There are certain rivers that I know quite well through my work guiding on them over the years. Most of these riparian pathways I have seen in wet, flooding Spring, Summer, and cool, slow Fall. The majority of my focus for all of these river miles, days, and hours has been on the river itself - specifically on the boulders, pillows, waves, holes, and clear moving sluices for which I aim. Mostly I find success in focussing on the way through - the path.
When rapids cease and the water runs smooth I still am drawn to the river and the bank - scanning for Blue Heron, Otter, Salmon, Steelhead, Elk, Wolves, Golden Eagle, Black Bear, Cougar, Bald Eagle, Bighorn Sheep, Canyon Wren, Swainson's Thrush, Ouzel, Kingfisher, Osprey, Cutthroat and Golden Trouts. My focus is on the riparian corridor. It is where I camp and work as well: the beaches, the banks, the cobble bars, high benches but all of it is close to the river. I am always on the same path. Yes, the path changes from day to day - it is a dynamic and flowing system as is all of nature, but it is this focus on that thin ribbon of wilderness I write about today.
You see, I think I'm missing out.
I need to get off the river and take more hikes - explore some terrestrial corridors and take a break from the riparian - even though I love it so much. I have found value in taking hikes up canyon walls to get my bearings— to feel and more deeply know these incredible places I am honored to live and work in.
When I take the time to get away from the river, take a hike and get above it I appreciate and understand where I am. The river is a way in, but maybe I am missing out on a deeper connection to the place I am flowing through by not getting away and above the river to appreciate how it is connected to the larger, living, fecund body of the canyons that it has carved - the peaks that surround it, the buttes, cliffs, and battlements through which it flows.
Here's to forays off well known paths.