I live somewhere incredible. Only about twenty minutes from my house you find pristine waterways – with no one else there, even in 80-degree weather. It’s like a little bit of Paradise, and I grow fonder every year.
Above? That’s me after our trip. Nels probably has chocolate on his lip. My hair is two shades lighter than when I went in the water at noon! It was hot as Balls.
That said, today’s three-hour river-float down the Wynoochee (yes my lovelies from far far away – we have the best names where I live – especially for rivers!) – was also a lesson in anticipatory terrors. Most of these terrors were experienced last night while planning the trip: the fear I’d select the wrong leg of a river, and we’d end up (best-case scenario) having to squelch a few miles on foot, in our swimwear – or (worst-case scenario) drowning and/or skinned alive by an errant black bear or redneck murderer. I am an Adventurer in very specific ways, sure – but outdoor unknowns that involve the safety of my children? I’m more of a Planner. (or an Obsessive.)
So I did all the planning, and last-night’s worrying. This morning after Ralph and I take a brisk morning walk with our dog, we roll the kids out of bed and pack up five kinds of sunscreen. My husband makes up some food and secures some water, then straps our huge truck-sized inner tubes into the back of my mom’s old pickup.
And I resolutely ignore the silent pleas of my all-time-bro Hutch, who knows we are up to something fabulous. Maybe next time, li’l dude! (so many regrets!)
Finding our base and access points is easy – for the upstream put-in, a friend lets us park at her lovely place. We have the obligatory, run-into-a-super-local who says a bunch of cryptic stuff that makes me think we are going about the whole thing wrong.
Finally, we’re in the river. The water is cold, the sun is hot, and I am still a little worried. I mean we are talking crawdads, leeches, horseflies (seriously!), sunstroke or hypothermia (or ye Shit Gods, both!) if I’ve misjudged the right distance – and fishing hooks hiding in the riverbed! As well as: I am terrified of water that is over two inches deep and not crystal-clear (for obvious reasons).
So: the first forty minutes is a little edgy. For me. The river is about as low as it’s been in about a hundred years (no joke), so floating over the occasional deadhead is a little unnerving. My husband and I are sharing the largest of our tubes when we hit our first rough rapids; he immediately and inadvertently almost drowns my ass with his frantic scramble to avoid a nasty stump and branches snarl. He is apologizing as we are still flying around the bend to our doom and I am laughing uncontrollably at the transformation from placid meander to sudden deathfall, and I am angry at his mistake, and kind of stuck in both those places for a bit.
Ultimately we have a wonderful, trip, and a safe one, Saints be praised. We also met my friend’s donkeys (unbelievably sweet!) –
and after all of this, ran right into town for pizza and Pepsi, which after all that sun and water was more satisfying than can be expressed in words.
It was a beautiful trip, and just the right amount of time out on that river.
Maybe the best memory of the day is showing my daughter how to pull the straps down the swim top, to avoid strap tan lines. Maybe the best memory is knowing my kids will remember our trip the rest of their lives.
Summer? It’s a little different.