Lehigh River Upper Gorge Experience – Part IILehigh River Upper Gorge體驗 — 第二話

Part II: the No Way rapid

Another famous or infamous rapid is called “No Way.” There is no way not to talk about “No Way” when people mention the upper gorge. The name suits the rapid: not only because there is no way you can remain dry, but also the deployed boulders in this rapid make it seem like there is no way through. Sometimes after passing through this section, we had to scan the river carefully to look for derelict paddles because plenty of people swam in this section for various reasons. You cannot wing it even if you want to, because No Way is the first rapid after the Lunch Rock which is a hard-to-ignore landmark therefore your nerves know exactly when to armor up.

I was alert every time I did No Way, and the route I selected for this time never repeated the previous ones. When a rock appeared, sometimes I wanted to go around from the left, and sometimes I wanted to backward paddle and go to another side of the river so that I could totally avoid the rock. My body had to execute the commands given by my mind in a super fast motion – as if the body and mind were an item – because there was no time for a blink of hesitation, or I would be the next one who needed a rescue.

Every leader reminds their participants to raise their shields when the upcoming rapid is No Way. The funniest thing to me is that the more details the leader describes about the rapid, the more tensed up my muscles are. This season, on one of the dam release weekends, I paddled the upper on both Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, the leader said, “the next rapid is the most difficult rapid in this section, blah blah…” The flowing sound of the river swallowed the leader’s words, and his last piece of reminder was the only thing I could capture, “please keep enough distance between you and your fellow boaters.” I waited, respecting the reminder, and nothing happened to me. I even didn’t know that was No Way until we had to rescue one fellow paddler and that was my first time on the upper this season.

The next day, Sunday, I ran the upper again with a different leader. She spent quite amount of time explaining the safety tips and the potential risks we had to take for No Way. That got me very nervous, my abundant imagination haunted me and I could not tell whether my wet palms were caused by sweat or river water. I drove my boat into the first wave and it looked like a giant. My boat was shaken vigorously, and that trembling force transferred to my muscles and soon shocked my brain. “What am I doing?” “Didn’t you run this section less than 24 hours ago?” I laughed myself, and relaxed. My muscles loosened up, and I drifted down with several maneuvers.

The fifth time I did the upper, a friend I made from the trip, Mitch, approached me while we were having snacks on the lunch rock. He advised me, “If you want to get better, you know what you should do? Try to do eddy hopping in No Way.” Eddy hopping is a useful strategy, especially when you are paddling an unfamiliar waterway in which it happens that you require more time to evaluate and plan a river strategy for the unknown. At times, people have to get out of their boats and walk along the shore and hop on the rocks to scout farther when a horizontal line is the only thing seen. Therefore we need a place to stay to earn the extra time, a place to park to get out of the boats. That’s why we don’t just drift down with the river; we paddle from one eddy to another eddy and to another eddy. That’s called eddy hopping.

In No Way, there are many boulders, therefore, with the right water level, there are many eddies behind them. No Way is an excellent place to practice eddy hopping. “Huh… It’s No Way, do I really want to do that?” I was a bit concerned; tipping over in No Way would not be fun, because it would not be easy to roll in narrow passages while banging on rocks and swimming in a class 3 would definitely not be pleasant. “But… I want to get better,” I couldn’t resist the temptation. I asked Allen, my good paddling friend who is also an aggressive boater, to help guide me through eddies, because I wasn’t that confident on my river reading skills yet.

My goal was to stop at each eddy if possible. I missed a couple, but the whole process was still tiring. Boulders in No Way were usually moderate sized, and most eddies behind them were only big enough to accommodate a couple of boats, and some were even good for only one boat. I typically waited in the current eddy and repeated the whole peel out, eddy turn moves to get in the eddy Allen was in after he left. However, on that day, the river was crowded. Sometimes I had to wait longer, and sometimes I had to choose a different eddy than Allen’s to enter. If the eddy was small, the downstream current could still get my boat. I had to paddle forward to get as close as possible to the boulder in front of me to avoid drifting away.

The most scary and weird experience happened when I peeled out of an eddy while another boater was trying to eddy turn into my eddy. I was already in motion when I saw her, therefore I couldn’t decide whether I needed to back in or finish my action before she entered to avoid a crash. I didn’t stop and she started to scream, “Don’t move. Don’t move!!” Right after that, her boat crashed into my boat, and we both shifted for some distance. I almost bounced out of the eddy in the opposite direction I was heading to, and had to paddle hard to maintain my balance and regain my calm. Allen told me afterwards that in that kind of situation I should have yielded to the ones who were entering. It’s like an unofficial river traffic rule. I guess it makes sense.

I never knew that No Way could be this long. Every time I paddled the Lehigh River, even if the rapid was wilder than I expected, I knew I only had to sustain for a short time. The rapids in Lehigh are never long, and they are always followed by an extended length of calm and smooth section. With eddy hopping, No Way became twice, no, ten times longer than it was. That was my first time in No Way, panting. But I did it. Kayaking, it is so much fun.

