What Does The Devils Slide Have in Common With Colt 45?

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Nothing. Water and alcohol do not mix, especially when that water is funneling through the second deepest gorge in America where solid cliffs on one side and a rock slide on the other pinch the longest free flowing river within one state down to a narrow chute maybe 50 yds wide. You could shout at someone on the other side of the river and hear them quite easily, that is,  if it were not for the thunderous roar of the monster rapid created by this splendid geomorphology called The Devils Slide.

The Devils Slide is  only a nemesis of a rapid in high water on the Lower Salmon River, but disappears entirely in low flows. (less than 4,000   cfs) While some may need the liquid courage of one can after another of Colt 45 beer to muster up enough steam to run the fearsome rapid when it becomes fearsome, it in no way helps keep a raft right side up.  Such was the case in 1978 when I was working for Grand Canyon Dories and we had a commercial trip in high water and found ourselves where we didn’t want to be.  We had  one guest-guide (let’s call him Factor A) the company had hired to run a baggage raft for a three dory boat trip, who thought us dory people were elitist snobs and worried too much about getting our little wooden boats through a rapid he thought looked like just some big fun and no big deal.

He took one quick look at the same rapid we spent considerable time scouting in earnest, went back to his raft and began pounding down Colt 45’s as he waited impatiently for us dainty dory guides to figure out how to get through the whitewater chaos that churned our stomachs and wracked our nerves.

The 13 day trip started from Corn Creek, and was led by Clarence Reese in his dory boat, along with Barry Dow and myself in our dory boats. Normally one of the company guides would row a baggage raft, too, but this time we had to hire an unknown guest guide whom none of us had worked with before.  He was a nice enough guy, but had more of a caviler cowboy attitude at the time, that didn’t quite jive with the finesse fanatics that clean run attitudes in wooden boats require. Like alcholol, water and wood clash, and rowing boats is much preferred over fixing them.

Because of high water, which was hovering around 30000cfs-ish when we started off, we were worried about the Slide if the river came up much. The back-up plan was that the company was going to pull us off the river at Eagle Creek, which is the last place possible that has a bad access road into this remote area, if the flows came up too much. Before our trip a scouting mission of guides only ran some dory boats through the Slide at about 34,000 cfs and barely made it right side up. So, they assured us that if the river went higher than that they would come to our rescue.  But if is was above 30,000 cfs they would send a jetboat for an extra margin of safety for our runs with commercial guests.

Well, we had been keeping track of water levels vehemently, and knew it did nothing but rise. We guessed it was too high for us to run the Slide, so had a great time the night before, knowing we would be pulled out the next day…or s we thought. But, the next morning when we began floating down to our take out, there were no rigs. We waited around, in case they were late, but soon discovered they were not coming and we were committed to a different date with destiny.

All us dory guides were direly worried, but tried not to let it show, as we drifted on downriver. The sky was blue with not a cloud in sight. But as we stopped for lunch at the head of Blue Canyon on a big sand beach, we could see clouds starting to drift in from the west.  None of us guides could eat, as we were so nervous as to our rendezvous with a frenzied rapid, and as we got back into the boats and began drifting  closer dark clouds began creeping in from the west. The current was fast and as we pulled into the small eddy to scout, thunder and lightning clashed adding a bad omen as prelude to what was about to happen.

When we got up on the pile of boulders to see what was in store for us, it soon became apparent this was a serious situation.  It was the first time I had ever looked at a rapid and tried to figure out where the place was to be with an upside down boat. On the far side of the river (east bank) about a third of the river is a back eddy that itself looked like a river doubling back on itself. It contained two giant rolling ocean-like waves that we dubbed “The Things,” that surged upstream into the vortex of the middle where all the “mayhem” converged. Giant diagonals were rolling from each side of the river into a center collision that exploded sporadically high into the air.  Nightmare material.

