Friday, May 8, 2009

A Shitty Way Around

Back in Lewiston, I schemed. I love schemeing, and I'm good at it, but this time around I could find no real way of getting my boat and myself around the Canyon. After eight days of travel, I was back where I had started. I searched the town, made a hundred phone calls, even tried hitchhiking- but with a 16' canoe, hitching isn't going to get you very far.

I retreated to a campground outside of town, down and out after nearly an entire day of head ends and frustrated efforts. My expedition was doomed, Hell's Canyon had defeated me, I couldn't portage 250 miles by road over the mountains. I could store the boat and fly home, my trip shatted. But then, a horse walked by, and it shat on the grass next to my tent.

I looked up, hopeless.

At the far edge of the campground, dozens of horses, cowboys, and trailers sat, a small round-up. I started walking over, but then stopped and ran back to my site and dug through my pack to the plastic bag at the bottom, holding my clean change of clothes. I put on my American flag shirt, emblazoned with the letters 'USA under the waving flag.

I was passed from group to group, each now in the tailgating phase of the event. I talked to dozens. I schmoozed cowboys and teenaged equestrians, riders and breeders. Within an hour, I found someone headed south, and, yep, they had two trailers and could shuffle the horses. If I didn't mind riding in the back, no.... A canoe? What in the hell?

The next morning, my boat resting in a bit of dry horse shit in the trailer and me hovering on a pile of gear next to it, we set out over the mountains. Five hours later, they dropped me off on the side of the road. From the high plateau between the mountains, it was only a twenty mile portage back to the river. I paddled downstream all day and the next to the dam, and walked as far as I could before cliffs blocked the way. Around the bend, the muted roar of Granite Rapid could be heard. (

I retreated back to Hell's Canyon Dam and retraced my strokes to Brownlee Dam. Then, onward. Only a short break in travel, and a major concession in my trip. The letter of the mandate I had set for myself had been violated, a hiccup in the human-powered crossing of North America. But the spirit remained, I hoped. With effort, it could remain.


Chris Riley said...

Way to go Zan!! You're really doing this, and the trip is in no way shattered. You made a decision based on the conditions(both yours and the rivers') that was prudent and wise. Apparently you did listen to the ghosts of your past big trip.
We love you and are proud of you.
Keep at it, and keep making the right decisions.

Kendall said...

Zand - just finished catching up on these posts! Glad you got a ride and are making safe decisions. I'm thinking about you and hoping you are in high spirits.