August 30, 2005

Sleeping in the canyon


Day after day, we travelled on a river that flowed between steep canyon walls, the rafts rushing past rock over a billion years old. Near bends in the river, the churning water deposits huge piles of silt, forming beaches that make great camping spots.

Late afternoon, we'd pull into a beach, often looking to tamarisk or mesquite or the canyon walls for shade. The boatmen would begin unstrapping the dry bags, and we'd get in a line to pass the black rubber bags from person to person, piling them up on the shore.

After the first few nights, I realized that a tent was superfluous in a climate where it rarely rained, on beaches where mosquitoes did not seem to exist. Setting up camp meant tossing my white sleeping pad onto the sand and dumping my bags next to it. One of the black bags in this photo holds my sleeping bag, and the other holds everything else: clothes, journal, hiking boots. The orange life jacket became the most important part of my gear, its value more apparent with each rapid we went through. I was careful to clip it to the raft whenever I got off, and I used it as a pillow at night.

We did have a few thunderstorms. One night I woke to the sound of rattling tent poles as people around me rushed around to put up their tents. I pulled the small tarp out of my dry bag, spread it over me, and listened to the amazing sound of thunder echoing in the canyon. The day time thunder storms were spectacular: the clouds moving fast over the canyon walls, the misty look of rain moving toward us as we rafted, and the waterfalls that would sometimes appear on the cliffs.

I loved sleeping outside, waking to look at the stars, or the moon, or streaks of lightning above black cliffs. Just a few nights ago, I woke to the feel of fur brushing past my face. A ringtail cat, I thought eagerly. I sat up quickly, straining my near-sighted eyes to see the creature. Moonlight was shining from the right, and I could see dark ledges to my left. But the cat came back to rub against me, and suddenly the scene came into focus. The ledges were bookshelves, high on my bedroom wall, and the moon shone in my bedroom window. How strange to wake up and realize that I was no longer in the canyon but home in my own bed.

14 comments:

Songbird said...

Ah, lovely.

Rob Helpy-Chalk said...

Can I be you? For a little while?

ccw said...

Your trip sounds so wonderfully peaceful.

Friday Mom said...

It makes me relax a litte just reading about your trip. I'd love to spend a night or two on that beach.

Autumn said...

Sounds fabulous!!

I had nights like that after returning home from an entire summer outside. I miss those woods, the hard ground beneath my back, and open sky overhead. There's nothing like it.

I'm glad your trip went so well.

colleen said...

And none of that pre-morning dew to dampen things up and make you cold. It's so dry there.

Ianqui said...

Honestly, if a ring-tailed cat had brushed up against you, wouldn't you have been just a little freaked out?

After a week spent among land-crabs, geckos, bats and other critters in Mexico, I STILL freaked out last night when a mouse ran into my apartment and toward my feet.

Yankee T said...

Another gem.

jo(e) said...

Ianqui: Well, I'm pretty mellow when I'm half-asleep. I don't think a ring tail cat would freak me out. A rattlesnake just might ....

Running2Ks said...

It really stays inside you--these experiences. I bet waking up at home will be strange for quite some time.

Pink Cupcake said...

Wow, how freeing this experience must have been.

jo(e) said...

Pink Cupcake: Exactly. That's a good way to describe it.

Phantom Scribbler said...

Ianqui, I was thinking the exact same thing!

Rana said...

Have I told you how envious I am?

I love sleeping outside without a tent, even though I can't see anything with my glasses off. (Being able to look at the stars as I drift off to sleep would be almost enough incentive to have surgery to fix my eyes.) I love the feel of the cool night air on my nose, as I snuggle down into my sleeping bag, and the sounds of the night creatures.

(Something to save up for... it's been too too long.)