Now though it’s back on the raft and back into the beauty and serenity of Labyrinth Canyon. We have replaced Monika and April with Gretchen and Sara for this stretch so in almost as many ways as possible this next couple weeks is going to differ from the past couple weeks.
One thing though that I really hope stays the same is the weather. With the exception of one really hot spell just before Green River this entire trip has been marked with surprisingly cool, but not too stormy weather. Wind has been persistent but only really frustrating for that first three days on the Uinta Basin. We’ve had a few storms but they’ve come at good times and have actually been a source of enjoyment rather than a source of misery. As we float on toward camp tonight all I can keep thinking is how lucky we are to be 20 miles south of Green River in the middle of June and I find myself getting a bit chilly as the sun begins to creep out of few behind some of the canyon walls.
6-11-02: Day 33 Day 33 of our trip and I must mention some more of the beautiful weather that we’ve had. Today for example – June 11th in the Utah desert south of Green River 30 miles – and the day was only pleasantly warm. Maybe 80 or 85 but tonight as the sun has set the temperature has dropped and the air has a comforting chill to it that you expect to find in April not in June. The past 2 evenings have been cool enough for a cup of tea before bed, and bed has consisted not of the usual tarp out in the sand under the starts but rather of a tent and fully wrapped in a sleeping bag.
The total number of times that I have been annoyed with heat so far on this trip equals exactly zero and now we’re so close to the end that I’m not even afraid to admit this. I worry of course that I am jinxing myself right now, but two weeks of heat does not seem all that bad – not when I was expecting 5 or 6 weeks of heat.
Every time a cold front has swept through I have been certain it’d be the last I’d see until sometime in August in the mountains, but then another comes along – slightly warmer than the previous one but still much cooler than I had expected. My experience in this part of the world this time of year has brought me to expect no fluctuation in temperature. My mind knows that heat sets in and heat stays until the end of summer with little to no change. After all how much difference is there really between 93 degrees and 103 degrees?? On this trip even though we have seen 93 degrees we have also seen nights of 33 degrees and days of 63 degrees. We have seen rain, sleet, and wind – and so much less intense driving sun than expected. Of course there’s been sun, but many times it’s been soothing and comforting and a welcome friend. Mornings have been cool enough most days that rather than hiding from the sun we find ourselves soaking in it to warm up from the cool evening.
And then it gets warm, and the days come when we want the heat to go away but just then it does. Every time there’s been more than two straight days of intense heat it’s been broken by a several day stretch of cool, comfortable, abnormal weather.
On days like today – warmer days – I find myself wondering if maybe I’m just becoming more and more comfortable with this climate. Perhaps today was as warm as I expected it to be but I just didn’t know it because my expectations can no longer annoy me. And so I bring on tomorrow not even really caring if it’s hotter than today because the heat of today hardly got me warmed up from the cool of last night.
6-13-02: Day 35 Awoke today with this strange anxiety of getting stuck in an unavoidable cycle of life in my mind.
I awoke abruptly from a vivid dream of young co-workers who become nothings and nobodies in older age. Revolutionaries in their field – ready to start their own business and do this crazy stuff and that crazy stuff – showing unparalleled excitement, and then the dream jumped some 20 or 30 years into the future. One individual was dying of a heart attack right there in front of another who still worked the same monotonous job. This was clearly meant to be me but other than just knowing this to be true this person showed no similarities to me. I (through this strange man) spoke to others around and asked of the whereabouts of the other your, excited, revolutionary co-workers of my past. One of my friends had met a rich women, married, retired, had kids, and now lived in some other state. Another had just disappeared one day and no one ever knew where he went or what happened to him. And the third I had just watched have a heart attack and die right in front of me. And I remember there was a doctor or someone I knew could save her standing right there but he refused to help. He spoke of being very busy with his work and just could not tie himself up with other people’s affairs. And so the reality of the dream just hit me as I was sitting in this random office looking around. It was years down the road from the present and no dreams had been met, no revolutionary ideas had been realized and my original band of revolutionaries were retiring, disappearing, and dying.
