When We Were Young
On this first anniversary of my writing “Notes from Hunter Creek” I have recently been reviewing the previous 24 columns that I have authored. And, in doing so, I realized many of the expeditions sounded like my idea and mine alone. Not true.
Since the mid-seventies, there has been a core group that has gradually expanded to include, at one time, around 6-8 hardcore whitewater boaters. The first was Larry Hardin, originally from Pine Bluff, Ark. but ending up in New London, Pa.
I first met Larry on a mid-May morning when I was scouting Nantahala Falls on the Nantahala River in western North Carolina, in 1976. His Blue Hole canoe was completely swamped and Larry and his wife were having trouble getting their boat to shore before the upcoming, and dangerous, upper and lower Wesser Falls. I leapt into the river and helped guide them to shore –– a lifelong friendship was born at the moment. If you don’t know, a canoe loaded with water is extremely heavy and unmanageable.
For the rest of the week Larry, Liz and myself and my friend Maria, and our dogs, hung out in the Smokies.
We floated the Nantahala Gorge a couple of times, the Little Tennessee, and eventually ended up on the Chattooga River in Northern Georgia.
We canoed Section II and did fine. But Section III and IV were much more contentious. We climbed into a patched up old raft and conquered Section III. It contains at its end the famous Bull Slice Rapid.
It was hairy, but we somehow made it. Bull Slice has since killed seven people. In fact, altogether the Chattooga, the upper headwaters of the Savannah River, made famous by the movie Deliverance has now claimed around two-dozen lives.
Most but not all have perished on Sec. IV, which we wisely skipped. But unfortunately, many people who have watched the movie will buy some cheap equipment and fatefully attempt to tackle these two very hard sections of the river.
In more recent times, the Kootenai River in NW Montana exposed the same euphoria after the release of the hit movie, The River.
To our small group we added Rob from Jersey, Greg from Cincinnati, Bob from Kansas City and Kyle from Texas.
Each year one of us would set up an expedition, organize it, and lead it. Of course friends of friends were invited and some went on more than one expedition.
Here is an incomplete list of the “Amigos” river runs: Upper Hudson Gorge, (N.Y.) 24 miles, 2 days; Delaware River, (N.Y.) 32 miles, 2 days; Youghiogheny River (PA.) 21 miles, 2 days; New River Gorge (WVA.) 39 miles, 3 days; Upper Gauley River (WVA.) 11 miles, 1 day; Kawishiwi River (Minn.) 30 miles, 6 days with two layover fishing days; Rio Grande Big Bend Canyons (five different canyon runs, in Texas) 160 miles, 3 weeks; Salt River Canyon (Arizona-I missed this one) 35 miles, 3 days; Grand Canyon, from Lee’s Ferry to Diamond Creek (AZ) 226 miles, 16 days, with two layover hiking days; Rogue River (OR) 32 miles, 2 days; Colorado River, upper canyons, (Colo.) 54 miles, 3 days; middle Colorado Canyons (include Glenwood Canyon) 24 miles, 2 days; Brown’s Canyon Run of the Arkansas (Colo.) 24 miles, 2 days; Royal Gorge of the Arkansas (Colo.) 12 miles, 1 day; Yampa and Green Rivers through Dinosaur National Park (Colo. Utah) 70 miles, 1 week; Florida Gulf Coast Rivers (FL) three different runs, Blackwater River, Yellow River, and Oklachanochnee River, from 40-70 miles, usually 5-7 days each; Middle Fork of the Salmon River (Idaho-I missed this one, too.) 80 miles, 8 days; Hoh River in Olympic Peninsula (Wash.) from the rain forest to the Ocean, 28 miles, 2 days; Chena River (north of Fairbanks, Alaska) 20 miles, 2 days.
But all of us agree that our best expedition occurred in 1995, when we all met in Haines, Alaska, and drove north on the Haines Highway to Dalton, Yukon (Canada). We put in on a clear Yukon mountain stream called the Tatshiheni River, running about 12-1500 cubic feet per second, about the same as the North Fork of the White at bank full.
After the third day of our 14-day 120-mile expedition, several glacial tributaries had now added to the river’s strength and the Tat had the color and consistency of a loose, slurry concrete mix and was now running around 6000 cfs.
A few days later, the Tat joins its big sister, the Alsek River flowing southward into Northern British Columbia out of the Kluane Mountains in the Yukon. Upon the juncture, the river now roared with a flow of over 60,000 cfs, and produced huge icy waves.
