Thursday, March 18, 2010

The After Hours: Lester River

The season had commenced and the waters flowed generously. Every evening paddlers converged at the Lester River's edge after a day of toil, paddles waiting in anticipation. We ended our days in the dusk amongst the currents of the river. Over the course of the seasons we had all come to know the river as if it were a brother. Every drop as if a familiar face, it's roar with a recognized inflection. Our runs of the river like a friendly wrestling match; like a respectful joust.

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.

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