Trekking out of the Tay

Tay Creek
Hal poles down Tay Creek, just after the put-in. Careful, Tay Creek is small and flashy. High water lasts only a day or so after a good soaking rain.

It was one of those El Nino summers where the storms came every Thursday and Friday in June, and the rivers were deep, fast and warm. My brother and I launched my Coleman -- we're talking a few years ago here off the royal road for a day trip on Tay Creek, a narrow stream with a fast current winding through rock gardens.

It was a sublime late spring day, and the water was deep, covering many rocks which often pose a broaching threat. The first time we flipped, we were pushing hard to graze by a stone river centre, but we caught the tail end and I was swept underwater. But we managed to right the boat promptly without further trouble.

Tay Creek
Near Limekiln Creek.

For a few turns after the spill, we were very cautious. But it didn't take long before we felt invincible once again. My brother decided to take a rapid on the shore side of a barrier rock, searching for thrills and chills. We were safely past the rock, or so it seemed, when an alder branch reached out from the bank for our gunwale and tipped us in a flash.

Within moments, our Coleman was thrown broadside onto a rock, and folded grotesquely inside out. Of course our food and beverages for the afternoon spilled deep under water and floated out of sight downstream in seconds. Yes, my paddle went too. And a jacket.

We staggered to shore. The boat was held fast against the rock by surging megatonnes of unrelenting hydraulic energy. It would be there at least until the water level dropped significantly.

Tay Creek
The Tay's rapids are narrow, steep and cold in the spring.

Paul suggested we head downriver on foot, but I managed to dissuade him. The banks were steep and alder-choked. We would have to take to the water in many attempts to cross the stream in gorges. We would have to take our chances floating down rapids feet first in several spots, with nothing to protect our head and limbs. After a brief discussion, we decided to hoof it out and find a trail.

We spent the first half-hour climbing out of the steep gorge. Several times, we had to trust to exposed roots or shaky gravel to reach terrain level enough to walk erect. After a couple of hours, we hit a game trail that morphed into a path, then a good woods road.

We were nearly beat, dry and tired in the heat, when the good ole boys from Tay Creek village rolled up in their huge Chrysler. They were just driving for the sheer joy of gas guzzling, and drove us both no questions asked back to our car, an easy ten mile or so it seemed. Chalk up another good turn and helping hand for the good ole boys.

Oh, I never did retrieve the boat. I did go looking for it, but didn't know quite where it was, and I couldn't make it back upstream in the gorge. I had no particular love for it anyway. Maybe someone else retrieved the wreck, I hope so.

This is what may happen if you don't sweep out your boat.


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