“Walk anything you don’t like,” he said.
“This is as good as it gets. We know the river well, and are willing to go your pace. Besides, you warmed up on the upper,” he said.
The flow was even lower than normal summer flow and for years I yearned to see if the Green Narrows lived up to its reputation. Over the years, other paddlers told me that if I loved living in Western North Carolina now, just wait until I got on the Green. “It gets so much better,” they said.
I followed them past the take-out for the Upper, feeling wobbly and terrified.
We eddied out above Bride of Frankenstein and they told me the line. When I got to the bottom, I was wide-eyed and gripped.
Rocks stood like sentries, guarding the river below. I strained to see a break between them, large enough to squeeze my kayak between. I reminded myself that I had to have faith – in my paddling skills, in my friends, in my ability to react in the moment.
I felt like my stomach twisted into a pretzel every time I scouted a rapid. Cloaked in the shadows of the canopy, the dark lent even more mystery to the river.
From there until after Rapid Transit, paddling turned into a day hike with my kayak. I carried, dragged and pushed my kayak around huge rhododendron bushes and through poison ivy.
I met my friends above Sunshine and paddled from river left to river right where we all walked.
At the bottom, he reminded me. “Look back up, that’s a big part of why we’re here.”
A boulder glowed as the sun hit it at almost a right angle. Glimmers of green skipped across the river, making it appear alive. Light filled every crevice of the river, turning the water a transparent shade of green.
We stood there, shoulder-to-shoulder in admiration.
“Wow,” I said, as soon as the word tumbled out I wished I had a better word to express the beauty of being there, in this place sacred for so many paddlers with good friends.
I relaxed, realizing there’s wonder in the obvious. I wasn’t the first paddler to see this view. Heck, I wasn’t even paddling most of the river. But through a series of conditions it all lined up that I got to be there, that for that moment I witnessed the sunshine lighting up the river and limitations lifted.
I lingered on the rock a little longer, letting all that brightness seep in, opening myself of to dreams and remembering possibility.