How does one capture an incredibly eventful and challenging and rewarding six days in words when time is so short? We’ve barely processed for ourselves what just happened.
Perhaps I can best capture the spirit of where we’ve arrived by quoting a few lines cobbled together from Whitman’s “Song of Myself”:
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road . . .
From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,
Going where I list, my own master total and absolute,
Listening to others, considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently,but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.
I inhale great draughts of space,
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.
I am larger, better than I thought,
I did not know I held so much goodness . . .
Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons,
It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.
The first three days and three campsites were magical. A canoe expedition is hard work, but everyone threw themselves into the process with great enthusiasm and humor. Everyone paddled well, we enjoyed epic water battles, the food was terrific, we hiked a couple of spectacular side canyons, and our Canyonlands Field Institute guides quickly earned our love and admiration. All was well.
And then came Camp Four, the campsite of the mosquito plague, mosquitoes with truly evil dispositions, mosquitoes in numbers that none of us had ever before encountered, guides included (they’ve evidently had a record warm winter followed by a wet spring). Oh, and then a sudden thunderstorm in the middle of the night sent most of us scurrying back out of the tents to the delight of said mosquitoes so we could rig our rain flys in a hurry (it had been too hot to rig them earlier). The next morning we made what can only be described as a semi-organized retreat under heavy fire, and though the bugs were gone once we got out on the water, morale was low among kids and adults alike.
But from that point on, the group tightened and strengthened and rallied. We found ways to laugh again and to let the scenery and the solitude heal our hearts. Our last night’s camp, up on a bluff well above the riverside willow jungle/breeding grounds, offered spectacular views, a steady breeze, and blessed relief from the teeming hordes of winged bloodsuckers. Many of us even ditched our tents and slept under the stars. This morning we took a sunrise hike along the bench to see the light change and the colors come to life, and by the time we were back on the water, canoes tied side-by-side for a final sharing session during our float out, it was clear that it was we who had changed and come to life.
Pictures are downloading . . . more to come later.