Subject: The Sauk River
Date: Wed, 30 Jul 97 12:08:29 -0700
From: Liralen Li

[Finally managed to get the pieces I'd written over teh weekends out of my Butterfly... so here's another... busy lunch...]

----- I spent my weekend river rafting and lazing about, happily, though they really weren't one and the same.

Had to get up around 5:30a to make it to the Data I/O parking lot around 6:30, where we met Stacy, Going Away Sam, Liz, and Lisa. Stacy and I used to sit in neighboring cubes and she's a telesales lady that is really keen. She's feisty, vocal, and not about to take shit from people. I've learned a lot from her. Sam's easy going, solid, and has a border collie, a sheepdog that's already done some herding trials. Liz is bouncy, cute and in marketting. Lisa's a contract documentation person, who's a really solid working and understands what it is that she has to ask about when she writes about things she doesn't know. I really like all of them... and they were our companions on the trip. What was kinda keen was that everyone showed up before two minutes after the designated time to get there. A very prompt crew.

Luckily, for my health and sanity, we stopped by Larry's on the way out and got espressos. I am *NOT* a morning person, at all. Stacy was laughing at my groans of protest at being dragged up before the crack of noon. That was fun. The drive up was fun, for those that know the area, it was out past Arlington, way north and a bit east. We all just did small conversation, learning a bit about each other and about what rivers we might have done. I enjoyed it. And we got up to the put in around 8am, did bathroom stuff and got our wet suits and then breathlessly waited for our put in. And waited and waited and...

It wasn't until 10am that we put in. Not really the outfit's fault and Jerry, our guide and a guy that works at Data I/O, had told us that it would likely be a 9:30 put in if everyone got there on time. So we were darned early to begin with. The scenery there was gorgeous, though, as the put in was right where the glacial waters met the other watershed run off. The glacial water was pale, pale, milky green. The other waters were clearer, but warmer. All in all the Sauk river is nearly the same color as my hair! Hoorah! A beautiful green blue and it's set in the midst of a valley that's been declared 'Wild and Scenic' by the government, so all construction along it is forbidden and all roads must be built away from it when they're built, now. There are a few camp grounds and many trails through areas of it, but folks are warned to pack out what they pack in and only a limited number of rafters are allowed down it per year. The season for the river is only a few weeks, too, when the water is high enough to get through all the rocks and low enough that it's interesting.

It was a lot more adventurous than the Skykomish was. A good handful of threes, one four, and the named rapids were fun. The initial rapid, which was almost immediately after the put in was called "Entrance Exam." And it was bumpy fun. The one four was called "Demon Seed" and was a set of rapids that then led to an area where the only through point was through a very narrow channel that was to one side of a huge rock, which was called "The Demon Seed." The reason it was classed as a four was not just becuase of the nice big holes and waves leading to it, but also for the fact that getting around the rock was a 'must make', in that if you didn't hit that channel precisely, lots of bad things could happen, and since there were also rapids and rocks further downstream, if someone got knocked out of the boats at that point, it could get a little risky rescuing them.

The rapids were wonderous things, great big waves of white water, churning, pushing, trying to get into the boat. I was in the back again, decided to just take it easy and not get as wet, and it was nice to just concentrate on getting my blade deep into the water and paddle constantly and consistantly with the person in front of me and only worry about the sideways waves that Jerry kept putting us into. That was fun. Reminded me of the previous trip. There was just a whole lot more white water, and big standing waves that completely soaked the two front people.

The river was very interesting, too. Lots of things happening, every few minutes, there was some small rapid, or rocky area. The trees were gorgeous, the sky was blue, the sun was hot, and there were birds everywhere. Ducks and cormorants and keen stuff. Jerry had fun telling us about a particular kind of duck that's usually used as something of an indicator as to the clarity of a river. There was a constant breeze coming from downstream, and at one point Jerry asked us if we knew why the wind always came from downstream. He said that it was because as the day went on and the air warmed, the air was flowing up stream because that was up hill, i.e. the hot air was flowing along the channel of the river in order to go up the easiest way possible. I'll have to remember that, someday. Though it seems that there must be eaiser ways to figure out which way is downhill or down stream or down river.

Lunch was out on a sandbar, sandwiches, brownies, fruit and hot chocolate and coffee and such. Just basked out in the sun and ate slow and happy, very different than the drizzling wet trip the time out before. It was very nice to just sit in the heat and chat.

Seems that the shape of the Sauk changes massively every year. Not just the piles of driftwood that gets washed up on either side of the river, but also entire walls of gravel build up or get torn down. One stretch of river, nearly 200 yards long, was, at one time, entirely unpassable but for a small area to the right, a single channel cut through the gravel. When we were there, it was as wide open as anything else.

After lunch we went a ways and got to Clearcreek Canyon, a small creek that ran into the river with water that was glass clear. The water of the Sauk was a cloudy blue green, the green mostly from the glacier run off. So the creek was startlingly clear after the near milky green of the Sauk. We waded out of the boats onto a rock, slippery trail cut into the side of the canyon wall.

It was the most gorgeous and most trecherous walk. There was so much greenery over us that the air felt green, all the sunlight was diffused through leaves. The walk itself hugged the cliff face and sections of it were overgrown with thick mosses, soft and spongy and thick to the touch. A tiny water fall of about seven droplets constantly dripped and ran down one portion and you had to walk under it, like under a veil of bead strings, to keep going on with the walk. Most of it was barely a foot wide, much of it wet and slippery, though the rock bits were often jagged enough to provide great traction for even the rubber soles of our wet suit boots. At the end of the trail was a log that had fallen straddling the canyon. The log was more than six feet in diameter, and people could, fairly easily, walk along it to the center and then jump into a pool that was nearly seven feet deep.

The pool was as clear as glass and cool, not quite the breathtaking cold of the glacial run off of the river itself, but a cool clean touch along the skin. I had fun wading over waist deep over to a boulder set in the center of the pool, where the throw line was. What was surprising was the strength of the current that flowed through the area. Each foot step had to be done somewhat carefully because of always having to push against that current. I planted myself in the sunshine on the boulder and took pictures of people as they jumped off, and just marveled in the moss coated, cool clear greeness of the place.

It turned out that there was a camping area right by the pool. Might have to go back there sometime.

The rest of the trip was fun and simple, and there was one last really bumpy and wet bit just before the takeout, that Jerry managed to get everyone splashed by. He said that if it had a name, it should have been 'Final Exam'. The take-out was nice and easy and I surprised myself by having absolutely no problem carrying a quarter of the raft on a shoulder. I made sure that I didn't use my hands too much in the lifting and got it up pretty easily and kept it up fairly well. Dumped it on the pile of rafts that were being deflated and joined everyone in changing. We then headed for a small bar and drank pop, Hamms and Schmitt beer to undehydrate a bit and then headed off towards Data I/O.

As we headed back, we decided to stop at Thenos, which is close to Data I/O and have ice cream. It's actually Vivian's Pride ice cream, but Theno's is the dairy name. They get local milk and cream and make their own ice cream, and it's some of the best in the area. Big, fat cones with plenty of butter fat. A really lovely ending to a lovely day.

© 1997 by Liralen Li