Our instructors where hovering while we tried to offset the current pushing our legs under the raft, while flowing downstream, and do the mighty heave that would get our chest well into the boat.
The rest of the afternoon was spent flowing sedately down the Yellowstone, and getting increasingly familiar with the packraft and other members of the course.
The September weather was really benign, and packrafting with a group in circumstances like this turned out to be a really sociable activity. Lots of time to drift around and talk to various members of the group. The occasional stretch of rippling water where fairly easy to negotiate and when the sun set we made our camp and built a fire on the beach. Due to land restrictions we were only allowed to camp on public land, which had to be below the high water mark. This was reasonably easy this late in the season.
The second day we bussed up to Gardiner, on the border of Yellowstone National Park, and then got on the Yellowstone River again. Since boating of any kind, execept of course for power boats on Yellowstone Lake, is prohibited in the park we didn't enter it. But upstream from yesterday as it was, this was a different river. At least to inexperienced land lubbers like most of us students.
Going up to Gardiner we stopped the bus along the road, which followed the river the whole time, and walked over to watch some of the major rapids in Yankee Jim canyon, like The Boxcar. Looking down at this foaming maelstrom from the road certainly made it's impression. So this is what we would have to go through before nightfall? All of us students were very carefully not saying anything at all.
On this, the second day, we practised paddling in whitewater and rapids getting increasingly more difficult. I got dunked once, inspite of my spinsterish approach, leaving the more aggressive stunts to the young guns. Some of those got dunked more than once, some just breezed through the whole thing.
The main lesson for me in whitewater this day was: Lean forward and bully your way through. A good addition to this was: Once you've committed yourself to a route, go for it with all you've got. I guess this could be a lesson for life as well. Changes in midstride will usually land you on your ass.
As the afternoon progressed we went deeper into the canyon and the rapids became more and more challenging. After going through some particularly white whitewater, we rested in an eddy. Our instructors then said: Congratulations, you've just run the Yankee Jim.
The third day included more pratice with whitewater. We went down the same stretch of the Yellowstone as the day before, but this day was really different. We knew that we had taken Yankee Jim without casualties yesterday, and that made for a more relaxed day.
Above is shown some practise around a 'hole', which is the washing machine thingy between the instructor and the packraft coming over the rock-induced wave. A hole tends to suck you back, and being under water in a hole can be a dangerous thing. The water is so churned up and filled with air that you get no flotation even with a PFD. If you are unlucky you'll be churned around in this until the river freezes, at which time most people would be dead.
Here I am, tightening the straps before heading into Yankee Jim canyon for the second time. The lesson for day three that stayed in my mind was: Finesse your way down.