There are quite a few amazing women in my life that have shaped who I am and who I am to become. But this is not about those women. This is about you.
Idaho Rivers, I love you. These words have needed to be said to you for some time. Although I talk to you before every run, it’s time you heard my voice more often than when I see you. You see, you taught me how to be me. You used your rocks to show me that some things cannot be moved, so I must learn to go around them. You used your force to hold me underwater when I needed a lesson in humility and spanked me (quite literally, kerchunk) when I needed another. I had to hold my breath with a sinking feeling and realize I actually was not, at all, good at swimming. In fact, you showed me that I never would be when you are involved.
You taught me the true meaning of friendship. It’s because of you that I’ve found some of my greatest allies thus far in this short life of mine. You punished me when I screwed up and cradled me in your eddies as I caught my breath and came to terms with my mortality. But while harsh criticism found my failings, you, in turn, held me high with praise, cresting each of your waves with unadulterated joy when I succeeded in reading you right.
In the Little Salmon, you taught me vocabulary and the definition of “chundered.” In the Slide, you may or may not have assured me it’s okay to piss your pants as a grown man. I rode my first bull in Wild Sheep. And I learned how to really high side in Granite. The celebration of making it through Irish Railroad is only matched by learning to dance in Ruby.
Rivers of Idaho, you showed me some of the finer things in life. A hot rinse at Sunflower has to be the best shower I’ve ever had. Drinking a beer, chilled by your riffles, in Barth with all my friends, tastes better than any frosty mug handed over in a bar. You showed me the meaning of peace, sitting in the shade in California Creek on the Main, and the meaning of excitement, dropping into the Big EZ at 80. And as it turns out, the best place to poop is in a bucket tucked away in the nook of your woods looking out into your waters.
You brought me grace and humility, challenge and fatigue, mistakes and morals. You taught me how to be kind when dealing with difficult personalities that kick sand into your sandwich. You used your waters to carve my body and make me strong, while at the same time making me realize after way too long, it does not require muscles to navigate your waters.
With patience, you flow around those obstacles too hard to move and break others down over time. And thus, you are too similar to life in my eyes, for me to call you anything else. I first stood on wobbly legs on the Salmon. I started walking on the Little Salmon. And as my confidence built, you taught me to run the Main, the Middle Fork, and Hells Canyon. The South Fork of the Payette, the Lochsa, and the Selway.
I can still feel the jitters pushing off from Tony Point, and the struggle of pushing through the eddies on a windy day above Ruby. I know I got too cocky in Traps. I found a bigger Kerchunk in Chair. Remember that Barrel Roll in Termination? Or the time you put a group of us in time-out in the middle of Horsetail and told us to become friends?
For these lessons and memories, Idaho Rivers, you have my love. I love you. My heart lives in your waters.
I swear my schoolboy-crush fawning is coming to a close, but I have one last thing to say to you, Idaho. You deserve better than what I, and we, have given you. You deserve much, much more. Flow through it. Help more men and women learn who they are and face who they could become if they are not careful. Teach, preach, and perpetuate. For without you, we are without our lifeblood and I am without my Soul.