Friday, September 4, 2015

A different Sacramento river

"No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man."

Heraclitus said it so certainly and believed strongly in change in the universe.  I experienced universal change very clearly on this trip.  If you study the map, the 100 mile stretch of river I recently paddled is exactly the same route I've paddled in the past, but my experience this time was so much different.  Like looking out your window in different seasons to find the same view but in a different way, this Sacramento River looked different, it felt different & it flowed different although it was the same view.  Not better, not worse, just different.

I joined up with three other Rivers for Change board members and some knowledgeable advisors for an on-water meeting to discuss the future of the organization and how to get there.  It's a fantastic group of wise-minded individuals with vision who all happen to be in love with rivers.  So, as the noon hour approached on Saturday and we loaded our rafts, canoes and sups, I launched onto the river to experience it again for the first time.  18 miles downriver we pulled into an eddy, setup camp on an unnamed island and got to work.

By noon on Sunday after an evening and morning of discussions we all arrived into Balls Ferry, checkpoint one for the California 100 and a place familiar to me even though I've never approached it by water.  We shuttled the vehicles, said our goodbyes and then 7 of the 8 other people on the trip with me departed for home.  Danielle Katz and I were left with our boards, camp gear, a car 78 miles downriver and no agenda.  Off we went.

As we negotiated the current, worked on our strokes and discussed RFC we were tuned in to the sights and sounds of California's central valley.  The hum of water pumps pulling water for irrigation, the roar of large-scale industrial sized farming machinery stirring up dust, the screech of eagles circling their territory.  All new sounds to me as I had not heard them my first trip down this river.  We kept a mental list of our surroundings, from the bald eagles & osprey above to the river otter & fish below to the deer and landmarks on the shores.  We waved to the happy fishermen on the river and contemplated the unhappiness of the ones who didn't wave back.  We counted the broken down and pinned boats on the river, reminding us of how quickly things can go wrong.  We empathized with less experienced paddlers racing their way down the California 100 course and discussed the balance of safety & adventure.  While paddling river left I vaguely remember running the safe riffle river right the last time.  Just as sandbars at the beach move around, so do rivers and their flows.  This river is changing and it's wonderful to experience it as a different man.