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"Shorts, Outtakes and Rants"

The Sewer Pipe


Crystal smiled. "So what's the deal with today? You said we were going to do some whitewater, but none of the streams I've seen look like they have much water in them."

"It happens," Randy said obliquely. "Around here, whitewater is pretty much a spring thing, but there is one exception that Joe and Rod have come up with."

"This is the Joe and Rod we were going to meet at Agawa Bay, and they never showed, right?" she asked.

"Yeah," Randy replied. "They took a look at the weather forecast and decided it wasn't worth the trip. We had some nice surf, though."

"It was pretty good," Crystal said. "I think we had better at AuTrain a couple weeks before, though."

"Yeah, but it was worth the trip," he grinned.

"Yes, it was," she smiled. "We're going to have to do something like that again some time."

"Should be easier," Randy said. "There are a lot of ski lodges around, and we won't have to work around the whitewater group."

"There is that," she smiled. "You're going to have to cook up something for Myleigh first, though."

"Shouldn't be hard," Randy said. "I'll come up with a concert somewhere. It's probably going to have to wait till after Christmas now, though."

"Yeah, we don't have enough time till the semester breaks. This year is just flying by."

"Well, here we are," Randy said, pulling into Joe's driveway, and parking alongside Rod's pickup truck. There were already two whitewater kayaks in the back. "Joe said you could use his Acrobat, unless you want to look around and try something else. We'll have to find you a spray skirt that fits, too. By the way, have I mentioned that I like the way you look in a skirt that doesn't fasten to a cockpit rim?"

"Yes, you have," she smiled. "The problem is that you looked like you wanted to take it off me."

"That's how it's supposed to look, isn't it?" he laughed as he opened the door and began to untie the yellow Mongoose from the top of the car.

In a few minutes, they were in the back seat of Rod's quad-cab pickup truck, heading out north of town, with four whitewater kayaks in the back. Joe half-turned in the right seat to talk to the two in back. "Crystal, Randy tells me that you were the one that taught him to roll," he said. "You did a good job."

"It took him a while to get the hang of it," she said. She'd taken an instant liking to the two older men. "But he's pulled ahead of me, now, and he says you're the one to blame, especially for that cigarette roll he pulled on me out of nowhere down on the Ocoee."

"That was kind of an eyeopener, I take it?" he grinned.

"Yeah, he got awful good pretty quickly," she said. "I wasn't expecting it. Showoff."

"After yesterday, you should talk," Randy laughed.

"We don't have that many whitewater nuts in this town," Joe grinned. "Bringing him along means that we get someone else to drive shuttle, so we all get half again as many runs in. He tells me you run rafts on the Ocoee in the summer."

"Three years, now," Crystal said. "I guess I'm going back next summer, too."

"We didn't make it down to the Ocoee this year," Joe said. "We did make a quickie down to the New, but that was about all we could manage. My wife insisted on a trip somewhere that didn't involve boats, so we wound up going to Europe. That put a little crimp in the summer."

They talked about whitewater while Rod drove on up the state road, turned off on 919, and then up a two-rut through the woods well past the bridge over the Little Spearfish River. A couple miles up the rutted road, he stopped, while Joe unlocked a gate. "Guess we'd better lock it behind us," he said. "Deer season, and we might get someone wandering around the woods and not notice them. We don't want to lock them in when we leave."

"Where are we going, anyway?" Crystal asked.

"A special little playhole," Joe said. "We call it the Sewer Pipe. It's what happens when you get a couple guys with big ideas and not enough whitewater in the summer."

The pickup wound down a hill, and came to a stop at a pair of dams that backed up a small pond. The upper one held back a pond of about ten acres, but the lower pond was only about the size of a medium sized swimming pool. A trickle of water was coming over the spillway. Below the dam, the trickle of water filled some small pools in a shallow but steeply sloping gorge that led out of sight down the hill.

"This would be an interesting looking creek run," she said, "If there were actually water flowing through it."

"You're getting the picture," Joe said as he and Rod piled out of the front. "Rod, why don't you take the lower hole for the first run? Randy, you take the middle, and I'll take the upper so I can talk Crystal through her part."

"Sounds good to me," Rod said, as he and Randy pulled boats out of the back of the pickup.

"Crystal," Joe continued, "You're going to be the operator for the first run so you can see what's happening."

"I get it," she said, things dawning on her all of a sudden. "You guys have your own, private artificial whitewater course!"

"Like I said," Joe grinned. "You see what happens when a couple guys get big ideas. We've got enough water today to do about a dozen runs. Each run lasts about two minutes. We can dump it more quickly and jack the holes up to Class IV, but that only lasts about a minute. Or, we can neck it down, and get about five minutes of Class II. The setting we've got seems to work about the best."

"This is really something," she grinned, eyes wide, as she watched Rod and Randy carry boats down a wide, graded path alongside the tiny canyon.

"We're sort of proud of it," Joe replied, leading her over to a small box on the top of the lower dam, and unlocking it. "We don't let everybody know about it, for obvious reasons. You're probably only about the fifth person we've let in on it." He took a padlock out of a lever arm, and stuck an extension on the end. "When we get set, we'll all call ready, and you yank this lever. It pulls hard. It won't snap over on you when it releases, but it'll go slack, so it'll seem like it snaps over. After the holding pond runs down, I'll show you how to reset it, and we'll talk for a minute while the pond refills. Guess I'd better go see that the fill valve is closed, then I'll get in my boat."

