In our own backyard.... 'After travelling through the rapids... I don't wonder why you love boating'

BOGART: "How'd you like it?" HEPBURN: "Like it??" BOGART: "Whitewater rapids!" HEPBURN: "I never dreamed..." BOGART: "I don't blame you for being scared - not one bit. Nobody with good sense ain't scared of whitewater." HEPBURN: "...I never dream...

BOGART: "How'd you like it?"

HEPBURN: "Like it??"

BOGART: "Whitewater rapids!"

HEPBURN: "I never dreamed..."

BOGART: "I don't blame you for being scared - not one bit. Nobody with good sense ain't scared of whitewater."


HEPBURN: "...I never dreamed that any mere physical experience could be so stimulating!"

- From "The African Queen"

While Ken and I have certainly never fancied ourselves in the roles of Bogie and Hepburn, I have to admit that I have a newfound respect for just what it was they were talking about....

A couple of weeks ago, we, along with some friends of ours, were looking for something exciting to do on the Fourth of July holiday. When someone suggested canoeing, I bravely piped up and cried, "Why not go kayaking down the Brule instead?"

Before I knew what hit me, the other couple had agreed to it and the plans were made.

Though we'd never been down Wisconsin's picturesque Brule River, we'd always wanted to, and after all, we'd kayaked out to the Shoup Glacier a couple of times in Alaska, so I figured it should be no big deal.

"This should be a cinch!" I thought to myself.

When we arrived at the kayak rental shop on the morning of July Fourth, my heart dropped into my shoes as I read the required "Release of Liability" we had to sign before heading out on the river.


"The risk of injury from the activities involved in this program is significant," the form stated, "including the potential for permanent paralysis and death. And while particular skills, equipment and personal discipline may reduce this risk, the risk of serious injury does exist...."

Well, now.

"Any tips?" I meekly asked the man behind the counter.

"Stay upright," he responded.

And so, it was with some misgivings that we allowed ourselves to be shuttled to our departure point on the river. It was a beautiful day, however, and the water seemed calm and benign as we launched our kayaks out into the lazy current.

Ken and I had always paddled a double kayak before, so the small single ones we now piloted on our own took a little getting used to.

The four of us were chatting glibly as we arrived at the first stretch of whitewater as it spilled over a generous set of large, underwater boulders.

Our friend, Dave, who had kayaked the Brule just the week before, took the lead and handily maneuvered his craft through the rapids and out onto the calm water below.


Next, his wife, Pat, nosed her kayak into the swiftly churning current. She ran into a little trouble navigating the boulders, however, and was trying to right the nose of her kayak into the rapids once again when Ken's kayak came shooting up behind her, forcing him to make an evasive move in order to avoid her.

I, too, had prematurely committed to the rapids without first waiting for the two of them to get through it, and fast on Ken's tail, I found myself ramming right into the back end of his kayak!

As luck would have it, he was right over a rather large crop of rocks at the time, and the bow of my kayak rode up on the stern of his, pinning it down amongst the boulders below!

All the while, the powerful current of the river was pummeling our kayaks and threatening to capsize us at any moment.

Help came in the form of a nice young man who happened to be fly fishing from the bank at that very point on the river.

"Do you suppose you could grab my kayak?" I yelled.

Since the Brule is very shallow, he accommodatingly waded out and grabbed the bow of my kayak.

What happened next remains a mere blur in my mind, but Ken recalled it afterwards in disconcerting detail.


It seems that when the fisherman grabbed my kayak and began to tow it to shore, that released the back end of Ken's kayak from where it was wedged between the rocks, freeing it and causing it to shoot out sideways into the rapids.

The current hit it with such mighty force that it began to tip and Ken was catapulted out into the water. At that point, he said he knew there were two things he had to do - hang on to his kayak and hang on to his paddle. And as he struggled to get a foothold on the slippery rocks in the middle of the rushing river, he cast a desperate look over toward shore, only to see the young man carefully towing my kayak to shore. And then, as Ken floundered in the middle of the raging river like a hooked walleye, he said couldn't believe his ears at what he heard next....

Coolly attempting to act as though I was accustomed to this sort of thing (a la Katherine Hepburn), I turned to the nice young man who'd rescued me and asked pleasantly, "How's fishing?"

Pine Journal Publisher Wendy Johnson can be contacted at: .

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