Kayaking the Clark Fork River in a Winter Storm
Hello friends. This is the story of how I went from a happy human cruising down a glassy river, to a fire singed, frozen beard, stuck to the velcro inside of my jacket all aboard a sinking kayak.
It was a clear sunny afternoon. My brother in law Joey and I had been talking about camping, so we set out to kayak the end of the Clark Fork into Lake Pend Oreille and camp on the Monarchs. Neither of us had ever kayaked before, so it was a great learning experience. About an hour in, we realized that we both were using our paddles backwards. Once we flipped those around we picked up the pace and enjoyed the songs of birds and the white peaks reflecting in the glassy river.
I severely misjudged how slow kayaks are with amateur captains and we got caught in the dark far from the nearest camping site. This is when the rain began to fall. It felt like we were in the middle of a pirate movie, taking our escape boats quickly to shore as we were soaked head to toe. We unloaded our gear and tried to sleep in our wet bags but rather chose to build a fire and spend the night waiting by its warmth for sunrise.
As soon as we had enough light to navigate our way, home the wind started blowing whitecaps throughout the lake. This was great fun once we realized if we paddled into the biggest waves they would push us over 40 feet. We were surfing until the waves grew in size and we started taking in water.
We paddled to a muddy shore just in time and dumped out the water, but now we had to drag our kayaks over 200 yards in mud deeper than the top of our boots.
We then got back on the lake after having been soaking wet in freezing weather for over 20 hours. We got to seemingly calm waters, but a wave came in at the right angle and completely sunk Joey. He trudged trough waist high water to a small patch of mud where he was able to drain out his only hope of getting home.
After all of this, we had another 100 yards to drag our gear through. This time, it was different. My muscles were shaking from exhaustion and shivering from the cold. This mud was thicker and deeper. It would have been a serious challenge just to walk through.
Once I warmed up and dried off, looking back has been a great pleasure. We plan to do the same trip next year rain or shine.
WE ARE #NOANCHOR.
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