In a few minutes, Joe sat in his boat on dry ground just below the lower dam. "You guys ready down there?" Joe called to Randy, sitting in the Mongoose, down where the stream made a turn to the left.

Randy called down to Rod, who was near the bottom of the run, and called back, "Let 'er go!"

"OK, Crystal," Joe grinned. "Whenever you're ready!"

She gave the lever a hard yank, and yes, it did pull hard, but released all of a sudden. Instantly, there was a rumbling under her feet. She glanced over the dam, to see a stream of water a couple feet across spilling out of a pipe at the bottom of the dam. In a few seconds, the pool at the bottom of the dam was full and there was a nice surfing wave right at Joe's feet; he made a seal launch into it, and immediately did an ender and a nice pirouette. Seconds later, she saw a second wave down by Randy, and he launched into it, too, giving a yell of delight. She glanced at the lower pond; it was emptying rapidly. Sure enough, in a couple minutes, there was a sucking sound from the spillpipe, and the flow of water began to slacken. She watched Joe catch a final surf off the nice wave that died out underneath him, leaving the boat aground in the middle of the stream bed as the water flow fell off rapidly.

Joe popped his spray skirt, stood up, and put the boat up on the bank. "God, that is neat," Crystal told him.

"We're sort of proud of it, like I said," Joe grinned as he came up the now nearly dry riverbed. At the base of the dam, there was a square of planks, a couple feet across, hinged to the base of the dam. He picked it up, and told her to close the lever she'd opened earlier. "Push hard," he told her. "We need a tight seal."

Joe glanced down to see Rod coming up the path, carrying his boat, with Randy walking alongside. He hiked up to a large valve on the upper dam, and made several turns of the wheel to open it. "There, it'll take about ten minutes to fill."

"How did you guys come up with this, anyway?" Crystal asked as Joe climbed a set of steps leading out of the little gorge.

"Long story. There's quite a bit of jackleg engineering that went into it. There used to be an old dam here, went back to sawmill days, I guess. Back years ago, Rod and I were going over topos, and noticed the drop here, and figured it would make a nice, quick run. Well, we were right, but there was only a few days each spring when the water was high enough to run it, and so we didn't come out here much. Then, one morning Rod and I were having coffee with Randy's dad, and he happened to mention that the DNR was leaning on him to either repair the dam or take it out, and that gave us an idea."

"Whitewater gets kind of flat around here in the summer," Rod explained. "I'd had the kids down to an amusement park down south, and they had one of those raft thrill rides, and we'd thought about building something like that. The problem with that is it takes a hell of a big pump to make it work, and that meant a lot of power. By the time you get done with everything, it got sort of expensive, so we never did anything about it."

"I still think it'd be a good idea, but not for us," Joe continued. "In the right place, someone could make some money with something like that, but frankly, neither of us wanted to go to the trouble of having to run it commercially."

"It'd be a pain in the butt, and there's not enough people around here that would use it," Rod agreed.

Joe nodded. "Well, anyway, we cooked up a deal with Randy's dad to sell us forty acres here. He just about gave it to us, considering what it would cost to redo the dam. To make a long story short, Joe borrowed some equipment, and we rebuilt the dam, mostly in late summer at low water. Rod came up with this big old gate valve, and we put it into the bottom of the dam. That's the fill valve."

"We tried running right off the fill valve," Rod expanded. "But we misfigured a couple places. It turned out that we needed more water than we thought, and we knew the valve was on the small side. The best we could get out of it was maybe a Class II. On top of that, the valve is hard to close when there's pressure against it, so we lost a lot of water. We played with it for a couple of years, kicking around ideas, and then came up with the idea of the second dam. That gives us a lot better control and conserves the water better. In the spring, there's enough flow to fill the storage pond overnight, but in late summer, it can take a week. But, it's better than nothing."

"You know what this makes me think of?" Crystal grinned. "A couple of kids playing around in a mud puddle, on a grand scale."

"Yeah, that's it exactly," Joe laughed. "We've played with the course a bit, too. We hauled some truckloads of rock back here, and used a backhoe to do some shaping of the course. There's a fourth playhole downstream, but it's shallow and you can't do vertical moves in it. The water dumps into a big swamp downstream, and we built a control structure there to keep it from flowing out too fast. We wouldn't want some poor bastard to be out fishing in the little stream below the swamp when all of a sudden a couple hundred cusecs starts flash-flooding him."

"Actually, we'd be just as happy if the DNR didn't find out about it," Rod grinned. "That's why we've got the whole area gated, fenced, and posted. I don't know what they'd do to us, and don't really want to find out."

"You guys," Crystal said. "Just like a couple of kids. Why do you call it the 'Sewer Pipe', anyway?"

"Two reasons," Rod laughed. "First, the name sort of keeps people from being curious, like maybe they think that it's downstream of the waste water treatment plant." He glanced at Randy. "Should I?" he asked.

"Go ahead, she's a big girl," Randy grinned.

Rod shook his head and continued, "More important, if you run the whole thing when it's opened up to Grade IV and only stop to play the lower hole till the water runs out, the ride is kind of like a turd being flushed down a toilet."

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