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On the left side, there were two diagonals, one above the other. The upper one looked small, compared to the lower one, but was big enough itself to stand a dory high on its bow.  The larger one had a soft spot between the largest part of its curl and the vicious vortex in the middle. It looked do-able, but the consequence for error looked awe-fully troubling. Below it was a depressed eddy full of wild swirls, huge boils and bottomless whirlpools. They blended together like a giant mix-master that would be a “Forever Eddy” for any body or boat that got trapped in it. So my plan was to be in the very middle where we would get shot through between all the more dangerous looking stuff on both sides.

The other bad thing that happened was that there was no jetboat back-up. We had people, some women and children who did not want to run the rapid, nor did we want them to.  But we also did not want to run empty boats through.  So Clarence told the group that if there was anyone foolish enough to run this rapid with us, meet on “Fools Rock”, to scout and plan our runs. All this, while Chip pounded 45’s.

I still remember the dead salmon in a tiny pool on top of Fools Rock, where they got trapped when the water dropped.  Even at that, we were still maybe 10 yards higher than river level, so it was hard to imagine what the river looked like when the salmon were getting bashed. But, we were glad that there were enough volunteers to put two passengers in each of our boats for much-needed weight and high-siding. Also, the promised jetboat finally arrived, with company guides whom actually helped all the guests not wanting  to ride, do the class V climb-around over a treacherous maze of boulders, almost as bad as the rapid itself. In fact, a few minor wounds  that resulted when the smoke all eventually cleared happened there.

With jetboat in place, and butterflies in formation, we began the task of getting our flotilla through the troubled water. Barry Dow led off, with Factor A  following in the raft. Barry’s plan was to plow through the soft spot on river left. He had a good entry through the first diagonal and nailed the soft spot. But the soft spot wasn’t that soft. As his bow went skyward, he went stern ward with an oar in each hand as he left the seat and landed backwards all sprawled out. But the boat made it over  the top, then slammed down the back side, caught an ugly eddy boil and did a 360 degree spin faster than the blink of an eye (or so it seemed). The bow of his wooden boat missed the solid cliff-side rock by less than a foot, (which would have turned it into mere match-sticks) but he was able to crawl back into the seat and gain enough control to not get sucked back up river into the land of the “Forever Eddy.” Then made it to the first place downstream he could get his boat in to wait for the rest of us.

Factor A  followed Barry, but when he came around the blind corner of our eddy stop and could see the rapid from river level at full strength perspective, he froze like a deer in the headlights. He did manage to square up for the same not-so-soft spot that knocked Barry off kilter, but his raft flipped as fast as Barry’s boat did the 360. Fortunately, he too did not get trapped by Forever Eddy, and the jetboat was there to pick up the pieces.

My turn was next. Clarence would wait, watch my run from Fools Rock and then run sweep. While we normally run two boats at a time, for safety, this time was different. Having only one jetboat to collect us up, meant it would be wiser to run one boat at a time, so we didn’t have people scattered all over the river to make carnage even worse.

Watching other boats run bad stuff first can be good and bad. Good to see where to make corrections, but with better options lacking, it is more like lining up behind the lemmings about to make their last plunge.  Even though Barry made it through right side up, it was all so Russian-roulette and iffy looking , that I opted for the middle route. But,  when I round the corner to see the spectacle at real scale, that soft spot looked good.  I thought about taking that line, and in 20-20 hind-sight, that hesitation on my pre-determined line may have been my crucial mistake.

My original plan was to hit the vortex precisely where both left and right mega-waves slammed into each other, both capable of flipping a dory like a pancake on their own, so that each would hit me at the same time, thus off-setting each other. But, in my moment of hesitation, I was about 3 feet off of where I wanted to be, so my theory didn’t get tested properly. Instead, it was if some one on shore had a plunger connected to dynamite in the vortex and set it off when we arrived. At least that is what it felt like as the right wave exploded and we all went flying through the air as the dory tipped violently upside down.

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Luckily one guest had never lost contact with the boat and I felt his leg on my way down to grabbed it to crawl up alongside him, where we both then climbed on to the bottom of the boat, grabbed the other swimmer who made it back to the boat, then threw my stern line to the jetboat that held us in the current, so we could tip the dory right side up and recoup  before entering the next big rapid immediately downstream. Once we were ok, the jetboat went back to wait for Clarence.

