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I expected the Bulgan River to be washed out with the high water. I was wrong. Breaking waves filled every rapid (as evidenced by Merida Scully’s acrobatics below), and the rapids led one into the next, non-stop. A few of the harder drops left us chattering like giddy children from the safety of eddies below.
01 merida freestyle
The mood was celebratory at the take-out, where the high Bulgan covered the road and wolf tracks ran through the mud. An aging bridge looked vulnerable in the torrent, so we piled out of the vans and hastily crossed on foot just as a hard rain started to fall. Driving, we scanned for campsites, but nobody was too thrilled about jumping out into the deluge. At an empty white adobe, Pat scurried through the rain to test the front door—open! Within an hour my wet cotton was hanging near the warmth of the stove. The concept of private property is vague and insignificant in this land of nomads. This was a family’s winter home. If we travelers needed it for a night while the owners were up in the high country tending their herds, so be it. We tried to leave the cozy cabin as we found it, ready for the next person in need of shelter.
02 house camp
Pat Phillips and I awoke ill. Nausea, fever, muscle aches, exhaustion; nobody else suffered from this sudden imbalace of bodily humors, wo we figured it was a result of one too many open mouthed surfs on the flooding Bulgan. The following day, we “guides” watched while “clients” Jess Matheson and Pat Welch made a first descent of the upper Turgen. Jess is an instructor at Otter Bar, and the New Zealand Kayak School. Welch, a physicist, started paddling as a kid in the 70s, and has pioneered several rivers near his Oregon home. They enjoyed the clear mountain stream while Phillips and I staggered along the rim back to our sick tents.

03 turgen