Every day near the end of a run on the Lester River, I would find myself on a precipice looking down at a vertically twisting ~20 ft column of water exploding in a fantastic hole in the pool below. The falls aptly entitled "Almost Always", as it is almost always portaged, lay before me. Each day I looked at Almost Always attempting to summon the the confidence I had had the year previous when I had first run it. The gumption slowly grew in me through day one and two of the paddling season. On the third day I was set in my mind to run it, but was impeded by late hours at the hospital. I rushed to the river frantically hoping someone would be willing to consider another lap with me. I was in luck.
My run of "Almost Always" last year... picture it with twice as much water.
We put on and began a steady pace... no hesitation, no pause to rest. My confidence bolstered with each passing rapid. And then carelessly, as a single rapid remained between me and "Almost Always", I was over turned in my haste. My first roll attempt failed. My second was interrupted by a rock striking my helmet. My flustered third attempt barely got my head above water. My fourth attempt floundered uselessly as I pulled my skirt swimming in the river's icy grip. I retreated to shore and began running to catch my boat as it swept down stream. When it had finally been herded to shore, I discovered that "Almost Always" had left it's mark by indenting my boat's bow . The river chastened me for my over confidence and I left feeling like a fool for missing my rolls.
My pride bruised, I went the next day and took to the river and used the run to rebuild my resolve. A day later I was again mentally ready as I stood on the threshold of falls analyzing the line. My self and another companion spent 30 min contemplating the possibility of a run, both teetering on the edge of resolution. my fellow paddler climbed into his boat while I watched him style the line.
I still had my doubts as I slipped into my boat. Yet despite them I found myself pushing my kayak from shore in utter focus on the task at hand. I paddled through a small wave as my eye caught hold of my line. The water was high and the current opposed my efforts to stay on line and I paddled furiously as it was proving unexpectedly difficult to attain the right hand lip of the falls. By a small margin I snuck past threatening disaster, and was relieved to find myself riding into the vertical and falling with the water. Yet widening eyes quickly replaced my relief as I braced for collision with the hole below. It rose up and enveloped in a wall of exploding whiteness as I soon found myself less than upright and readied my roll for when calm would inevitably ensue. I emerged to the surface and raised a fist in exultant glory, grinning over my shoulder at what had been accomplished.
The summoning of strength and the majesty of overcoming fear and doubt brings a burning satisfaction to one. And we can all lay claim to parallels of this experience in our lives. I drove home warmly jubilant and endowed with an overreaching appreciation for the gift of this day whose sun was now setting.