He too went for the middle, but had the same result as me, though I don’t remember all the details of his run, because I was in similar shock mode, as was Barry, who I saw sitting on shore shaking his head when I floated on by him to find my own debriefing eddy.  We waited for the jetboat to help pick up all the aftermath of Clarence’s run, then met somewhere downriver in calmer water to reconnect with the walk-around folks and head on down to Cottonwood on Snake River for our last nights  camp and cathartic carnage stories.

As guides, fully responsible for the welfare of commercial guests, we were furious with the management end to having  sent us on this folly expedition when the river rose to such ugliness. They didn’t think a mere thousand or two cfs higher than the exploratory run at 34,000 cfs would be a big deal, at such high flows. But, they were wrong. It is. But that was a long time ago, and is how evolution works trying to figure out when to run or not run a river in question.  Educated guesses work sometimes. Sometimes they don’t.  Other than tippage, fortune rode with us that fateful day on the big water.

The date was July 2, 1978 and The Slide was at 35,200 cubic feet per second. (which is tons of Venturi Effect – or Nozzle Effect).  Since that time, I have run The Slide many more times and have other carnage stories to tell, as do many other people on various other trips that all add up to give this rapid legendary status in the river world. This would include one time when the Slide surfed my dory in the vortex. Notice, I didn’t say I surfed the Slide, because that usually means that was my original plan A intention.

An interesting side note about the Slide is that because it is located in a remote canyon it isn’t something that is run everyday. So, unlike day trips on more accessible stretches of the Salmon River, where all the nuances of various flows are possible to learn by those who spend a lot of time with back to back runs, the Slide isn’t seen as much. Some rapids are worse in higher flows, some lower. Yet sometimes, in-between flows can present weirdness that higher or lower flows miss-out on.

Many outfitters, with different kinds of craft, or private enthusiasts  who like hair-boating, have different cut-off levels that determine when they don’t run the Slide. My personal level, as an outfitter is now 25000cfs.  But there are those who have higher level cut-offs, and when the sun goes down, and if the rapid could speak, it would have much to tell.

But whatever the story, the moral they have in common is: from dory boats to 33 foot pontoons, to triple-rigs, highly beware if you ever have a date with the Devil.

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 PS – The only craft I would ever run The Devils Slide in at flows above 65,000 cfs is an aerial one.

See youtube video of the Devils Slide at 80,000 cfs from the perspective of a Hughs 500 helicopter:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZ2mI8L4mqU%5B/embed%5D

For a good time:

Gary Lane
Wapiti River Guides
http://www.doryfun.com

 

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Santa’s Answer

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 iceboat shane dec16, 2013 007

On  Christmas eve, an unexpected gift came to me from high in the sky.  With a bit of serendipity added to the mix, it was a welcomed addition to the prosperity of my spirit.  I was sitting in my hot tub with its panoramic view of  the Salmon River, where I often read and bid farewell to the days last fading light…and then…

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Having just finished a passage in a book by a guy who recorded his three-month long canoe journey down the  Columbia River from top to bottom, where he was describing why he was doing it, I closed the book and looked out to view the sun’s last light on the far hillside. Just then my peripheral vision caught movement that directed my attention to the sky. Looking up I spied a bald eagle, shining brightly in the cobalt blue background of sky with glimmering brown wings and body, separated by a stark white head and tail. Then another one appeared, making two adults circling around my little hot tub world.

Wow, I thought, as I had just finished the solo river traveler’s revelation about seeing various wildlife, and comparing it to how it affected his education. He compared his book learning about nature, to the actual experiential  observational one, and how much profound the real encounter with nature is to the abstract book learning way. And, I couldn’t agree more, as I watched the eagles circle over head. After all, I have learned from seeing them many times before, (mostly on their morning hunts) that by waving my arms it could attract their attention, as does most movements impact wild things that depend on such for food and survival.

