THE RIVER GODDESS
There are those that wonder why we would willingly venture out into wild on cold and wintry days. There are those who wonder, but we are not they. We (river snow shoeing enthusiasts) are drawn into the wild by a beautiful and erotic temptress. The river goddess is as beautiful as she is dangerous, and there are those of us unable to resist her. If you must get close to her, dance with her, do not challenge her.
We hiked many miles up the middle fork of St. Vrain to some waterfalls that were impassable. Or at least that was the story until we arrived. In typical fashion we demonstrated that things aren’t always what they seem and that there still exists true adventure even in the ordinary world of 9-5er’s and weekend warriors.
Snow shoeing up creeks and rivers is great fun. They are winter roadways in the wilderness and yet they are lurking with danger. You must always be aware and wary of the rivers path and be careful not to tempt the river goddess. Or be tempted by her. She may reach through the ice and snow and snare a shoe, maybe a leg, or worse, your entire body. On a cold day this could mean a very uncomfortable hike out, hypothermia or worse.
When we reached the “impassable” falls there was a large, deep, dark pool of cold water below. Water flowed under its frozen brother, the icefall, across the pool slipping forcefully under a solid coffin of frozen water before meandering around and through boulders separating herself into shapes and proportions of infinite variety. A path available only to the fluid and ever malleable liquid of life. A path not available to humans if one were unfortunate enough to rebuffed by the river goddess.
To climb above the falls one was required to flirt openly with her, tempt fate, posthole with snowshoes up a very steep, freshly wind blown drift obscuring the solid icefalls directly above the pool. Then, trusting the teeth under your snowshoes you stab your poles into the steep and stabilized liquid and hope the river goddess is impressed with your flirtatious attempts to subdue her.
Once above the waterfall we recognized, if only for an instance, the depth and beauty of the universe, the true nature of the river goddess and the reason for living a life, as our new friend Mike said “outside the box.” It was “Absolutely Wonerful” to quote an old friend who taught me how life was meant to be lived. Only Mike took our cue and climbed all the way up and out of this box with us. The others sat, watched and wondered what was up above.
On the way down, Deana took the lead. At one point she slipped, and barely caught herself on her knees as the snow piled up under them. The river goddess must have been pleased with her meek and humble nature at that moment as she was spared. Digging her snow shoe crampons into the ice she slowly lifted herself and made her way across the now fully exposed ice face.
During our return, Robert, our leader, who had earlier declared the falls impassable, who was satisfied just to be in her presence, and showing a healthy respect for the river goddess, spoke of the revenge the she would inflict upon us on the hike out. The three of us hurried down the river back to the cars at godspeed claiming early obligations as our motivation.
Moving quickly, always watchful for the quick and wet reach of the goddess we made our way down. Near the end she tempted us once again with her erotic beauty, baring her soul directly in our path. Choosing to get closer, knowing if we could just touch her and yet emerge unharmed blessing would befall us. I stepped out… around… over… and…. C R R R A A A A C K. Jumping clear to the other side I escaped her reach. Deana, following close behind believing she was spared earlier and would be so again stepped gingerly out… CRACK, SPLASH, CRUNCH, and splash again. There she stood up to her knees in the cold, fluid, life & death conundrum. Water. I grabbed the back of her pack and yanked her to shore.
Mike was also unable to resist her temptation despite the obvious warning. Like a moth to light he stepped out, over and along side the hole which ensnared Deana and he too went in. Slowly climbing to shore, humbly looking over his shoulder, he knew his advances were unwelcome. He and Deana felt lucky to have only wet feet to show for their trepidation and oddly enough were blushing and smiling with excitement, filled with a deep and sensuous respect for the river goddess.
At the end of our experience together, the question was posed; Why was I spared the baptism of the river goddess…today? Replying I posed the question; How would you describe your actions following the goddess’ temptation? Were you attempting to “challenge” her, “overpower” her, “survive” her, “flirt” with her and/or “dance” with her?
I knew from experience that to pass the impassable, to step out of the box, one must NOT boldly challenge the innate power of nature but instead one should ask permission to “dance” with her. If I do not experience my movements in nature as that of a dance, then I do not flirt with her. We are only guests in her world and it is we who must take our cue from her. When she has offered her permission it becomes clear because it is then that I recognize the dance. I become acutely aware of my abilities and limits and know exactly when the dance is over. The challenge is to step back and away and appreciate the moments you experienced. I knew she had one more dance for me.>
In a dance, she is predictable and she will share with you her intentions. If challenged, her intentions will be camouflaged as elegantly as a snow covered crevice. If you flirt with her, as we did, you may be left with a clear and vivid memory; a moment in time, permanently etched on the emulsion sheets of your mind. Or you might just be left…
PS. The really great thing about snow shoeing is where you can go that you can not with skis. You get to work your upper body and it is always quiet and peaceful along the rivers since almost no one travels there. Ordinarily it is very safe and can be shared with anyone who can walk. We are hooked. This hole we climbed above did not seem all that intense on the way up but was an adrenaline booster on the way down and in retrospect quite dangerous. Be careful and tempt the River Goddess at your own risk.
Copyrighted by Rick Pratt