Sunday, September 6, 2009


Everyone, it seemed, was getting ready for the Labor Day Weekend. My wife was shopping for exterior house paint. I was trying to beat a deadline for a book of poems I'm reviewing. Then Adrian called. "Up for a crack of dawn float tomorrow morning? Jason and I want to check out the Arden rapids at these lower flows." The book review would have to wait. "Count me in," I said.

Flows were down to 2,300 cfs and the guys were getting ready to teach a steelhead clinic. Time for some crop-checking, as the farmers in my family call it (you can read more about this venerable tradition in an earlier post). We put in at Rossmoor at first light and took out at Gristmill a few hours later. Along the way we noted good swinging water, changes in the riverscape, and realized we weren't the only people out on the river getting ready for the weekend.

Sheriff's rescue was on the water, running up- and downstream at will in their high-powered inflatables. One crew was kind enough to slow down as they passed and point to a place they'd moved fish. Our drift boat moved a pod of four salmon. Jason spotted them while standing in the bow. They shot off at a right angle and we all scrambled to get a look at them.

Our urban river always offers something unpredictable. When Adrian and I floated the river a week or so ago we saw a naked hiker, strutting along the riverbank, t-shirt wrapped around his head. This week we saw a man, fully-clothed, walk into the river until he was fully submerged. As we got closer he resurfaced, and we saw he was carrying a net in one hand.

We floated past half-a-dozen homeless people setting up lawn chairs for a good view of the infamous Mud Island. Front row seats for the inevitable collegiate mud wrestling festival that breaks out during holiday weekends. Despite the ban on alcohol.

Days later, I'm still thinking about the middle-aged woman we saw standing on the riverbank, looking lost and lonely. She watched us drift by, not bothering to shield her eyes from the intensifying sun. Hands hanging at her sides, she just watched. There was poetry in that moment. Which reminds me, I better get back to that book review. I want to go fishing tomorrow.