Date: 5/2/09. Vermillion River Gauge 5.25. Air Temp 65 and sunny. Dan, Kent and Cole.
Due to the recent rains, the initial plan was to hit the Shorewood rapids but as Dan and Kent sat around the smoker (practice run for the big rib cook-off Memorial Day weekend), the topic of rafting the Vermillion came up. A phone call or 2 and Dan and Kent and their sons were set to hit the rapids. One problem, though. What sounded like a good idea to Steven at 4:00 Saturday afternoon didn't sound so good at 7:00 AM Sunday. Despite his dad's "You can sleep anytime" advice, Steven passed on this most excellent adventure. He will learn on his own that life is short and you need to do as much living as possible when you have the opportunity.
The weather was great: a slight breeze and sunny skies. A perfect day for a float....oh yeah, we were rafting the rapids, not floatin' the Dupe. More than once the sub 50 degree water smacked us upside the head and took our breath's away. Not to mention the effect the frigid water had on the nether regions. All men are aware of the cold water, scared turtle, shrinkage syndrome. I wish I had only experienced shrinkage, at one point I swear I had a mangina!! Thankfully the warm sun and breeze eliminated this in short order and all in all we we all very comfortable.
Although not the Colorado nor even the Smoky Mountains (my only previous rafting experience), the Vermillion has some nice water action and is only 1.5 hours away. Many of the rapids were comparable to Seven Bridges or down town Naperville as far as the river action was concerned, but the length of the action was much longer than the 2 local spots. What really makes this trip is the Wildcat and the Narrows sections. These are described as legitimate class 3 rapids (on a 6 point scale). I would not take my recreational kayak on these sections.
As we approached the Wildcat (not sure we were aware that we were approaching the Wildcat) the 3 of us debated if we should go to the left or the right of the big boulder. I suggested left and Kent and Cole seemed to agree. As the raft plunged 90 degrees into the hole and Kent came flying forward off the back of the raft, we all realized that we were indeed at the Wildcat and that we had done the exact opposite of the recommended route, which was to stay to the right. I am not quite sure how we got out of the hole but when we did the boat was filled half way with water and Asian carp were jumping all around the raft. It was quite a sensory overload all within a few seconds. The going over the side of cliff feeling followed by the water closing in around you followed by these crazy 30 inch fish nearly jumping into the raft. We pulled off to the side to empty the raft and our bladders, as well as to have as snack break. As we relaxed we looked back upon the Wildcat and relived the 10 second adrenaline rush that we had just experienced.
While the Wildcat may have been more wild, it was a very short experience. The Narrows consisted of 10 to 12 "waves" that provided a much more prolonged ride. At one point I found myself thrown onto my knees on the floor of the raft with my head between Cole's knees, dangerously close to "little" Cole, if you know what I mean! Again, the water rushed in and the boat was filled with water. As we regained our seats, the Asian carp again started jumping. One came right at Cole which inspired him to stand up and scream like a little school girl. At about the same time one jumped right at the boat and I had to deflect it with the back of my hand to keep it out of the raft. Another thrilling experience that I can not believe is so close to home.
We wrapped up this excellent little adventure with a trip to the Cajun connection for a nice lunch served by Captain Ron, who is quite a character. "Ever been to a restaurant?" he asked. "Yes" we replied...."No you haven't!!" he exclaimed with glee. I am sure we will make this trip again and a stop at the Cajun Connection will be part of the plans.