Ruby Horsethief to Moab – September 24, 2017 to October 3, 2017
Snowflakes to Gold Flakes…Pigeon Holed…Sky Dancing on Turquoise Wings…Beaver Mulch
We are loading the truck and organizing our gear till late in the evening at Avon on the 23rd, cold winds and gray skies sputtering snowflakes around us as the riggings are loaded. It’s 27 degrees when I go out into the morning to finish the packing and as we head off the steep slopes of the stunning gold mountainsides, sliding down the valley on the highway as the landscape reaches a new angle of repose that is flatter, where rushing, canyon-bound rivers meander across grassy meadows, exploring pathways by gently nudging here and pushing a bit there. We are to be gone for a week, starting at the Loma boat ramp on Colorado’s western boundary and continuing as far towards Moab as our desires and energies permit us to go. We will be traveling through the Westwater Canyon, containing a series of about a dozen rapids, any one of which can wreak havoc on the unaware, unskilled or just unlucky. We must enter the Canyon with a permit, which says that happens on the 27th. It is forecast for rain and cold temperatures on that day and we debate changing plans over a burger and fries at the Wendy’s in Grand Junction.
I’m nervous about the Westwater Rapids, and watch a few You Tube videos of rafters going through each of them and settle into the idea of doing it, taking our time and, maybe, scouting where necessary. After having run the Dolores River earlier this year with heavy rapids and the tight, fast water of the Gunnison Gorge a few years ago, I feel that I will be able to handle the Westwater.
We call Rimrock Adventures and arrange shuttle services, then head to the Loma put-in and begin rigging the boat and Leah’s board. We push off into chill autumn winds. Summer is just beginning to show its end here. Trees sparkling with a hint of autumn, a few leaves at the scattered fringe like gold flakes, rare and beautiful against those heavenly blues above me, sung from the worlds beyond this homeship Earth. I am traveling in familiar land. Rock, grass, tree and sky are pulled through my consciousness as though through a snaking kaleidoscope. Old friends come visiting at water’s edge…clustered lime grasses, trout flying out of swirling current to murder the unsuspecting dinner and, of course, the stone faces…hanging all around us as we move on the liquid blanket.
I come upon dark recesses, thousands upon thousands of small dark recesses carved into vertical salmon colored stone…shadowed retreats for life rarely seen on the river. They hide in the shadows. Stone-still they watch as we slip by…dozens and dozens of them, barely visible as they lurk and watch…their breathing imperceptible, their presence surprising. Soft grays and dusty white feathered things, denizens of cities but rarely seen in wild country, like rose framed pictures done in black and white. They are everywhere. Pigeons in stone holes. Pigeon holed.
It is cozy here. Tall walls put us in a God hallway and it feels safe and inviting. I find a slowing current so I can see the details of this painting. Memories of past trips pile in, and wonders of moments to come take me time traveling to places not here. I do a mental mind shake to return to this moment. A friend of mine told me she doesn’t find anything magical in the world of nature, finds no spiritual element in the wild world. So I look and see the stone and life around me. I see the tumbled and tilted landscape. I try to kill the awareness of wonder. I try to see it all around without wonder arising in me. There is no magic. There is just rock and life, but it does not contain any story, any message, any path, any wisdom. I travel the road, letting all that I used to feel pass out of me, or stop its arising from within. So I see what is here. And yet, curiosity keeps me at the moment. Why is this land the way it is? What made that stone? Why are there layers of color? How did pigeon holes arise? Why are the blades of grass shaped this way? Why is it green? The questions do not stop and my curiosity increases with each observation. It is enough. Curiosity is my source of life. I can see the life without magic. Curiosity leads me to wonder. I wonder about it all. The wonder is always there. Not the wonder of magic but the wonder that arises from curiosity and the how of things. So I walk my mind into the wonder that arises from curiosity and visit all that I have learned about the how and what questions of the world. And then I wonder again, how and why did it all come to be the way that it is? This is always the journey I take. But it is this journey that leads to the questions I cannot answer. It is a journey that can only be explained to me by a God story, or whatever you might choose to call it. They are the questions for me that arise from magical wonder. The unknown that surrounds me. And I cannot be in this life without magic. The unanswerable, the unknown, it exists within each and everything that passes around and through me. It is that unknown which underlies, is the source of all that arises. I look against desert stone wall and I see a pair of turquoise winged birds sky dancing, and I am in wonder. I need to talk to my friend again.
We float our six miles into late evening light and pull to our camp, Cottonwood 1, a steep embankment tie-off with a soft water landing. We unload as a neighboring camper awaits…Mark Clark, who tells us he is here with a group of kids….giving us fair warning I suspect. We quickly set up camp as chill winds blow in. I put up the fire pan and get a roaring fire burning, and then set out the sleeping area, building a berm of dry bags to block the chill winds from our open air beds.
Leah wanders around collecting bits of wood and fistfuls of beaver mulch…chippings from the works of beaver teeth that are left at the base of trees where trees no longer live. We sip wine as icy winds blow in and we pile on layer after layer of clothing until I am warm and snug and sound asleep in the chair. Leah chastens me to go to bed. I finally relent and am sleeping before my head hits the pillow. I awake at 4 am to watch as stars begin to give ground to earth spins towards the awaiting sun before fading to sleep again.