Thursday, July 18, 2013

Adventure On The River: Part 1

It was just after 1pm when I found myself back in the river. No one was at the swimming hole but Gibson and I— the last mini-van of waders having just packed up and left—and I was savoring the solitude. I needed a moment of quiet. I had just come back from unloading a truckload of hay bales into my little barn and before that, helping the crew at Livingston Brook Farm put up just shy of 300 bales in Patty's giant threshing barn. I can run for miles in a heatwave, spend hours in a martial arts class, and hike across two towns in a day but NONE of those things is as hot and hard as loading fifty-pound bales by hand into a barn. Now, suspending in cold clear water all that work of the morning seemed like something from a memory of a television show or passage in a novel. Did it really happen to us? It was a world apart from the young trout swirling under my toes as I walked to shore and called my dog. Damn if I don't love that river, even if it scared the crap out of me last night.

I mentioned yesterday that Tara, Tyler, and I would be going tubing, remember? We did. Around 4 in the afternoon we arrived at the Georgi (a local art museum/park near the river in Shushan). This would be our launching point. We were armed with 3 big tractor tire tubes we had rented from a boer goat farm up the road and had parked another truck a few miles downstream. The plan was simple. Get in, float to truck 2, return tubes. Easy, right?

Well, let's just say I don't have a great sense of direction. At least not when it comes to something as wild and winding as a river on a summer day. Hiking or on horseback I am practically Sacajawea, but in a sun-kissed river with forests and cliff edges on both sides I am as much a foreigner as a "local" can be….

After three hours of happy floating, talking, and laughing the sky was starting to darken and storm clouds were gathering behind us. I realized (feeling it in the pit of my stomach) that I had not seen another tuber, canoe, or kayak in miles) and was starting to wonder why the short trip was taking so long. Eventually we floated past a campsite where a man was building a cook fire for his daughters and himself to enjoy the setting sun. I hollered out. "How far are we from 313?" and the guy just gaped a while before responding back, "You are HOURS away from 313!" and then I took my turn gaping back. Inconceivable! We had left my truck near the swimming area a few miles from my house and drove nearly twenty minutes southeast to our launch area. Rivers don't just change direction. How could we be so far from home?

"What town are we in?!" I yelled back from my soggy black tire.

"Salem! The next bridge you come to is the Rexleigh!"

And then it hit me. What a stupid mistake I had made! See, dear friends, just because a river flows east to west doesn't mean it follows the same path as the road you took to get to it. Thanks to a dramatic 90 degree turn that sent the river north into a horseshoe I had actually managed to get my launch point and end point reversed, geographically speaking. The roads I drove went in a logical direction but the river circumnavigated around it all, and I had not looked at a map of the river before jollying along two good friends. Now we were 14 miles away from our trucks and it would be dark in an hour. Tyler was barefoot. We had no phones, no watches, we were just three chumps with tires on a summer day.

Uh oh.

To Be Continued!

photo from vermontel