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Off-Road Adventures

River Rising

A truck camper can go anywhere a truck can go.  That said, there are some places a truck should not go.  This is what happens to a truck camper when a river runs through it.

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Tom Hanagan, President of Four Wheel Campers, recently emailed us a link to a story that we almost couldn’t believe.

The underwater camper belongs to Gary Handsher.  Once we saw the story, we immediately contacted Gary to find out exactly how this happened, and how he and the truck camper are doing now.

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TCM: Tell us about your river adventure.

Gary: On January 1st, 2009 I was parked on the gravel bar near the main channel of the Smith River in Oregon.  It was a nice sunny day and I fished the bulk of the day.  At about four o’clock it started getting dark, so I pulled-up next to the river near the bank.  It was ten feet from high ground on the gravel bar, about 300 yards from the main channel.

That night I had dinner and went to sleep at 9 PM.  At 4 AM I had to go to the bathroom and woke up.  When I stood on the floor I was standing in a foot of water.

During the night it had rained, but not that hard.  The warm rain melted the snow on one of the tributaries up the river and the water raised up nine feet over night.

TCM: That must have been a scary feeling.

Gary: I was in about four feet of water when I got out of the camper.  I tried to start the engine, but it wouldn’t start, so I put my waders on, grabbed my wallet, my cell phone, and my brittany spaniel, Gracie.

When I stepped down into the river, I was waist deep in the water.  I deliberately left the lights on in the camper so that I could see it.  At that point, it was still dark.  Gracie swam to shore, I waded to high ground, and called 911.  My main concern was saving the rig.  I didn’t want to see it floating down the river.

At that time I was thinking that maybe I can save some of my stuff out of the camper.  I have expensive fishing rods and tackle.  So, I waded across and got about five feet towards the camper.  The water rose up near my shoulders in just twenty minutes.  I was afraid to get to the camper because the water was coming up so fast.  In the process my cell phone got wet and was ruined.

So then I waited for help to arrive out on the road.  It was a two lane county road where I was able to flag down some cars.  I was thinking that if I could get some rope, I could tie the truck to a tree.

TCM: Unbelievable.  What happened next?

Gary: I kept looking for the camper lights.  I had a great feeling of trepidation about whether the camper was going to stay there or not.  I was facing up river, so the camper never washed away.

About an hour later, a highway patrolman came.  It was not his jurisdiction, so he stopped to help, but couldn’t get me out.  Then, a county sheriff came and he didn’t have a rope.  Another sheriff came and no rope.  They called a tow truck called Fat Eddy who was as slippery as a snake.  He told me, “I can get it out the river, but it will cost $500 for this and $200 for that and $100 for storage in my yard.”  So, I told him no because I realized that we weren’t going to be able to do anything but wait for the river to go down.

The day before this event, I was  camping a mile down the river at the county park and met the caretaker at the park.  I hiked down there and told him what happened.  He recommended a guy who is into four-wheeling.  The caretaker called the guy and he showed up in his four-wheel drive truck.  He said, “We can get you out, but not until the river goes down.”  He told me that he would meet me at 8 AM the next morning and he would get me out.  The river crested at about a foot from the top of the camper.

At that point, I got a ride into town to the Hertz rental place.  I only had the clothes on my back, so I went to Walmart to get some clothes, had breakfast, and found a hotel.  Then I went back to check the truck and it was still there.

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