Halloween Run : Hance to Horn

Dories at Havasu Falls. | Erin Bragg

In 2012 your standard river crew, 3 dories and 2 rafts, headed down the Big Ditch. On Halloween we ran Hance to Horn. Below is my journal entry from that evening.
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This morning, 9:15am amazing for our crew, we scouted Hance rapid, like boulders thrown into the current all willy nilly. Boulder. Hole. Boulder. Boulder. Hole. I could barely see the run. We all agreed. Set the line up and headed out.
Ryan and my boat, Aldwell, Ends Well., went first.
“If we go over try and stay with the boat, always upstream of the boat.”
“Ok.”
“Hey… I love you baby.”
We crest the horizon line. All does not go well, but it all doesn’t go bad either. We swamp the boat and I can’t tell if we are riding it through or are slowly sinking.
“I need a bucket!”
“Use the hand pump!” It seems as though I’m using a tablespoon to clear 500 gallons of water from the front footwell. “Stop pumping and get ready to high side!” Boom. More rapids, we enter Little Hance.
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Scouting Horn we get to see Captain Cliff and the Polecats run. They launched our same day and we have been ping ponging with them the whole time. One of their three catarafts makes it through cleanly. Major damage to Cliff on river right as he snaps an oar in half slamming into a rock wall. We were surprised to later learn he didn’t break his face.
Again we determine a run and order. Again we run first. Although, the path is less littered with boulders it is more nerve wracking as the just witnessed carnage is fresh in my mind. We get in the dory and pull away from shore slowly waiting for the others to ready as well. “Give me some love” I turn around and we kiss twice. “Think left,” Ryan says between intentional deep breaths. I repeat, “Left, left, left” in my mind as the bile creeps higher in my esophagus. I look down and am surprised how well my life jacket is hiding the pounding in my chest. A few more deep breaths and Ryan turns us into back hauling ferry angle and we’re committed.
We hit our mark perfectly just below the right horn that at this water level is jutting out of the current, but we don’t spin to the left and put the front of the boat downstream like we had talked about. We’re still backwards. “Why aren’t we turning? Why aren’t we turning!?” I think to myself. It seems as though minutes have passed in the 2 second span before Ryan pulls hard on the left oar and we pivot just in time to skirt the left side of the first massive hole. Boom over my head. We charge through the heavy wall of water. Next hole. Same thing. Waves crashing onto the boat but we had made it through missing the dangerous right wall. Success! We scream in joy and immediately make the eddy on the left and look back upstream for the rest of our crew. Larry was next and somehow is making this technical run in a dory look like a Sunday drive as he casually oars down the left side. Next, Dave and Jeremy. They didn’t make the pivot and are hitting the edge of first hole backward! They make it down. All dories are now in the eddy talking at once about their runs and I can just make out that Braden and Karen are entering the rapid. The current is strong and pushes the large boat right into the big hole. I see the black side, never a good sight, but with Karen highsiding they don’t flip. The strength of the water on the oars has flung Braden from the boat and Karen turns around to see he isn’t sitting at the oars. She grabs the oars while yelling “He’s out!” We are all yelling back to her that he is holding on to the boat. She drops the oars, jumps like the illusive boat monkey to the back, and hoists Braden from the river. While she does this the boat nearly misses a fang on the left wall. James and Michelle are the final boat and although they hit the left side of the hole they make it down intact. With all five boats through Horn and in the eddy, customary bag wine and whiskey commence to celebrate our relatively safe passage thus far.
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Dory Name: Aldwell, Ends Well. is named so to commemorate the restoration of the Elwha River in Washington’s Olympic National Park. Lake Adwell was where the river collected behind the Elwha Dam until March 2012 when the entire damn was removed and by April 2012 Lake Adwell was emptied. The lake received it’s name from Thomas Adwell who began constrution on the damn in 1910. As the river begins to flow freely and the lake disappears we could only think… Aldwell, Ends Well.

-Erin Bragg