Hell’s Froze Over by Steve Bloskis

Hell’s Froze Over by Steve Bloskis

Thinking back to a third run on a brisk 20-degree paddle in Forbes forest asking the question “why isn’t this working?” Unable to feel your hands, having to put the rock hard frozen gear back into the slushy cold drink just to get it pliable and fitted back on. That very cold past made it feel not so bad to be out swimming a week later in 35 degrees and snow! Why Swimming? Read on.


As the temp dropped we did Roaring a rare gem and now on Fikes a better gem. Two of us knew about the tree you had to limbo under if you didn’t run the drop right. The drop starts with a boof, so to miss a hole and catch an eddie, which can feel like your sitting on a pod of water up in the tree line. Paddle out and drop off an eight-foot slide.


Added this tree pushes the envelope of a class 4 rapid into a mind game of sorts. The rapid is hard/fun enough without a tree in it. Oddly before the tree became present we never missed this boof and looked forward to this section. After the tree just the opposite missing the moves, off line and confused, why when adding a tree does the mind/body have trouble thus changes the approach or was it just the higher water levels that day??


On this given run all of us ended up in the hole loaded with water and pushed toward the tree. Keith P. aims up clearing the more forgiving side to limbo the tree, shoots the drop and is gone. John Doe aka T-bone gets pushed to the lowest side of the tree stops on it with his head. Then with a very very low braces he almost flips passing under the tree. This side he didn’t choose has just a little bit of room for more than a boat to go under. Passing under, at this point he needs to roll himself up right and turn his boat 45 degrees to drop the eight footer. Here the boat stops dead in its wake, his bow and stern pin and almost all of the back of the boat subs under with water. A hard bottom brace keeps his head out of the water. This is where time froze as a light mist of snow began to fall.


Have you ever noticed times when not taking heed reaching out to help puts you into the same danger. Flipping under that tree trying to help, putting two paddlers in that dangerous same spot was not an option.


Paddling up stream Ferry high through the hole and skating around the outside to miss the tree altogether catching a squirrelly micro eddie and holding it long enough to looking backwards eight foot over my shoulder to see if there is an optional line no ones taken before?!? Looks clean running out of time so shooting the drop and in my peripheral vision see Keith is running up the shoreline stick and movin around Rodi with a throw rope.


Rope in the air and misses, I getting out, scrambling a small rock and boat in the middle of the drop below T-bone who seems like for minutes has been hung hard on a bottom brace above this way to ugly to run upside down drop.


I had to tip toe reaching high for his bow loop yelling up to him “you ready on the count of three” his head just out of the water, he shouts “yeah” ONE TWO THREE As I pull with all my might he clears the rock and runs the drop. With the boat free a force of gushing water pushes me backwards falling over and knocking the boat off the rock. I’m launched confused swan diving head first into the cold soup.


Emerging out of the dark black, gasping for air, again Keith’s throw bag wisps high spiraling mixing together with the soft snow, perfectly so sweet right into my hand. Everything at that moment in time seemed in almost slow to a stop. There was no cold, no raging sound of whitewater, only a sense of floating in a larger matrix of soft misted falling snow entwined within a curtain of pine green contrast. Like Hell froze over, everything but those three things came to a halt and


“It” was all-Omniscient.


Why are there moments in life that you will never forget? Once back on shore the icy cold, wet and rushing sound of water with a rage storming ones senses back into a hurting focus so to paddling out. No longer riders of the pale horse, chasing the hells of an ever descending well. We returning to civil as we sat warm by a crackling log fire, enjoying supper and beer that T-bone bought.