from Moment of Truth (chapter on the Tatshenshini River of Canada’s Yukon):
The rest of the route that I had seen from the cliff still looks runable from river level and I motion for Trish to start. Peeling into the current again, I head for the turn. I’m thinking that if I can find another eddy below the bend, I’ll stop and get set with the throw line in case anyone has trouble.
Now I’m into the curve and the waves and holes are much bigger than I had guessed. Unavoidable. Too many of them. One look at the part of the river I couldn’t see before and I know it’s all over. Our normal kayaks (light weight and fully decked) could make it, but not the loaded FoldBoats we’re in now.
A wave breaks over my head and water floods into the boat around my waist. Shake water out of my eyes — draw to the right — another wave hits — another, another and another. I feel the boat go under. I’m still in the cockpit, but the river is swirling around my ribs. If only I can somehow jam the swamped boat into the shore before it broaches on a rock.
This is not to be. I’m in river center, too far from either side. A van-sized hole suddenly stands the kayak on end and I’m swimming in the 46-degree water. I know the others can’t see me now and will follow. That’s the worst thought — I’m about to put three other people into the same mess and I’m powerless to help them.
Then I see the tree protruding thirty feet into the river from the right bank, the trunk just on the surface, angry currents swirling through the submerged branches. Boaters know it as a “strainer.” A death trap. The faces of friends — competent boaters that have drowned that way — flash through my mind. Bob Goeke. Julie Wilson. Walt Blackadar. Lisa Sebacher.
Stay where I am and I’ll go safely by the end of the log — but into even worse rapids. There’s an eddy just upstream of the log. A slim chance. If I miss, I’ll be in the strainer. Kick. Pull. Stroke. Repeat. But the current is far too strong to allow a swimming escape. I can see that I’m going to be swept right into the tree.
Can’t let myself go underneath. Shove the boat away. Reverse the usual rule — get my head and arms downstream. I’m there. Grab the trunk and pull up. Crunch! The log hits me in the lower ribs like a blocking lineman. Suction on my legs is terrific. There will only be strength for one try. Have got to find a way to raise my body a few inches. My left toe finds a branch. Push with the foot. Press up slowly. Don’t slip. As my hands desperately cling to the slippery trunk, my body weight moves over my arms with agonizing slowness.
Suddenly I’m up. Hardly thirty seconds, but an exhausting effort. No time to think of that. Trish should have been here by now. Was she swept past while I struggled in the tree? And what of Cricket and Dave? Now a kayak appears. Upside down. A wave tosses it and I catch a glimpse of the red deck. Cricket’s boat! A yellow life jacket and small face appear in the wave ten feet to the side. She’s clear of the kayak. But heading straight for the log!