07 June 2007

Hell's Canyon, the novel

Where to start?

It's surprising how doing a limited number of activities for such an extended period of time can really give you a lot to think about. Thus, many following posts will be ponderings that came to me during hours of driving, floating, and sipping hot cocoa.

Sorry for any repeated stories, here goes:

Last Thursday, I bussed and scooted to Thrifty Rental, where I rented a Chevy Aveo (giving in to the $50 insurance) and took off for Pocatello shortly thereafter. The first thing I noticed upon sitting down in the car was that my stack of CDs was going to be pointless. The thing had no CD or tape player! 11-13 hours of limited Idaho radio, here we come.

In Pocatello, Andrew and I caught up, finished detailing a car he had promised to have done by 5, and ate at Winger's (my first time, I'm excited to go again). He was so nice to take the time out of his day, especially since he has like five jobs. We finally hugged goodbye and I took off for Boise. The ride there was full of stinky, cow-filled towns and constant searching for any radio station not playing country music. When I arrived in Boise, I drove through downtown to find it was quite charming. After finally finding the art museum, I discovered I was too late. Not to be discouraged, I figured out when it opened the next day so I could come back before heading north. I then proceeded to do baptisms at the Boise temple. It's one of those Russian, missile-looking ones with two scheduled times for baptisms each night. Some nice workers helped get me into a session with the young women even though I was late. They enjoyed talking to me about river rafting afterwards and told me to come visit again.

At Fabiola's, we talked about dating, jobs, and life philosophies (all the classics). When she left for work in the morning, she invited me to stay as long as I needed to. I organized the car, ate some feta and cherries, and headed to the art museum by just guessing which direction it was in. I got there eventually. The freeway probably would have been faster. I paid six dollars to see the collection of Chuck Close, a kind of woodcut pop artist who specializes in enormous faces. It wasn't my kind of thing, though some of it was interesting. I'm not sure six dollars was worth it. I walked through the rose garden in the back, considered the zoo, and arranged for a nice lady to pick up some yarn that I had put on Craig's List. At Rite Aid I searched and searched for Bug and Sun, with no luck. Finally I consulted a lady who referred me to the same places I had already seen. She said she'd never seen combined sunscreen and insect repellent. Then I finally found some, but it was spray on (which I'm not sure about trusting yet) and expensive, so I bought the cheapest sunscreen. Then I headed for Lewiston. At first I wondered why mapquest said it would take so long with so few miles. It didn't take long to realize that there was no major freeway heading in that direction and I'd have to drive through little towns with slow speed limits. With no radio stations. As long as I got reception, I made phone calls. Then I did some praying. And some singing. And some picture-taking. And finally some more radio surfing.

When I pulled into the Inn America in Lewiston (a new time zone, I discovered), I saw Sister Barton right off. I didn't know what to call her in this new situation, but every time I called her "Sister Barton," one of her kids would tell me I didn't have to. I ended up going with "Grandma Janice." I hope she's okay with that. It was great to see her again. I loved getting to know her family. Her two oldest daughters (Diane and Karen) and I talked as we tried to figure out a flight delay situation. Diane, from Florida, was a pro at talking to the people at Delta. Karen and her husband are fun-loving, social people who live in Arizona. Diane and Grandma Janice had nice bonnet- and flapper-looking hats picked out for all the girls. After it was all figured out and most of the family had arrived, we went to Antonio's, the local pizza parlor. The pizza with blue cheese crumbled on it was so good. Janell was my roommate. She is Bryan's (Grandma Janice's son) girlfriend. She was really nice and in good shape mentally and physically. She works in the mental health field and she raises horses.

The next morning, we ate the continental breakfast, packed our river bags, and rubbed on some sunscreen. I was surprised to see that most people weren't dressed in swimsuits with t-shirts and shorts. Every river trip I've been on has had everyone ready to swim. Anyway, we flew to Oregon in miniature charter planes and landed in a field with cows huddled in the corner! We received instruction from our new friends, the OARS guides. (I found out OARS stands for "Outdoor Adventure River Specialists.") All the young'ns jumped into the raft where we could paddle. The other choices were sitting in the dories, sitting in the gear rafts, or going on the inflatable kayaks, which we weren't quite up for just yet. Duane flipped on the one-man kayak right at the start. Three times. It was awesome that he kept going anyway. Since we had to set up camp early so the delayed New Yorkers (Sara and John) could catch up to us on another raft, we ended up hiking, swimming, talking, eating, and trying out the inflatable kayaks. Stephanie and I laughed and laughed as we went around and around in circles until we figured it out. Matthew and I made a pretty good team, but we were no match when we tried to turn around and go against the current. We ended up getting out and dragging ourselves along the rocks. I decided that kayaking is so fun, I want to become a hardcore kayaker, and some day I'll be known as the first girl kayaker to kayak upstream, through the rapids on the Snake River.

When Sara and John arrived, a cheer went up. We went hiking and ended up in a lot of poison ivy and turned around to wash. Everyone knows to immediately scrub and rinse your skin, but what about if it touched your clothes? I had specifically changed into long jeans for the hike. I ended up just walking into the water. The highlight of the hike was a historical cabin called "The Barton Cabin," which is the last name of many of the people on the trip.

