On an early Tuesday morning in May of 2013 the sky was ominous but we were eager to paddle. The radar indicated we would be rain free for the day on the Little Muskegon River. Unfortunately we didn’t check to see if the night’s rain filled the river. It looked high but we didn’t check. First mistake: it was flood stage!
From the moment we entered the river it was full of challenges at every turn. Just about all of us got wet, sometimes purposefully as we needed to help someone who went for an unplanned “swim.” To be sure, the river claimed us all in some way… as well as a half-skirt, a new dry-bag, multiple lunches, a really nice rain jacket and nearly two paddles. Second mistake: we should have read the messages in the ‘carnage’ and gone ashore to call for help.
But getting wet is no big deal, neither is dumping and pumping out boats. But it is a really big deal reclaiming a boat… or two… then three, caught under strainers and sweepers! It is a really big deal to hoist boats up the side of a 4 to 6 foot vertical (outside) river bank. And, it is a huge deal when the current is so strong that we had to hold each other lest we got carried down the river. Third mistake: standing in the river and its rushing waters.
A paddling journey that should have taken 4 hours took over 6, feeling as thought it would never end. We all agreed that it was the most challenging kayak adventure we ever experienced. We did employ amazing teamwork and a lot of ingenuity in getting everyone back into their kayaks and moving downstream to safety. However, once home we knew that we needed to better understand what happened and how to prevent it from ever happening again. As a result of our ‘Little Muskegon Mishap’ we contacted Trey and his chief coach, Scott, to discuss our experience. After their initial shock and amazement they developed a plan to teach us safety, better boat control and, overall, how to become more skilled paddlers. No mistake: we called the experts to train us!
Epilogue: The same group has paddled the Little Muskegon at least three times since our near-disastrous experience; each time we have traversed it expertly thanks to Trey & Scott.