Finally after camping on Lake Alsek surrounded by the Pacific Glacier, our team of four large rafts and several large floating icebergs exited the lake for the final plunge down the last 20 miles of river to Dry Bay, Alaska –– located almost five miles upriver from the Pacific Ocean and about 40 air miles south of Yukatat, Alaska. This last section flows at about 90,000 cfs.
At that time, Dry Bay had a large Indian salmon canning plant and a long and wide gravel runway that would accommodate an old daily DC-3 flight in and out of the small village. I remember the few houses located in and around Dry Bay had solid thick doors and windows covered with 3” thick closed shutters and several of these were scarred with large and deep brown bear claw marks.
But to me, the scariest part of the journey was waiting for a couple of days for the fog to lift, and later, climbing into a 33 year-old Piper for the 80 minute flight back across the glaciated mountains to Haines.
After the year 2001, our core group started to dwindle. Rob from Jersey fell asleep coming home from a weekend Coast Guard Drill and perished in a car accident. Then one of our other guys fell off a ladder while repairing his rain gutters, and later died. And so on.
Finally in 2009, I lost my best floating bud and good friend Larry Hardin. Our soft-spoken Larry, who suffered from testicular cancer 30 years earlier, now had the disease return along with a rare aggressive form of prostate cancer, and in four months, we were holding his funeral at age 58.
Larry, originally a high school science teacher from Pine Bluff, Ark., later became a skilled and highly paid diesel locomotive mechanic. He was always the voice of reason and logic and caution on our expeditions. On the other hand, I was just the opposite. I hated to take time to scout rapids and then set up safety lines.
How ironic that my good safety conscious friend is gone, and his never cautious and impetuous friend is still alive.
A year before, we had lost our good-hearted and beloved Doc, a vet and former mayor of Jasper, Mo. Doc was still in pretty good shape at age 81 and had provided lots of liquid refreshments and many varied medical skills on several river trips. But in the end he was no match for an aneurism that quickly struck him down.
Our last planed expedition was in 2009, a six-day expedition down-river from Telegraph, B.C. to the picturesque town of Petersburg, AK, on the mighty Stikine River. One of my regrets in life is that the few remaining members of our corps abandoned this final expedition.
And then, we were no longer young.
Note: The “exclusionary rule” as announced by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1914 (Weeks v. US), enhanced again by the Court in 1920 applying the rule in adopting the “fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine” (Silverthorne Lumber v. US), and then by the Court expending the rule to the States via the 14th Amendment in 1961 (Mapp v. Ohio), has been controversial since rendered by the Supreme Court.
Why? Well many constitutional scholars believe that the two most desirous Bill of Rights Amendment for obvious reasons, were the first Amendment (Separation of Church and State, Right of Assembly and Freedom of the Press) and the Fourth Amendment (No searches without a warrant based on probable cause and all warrants based on specific particulars).
The American Colonists were first of all distrustful of the Anglican Church of England, and secondly, resentful of the British authorities’ unlawful searches and seizures of property without due notice.
What is the effect of the exclusionary rule? Basically cases say that if law enforcement (not an individual) violates expectations of privacy and without a Court issued warrant then the items or evidence seized cannot be used in the prosecution of an accused whose rights are violated.
One must have proper legal standing, either being an owner or possessor of the items seized. And if an illegal search later reveals items that might normally be admissible in trial, it may be barred by the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine.
This rule was an extreme departure from the English common law doctrines, upon which most American jurisprudence is derived. In England, there was never an “exclusionary rule” on evidentiary items.
Needless to say, this rule is not popular with law enforcement. They say it defies common sense. In other words, if a cop finds a body in the truck of a car; and if the search was not based on probable cause; then that piece of evidence will be barred from trial. Police claim there are other ways of enforcing the 4th Amendment without using the “exclusionary rule”. They claim for example that the police could be subject to a civil rights suit for violation of someone’s rights.
So for 100 years, the rule has stood firm, so far. However, there are a number of state and federal cases that continue to erode the edges of the rule. Much akin to later laws that have restricted the Roe abortion decision that was announced in 1973.
Also, the Courts have made a big distinction between the needs for a warrant on homes and businesses versus autos. Vehicles are deemed as mobile and require a different set of rules.
Now get up and go enjoy the great Ozarks outdoors.