Thursday, April 9, 2015

H is for Hole

There is that old saying - "Nature abhors a vacuum.." or at least I think it is an old saying and that it goes like that. In any event, it fits water in a river and water in a river is where River and Ranch gets started.

Amongst other things you'll find in River and Ranch, Cale is a river guide. A whitewater rafting guide to be more descriptive. On the Salmon River. In Idaho. Awesome place, I've been there myself for two of the better summers of my life. If you have your summers off and are looking for a job that pays you badly to play, under the guise of fairly hard work at all hours under bad conditions, river rafting is a job you should look at. Heat, cold, risk of death, immense responsibility for keeping innocent people alive, wet, dry, even snow in the early season. This is a job that has all the hazards, right down to rattlesnake bites and food poisoning. Odds are you will love every single minute of it. I did. I wish I could go back.

Whiplash is one of those one of the job hazards that both fictional and real river guides encounter on the Main Salmon, but only under the right conditions. For Whiplash, that condition is a fairly high water level, typically found only in spring runoff of a good snow year.

Think of a hole literally. It is a hole in the water. The kicker is that the hole is created by a rock just upstream from it. The rock forces the water to split around it, or to go over it. The hole is behind the rock where the water would be if the rock were not there. As soon as the water is around or over the rock it then "falls" back down or "moves over" and reoccupies the "blank" (aka vacuum) space behind the rock. The water moving back into that space is directional, it has a current and it can be very very strong. Strong like hold you down and keep you there for awhile strong. End your life strong. Keep your boat strong. Thankfully, water is dynamic. It pulses, ebbs, and flows, so the current making the hole is not a strong steady thing, which is one of the things that enable an escape if you are caught in a hole. Also, there is still a current moving out of the hole as there is always "new" water coming back together behind that rock. The "old" water has to make way for the "new" water. This current generally is at the very bottom. So if you are caught, one way to get out is to go down and find that bottom current. Hopefully it's there and you find it in time.

Holes are part of running a river. Unless a new rock falls in and makes a new obstacle (e.g. Cramer Creek on the Main in ~2011), the hole tends to be the same and become a well known entity. So if a guide has run the river more than once, they tend to remember each rapid and each hole and the sequence of moves to go through so as to maximize the enjoyment of the whitewater and minimize the risky part of the whitewater.

So next time there's a big runoff event on the Main, watch for mile 89. That's where Whiplash lives.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know vacuums were created by holes because of rocks. That's very interesting.

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