Often the lords of the sky-world  would be enticed to circle longer, to check out what my movement was connected to, as they again did tonight. But unlike the dull early morning light I normally watch them in, this light was of the golden variety indicative of a setting sun. They were high enough to catch those last rays and the thermals it aroused,  so were able to use it to advance farther upward.   And as the two adults continued their circling,  a juvenile appeared from downriver and flew up to join them.  The natural drama was spectacular as gorgeous light played on their forms. Did I mention the  contrasting  brown feathers between the glorious white heads and tails?  Ok, that image burned a lasting impression in  the furrowed portions of my brain.

Their concentric circling sometimes over-lapped like rain drops do when they hit flat water and spread out in all directions.  Then the uniform waves get interrupted into chaos emanating out willy-nilly everywhere.  Similarly, my thoughts began to ripple around, too. They drifted into questioning how  it was that events  like this are still possible, knowing that at one time eagles were taking a sharp decline and once an endangered species. Basically, two reasons for being able to observe such wonders:  1) I go outside and open my eyes. 2) eagles have made a comeback due mostly to the courageous action of Rachael Carson. She was the wildlife biologist who wrote Silent Spring and took on the task of challenging the giant pesticide companies using the chemicals (DDT) that were causing the decline of many birds of prey, besides just our iconic national symbol.

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Her efforts rippled outward, just like that “raindrop effect” and made a huge impact as to how things turned out for the eagle. To me, it brought home how important it is to honor our ancestors, as she is now, but her spirit carries on. That dimension of life that we may not see, but now permeates throughout  the natural system.  Like the spirit of Santa Claus and the idea of gifting it represents, it is important to keep the idea of giving back to nature, including our own human nature, in order to pass the torch of compassion forward for co-existence of all life forms.

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.”    Norman Maclean

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Pushing the River’s Last Frontier – Looking Back

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steelheading dave baum nov 2-3, 2013 002

Being human on planet earth contains a yin and yang dynamic during the process of living.  Unfortunately, living life is time limited. That can be  both good and bad.  The bad thing is that the older one gets the closer they get to the terminal end.  The good thing is that the longer one lives, the  more experiences and stories are gained to better appreciate acquiring potential wisdom along the way.  As each additional experience accumulates to the total sum,  the more meaningful becomes the big picture of existence.

Looking back over my career of river guiding, enough time has now  elapsed to allow me a chance to see a broad spectrum of change over the years.  Unfortunately, meaningful does not always equate to better.   Like any antipodal position, anything can be seen with  an optimistic or pessimistic  worldview, depending on which way is chosen to look at the glass when it is at the half way point.  However, it is rare that the glass if at the half way point and in any case the more water that we drink, the less there is to satisfy our thirst.

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What do you thirst for? Thrills and adventure? Security and certainty? On a planet  defined by multiple boundaries, we live in a world that might best be described by containing a limited supply of  glasses.  Even concepts contain boundaries and are limited by our thinking, so lets just say one of those glasses holds our thoughts.

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If the earth contains ten full glasses of water, where each glass represents a frontier and water its natural resources, then the more glasses we drain, the less frontiers we have left. Once empty it is gone forever. Water is a closed system, which means there is always the same amount of water. However, how humans appropriate  that resource determines how much is usable.  Exploitation results when natural resources are victimized and extracted beyond sustainability.  Aside from human behavior, our own population numbers can also accelerate the rate of resource decline.

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Each time a glass reaches empty, we must find another full one to satisfy our thirst.  The more people we add and glasses we drink, the less chance of living longer we have. Even concepts like undeveloped and unpeopled areas, where we can still go in search of unlimited opportunities to  engage nature and experience new things, is diminishing at a faster rate in our modern times.

Each human we add to the equation, acre  paved over, tree  cut down, element mined, soil tilled, fish caught, or animal killed, at a rate where mortality exceeds recruitment, resources diminish until eventually extinction results. Likewise, concepts like frontiers are also not exempt  from total exhaustion in this same process of diminishment.  In my example, the tenth glass is the Last Frontier.  What will be do with it?

