October 12, 2021

Phyllis and I up in the bow, early morning, ready to head out.


You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.

-Mae West


“I wonder what time it is?” I said to no one in particular.

“What time do you want it to be?” said Bryce, our guide.

Good point.  I stretch out on my back, laying my head on the small drybag that holds my personal gear.   Gear boxes, just behind the bench seat that supports Phyllis and me in the bow of the raft, are just big enough for my upper body to fit.  My feet are on the inflatable floor and my eyes are on the deep blue cloudless sky above.  The water gently swirls and gurgles around us and there is a soft plopping sound as Bryce repeatedly drops the oars into the river.  The jagged edge of tall steep mountain ridges saw across the horizon and cast short shadows over the canyon.  Out of the corner of my eye, I glimpse a kingfisher fly by just inches over the water and it occurs to me, what need do we have for time out here?

I could look at my watch, which I still have around my left wrist, but it’s set for Boston time.  In any case, the Pacific Time Zone and the Mountain Time Zone are separated by, you guessed it, the Snake River.  So if it is three o’clock on the west bank, it would be four o’clock on the east bank.  And out here in the middle of the river, what, three-thirty?  Take your pick?  Is either relevant?  Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to separate the day into periods like, time to get up and pack your stuff, time to breakfast, time to board the raft, time to beach for lunch, time to beach for camp and so on?  And these events aren’t determined by a clock, or even some other arbitrary rhythm of events, but whenever some task is completed, regardless of clock-time.  Or maybe we don’t need time at all. We just do what needs to be done in whatever good time it takes to do it.

That’s sort of the point of being out here in nature, miles away from civilization, isn’t it?  To quote Thoreau, “to live deliberately.”  There is still a rhythm to things as we float down the river, but that rhythm is very different from our routines back in the city.  There, we’re interconnected with so many synchronous activities that we have to have a clock-time to be certain things mesh together appropriately.  I need to get out to my car by such and such a time so that I can arrive at the airport in time to catch my plane, for example.  In the canyon, we don’t know what’s going on in the world outside and if it occurs to wonder about it, it doesn’t stick — it’s merely a passing whim.  Out here, we just need to join in the pulse of life as it gently rolls downriver.  Get up when the dawn wakes us up, pack up as we wait for breakfast, climb into the rafts when they’re ready to go, beach the boat when we arrive at our lunch spot, and again in the late afternoon when we arrive at our campsite.  What do we need clocks for?

Waldo would understand.  He’d fit right into this kind of lifestyle without any problem.  We’d just have to beach the boat more often so he could poop and pee without doing it on our feet.  I do wish he were here.  I miss the guy.

We arrive at our campsite and everything is already set up.  There are five small two-man dome-like tents, each with cots.  Chris and Megan have their own tent, pitched a short way from the rest of us for privacy.  Phyllis has her own tent, as does Ted.  Bill and I share a tent, so does Ron and Gary.  There’s not a whole lot of room in the tents, but you can stand up in them.  The guides bed down not too far away – they sleep under the stars.  A short walk from the tents, in some bushes or under a tree, is the groover and another box with a toilet seat for the ladies – it would be more difficult for them to pee in the river.  “A handy thing to have on a picnic,” is what my aunt used to call a particular part of the male anatomy.  Both boxes are tucked away under a tree or behind a bush for privacy.  Tables and chairs are unfolded and ready to be used as soon as dinner is cooked.

The first thing I do, after taking my gear into our tent, is to strip off my wet clothes and put on dry.  The wet stuff I hang on the tent frame to let the wind blow-dry them.  It doesn’t take long.  We then hang out and explore around for a couple of hours to stay out of the way of dinner preparation.  Tonight, we’re having baked brie with crackers and grapes as an appetizer, then grilled tri-tip steak with asparagus, couscous, candied walnut, and an apple and gorgonzola salad with soda bread.  The coup de grace is Dutch-oven s’mores bars for dessert.  After that, it’s getting dark and we go to bed when we feel like it – after watching nature display her magnificence in a light display of stars, the likes of which cannot be witnessed anywhere close to a city.

Life is good.


Our home at the end of the day, comfy tents with cots.

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