Editor’s note: This is the third installment of guide wanna-be Shea Stevens going through guide-training camp on the Ocoee River. And no, you can’t have her phone number.
Week 3 – Fever for Rafting
This particular morning I woke up at 7:30 am with a raging hang-over and made the weekly trek up to the outpost. Snow covered the ground. I had a miserable cold and scorching fever so I thought the guides would show mercy and let me skip training and just do the pre-river stuff like inflate the rafts and load them onto the bus. But NO, someone called me a girl and told me to man up. Next thing you know, my sick ass is freezing in the raft.
Freezing temperatures were only part of the equation. Mother Nature really wanted to test my endurance, so she also threw G-Force winds at our boat, pushing it up stream. My hands and feet went numb.
This was the first trip where Joe also allowed us trainees to guide the entire river, except for Grumpy’s (the rapid that keeps me up at night). Vince guided the first half from Broken Nose to the Doldrums; I took over at Hiawassee Shoals to the take out. When I took my position, I forgot how cold it was, and remembered the pleasure of calling the shots. Telling the guys what to do made me forget about my frozen appendages. I got stuck on a rock above Tablesaw and surfed sideways in Hell Hole, but otherwise did alright. Hopefully, I earned a little credibility with the guides.
Week 4 – Tasers and Surprises
I overslept and woke up at 11:00 a.m. Ooops! I knew there’d be hell to pay for not being on the first run at 10:00. I was eager to make the afternoon trip but managed to have enough time to get a fried chicken biscuit at the gas station in Jasper and a bottle of Makers Mark, to appease the river gods, I mean guides, at the liquor store in Ellijay. Once I got to the outpost I saw a dejected crew from the early run. Apparently one of the rafts got punctured and the trainees got stuck with the disabled boat. Not very easy to clear rocks with a flat boat, glad I slept in.
The guides were busy with trips and left us trainees to navigate the Ocoee on our own. Suddenly I was in charge of finding the lines. Vince, who had one more trip under his belt than me, took Grumpy’s, he did a great job (we didn’t hit White Face). I took the helm at Hiawassee Shoals, a technical area where it’s easy to get pinned. So that’s what I did: I pinned on a rock. But it was for less than 60 seconds so I didn’t have to buy beer (2 minutes pinned = 12 pack of PBR). However, I ended up buying a case anyway because I knew that I’m bound to get stuck sooner or later, and so I thought that I could pay it forward or something.
When we got to Tablesaw I took a 2 o’clock angle instead of an 11 o’clock and hit a rock that ejected James from the front. I freaked out. I was taught to let the crew get the swimmers, but my initial reaction was to get him back in the boat. We were in Class III+ so I had no choice but to get the boat back on course while Vince retrieved James. I thought James was going to die – he disappeared under the boat for eternity. I was a bit shaken up and eventually gave the stick back to an eager Vince to finish up the last few rapids.
It was a long bus ride back to the outpost, and I kept apologizing to James. He laughed, said that’s all part of the training and assured me it wasn’t a big deal. When we got back to the outpost and Richard and I were unloading the boats, he couldn’t resist making a comment about my ass; I was shocked and dropped the 230-lb. boat on my head. Parrot came up and grabbed the boat before it broke my neck. That night we played with taser guns, drank Makers and went out for dinner. Then we watched carnage videos in Parrot’s cabin. I was incredibly wiped out from the day so went to bed (by myself, thank you) at a reasonable hour.