The morning dawns graybird but at least it’s not raining. We struggle into our drysuits and spend several hours loading the rafts with hundreds of pounds of river gear: stove, portable toilet, roll-up table, two coolers of food, 140 beers, two boxes of wine, and a handle of liquor per person. We make it just a few miles, struggling to pinball the thousand-pound rafts through bedrock chasms left narrow by low water. They are so tight that we slam repeatedly against the canyon walls, sending Griffin and Drew scrambling for safety over the piles of gear. I occasionally have to pull my oars alongside to avoid breaking them, meaning I can only point us in the right direction, make short thrusts, and brace for impact. Three hours later, we make camp at a small, snow-covered beach below Big Soldier. We should be able to start skinning right from here tomorrow morning. For this group, it’s cause enough for celebration.
“Let’s eat Drew’s Adderall,” says Jeremy.
“He quit that stuff,” says Griffin. “It was holding him back.” Moments later, Drew bounds up wearing an orange nylon tracksuit. “Who wants to do a bootie?” he asks. Drew has instituted a whitewater tradition: Make a potentially dangerous mistake, like having to abandon a raft midrapid, and you’re penalized with chugging a beer from a neoprene river shoe. Drew has modified it to include any error. Yesterday, he drank a bootie beer for “bringing us all on this screwed-up trip to begin with.” Today, he’s going to drink for letting his CamelBak bladder completely drain onto the camera gear inside his pack. He dumps liberal and simultaneous pours of whiskey and tequila—a “twiskey”—into the shell of his ski boot and quaffs it down.
Somehow, while prepping dinner, the topic of Drew’s pet badger arises. Apparently Drew had one during high school. He named it Digger and taught it to eat popcorn while lying on its back in front of the television and to open the family’s refrigerator. This is getting ridiculous. “You did not have a pet badger,” I say. I look at Griffin, who shrugs and says, “Wouldn’t it be weirder if he hadn’t?”