Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Stillwater River

As the sun breathed it's fiery breath upon the Beartooth Mountain's high country, the waters began their migration and the Spring paddling season was born. It was a stark transition from paddling in my homeland of Duluth where Class V creeks and drops lie within the city limits. But from my new Billings the Beartooths loomed distant in the horizon and thus whitewater flowed an hour South and West. But working an inhumane 75 hours a week in the hospital was eating at my soul. I felt one dimensional and disconnected. Thus was born a ravenous hunger for the river as an desperate cure for a life of growing apathy.

Within near reach was the Stillwater river and became a staple in my after work paddling. Nearly an hour and half away the Stillwater powerfully roared through the Beartooth Mountains before meandering through the grassy foot hills of Yellowstone River Valley before converging with the Yellowstone River itself. The Stillwater Drainage is one of the larger of the Beartooth's and thus run as moderate flows of 1500-3000 cfs through much of the spring. In high Spring flows it provides Class IV-V big water delight, while at low flows the upper stretches contain Class V tight creeking. Thus the river is a versatile run through the changing seasons.

Over the course of the season the Stillwater became a familiar friend and a savior. The rushing waters song muted the noisy demands of the turning world. Whitewater became a meditative dance between me and the river, and my toil away from the river became only a mere distraction. Each day I left the river in the looming dusk, nourished and lit with a renewed flame of vitality. I thankfully drove home smiling into the glowing horizon.