Namakan River below Hay Rapids – October 10, 2013
I stare at the line between flat water and the drop into Hay Rapids. The water looks like glass melting down and away, sliding until gravity pulls too hard and shatters the it apart into the white foam of a long tongue of waves.
I think it’s runnable, just point the nose down the middle and go, but the river curves in the distance, moving fast around a bend and I know there has to be more. Drops and pools. Drops and pools. Water running down a staircase. But what if one of the drops is too big.
I look at my map.
Hay Rapids, it says.
I think about High Falls, where the river broke around an island and rushed over a twenty foot cliff, but this isn’t a waterfall on the map.
Just rapids, I think.
Just light blue lines drawn on a map, I think.
The map is useless, I think.
I stare at the bend in the river then at the line where the flat water breaks away. I think and think, but I don’t know. I want to know.
Above that line, before the river rushes down, everything is still a decision. The water is calm. It barely moves. I can make choices. I can find the portage or pick a different path through the waves. I can stare and feel fear. I can hesitate and stop. I can sit and wait.
But below it, past that line, decisions end. Fear is pointless there. You can’t hesitate or stop. You can’t change your course. You are a cast die in flight. You can only crash against the table and hope you come up right.
The bow slipped over the line. I took a last breath. The current grabbed me and pulled forward. I threw a paddle blade into the water. I felt the rush of momentum, the loss of control. I smiled.
Food. Campsites. Wind. Water. Portages. Routes. Resupply. Repair. Fire. Clothes. Mileage. Animals. Speed. Maps. Fuel. Strangers. Cold. Rain. Injuries. Sunlight. Fatigue. Future. Gear. Rapids.
Decisions come and come, they never stop, never, until the current captures the hull, until I slip over a rapid’s lip. Then every choice is taken away and I can only go.
It is bliss.