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In the early days of river running, I often went alone, exploring uncharted waters or rivers  that escaped the exodus of mass transit  wilderness travelers. Even when I eventually began guiding, we often had the drainage to ourselves and we certainly had only the most rudimentary of equipment.  Anyone and everyone that traveled with our own group, was an integral part of making a success of the shared adventure.  Unlike the more passive corporate rafting of today, we engaged raw nature eye to eye.

These days what passes for adventure, is more of an illusion and artificial experience.  Many guides are becoming more like glorified baby sitters. With the aid of modern highly advanced technologies and hyped up, but non-engaged type of encouraged zombism, trips today perpetuate more of a filtered experience.”  The entire affair is often dominated more by its entertainment value – where inactive participants can view the show as they would from a recliner with a bowl of popcorn.  Corporate guiding has become more like a magic show, where guides do everything for people and fool them  into feeling they are getting something which they aren’t.

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Nature deficit disorder is promoted by this kind of trickery.  It also describes  how much of our educational system works, or more aptly, does not work in today’s world.   When we get absorbed by our highly sophisticated technologies we ignore the real world at a perilous expense.  Biology and ecology are never not real, and  abra-cadabra won’t ever make artificial things anything other than what they are.

In the business world today in our country, everything  possible is done to reduce every possible risk because our culture has become so litigious. The entire system feeds itself and encourages more people to become less responsible. It is an atrophy of accountability at its nadir. Corporate rafting is a highly regimented,  overly scheduled, and extremely organized  to reduce risk and potential lawsuits.  In some cases, it reminds me of rafting with a straight jacket on.

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No amount of technology can replace understanding raw nature. The real beauty of education is that the more you learn and understand something, the more likely it is that you will work at protecting it.  Peeling back the onion, that is, disrobing ourselves from the machinery of sophisticated contrivances will better  reveal the center of the onion.  That is where the essence of an onions onionous resides.

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Why is knowing nature more intimately, important?  What if you are in the middle of a wilderness area and your gps breaks down  or loses power?  And you have no compass. What then?  What if your guide falls out of the boat, never to be seen again, then what? Will you panic or keep your wits? Throw your arms up and run, or sit back and relax to give your brain a chance to work more coherently?

FLAMES

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Do you know how to read nature so as to determine which way to go and how to get out? Can you start a fire, find safe water, make a shelter, crudely net a fish, navigate rough terrain, and have enough self-reliance to get yourself back home? Not that this would happen on one of our adventures. But at least, with us you will build confidence by actively living in nature for a brief pardon from the busy, hectic, high paced  world. There is no substitute for real world experience. “Good judgment comes from experience, and  experience comes from bad judgment.”

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Ironically, my theory is that often concentrating hard on what not to do, may  have more of a chance of making what you are trying to avoid actually materialize. Also, the more responsibility you to give people for their own actions, the more they will pay attention to what they do and their own well-being.  Inclusion, adds to group strength, exclusion reduces it. This in turn reduces risk in potentially harmful activities.

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Different rivers and rivers at different times provide various moods that affect experiences of those whom choose to travel these waterways to adventure. Having lived long enough to have floated far and wide, with a gazillion oar strokes along the way, I have been fortunate to have witnessed a lot of natural beauty “the river” always reveals. I’m also stubborn when it comes to keeping things simple, and focusing on sharing the essence of active engagement with nature to  more fully appreciate our common world.

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So, if you would like to join with us in an old-fashioned, more traditional, unadulterated, dance in the untamed wilds of otherworldly river adventure, give us a call:

Wapiti River Guides 800-488-9872 or if by cell phone, call 208:628-3523. For more info see: www.doryfun.com and our facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/Riverdoryfun

Philosophers with more wisdom than us have offered more profound words that better describe the mysteries and experiences you may feel on one of our trips:

“You cannot understand life and its mysteries as long as you try to grasp it. Indeed, you cannot grasp it just as you cannot walk off with a river in a bucket. If you try to capture running water in a bucket, it is clear that you do not understand it and that you will always be disappointed, for in the bucket the water does not run. To “have” running water you must let go of it and let it run. “

Alan Watts

from The Wisdom of Insecurity

“Life is like a river. There is no precharted way; there are no maps to be given to you which are to be followed.  Just be alive and alert, and then wheresoever life leads you go with full confidence in it. ……Allow it to lead you, don’t force it. Surrender to it and allow it to lead you towards the sea. Just be alert, that is all. While life leads you towards the sea just be alert so that you don’t miss anything.”

