Music's Like a Snuggie for Your Soul


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Trip Two

Welp, heck, i don't even know where to start. My brand new computer went kaput, so though i've been hankering to entertain my admitted blog addiction, i've been deprived of the means to do so. (Woeisme right?) On the other hand, it's been nice to be unplugged for a bit. It's been a whirlwind last few weeks with little time to sit and write even if i could have.

(We launch every eight days and we run five or six-day trips so it gives us barely time to roll up and load the boats and the rest of the gear, drive the eight or nine hour journey home, scrub everything, shop, restock, repack, load up the next batch of guests and do it all over again. It's an awesome lifestyle if you're in to that kind of thing.)

But the drive is scenic so I can't really complain. These are the Sawtooths 
where my mom was a ranger back in the day.

Anyhow, i'm home for a bit in between trips. We had a launch that didn't book, so i have a whole eight or so free days to hang out with my sister and her new dog, Bodhi (a Louisiana Catahoula Leopard dog mix), in our new digs. As much as i'm enamored with Middle of Nowhere, Idaho, it's so, so good to come home to my dear town of Moscow. I love it here.

Reed: one of my favorite camps on the Main Salmon
So, anyhow, back to where i left off- Trip 2- it seems so long ago now, but i still want to tell you about it. It was tough, but we had a gang of competent guides and, save for one creeper, a lovely bundle of guests; the difficulty was far different in nature than the trip before. It was emotionally exhausting on account that life can be a real heart-breaking, abysmal, hurtful old broad.

I apologize, but before i continue, i have to interrupt this broadcast with a public service announcement:

According to Tufts University School of Medicine psychiatry professor, Nassir Ghaemi, Both Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. attempted suicide at various points in their lives ( Imagine what the world would be missing today if they'd succeeded. You never know what great things you might contribute along the way. You may live to inspire millions. Thus, I encourage you, with all of my heart, to keep on keepin on. You're amazing, after all, but that goes without saying...

(This was my facebook appeal after a member of our small community took his own life only days after the outfitter and family friend who gave me the opportunity to pursue my dreams of rowing boats on The River of No Return had died, also by his own devices.)

I've known his two kids since they were born. Dave (the outfitter) told me later that my sister and i were major factors in his deciding to become a dad. (Ludicrous, really) and now, yuck, he's left them both at such a vulnerable time in their young teenage lives. For that, some days i struggle not to shake angry fists at the sky and curse and spit and holler him an earful, but my ire is drowned out by the mind-numbing, intense sadness of it all.

This was this past April 28th; it was devastating. He was my river dad. Altogether i'd spent more than seven summers camped out in his backyard or basement and working on the river under his direction and/or taking care of those kids. He certainly didn't have to, but he gave me a chance. He wasn't perfect, but he was pretty damn good. He was a character. He ran a tight ship and a slick outfit until the divorce, alcoholism and self-imposed isolation got the better of him. He may have run aground and adrift in his personal life, but he knew how to run a stellar river trip. For that i'm forever indebted.

It was months ago, but it weighed on my heart the whole trip. Being on the river in general conjures unavoidable memories of the man who introduced it all to me. Plus, his son ran our cargo boat that week and to boot, we borrowed some of his equipment. It was bizarre to go back and, while i knew we were only borrowing and doing it in the most observant, respectful spirits, it felt eerily like pillaging from the quiet, unnaturally tidy shop i'd once known so well. I rode in the bed of the pickup on the way to the put-in so i could bury my face in the load of bags and let the wind suck away my tears before anyone could see them.

It wasn't the only time i cried. I was running the paddle boat one of the last days and one of the guests had pieced together by now that Logan's father was the outfitter that taught me to row boats. They inquired further details about the man which i could only field briefly before i found myself caught in a sob; a face-contorting, paralyzing sob that rendered me unable to reply. They realized i'd lost my composure and apologized to me profusely in comforting tones. They were a bunch of sweethearts, but i felt stupid nonetheless. Nothing conveys confidence and professionalism quite like your trip leader bawling inconsolably off the back of your boat.

Oh yeah, did i mention i've been appointed trip leader? Kinda scary, stressful and hilarious simultaneously, but we're goin with it, and so far nobody's been maimed irreparably. Our guests were phenomenal. We had some female correctional officers from Canada that were a blast. They don't get tasers or mace or even so much as a billy club up there. They were smokin hot, which is sort of irrelevant and inappropriate to mention, i suppose, but i was super impressed. I wished they could stay longer. They were a ton of fun.

Everyone happy and alive at sunny Maxwell camp

I was a little nervous because i hadn't run the river commercially for a few years, but my runs were as good as ever, even while some of the guys lost oars and had some rough rides through a few of the bigger rapids. Phew.

Then the trip ended on a sweet note, which for anyone else could've been a more unfortunate circumstance. One of our first stops in civilization is to the Scat Machine (!) where we're lucky enough to have machines that are designed specifically to clean out our groovers. Mid-way through the cycle an employee came wandering in with a roll of tape and a sign that said "Out of Order". And says, "Yeah, the latch hasn't been working. You might not be able to get that thing back out."

Sure as shit, when the cycle ended, our groover was stuck inside. This is a town on the other side of the state from where our outfit is based. It could've been a real headache, but of all our groovers (we bring more than one a trip), it happened to be the one with the pain in the A lid. I let out a whoop of joy, left our contact information at the front desk and drove away from the confounded thing, a cloud of dust and a spit of gravel behind us and all ten of our spinning tires as we pulled out of the parking lot and headed home.

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