Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Off the Couch

The Couch. "I don't know man, he's off the couch... Maybe we should go to a more couch-friendly river." It may be spoken of with a stigma, but the reality is that we are all in-between couches. Like alcoholics off the proverbial wagon, at some point in the season we reach apogee and commence the slow downward descent into atrophy, landing squarely on the couch.

Sinking deep into the cushions, I begin my off-season cross-training regimen. I update the Netflix queue. I toss fake mice for the cat until he looks at me with disdain. I darkly refer to ski-resort passes as "country-club memberships," as my friends head off to the mountains, embracing the changing seasons like well-adjusted people.

I check online gauges as though they will tell a different story than the clear sky streaming through the windows. As though a localized micro-cell has parked over Nevada County, unleashing hell from the heavens. In case seismic activity has re-routed a great aquifer into a riverbed somewhere. In the off-chance that Lake Spaulding is getting drawn-down for maintenance, filling the South Yuba with the rumbling roar that sends the Ninja Turtles scampering out of the sewers. And then, I find myself poring over other kayak blogs, as though it would bring me comfort to know that somewhere, somewhere far away, stouts are being slayed (or whatever the young people are calling it these days). Soon my best friend catches me in this compulsive behavior and redirects me to some useful task.

Thank heavens, the South Yuba actually ran quite a bit this winter. Even so, when I got to the steeper and wilder Upper Middle Cosumnes, I felt as though I was off-the-futon at best.

The hike-in sweats out some couch toxins, the welcome sight of the put-in slide sends a flush of nerves to my extremities. I do a roll in a pot-hole and peel-out, so far so good. Then, starting the Phony Hawk portage, I slip and fall off a boulder, racking up one shore-injury for the team inside the first quarter-mile. The tip of my left index finger is flapping like the head of a PEZ dispenser. This may be a slight exaggeration, but it bleeds so much that I don't see how tape will stick to skin. Thankfully, Kevin is there and has seen far grizzlier things in his time as a paramedic, and sits through my histrionics to coach me through some decent first aid.

Rivers help me forget my earthly troubles, and soon I am re-focused by splashes from such greats as "battered beaver," "brace for your face," and "Lars' Falls. Relieved yet stoked to be through them, I boat-scout the line at the last rapid in the first section, "A Little Maurier Left." As I make the screaming left-hand turn, my paddle-blade snags on a rock. To stay upright, I let go of my paddle with one hand; it releases and I recover. Hanging onto my paddle with one hand and doggy-paddling with the other, I shoot through the nozzle and onto the slide. I manage to get the band back together before the hole at the bottom.

We floated on a great flow through the in-between section to one of the best stack-ups in El Dorado County, "blue angels," "mini-blue angels, and "cheese-grater." When Thomas pulled over to dump out his boat in the pool below, he happened upon the skeleton of a 6-point buck. This proud beast either fell off the cliff or drowned in the rapids, ending up on the bank with grass poking up between his ribs. Thomas traversed the cliff to place the skull on a fitting spot over-looking the set. Cold water enlivening the mind, communicating without words amidst the roar of rapids, random stuff happening- this is the world beyond the couch.

I'm gonna scrape myself off the couch like the spare change and snack scraps collected in the cushions. I'm gonna get back in that boat and be thankful that this kayaking thing even exists. This time, things are gonna be different. I have goals, I have a plan, and most importantly, I have a support network. This time, I'm gonna stay off the couch.

(Sorry for no pictures, but I'm in between cameras as well.)