 -Osho

 You’ve been walking in circles, searching. Don’t drink by the water’s edge. Throw yourself in. Become the water. Only then will your thirst end.

-Jeanette Berson

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What Is The Frontier?

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Jack & Corn Creek 8-2013 027

Which frontier? The last frontier? The first? Yesterday’s, today’s, tomorrow’s?  No matter what kind of frontier one might think about, the one thing they all have in common is “place.”   Whether physical or mental, they represent a special place that we can go to.  They all provide great value because they are bound by horizons, which help define a goal of where we can travel to and push understanding forward. Each boundary has an edge where the “event horizon” falls off into the unknown. So frontiers might best be appreciated by their representation of where we can go to ponder the unknowable. Beyond the edge is where potential for new knowledge resides: a transition zone for transition zone where ignorance can be changed into understanding.

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Not knowing, is the carrot that keeps us jumping for that shinny object of our obsessions. It is innate curiosity that propels us through life, always wondering what the next event will be, or when we will reach our final one. Then what?  We may cross the line into the knowable, and then again, perhaps not. Only when we die will we know, or not know.  By definition, the unknown is precisely that. Something that can never be known. Knowing the unknowable does not qualify. The real unknown can never be reached or appreciated by those who know.

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What does it matter if we know or not? Or that there is or is not any kind of frontier? Some people might claim that it matters for its own sake. That is to say, like  mountain climbers who say they scale the mountain because it is there. Or people who say it is wise to save animals from extinction even if they seem to have no value to humans, but for their own sake. As I was thinking about the value of saving wildlife for their own sake, a lone coyote began howling in the wind. It seemed to be speaking directly to me and I was reminded of my synchronicity project with those sentient others whom I share the environment with.

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I write down the timing of natural events that happen simultaneously, or nearly so, with my own thinking that seems to be  linked to some kind of meaningful message.  Is it confirmation bias? Possibly. Does it matter? After all, are we not all biased towards many things in our lives?  No one can stand at the tip of their tall forever, they must succumb to some kind of lean eventually.  The important thing is to question our lean and the why of which direction it is in. Are the messages from god, nature,  myself, or nowhere at all? And what difference does it make?n fk payette june 17, 2013 040

The more number of people that can find themselves leaning towards the green of nature, the better is the potential for us to save the blue  planet from the more nefarious side of ourselves.  Any kind of frontier is a concept, and out there, somewhere.  How we choose to engage it matters. Do we gobble it up, or only eat part of it and leave more for others and the future? Our treatment of “place” has consequences. Every voice counts, as much as any rock can start an avalanche.

 PBD

 

Our internalized frontiers are affected by what we say to ourselves, and are important because they give rise to what we externalize and thus ripple out to impact the natural frontiers.

 

3 R - Aug 23-26, 2013 276

The Beauty of a Circle

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Jack’s send off ceremony was held on Oct 13, 2013 on the Salmon River, ten miles upriver, at the giant eddy at Spring Bar Launch and Campsite.  This was and continues to be an ancient Nez Perce place of importance, but now more of a bi-cultural mixing grounds where all those who truly love this place often gather.

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After ending our sacred boat circles at the Spring Bar Eddy on the Salmon River, in tribute to our passing river friend Jack Kappas, the power of circular motion continued on.  I learned later that while a few people shared more stories around a shore side campfire after our more official ceremony, other friends were fishing below the sacred eddy as their chosen way of extending memories. They hooped and hollered when they caught 5 fish, as they were listening softly to ipod music, Jack would have liked, and felt his help urging steelhead to bite their lines, was with them.

