Quaalude Falls

A River Story

In 1977 I was working for Southeastern Expeditions as a raft guide on Section IV of the Chattooga River.  I’ve never been one to let management lead an easy life and as a raft guide I punished the trip leaders, claiming that their job entailed making two decisions: 1) where to eat lunch (which would be Ravens Rock-every day) and 2) when (which would be when we got there).  So finally they said ‘OK then-YOU be trip leader’.  No big deal.

The Saturday trip started OK, but things went downhill rapidly.  My entire crew was loopy and untrainable.  Before we got to Woodall Shoals several people had fallen out of my raft in the tiniest of rapids.  A girl took her bikini top off to drape herself across the raft tube and sunbathe.  In distant retrospect I realize she must have also had her life jacket off and there’s a rule against that.

The guides all compared notes at Woodall Shoals.  Just about everyone had lost people out of their rafts.  Some investigation revealed that about 25 out of 30 customers on the trip were from Geralds’s singles bar in Atlanta and they had all dropped Quaaludes before the trip.

If you haven’t heard of Quaaludes before, they were a recreational drug of the 70’s. US manufacturer stopped in the 80’s due to universal abuse and the lack of a legitimate medical purpose for them.  Classified as a hypnotic, like most recreational drugs of the era they pretty much just made you stupid.

So there was a decision to be made and it wasn’t about lunch.  There is a road out at Woodall Shoals, blocked off about a half mile from the river.  Since this was the pre-cellphone era, a guide would have to run out several miles, and organize vehicles to pick us up.  We would have to haul all the gear up to the road block and it didn’t look like our luders would be a lot of help with that.

So I decided to head down the river with them.  We eventually realized that we couldn’t let the luders sit on the side of the raft and started just piling them in the bottom.  Arguments ensued: ‘You’ve got four straight people in your raft and I don’t have any; fork one over’.  So the straight customers got distributed among the luder rafts so we could negotiate the river.  I imagine it wasn’t what they anticipated for the day.  I’d love to hear their telling of the trip.

When we got to five falls we stuck with conveying the luders in the bottom of the raft as it didn’t look like they could safely walk down the banks.  We would double up the straights and have them hike back up to run each rapid two or three times. Complaints like ‘I have to run Corkscrew again?’ were heard.  We finally made it past the last significant rapid, Shoulder Bone, and most guides thought they could let their luders sit up on the tubes of the raft again in preparation for trying to whip them across the lake.

In the last trivial rapid before the lake, pretty much all of the luders fell out of the rafts into the river.  They just kind of oozed out and bobbed on down to the lake where the guides had to find and retrieve theirs.  We didn’t drown any, but I’m not sure we were guaranteed it would turn out that way.

So there you go.  Just in case you were curious how that last little non-rapid on Section IV was named Quaalude Falls.  To date, I have not since forayed into management.  I feel like something bad would be bound to happen.


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