There’s something about a river. The sand that imitates a beach at the meeting of earth and water. The tranquil waves than are more than an ocean can offer. Yet, there’s fun in the rapids, rocks for risk and wildlife I thought only existed in science books.
Yes, that’s what our life looked like this past week.
One of the programs we have at the ranch, Second Wind, loads up and heads out to the river for a few days and I was lucky enough to be apart of the ride.
We packed up our backpack, grabbed our sleeping bags, I took my last shower (I’m sorry, but seriously), jumped in the truck and headed all the way down the famously curvy Scott River Road.
We headed down the single lane roads, praying we wouldn’t meet logging trucks until we finally arrived. We pitched our tent and laid out our sleeping bags.
(Also, if you’ve never pitched a tent with your spouse, I highly recommend trying it, it’s a great marital exercise, that’s all I’m saying.)
Fun fact, the town that we stay in, Happy Camp, is the town that Big Foot was spotted in. You won’t go more than a mile without seeing a shrine or sculpture or elaborate sign with Big Foot himself on it, it’s nuts.
The next morning we woke up early to the sound of french toast sizzling on the propane stove, mumbling of morning grumpys, and the unzipping of sleeping bags and tents. I grabbed my book (Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge, fantastic) and a river chair, watched while smelling my tea steep, and sat down in the circle of other chairs that was revolved around a camp fire that had died the night before.
The river guides and my husband call me “river princess” because of this scene exactly. I wanted to help, really, but the river is a guys world y’all, so I just watched.
After breakfast digested, we grabbed our paddles and lifejackets, picked up the handle of the raft and headed down the river.
It’s an odd trip if you don’t see at least one breathtaking part of wildlife. Hearing the osprey baby birds chirping and begging from the nest that sits in a tree unfortunately killed in a wildfire, or seeing the 5 baby ducklings following their mama in the brush on the side of the river trying to be sneaky, the occasional deer sipping by the streams, this time it was the almost extinct bald eagle perched majestically on a branch of a pine waiting for it’s prey, it’s the orchestra of the river that drives Thomas and I to glance at each other and smile and wonder, “how in the world we scored the opportunity to do something like this together.”
I love watching Thomas in action. I love the authority he carried as a river guide, the way he interacted with the kids, cared about safety but also laughed and had fun, the way he initiated singing the Spongebob Theme song, it was all so respectable. After a little bit more splashing and kicking up water, trying to “out do” each other’s tricks off the boat, we paddled the raft over to a beach, unpacked our lunch, munched, reapplied sunscreen and finished out the day on the river.
One of my other favorite parts of the river trip is getting to stop at a local grocery store before heading back to camp. Thomas and I both grabbed a Peace Tea, another tradition, and some of our favorite organic kettle corn.
Back at camp, we set up the fire, changed out of our swimmies and chatted about where we might go for dinner. Which is totally a silly question because there are absolutely no options except for one place called Pizza House with the most interesting people and amazing pizzas that make me drool just thinking about them (it’s a bonus that they have a television with cable because we get to watch our favorite game show while we wait for the pizza to come out of the oven).
The smell of the hot pizza on my lap during the ride back to the camp site get’s me every time. I sneak a piece.
I think I love the river so much because it’s what we were made to do, “Live life to the fullest.” It’s challenging yet relaxing, glamorous yet so “granola,” cozy yet sometimes uncomfortable. Like Thomas told the kids, life isn’t made to stay on the shore, it’s about being in the main flow of the river, getting to enjoy the rapids that sometimes hurt or are challenging circumstances for us, it’s about abiding and staying connecting to Jesus that gets us to point A to point B in the most extravagant way. That’s what we Awtreys love about the river.
Photography: Stewart Clements Photography