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Watching the River Flow

Watching the River Flow

I got lost in the woods looking for a large band of gray, granite slab that can’t be missed from the road. I returned to the car to recalibrate, crossed the river again and headed north up the hillside. It’s hot. It’s humid. I’m sweating through my small pack that’s holding my water, snacks, guidebook and smoke. Disgusting. I descend what looks like the beginning of a cliff band. I think I found what I was looking for, a nice 2-pitch 5.1 climb on the Rainbow Slabs in the White Mountains on the East Coast hovering above the great Atlantic Ocean. I start up the climb following a large black streak to the first ledge. At first I’m worried about the steepness of the wall. Then I realize there are hidden ledges the whole way. I move further up the climb. Before I know it I’m at the chains where I can cliff out. Joy be to God. Finally I’m scrambling again. I decide to down climb for the practice. As I do so I look to my right and left and see the late afternoon sun refract off the mountains and warm the trees. My heart glows and I think of Mother and Father and home, where it is now and where it will be – Oklahoma, Detroit City, Whiskey Rivers, Bird Dog, bluegrass nights, large booming cities, lonely interstate rest stops, Denver, Concord, wherever I want it to be – when the last cloud floats by.

It’s getting dark. Maybe an hour of sunlight left, so I head back to the truck. I’m caked in sweat. My shirt is dripping. My visor is dripping. My backpack is dripping. I’m dripping. I need to get clean. At the truck I grab a towel, a new set of clothes, my cell phone, and smoke. Then I head back to the riverside. I disrobe and jump in. The current tries to take me down the river, but I dig my heals into the smooth rock bottom and lean back. I’m refreshed and appreciative. Nature coddles my aging body and helps it remember what it feels like to be young again. I enjoy the moment and time is lost.

As I’m getting out of the river I slip on a rock a stub my left big toe. “Fuaaaahhhhhck!” I grimace to myself. To hell with this place. I’m hungry. I’m out of here.

About Kevin Riley

Kevin Riley has been a rock climbing and general outdoor enthusiast for over sixteen years, served as the associate publisher for Climbing and Urban Climber magazines, and co-founded the Denver-based non-profit, First Ascenders. He graduated from UMASS (Amherst).

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