It’s a ghost town; a scene from the twilight zone. The riffles babble and splash, pools flood the bends, soft water lurks behind rocks and foam spins in the eddies, but the river is abandoned. No signs of life. Nobody home.

It must be an illusion, maybe a misunderstanding. Has to be. The water is cold and clean and just fast enough. The structure is varied and plentiful and inviting. The canyon is isolated and remote and postcard pretty. This place and time are perfect… except for the eerie loneliness. So, six hours in, without a whiff of encouragement – no rise rings, splashes, spooks, shadows or bumps; not a single flirtation– you’re still at it, hiking upstream, casting to the likely spots, expectant if no longer hopeful. And still nothing, absolutely nothing.

The drone of cicadas and clacka-clack of hoppers were enticing when you left the truck, but they’ve grown mocking and surreal in the stillness. You quit the top water miles ago. You’re onto streamers now, cumbersome and unwieldy, hammering again and again at the river, everywhere you can reach, nowhere in particular. Strip…strip, strip, strip… strip.

You should have brought lip-balm you tell yourself for the hundredth time, and sunscreen and definitely more water. It’s water you’re imagining – headache cold, with ice tinkling in the bottle – when the world comes to life. One moment you’re alone with your distractions and the same inanimate cork, graphite and string you’ve been waving for hours, and then, as sudden as a gunshot, you are tethered to another universe, and going for a ride.

At what point does that instant become too pricey? How many vacant hours, miles, snags, tangles, blisters, bug-bites and burns are too many?

Clearly there are limits.

There have to be limits.

I’m almost certain there are limits.

I’ll let you know when I find them.

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