Saturday, June 29, 2013
Not far from home is a deep, narrow, black canyon where I had never been. I have peered downward into this canyon from the rim. Many people have. But to actually venture into the depths. To feel the dark walls rising above. To stand on the grassy banks as the cold and rugged river twists between boulders. To float down the canyon, each bend revealing yet another spectacle of towering rock. Of frothing waves. Of impossible green. Of the profound quiet of slow-flowing water tearing away at solid stone, cutting this canyon yet deeper. Moment by moment. A string a moments too long to truly imagine… I thought that this adventure would be left to the more adventurous.
But a moment came. Due, I suppose, to packrafts. And to an invitation from Mike and Doom. Packs were packed. Shuttle vehicle dropped. The trail plunged into the canyon. Steep, rough and loose. Tough on muscles used to biking up hills, not stepping down. A price paid for the chance to see the more remote upper stretch of the run. Dark canyon walls rose above us. The river came into view. Lined with bright grass. Brighter box elder trees. Darker swaths of poison ivy. Boats were inflated, checked. Then we pushed off into the cold water.
Pool and drop. Calm pools of slow moving river where there was opportunity to lose oneself in the towering walls that reached upward from the narrow corridor of the river. Birdsong from the riverbank where lines of bright green gripped the waterside below the darker, duskier canyon walls.
Then a drop. Chattering riffles or roaring rapids. Boulders to dodge. Plunging tongues of water. Frothy waves. Small holes. Places where the expansive scenery vanished into a narrow focus on paddle strokes. Wave angles. Balance. Timing. Mostly good fun for the attentive paddler. Occasionally worthy of pulling over to scout. Worthy of a spike of adrenaline. Worthy of a whoop of joyful release after paddling cleanly through a tricky line amid the boulders and froth.
Then into the next calmer pool where awareness expanded again. Broadened to meet the surroundings. Dipper birds chattering and plunging underwater on stubby wings. A family of young mergansers. Lines of desert trees stepping upward on fractured walls. Water-worn stone rising to cradle the high blue sky.
Pool and drop. Calm and froth. The day's hot sun sliding upward. Then away. Leaving time behind it. Leaving cool shadows in darkened bends. Causing shivers in wet shirts. Until the high walls began to fall away. The river pushing us onward and out of the dark canyon. Pushing us back toward cars and roads and towns. Toward our more ordinary lives. Pushing us onto a dirty riverbank and leaving us. Leaving us to wonder how soon. Could we return.