There is a love of wild nature in everybody, an ancient mother-love ever showing itself whether recognized or no, and however covered by cares and duties.
– John Muir
Last weekend we decided to stay home and work in the yard, unpack boxes in the new house and relax. I had slid into third base on Thursday and left half of my leg at Azalea Park, so a more peaceful weekend was in order, and although there was a raft race in Gasquet, we are not the type for crowds.
This plan lasted until Friday when we remembered we had said something about the Smith and away we went planning a kayak trip.
I didn’t see you there, and that’s a shame. You were probably at Gasquet, and that’s fine. But the Smith is already getting low. The Chetco is lower. Get out on the rivers now.
Friends on the Chetco had to portage in multiple spots last Saturday, and places on the Smith that had provided options for passage last year offered only a single path –– to the left, against the bank and under a fallen tree.
The kayak rolled as I ducked there just enough to submerse my injured leg and inspire a bout of profanity and that strange patting and smacking humans do when things hurt.
Last year on the Smith we went with locals to learn the river and diligently wore our life-vests. On a later trip, we tied the vests to the kayaks and put them on when we heard a rapid we couldn’t see.
By the end of summer, we were skipping over rapids in an innertube.
As nice as it was last year to float the Smith for the first time, it was better to return. We launched further up and got a faster ride with greater drops and knew to get out before the endless slow spots –– paddling on a treadmill against the wind, whether it builds those lats or not, is not for me.
The moving-boxes, lawnwork and relaxation waited until Sunday, and we postponed some other duties until next weekend, but then a friend mentioned she would be tent camping past South Fork on the Chetco, and we postponed unpacking again and instead packed the Jeep for camping.
Sunday, I will awake in our tent, forget about my leg and mash the scab that runs from my knee to my foot into the ground as I rise for coffee.
The forests will echo with profanity and anyone nearby will wonder why the crazy guy is smacking his leg. Over the hill, people will wonder if they heard a sasquatch.
Sometimes a little pain lets you know you’re alive. Sometimes sunrise along the river reconnects you to the things you love and those you’ve lost.
John Muir and the preservationists saw this soul-cleansing and regenerating spirit of the wild, and their inspiration led to the preservation of the rivers around us.
Muir said, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”
Saturday, I’ll walk the river after dark and watch moonlight on the water.
Three weeks ago, we camped along the Rogue and left the fly off the tent. A full moon shown on our faces and kept me up half the night.
What fool would refuse the Chetco for necessities and miss a fitful sleep by the soul-cleansing churr of the water in the stone-safe walls of a canyon?
No wonder half the town moves to the river for the summer, and the luckiest among us own cabins there.
Reach Boyd C. Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org