Rose and Ruth’s Trading Outpost, Kaministiquia River -September 21, 2013
I talked to myself for an hour before I squeezed into my wetsuit and nudged the boat out on the water. I got in slow, pulling my legs inside one at a time, adjusting them on the foot pedals and knee braces, shifting the back rest again and again, stalling for time in the quiet pool where I’d camped.
I didn’t trust the river anymore. It had fallen in the night and I thought of all the rocks that must be a foot higher, all the bony shoals that would push me out of the boat. Every bend frightened me. Every ripple made me wince and think of crashing up a rapid on battered feet, of pulling the boat with bruised hands.
My body felt tender and worn, beaten up, the toughness scraped away in thin slices by four days of walking up rapids, climbing over waterfalls, tripping on slick rocks and shoals. I ran my fingers down my legs and arms, feeling bruises and swollen lumps, scabbed-over cuts and joints that ground together like un-greased gears. Nothing broken, nothing unfixable, but all weighing down any movement with weary pain, thinning me, hollowing out my will.
“There’s only one rapid between the highway bridge and our place,” Ruth promised me.
I didn’t believe her. I couldn’t. The river had my imagination.
I stumbled up the rapid and kept looking for more, kept hesitating around bends, kept expecting to see the tail of a wave train and foam spinning by. I knew there would be more than one until I turned a corner three miles later and saw Ruth and Rose’s house sitting by a calm bend in the river, Rose reading a book in the window.
I waved. She waved back. I’d met them at Dan and Sally’s house in Thunder Bay. They said I should stop in on my way up the Kaministiquia. I told them I’d reach them in two days. It took five. But they were there to take me in, to shelter me for a night, to give me advice about the route ahead like an old time trading post.
Rose and Ruth came down to the bank in tall rubber boots to guard against the mud. They gave me a big hug and their smiles said all I needed to know.
Don’t worry, kid, everything’s gonna be all right.