse right as you think it should end. The more new things I try to do, the clearer it becomes that almost everything in life requires preparation and cleaning up. Sometimes that means you have a heavy boat that needs to make it up a hill or just a bunch of annoying little items that need to be returned to their place.

The next hurdle for rafting just is another manner of preparation that every boatman needs to make it through, which is practice and plenty more practice rowing. Like I said, everything fun has a hill.


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