To be continued…

第二話:激流「沒法子(No Way)」

Upper gorge另一個著名的,或說是惡名昭彰的激流,叫做「沒法子(No Way)」。這名字恰如其份,形容該激流以絕妙。談upper gorge,沒法子不談沒法子。在這一河段,沒法子保持身子乾燥,河床上此起彼落的石塊,有時候真叫人沒法子找出一條安莊大道。常常,過了這激流之後,就得開始以鷹眼掃瞄河面,留心是否有無主的孤槳,太多人由於不同的失誤,必須脫船游泳,泥菩薩過江,就顧不著他們的槳了。就算你刻意漠視即將穿過「沒法子」的事實,以嘗試降低自我過份緊張的心情,恐怕也是沒法子。因為這激流是過了「午餐石(Lunch Rock)」之後的第一關,你的神經在吃午餐的時候,就早就根根豎立了。


每一個領隊在該激流之前,都會諄諄囑咐其隊員,即將面臨的挑戰和危險。有趣的是,領隊越是強調該激流的奇幻,越是提醒大家該怎麼小心,我就越是緊張,越是不能正常划船。這次的泛舟季,有一個週末,又是水壩洩洪的時候,我連續泛了upper gorge兩天。星期六,領隊這樣說著:「下一個激流是upper gorge中最難的激流…」他的聲音逐漸被洪流的噪音所吞沒,遙遠地只模糊聽到最後的一個指令:「給彼此都多留些距離,不要跟太近了」我乖乖地拉開距離,安全地通過該激流,直到眾人發現有人游泳了,才猛然驚覺「方才遮莫不是過了沒法子?」

第二天,星期天,又泛了upper gorge,這次的領隊不是同一個人。在沒法子之前,他仔仔細細地條列出可能的危險,以及需要注意的安全守則。一邊聽,一邊雞毛疙瘩就一個一個地冒出來,具有無限潛力的想像力,嚇得自己了不得,已經分不出潮潤的手掌心,究竟是汗還是河水。我勉力地向前划去,這浪頭好大呀,像是個孔武有力的巨人,猛烈搖盪著我的滄海孤舟,震動傳過每條肌肉,震攝住我的心。「我在做什麼?不是昨天才開心地泛過同一個區段嗎?」我嘲笑著自己不知道在窮緊張些什麼,才慢慢地放輕鬆,操舟度過激流。

上一次,也是我第五次泛upper gorge,午餐石上,新交的船友Mitch對我說:「如果想要好好琢磨你的船技,機會來了,建議你在『沒法子』裡頭練習eddy躍進(eddy hopping)。」eddy躍進是很有用的技巧,尤其是在不熟悉的河段上。因為不熟悉,常常需要多一些時間,消化河道上的訊息,籌畫下一步的因應。有時候,當舉目所及看到的只是一長條水平線的時候,還得起身沿著河岸,或是踩著河中大石,靠近觀望,免得落入死亡瀑布。需要多一些時間,就需要安靜的水域來停泊小船,打慢節奏,不能夠光順流直下,這也就是eddy躍進的目的。

在沒法子激流中,有很多大石,所以,在適當的水深,眾岩石後頭會出現許多大大小小的eddy,所以,沒法子是練習eddy躍進的最佳地點。「可是…」我嘀咕著「這是沒法子呢,我真的要這樣做嗎?」我反覆思量著,在這段激流中翻船可不是好玩的,先別說在狹窄的通道中,做出一個漂亮的eskimo roll是多麼的不容易,如果需要游泳,這難度級數有三的激流,以及到處碰撞岩石的可能,可不是好相與的。「可是…我想要變強啊」升級的渴望克服了恐懼。由於我對自己的讀河能力還不是那麼地有信心,我奔向Allen—他是一個相當積極的獨木舟手,也是我相當好的船友—要求Allen在這段激流中,領導我在eddy中遊走。

我的目標是在每一個eddy都要做短暫的勾留,最後,還是錯過了一些,而整個躍進的過程累到不行。沒法子中的大石,足夠造成eddy,不過空間最多僅供兩三條小船停泊,有時候,容納一條小船都顯得勉強。基本上,我跟著Allen,等他從他的eddy離開後,我再從我停泊的eddy,使用標準peel out、以及eddy turn的程序,進入他的eddy。當天,河流擁擠地不得了,有好多的隊伍在同一時刻度過該區段,有時候,我必須等候好長一陣子,有時候則不一定有辦法跟隨Allen的腳步,得另闢蹊徑。在小到不行的eddy中,往下流湧去的河水還是可以拉扯到我的船,必須隨時向大石緊靠過去,取得多一些安寧,免得漂流而去。

最恐怖詭異的經驗,發生在我與另一條獨木舟的正面衝突。當時我正要划出一個eddy,船頭已經過了eddy line了,抬頭一望,上游衝過來另一艘船,很明顯地瞄準我所在的eddy。我沒法子決定,究竟是要倒車回去,還是加速猛衝,免得正面衝突。遲疑間我反而減緩了我的速度,他尖叫著迎頭衝過來:「你別動,別動啊!」說時遲那時快,他的船撞上我的船,各各彈開。因為這作用力的緣故,我的移動方向轉了一百八十度,簡直就要從後頭彈出該eddy了。趕緊用力地向前划槳,勉力地抓住平衡,才鬆了一口氣。之後,Allen告訴我說,在那樣的情況下,進入eddy的船擁有優先權。我仔細地思考著,這條不成文的河面交通規則,嗯,是有其道理。

從來不知道穿過「沒法子」可以花這麼久的時間。每次在Lehigh River泛獨木舟,就算浪頭再大,水流再猛,我都可以告訴自己:「撐一下,馬上就風平浪靜了。」Lehigh River中的激流,沒有一個是真的永無止境的,短暫的船河交鋒之後,很快地就會進入平靜無波的區域。但是這eddy躍進,讓沒法子變得像是兩倍,喔,十倍一樣的長。這也是我第一次氣喘連連地闖過沒法子。不過,我做到了,沒有游泳。而激流泛獨木舟也愈來愈有趣了。


1 thought on “<lang_en>Lehigh River Upper Gorge Experience – Part II</lang_en><lang_zh>Lehigh River Upper Gorge體驗 — 第二話</lang_zh>”

  1. 哇,看得好緊張刺激!期待你的續文!

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