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In addition, when Charlie and Lesile headed homeward, they spotted a bald eagle sitting on the rocks at Hippie Beach, which then flew upriver towards Spring Bar. They too felt like it was Jack heading back upriver again, keeping an eagle eye on the river he loved and friends who loved him. Perhaps that eagle’s flight was part of the help for those fishermen upriver and their prized steelhead.

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The day after our memorial three of us (Kristin, Barb, and me)  that were also close friends with Jack, gave his  “Uncle Ernie”, a  tour of the canyon and showed him a few of Jack’s favorite places.  He felt bad that he had never visited our area to take advantage of Jack’s many invites to get him on the river. But, we assured him he was now here and fulfilling that need, all the same, though in different form, Jack would be happy.

Before we left the canyon we had one more final tribute to pay, as the two girls forgot to get Vic’s (Jack’s favorite chocolate lab ) hair and a few fragmented bones that Jack had saved after his dog  drowned in the Salmon River, and I forgot my drum for our original ceremony, so we gathered at the side of the sacred eddy to complete or intended circle of both in a special riverside ceremony.

After entering Vic to the river, then some drumming with three last solitary beats, one each for the 3 ceremonial  boat circles, as Nez Perce consider that number sacred, ending with one moment of silence. Astonishingly, but not surprisingly,  a fish jumped near where Vic had been entered to re-join Jack.  It reminded me of a favorite  quote: “Silence is the voice of the Great Mystery” and how mystery permeates everything in nature.

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A couple of days later I took Charlie fishing upriver, and we had a wonderful day on the water. We shared many stories, about Jack, other river friends, and a gamut of subjects. Kirk was also fishing below us, and I had to tell Charlie about some “Wapiti Moments” that Kirk and I had on the Grande Ronde years ago, along with the original 5 (including Jack) of us who attended the ground-zero salmon and dam breaching hearings in Lewiston years ago.

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The day was long and we did not see Kirk again until end of the day when we both arrived at the ramp about the same time. the three of us shared more stories about Jack, those crazy “wapiti moments” (when things go south, and ingenuity kicks in for survival) and other pertinent things that tie river people together, especially this special  place in the canyon.  We all have  our own life circles and stories, and as we ended our fishing day united at the ramp from our separate loops, did we yet come full circle again as the sun slowly set into the far beyond.  We all had smiles on our faces, just as the ancients smiled down on us. Knowing all the while, with each new day, all  those smiles will soon be returning.

Great beauty is truly found in the circle.

salmon river spirit oct 2013 007

Erosion is the way of nature.

chukar & steelhead meal, wood cutting Oct 2013 020

Roll on river, roll on.

Crossing The Eddyline

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Until you have crossed an eddy line in some kind of boat without proper respect, you won’t appreciate the significance of an eddyline.  Without essential preparation and a skeptical anticipation before traversing that line where upstream and downstream current opposes each other, the inattentive consequence will land you in the water for a  sudden swim.  When negotiating an eddy turn,  the upstream current pushes at the front of your boat, while simultaneously the downstream current pushes on the back of it.  The differential between these two currents generates a powerful force which can spin a boat faster than the blink of an eye, and land you in the water just as fast.

Dancing aimlessly across a seemingly benign eddy fence can catch the uninitiated off guard, but soon  teaches a quick lesson never  to be quickly forgotten.  It is always the consequences of our mistakes, than the mundane routines of our  daily endeavors that make the most lasting impressions.   Boat stability or tippage is an experience something akin to the  difference between an easy trail ride and getting bucked off a horse.  The abrupt experience will be remembered much longer than the tame one.

Paying attention to eddylines is what life is all about.  We are always crossing them, always finding ourselves in various situations that contain conflicting currents.  Knowing which way to lean  before entering an eddyline is key to keeping your boat right side up.  Having a plan in the back of your mind, will increase the odds that you can keep your boat from getting flipped when unexpected circumstances surprise you. This fluid dynamic is a great metaphor for how we deal with any obstacle nature throws us during our time on the planet.

