2003 Snake River Canoe Race Report
By Marsh Jones
May 7, 2003
Boom, boom, boom, boom
With all homage to Muddy Waters,
the 22nd running of the Snake
River Canoe Classic could be summed up like that. The
water levels were about as low as you'd want to slither your
royalex boat down the river on, but there were still a lot
of aluminum and kevlar boats in use. Ah, the sound of aluminium
(boomers) calling out the location of the next rock garden.
Unlike the past few years, the weather was perfect for a canoe
race: blue skies, light winds, temperature in the high 50s
at the start.
The community of Mora does an incredible job of putting on
the race, beginning with a great pre-race pancake feed at
the Historical Society. One of the most enjoyable parts of
the race is getting there early enough to have breakfast with
the volunteers, learning some of the history of the event,
and trying to understand how in 22 years, they have only lost
one committee member! (I think fun is the word).
So, load the boat on the trailer, collect all the paddles,
jackets, food, drink, drybag, sunscreen, partner, and on to
the bus. Just like a ski race - except paddles aren't as pointy
as ski poles and skis. The 15 minute ride to the start is
a chance to catch up with people you haven't seen since last
year or ski season, and a chance to let a newcomer ask questions
from the more experienced.
Queue up in the registration line to register since I forgot
to send in the form. Wait for the trailer to arrive with the
boat. Unload a couple of boomers to get to mine. Adjust the
footbrace since Kelly and I haven't been in the boat together
since sometime last season and the last person in the stern
is a lot taller than she is. Get everything stowed and secured.
Say hi to all the people you haven't seen in days/weeks/months.
Wander over to the bridge to watch the first boats go off.
Note that the first wave contains the frequent aluminum overall
winners Luke Olen and Ryan Piescher, a couple of very strong
young 'locals'. See that the second wave is made up almost
entirely of seasoned canoe racers and skiers - Fred and Mickie
Rayman, Doug Berg and Keith Canny, Duane and Norm Strike,
Mark and Susie Newman. Maybe the reign of Luke and Ryan is
about to end
[this turned out to be the closest fight
of the day, with Keith & Doug beating off a strong challenge
by the Raymans by less than 30 seconds]
As always, the chaos of launching is more fun than the activity
at the start. Mora is a great race for new paddlers, occasional
paddlers, and just about everyone else. The difference in
abilities, shapes and ages, plus the low water levels makes
for real fun getting in to the boat and getting it pointed
down the river. An extra added attraction is that the first
rock is about two boat lengths beyond the bridge, and placed
perfectly to snag at least one boat. The second rock is strategically
placed to get the paddlers who think they were smart enough
to miss the first!
After the first couple of waves of 6, it's time to wander
back up and put our boat in the water. Most of the pro and
open racers have found a spot on the bank a little further
up that allows you to get in with dry feet, and stay out of
the chaos a little longer. We go out and paddle a little,
check the trim, and try to line up to get the rope we think
we want when it gets to be our turn.
One minute to go. Start my watch, decide which side to paddle
away on. Slide to the start rope. Kelly grabs on, and then
we're off. Steve and Emily Peterson, Rick Lorenzen and Tom
Gardner, and Kelly Rood and I take off more or less together.
We just miss grazing a rock, and miss catching the first wave
from Rick and Steve. We stay within a boat length for the
first 10 minutes, and then gradually lose a little ground
as we started through the rock gardens. About 15 minutes into
the race, we hear Al Rudquist's voice first quietly, and then
getting quickly louder as Al and Jason Larson shoot past.
This is Al's water - shallow, tough, and impossible for mere
mortals to go fast. A couple of minutes later, Todd Ellison
and Joe Manns, Kjell Peterson and Jim Larson, Chuck Ryan and
Scott Ankeny, and then Brett and Devan Arenz move past as
well. We ride each boat for a few strokes, but they are somewhat
faster and we have to let them go. All the way down the course
the earlier starts act as milestones to be passed as we push
down the river. Most are easily passed with a cheerful 'hi',
with a few showing where the tough rocks are.
Boy are there a lot of rocks in the river this year. I started
to speculate that the race committee imported a few extra
to spice things up. We waited our turn on several rapids and
followed the least noisy aluminum boats thru the slicks. We're
running pretty quietly - no yelling, no arguing, just an occasional
'HUT!, DRAW HARD' to dodge a rock. We did pinball down one
stretch - went the wrong way at the first rock, and then there
were 10 more to bounce off on the way down.
Just past the Hwy 65 bridge, Dave Dahl and Brett Thunstrom
caught us and slipped a little ahead as we got stuck behind
yet another boomer on a rock. Try as we might, we couldn't
quite reel them back in as we went from shallow suck water
stretch to rock garden and back again. A few more turns, and
there was the last bridge. Only one more rock garden and I
could hear the PA announcer, and a final sprint to the finish.
All in all, a fine race. Kelly and I were both pleased with
our 2nd in class and 11th overall finish. The Mora community
does a great job of putting together this race, feeding the
paddlers, and ensuring that everyone has a good time. The
Snake is really the first race on the calendar for most of
us, and is always a challenge. Until next year
About the author...
Marsh Jones is a 'forty-something, multi-sport,
weekend warrior' to use his description. His best finish
last year was 25th at the Chippewa Triathlon. In addition
to skiing and canoeing, Marsh generally gets involved
in whatever sports his 11&13 year olds are doing (currently
lacrosse). Marsh races for Ketter
Canoeing and ActiveElite.