The camp each day got better. The first camp had a rocky shore that was hard to keep your balance on and lots of poison ivy. The second camp had a lot of prickly stickers, more sand, lots of wind, less rocks, and less poison ivy. The third camp had more sand, no poison ivy, a warm and friendly wind, and less stickers. The fourth camp was a lovely, sandy beach without poison ivy or stickers. We hardly had bugs the entire time. There were these tiny round ones that would get all over grey-colored shirts, and the skinny black ones that couldn't walk in a straight line. Since none of the bugs we noticed did any harm, by the second day we kind of stopped flicking them away.

Kayaking was awesome. Stephanie and I flipped a couple of times. The first time, I couldn't get a breath. Every time it looked like I was at the bottom of a wave, I'd try to get some air, but it wasn't enough, just lots of water. Duane (her dad, who I didn't realize was named Duane and not Dwayne until the second day) kept saying, "You stopped rowing when you got to a big wave. You have to keep rowing!" I finally said, "I don't think we stopped rowing. At the start of each rapid, we'd say, 'Alright, paddle hard!' We didn't stop paddling, did we, Stephanie?" No answer. I guess I was alone in my paddling at those momentss. Ha ha. We found out as we floated down to be rescued that the paddleboat had flipped too. All I got to see was Eric Shedd pulling Grandma Janice into the boat. Grandma Janice and I flipped once when we couldn't get to the left fast enough to avoid a huge rock, and we went over the side.

Ever since I interviewed a dermatologist years ago, I have avoided sunburns like the devil. Faithfully applying sunscreen every few hours, I figured I was good to go. Unfortunately, I didn't think hard enough to realize that when you sit down in a boat, your shorts slide up. I have two little strips of sunburn on my thighs. They hurt for a few days, but thanks to Karen's generosity with the aloe lotion, I was able to stop rolling up my shorts and actually bend over to lower myself into a beach chair.

The dories were quite boring to me, but the adults wanted turns on the paddleboat, so we made the best of it by chatting with the guides. Heather Solee told me she is writing a book about each of the areas threatened by humans and after which the dories had been named. She told me about 91-year-old Martin Litton, an environmentalist who still rows through the lava rapid in the Grand Canyon while his 88-year-old wife walks the shore (she doesn't want to flip anymore). Look for her book in February.

Each night, we'd gather in a circle of beach chairs and tell stories. Karen came up with themes, such as childhood memories and camping adventures. There were so many good ones, I can't even begin to do them justice. Casey and James, two cowboy brothers, made us laugh our heads off with tongues stuck to poles and golf carts getting lodged under trucks. A lot of the Bartons, being from Nevada, are into rodeos. So much of the lingo was unfamiliar to me. I asked Stephanie about some of it, and she did a good job of explaining cutting. This week she will take part in the Nationals. She said, "I bet there are things that you know how to do that I don't," which was nice of her.

I was able to convince some of the other "kids" (as we were called) to sleep with me on stretches of sand, which was lovely. I saw a few satellites and shooting stars. Even the light rain felt nice on my face, as it was so hot (I regretted having brought fleece pants to sleep in).

Meals were AMAZING. We would pull into a nice beach, stock up on sunscreen and water, and play games like football and bocci ball until the appetizers were ready (fruit and crackers). Then we'd eat those until lunch was ready. I felt kind of guilty just letting the guides do all the work, so I at least pitched in with passing equipment out of boats and doing the dishes. Each meal was something amazing. Cory even ground up orange peels for the French toast. The steak was good except for the sand that got blown into my A1 sauce. The crunch added some personality to the meal as we huddled in tents until things had calmed down. We saw hieroglyphs, tried rowing the dories, talked about how awesome it would be to be a river guide and travel the rest of the year. We joked about the view of what the guides called "the unit" and I called "the loo."

Five of us stayed for the last two days. That's when things got cold. When Karen and I got out of the kayak at lunch time, Leah said I was looking purple and handed me a jacket. Eve handed me some splash pants. They asked if I had some shoes besides flip flops. Every one of us bundled up and endured the rest of the day, wishing for sun.

The next day, we woke to overcast weather that was beautiful anyway. We saw big horn sheep, lots of deer, and canyon wren(s?). At lunchtime we discovered that Cory (a guide) had a wonderful method of throwing bocci balls, but Matthew and I started to make a comeback when we threw the white ball into bushes where people could only guess which way to throw them. We still lost and went to eat our sandwiches.

It was sad to say goodbye to everyone after spending so much time together in such a beautiful place open to lots of thinking. We hugged the guides goodbye as we turned to get in the shuttle van taking us back to Lewiston when Leah suddenly turned around and started running. Cory followed her, throwing off his shirt and swimming towards a raft that had somehow gotten loose and was taking off down the river. The other guides started running and they yelled goodbye as they ran. What an exciting way to end.

I felt bad having Grandma Janice get another hotel room for me, and I knew I could make it to Boise that night, so I took off, only stopping to take pictures of funny small-town buildings (like libraries in mobile homes) and go to the Nez Perce museum. Unfortunately, my directions didn't anticipate me stopping in Boise again, so I thought doing the previous directions backwards would work. It didn't. I ended up going in the wrong direction for thirty minutes before I figured it out and turned around. Fabiola wasn't there when I arrived, so I showered, got into my skirt and a shade (the only clean clothing I had), and went to sleep. I slept through her getting home, so we only got to talk for a few minutes in the morning.

I took off and drove and drove and drove, lucky to find a fast car to follow. I got home around two PM, visited the workplaces of two friends, and felt exhausted. :) That's the story.

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