If you don’t know how to start a fire from scratch, then you better be sure to have matches and tinder in your back pack when entering the outdoors in bad weather.  Or, when entering a large forest in unfamiliar territory, you better have a compass, in case you get lost or turned around.  Anticipation is the key to survival. Just knowing which way to lean in a kayak when making an eddy turn can make all the difference between being upside down or right side up.

Life or death situations are often only a step away when  crossing the wrong eddyline and being ill prepared. Reading nature and properly interpreting her language, is the solution to recognizing ways to keep your boat afloat and nasty swims at bay. Like weather prognosticators who study the clouds, river people study water currents. Different clouds mean different things, just as do various currents found on any river. Paying attention to nature’s clues will help keep us from being clueless.

Learning from experience is the best teacher, The old saying  is true:  ” good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgement.” As it turns out,  experience isn’t so much  of what happens to people,  as it is really  more importantly about what people do  with whatever happens to them.

The best potential for  survival in any adventure or life path, is knowing how to be prepared for anything that might arise.  To refrain from doing anything out of fear of dying, is not really living.  Not crossing eddylines may be safe, but that leads only to a dull and boring life.  It reduces your chances of experiencing some of the lifes most exciting and cherished offerings. True balance is gained only by dancing on the edge. All eddylines of the world are the fulcrum for facilitating potential equilibrium.

If you want to keep your metphorical boat right side up,  pay attention to the eddyline of life  and anticipate which way to lean before crossing it.

Trees – To Hug or Not?

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Seriously, have you ever hugged a tree? Sure, no one wants to earn the reputation of being a “tree hugger,” after all, that might qualify you as being one of those lowly “earth muffins.”  You know, the folks so out of touch with nature that they believe in such things as little fairies and hobbits hiding in the forests.

 

Well, I haven’t seen any fairies yet, but I will admit to hugging trees. The ones I hug are normally those that have stood longer than a hundred years, some over half a century.  It is hard to understand, but when I wrap my arms around a tree, one so large that my embrace isn’t even near half way around, there is a undescribable  feeling that comes over me.  It is like I can feel the age of the tree being transformed deep inside my soul.  It may be cliché to say I am one with the tree, as I also feel at one with the river, but all the same, it works for me.

It is akin to standing before all within my view with open arms, that being a part of everything I see soon sinks into my consciousness of connectedness. With my upper limbs spread wide and reaching high towards the heavens, I feel like a human funnel pulling in all of the universe.

One  of my favorite trees is so ancient that it has several limbs, each one of which has the diameter of a tree more than 30 inches dbh. (diameter at breast height) in a foresters perspective.  I once took the string off my long bow (over 5′ long) to wrap around its trunk. I forget now the precise measurement, but it was more than two end-to-end string lengths worth of wrap. I love that tree, and visit it every time I pass it by.  It is a great place to rest, as its safety from the saw is its vast deepness  into the wilderness, thus a  physical boundary far to reach. But more importantly, it lives on in  a legal refuge of protection.

It is easy for me to see why and how indigenous  people developed the concept of the sacred tree of life. When people gathered under the Sacred Tree, they could find security and healing.  The roots penetrate deeply into mother earth and the branches reach high into father sky.  Compassion, wisdom, and love for all things come from the fruit.  This tree of life is the life of the people. If they stray too far from the shadow of the tree,  and  forget to seek its nourishment , or destroy it,  a great sorrow will result.  The tree will turn from green to red and become uprooted. This happens when the people forget how to know what truth is.

As long as the tree lives, so live the people.  Not knowing truth leads to quarrelling and a division between people. It is easy to fall out of harmony with all else in the world. Not all trees are meant for cutting down, some are meant for hugging. Just as people are not meant to be divided or cut off from one another. Community means all living things collectively, and does not just pertain to people. As for me, I will continue seeking the grandfather shadows hundreds of  years old and hug their furrowed bark of a round and secure truth.

Some people hug trees, some trees hug people.
What do you embrace, and what embraces you?

              

Gary & Barb
(inside the wisdom of a great grand fir along the banks of Oregon’s  Grande Ronde River)

Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers.

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