This whole piece starts with a confession: I harbor an (unhealthy?) attachment to a singular waterway that borders on the obsessive.
For I/we surely can't call it a river. A proper title escapes me - and for all its characteristics it is most defined by brevity of season and (conversely) predictability of runoff*.
*"Runoff" here is a generous term. Most wont even consider saddling up unless flows exist in some fantasy netherworld; waiting for that hundred year snow-pack with the sole motivation to float and bloat all the way to the Colorado without running aground. If that is the qualifying condition of doing the damn thing then here is to many more years of coming back and not seeing another soul.
The love affair started three years ago when I was first introduced to her. All it took was 1 date. From that first outing I immediately realized how rare she was. How unpretentious, how wild and raw. How underappreciated and misunderstood.
Most of my other pursuits at different times of the year have an underlying theme of escapism wrapped up in them. With her its different. Less a withdrawal its a time to clear the mental fog and inhabit a space of engaged examination.
Absent the tinsel of Escalante Country, the reverence of Grand Canyon, the proportions of Canyonlands or the enchantment of Cedar Mesa her appeal is found precisely in the lack of all we attribute to regional characteristics of the Plateau. She has no singular quality. Her nature thus is utterly authentic. In time spent you will get no less and no more than what you can see right in front of you. Sometimes is pretty and sometimes its not. Gradually one learns to embrace and ultimately maybe even prefer her.
The take away being so personal - some would probably say delusional - I will refrain from spilling all my thoughts at this time. Suffice to say that for me there no landscape I've (yet) been that has burrowed so deeply into my psyche.
When I envision her, it is with passionate gaze.
One aspect worth expounding on a bit is the nature of returning to a place. The small details count. In my opinion they are in fact more important than the big ones.
Quiet trips, which the landscape I'm writing about seem to promote are not all the rage and maybe don't have a place in a transaction based culture. I think of Chouinard's axiom: "Conquerors of the Useless." I've always been less a conqueror and more an observer.
It is from the perch of spectator that I have learned the value of returning to the same place year after year. To see landscapes altered by elemental strokes all while retaining their fundamental character. I know, coming back to the same place over and over......the repetition......why would you waste your time rehashing that which you've already seen or experienced?
I'm not promoting this approach over the likes of another, I am just defending it as a precept. To at least argue that it has great merit. The longer the repetition the better.
In roughly two to three months time I will return to this shriveled river with friends and family and we will undertake the ritual again.
I hope the place is as barren, forsaken, muddy and lonely as I remember it.