It’s a moving, breathing, pulsing, seething, rolling, boiling mass of ego crushing, dream making, sweat drenching, muscle stretching, thought provoking ride. Most thoughts beginning as: “How did I get myself into this?” and ending, “This is gonna be fun, right?”
Adventure? That ain’t the half of it! Pulse pounding, teeth grinding, hard paddling, rock surfing, shootin’ the tunnel, high siding, overboard, frigid water, pulse stops, teeth chatter, ride the rapid, toes up, avoid the rocks, ouch! Praise the springsuit that’s keeping your skin on, pinball action off the rocks to end up in a bubbly vortex and a barely discernible smile as you feel an arm clasp onto your almost numb appendage and pull you back into the boat after it finally caught up to you.
We all laugh, a little too high, and just as you begin to relax and resume the paddle downriver, thunder sounds in the distance born not of clouds and sky but, of water and rocks. Your heart is back in your throat, pumping too hard as the guide calls out in all urgent sincerity, “That last class IV was a cruise, now HARD PADDLE LEFT! LEFT! LEFT!”
Safe and dry, you look for a t-shirt that says it all. On the front of the nearest smoky teal shirt, a bold font in white states: The American River, the fear starts here! On the back, an eerie graphic of a watery hand and face reaches out as if in distress of going down under forever and the following depiction of your ordeal is spelled out: Breath torn from unsuspecting body, the shock of instant submersion, disoriented – thrashing – water splashing – reach – grasp – hope for air – every muscle past it’s limits – to bulging eyes the skies appear – breathe too soon, the end draws near, – coughing heaving – down again – seemingly as endless spin – feel insignificant through all this – your final thought did I just piss – strength is gone to give a care – then someone grabs you by the hair – ALIVE – to see another day – one thing different you can say – you took the big swim and you KNOW FEAR and it’s not just a saying on the back of some t-shirt.” Nodding your head as you head to the checkout, muttering under your breath: “Yeah, I can relate.”