I was surprised to do another Class II rescue so soon after helping to pull a swimmer from the American River behind Louie Kroll's house last weekend. Tom Senters and his son Kellby, Kevin Herman, Mark Corey, and I headed down the Class II section of the Upper Klamath after lunch on Saturday. It was a perfect clear afternoon, but it was not hot by any means. The air temperature was in the high 70s and the water was in the low 60s. Of course we were properly suited up, but a few miles down river I saw someone waving at me from the side of the river at a sweeping left turn. I was confused at first to think a fisherman or gold panner was waving me over, but it turned out to be a teenage couple standing waist deep in the reeds and shivering uncontrollably. They had lost their plastic kayaks but were ok thanks to their PFD's. They asked me to ferry them across the river and I jokingly asked them "how much money do you have?" I burst out laughing when they took me seriously, promising to pay me when they got back to their truck. I put them at ease and then loaded them into my IK and paddled them across. On the other side, Kevin loaned Destiny a paddle jacket and I loaned her a poly pro top, and we headed down river with Destiny in my boat, and Kevin took her boyfriend, who had just completed Marine basic training. I guess they didn't cover whitewater in basic.
A few hundred yards down river Kevin and I met up with the rest of our paddlers, who were talking to a rancher and two guides from Noah's rafting company. The two with us were part of a total of six teenagers from Woodland, and one of them had a grandmother who lives near the Class II takeout and provided the impetus for the trip. I think the rancher had been watching the kids going down river because he had already raised the alarm with the local ranger, who had called 911. He took the kids with him after they returned our clothing. The guys spotted their upside down kayak on a gravel bar across the river and I decided to try to recover it. Luckily it came free easily and at the base of a wave train I pushed it into a big eddy and we dumped the water out and Kellby left his Dad in the double IK and off we went. After about a mile we came upon the rest of the kids with the other kayak and four tubes washed up on an island. They were trying to summon the courage for a risky swim across some swift current to get to shore. We took over the situation and waded them across a much safer spot and then along the shoreline to a path up to the road. The Noah's guides took it from there and helped them get back to their vehicles. Jose Lara was wondering what had taken us so long when we arrived at the takeout about 30 minutes late, but it was well worth it to help those kids get to safety and warmth.
- Jeff Ansley