Right here, where I snapped this photo is one of the two times in over two hundred inner tube floats on this section of river where I’ve been flipped from my tube. It seems to have become just a bit more challenging after the last flood in April, possibly the flood upended and rearranged a few of the protruding boulders...
A few weeks ago I was concerned about a friend floating over this dip. I was paying full attention to her (she managed the falls quite smoothly), as my tube hit the right rock at the right angle, and suddenly I was surprised to discover through clunking the back of my fortunately hard head on some equally hard rock at the river bottom, that I had flipped! I’ve since learned to choose to either avoid this short chute by paddling toward the smooth pebble beach area on the opposite side, or else be more focused as I ride these mini-falls. Having witnessed another companion braving this section careen upward and back down more severely than I thought possible without (whew!) flipping, in the future if I float with inexperienced friends, I’ve decided I’ll suggest pulling up to the beach and walking the few hundred feet beyond this spot.
Families and children often frolic in the bank where a rounded pebble beach area offers easy access. The water there is under 12” for a broad stretch. Two weeks ago, as I was approaching here I saw some kids wading ahead of me, wandering toward the beach from upstream. Two went to the bank; one brazen four foot tall youngster didn’t. He meandered toward the cascades. His bare feet quickly lost their footing on smooth mossy rocks, his light frame was swept up, and he tumbled through the 50 foot section, screaming, bobbing up and then under, out of control. It was a red alert to me—I paddled fast as I could but by the time I reached the bank and hopped to run to him, he’d been pushed forward to a calmer section where his adult guardians raced to haul him in. He was very shaken, crying, and for sure banged up a bit. Thankfully, far as we could tell nothing was broken and he was mostly ok; at least I hope so. Luckily his young body was flexible and probably he was less harmed by not trying to stop himself.
Good lessons all in all. The river is often serene and always beautiful, but also far more powerful than the strength of our relatively puny human muscles and delicate bones. We’re generally outfitted or buffered from these potent forces, mostly safe and comfortable and, especially within urban settings, disconnected from “unbridled” nature. So much so it’s easy to lose track of the sheer power and dangerous aspects “civilized living” has largely contained and kept at bay.
I suppose this may be related to why it’s so difficult for certain folks to fathom the very real and troubling challenges looming from climate change. Beyond the also very real PR brainwashing by those who stand to make profits from the status quo, it’s just hard to envision calamities on such a vast scale. Plus as a species, none of us relishes change, and (God forbid!) it may even require concerted human actions and a lessening of our sacred American individuality. However, as a few recent articles put it, COVID-19 is a light and temporary dress rehearsal for the global impacts of climate change. It’s certain to impact economies, national boundaries, immigration, food production, socialization, and every aspect of the fragile infrastructures we rely upon to keep our type of civilization afloat. And it will be far more relentless, erratic, powerful, and life threatening than COVID. To ignore it, to blindly proclaim it’s not coming, or boast we’ll be able to contain it, and/or that we “just can’t afford” to direct resources to change course now, all seem to me destined to cause far more suffering than acceptance and action. For sure there are transitions we can begin now to help mitigate it.
Time will tell if we wait and allow a percentage of humanity to get violently tossed under in the coming decades (will we then act surprised despite years of warnings?), or if we have the sense and the will to redirect our world toward accessible, safer paths forward. Meantime, to me it seems it’s up to us to look out for each other; lend our hands as best we can locally, and recognize our interconnectedness globally.