And thus I awoke today with great anxiety about life and the nature of life. About getting stuck and never really doing the things I want to do and know I should do. And I wonder is it not just the human destiny to feel this way? Is it not just that no matter how much we do we will always feel like we should have done more and been more spontaneous?
Here I am on day 35 of 45 straight on the river and I’m doubting my track record of just going out and doing stuff that I really want to do. For many this trip would be a complete lifetime of rebellion and spontaneity. This one trip would be it for them and would be enough for them to die happy. For more though I believe there’s got to be a hunger like I have, a strong desire to do more and to step further outside of the boundaries of society and culture. I know most people must want more from life than what life “becomes” for them, but then I see so many people, including me sometimes, making decisions based on habits of society which become our prevailing guidelines in which we’re guided forward by some seemingly uncontrollable force. But then there are the times in which we learn to control this force, learn to really think for ourselves and do exactly what it is we want to be doing. And these become our moments of true happiness. And for some people it’s a day within an entire lifetime. For even more it’s their life as a child, a childhood of freedom and spontaneity and free will – a feeling never again matched in adult life. Sadly though for so many this seems to become it, they become content with the memory of these single days or a childhood gone by and then they just dig in and get stuck and don’t care at all anymore. And they find real happiness in this. They long for nothing more except the occasional vacation or promotion or surprise of coming home from work to see that their child has spoken her first words – something non descript and pointless like mama or dada – some word that they will use for 6 more months and then abandon for the remainder of their life. This creates happiness though – real happiness and people are able to go back to work and get promoted and take their vacation. And upon return from Hawaii or Acapulco or Florida or France they go back to work as happy as ever, with pictures and stories for everyone in the office – even the friend who will retire soon, and the one who will disappear soon, and she who will die soon. And slowly toward our own death we move – never really sure what death is but always just scared enough of it to live our lives timidly and conservatively for fear that we will end up being the one dead on the floor with a heart attack with no one willing to take the time to help.
Has my “office” though not just become the river and the deep narrow canyons of Southern Utah? Observers (friends and family) would look at my life and my lifestyle as the complete definition of freedom and spontaneity, but then here I am fearing at times the very opposite: that I have no choice, that my lifestyle here on the river is simply that what has become comfortable for me and that this is actually the easiest and least spontaneous thing for me to be doing. And I plug along, day after day, moving forward, and in the same way that a baby’s first word can become so important to a father coming home from work so too can the almost unthinkable desert rainstorm become so exciting to me. And it becomes enough though, and you find a great comfort in always wanting more but almost always settling for what you have and yet somehow they both seem to work and both seem to keep us moving forward – just content enough to be happy and at the same time just discontent enough to be happy.
6-10-02: Day 32 Further down the river. After a few days of instability in Green River life is now back to a comfort zone as we head into Labyrinth Canyon. All in all Deso. Turned out to be a really fun stretch. Canoeing turned what is usually a pretty mellow stretch of river into excitement around every corner for me and whoever was in the canoe with me at a given moment. Aside from Nykole and I capsizing in Wire Fence Rapid I made it through the entire canyon quite smoothly and hope that I get a chance to canoe it again sometime soon.
6-14-02: Day 36 36 days into our trip and only 9 more to go. Time moves forward so quickly. Weeks feel of days now. 5 weeks on the river has felt more like 2. Days have fallen into such a pattern that several of them just seem to blend together to the point where I sometimes can’t differentiate between the day and the events of the day that just happened and the previous day and the events of that day. And this isn’t to say that I’m not enjoying the trip- much to the opposite in fact: I’ve found such a comfort in having this repetitive pattern that I just don’t know how I’m going to deal with ending this trip in 9 more days. I’m sure I’ll figure something out but I am kind of scared to think about going back to Salt Lake in less than 2 weeks.