Flat Creek: The Drunken Review.
July 26, 2016
Growing up on Flat Creek, my childhood home was at 818 C in Creekside Village and our unit directly faced the creek. Josie’s Ridge was a stone’s throw away.
I could fill a book with all the dangerous exploits the neighborhood kids and I got into, but floating Flat Creek in a tube was the pinnacle of summer adventuring. There were those days, though rare, where we accidentally floated all the way onto the Lockhart Ranch property and had to crawl our way through muck, willows, and barbed wire trying to figure out how to get home.
It’s been 10 years since I floated Flat Creek. The last time I ventured onto such waters I was a senior in high school. Now this isn’t because I felt like it wasn’t fun anymore; I had just graduated onto bigger rivers. Last week, however, following a Snake River float from South Park to Astoria with my friend Josh Griffith, I received a text from Chris Kirkpatrick. He wondered if I was interested in a 5:30 p.m. Flat Creek float.
“I just got off the river. So yes,” I texted back.
Now, I in no way condone intoxicated river sports. It adds an additional level of risk that can be incredibly dangerous. However, I trusted the people I was with, and figured my vast experience with Flat Creek over the years would prepare me for any disasters that lay ahead. I mean, it’s just Flat Creek, right?
We put in near Inn on the Creek in the north part of town and planned on taking out somewhere near Smith’s. As we entered our tubes and began the float, we passed under some large willow trees. The sunlight broke through the leaves. The water was calm. I was buzzed. It was absolute paradise.
“I should do this more often!” I yelled to my friends.
Then horror struck as we reached the first bridge. I flattened myself out as much as I could and cleared the bridge by a mere two inches. I was about to declare how terrifying that was but there was no time for observations. As a kid, I always thought Flat Creek was super crazy and fast, but as an adult I figured it would be an easy town float. Not the case, folks.
There was not a single moment of relaxation. New obstacles introduced themselves with every twist and bend of the creek. Right when I thought things might quiet down for a second, a massive rock would smash into my butt, spinning me around and steering me directly into an overgrown patch of willow branches. I was already in so much pain and still the creek carried me further down its torture chamber of terror.
One moment of familiarity hit when we neared the “new” post office and Creekside Village. The creek forks into two paths, one of which leads into the willows while the other takes a safer, albeit shallow route along the bike path. Chris’s tube started veering into the willows.
“No, no! This way sucks!” I yelled. But I realized the current was pushing me in the same direction and it was too late to paddle myself out.
The willows encroached on us like a forest from a Tim Burton movie, and plenty of the standard Flat Creek foam was gathering in the nooks and crannies of the willow thicket. We tried to maneuver our way, paddling quickly and using our feet as battering rams to steer us from the spiky edges of the creek. Finally, the side channel spat us out and we were back on the main creek, right by my old house.
When we took out, I was exhausted. Flat Creek made my earlier Snake River float look childish in comparison. Soaking wet, mosquito-bitten, and sporting plenty of scratches and bruises for the road, I was surprised at how badly I got my ass kicked. Chris and I agreed that we used to be much better at floating Flat Creek when we were younger.
“Aw, man,” Chris said. “I should’ve brought my phone. I could have caught so many Pokémon out here.”
Apparently some things never change.
(Originally published in Planet JH)