Recently a friend and I were lamenting the eternal (and, admittedly, privileged) dilemma of summer evenings: “Should we weed the garden or hit the river?” (All this hand-wringing was taking place on the Methow River, lest you worry that we don’t have our priorities straight.) As we floated downstream, my friend said to me, “I think we need to be like squirrels this summer, tucking away experiences for the winter.”
When the dark days of winter hit, and we still can’t go to public events or host big dinner parties, we will be glad that we got outside and socialized as much as we could over the summer.
Also as we floated downstream, we remarked, as we always do, on how clear and clean the river is, and how lucky we are to be able to recreate on it. We were so busy appreciating the river and squirreling away experiences that we didn’t notice that my friend’s water bottle had fallen off her paddleboard. When we finally became aware that the bottle was gone, we were too far downstream to even begin to know where to look. Now my friend had something else to lament — the loss of her favorite water bottle.
But as luck would have it, four days later I was on the same stretch of river again and a flash of silver among the rocks on the river’s bottom caught my eye. “Another aluminum can,” I thought, and almost at the same instant realized that it was my friend’s water bottle, wedged under a branch in the cobble of the riverbed.
The rescue of the bottle was not as glorious as I would have liked it to be (although it will certainly gain momentum in future recounts), but one thing’s for sure: If our river were laden with trash, that flash of silver would have been just one of many beer cans, and I might not have taken notice.
The river is in pretty darn good shape, considering the use it gets in the summer. Still, it’s not pristine. There are a lot of cans at the bottom, and a decent smattering of detritus on the riverbanks — much of it the aftermath of someone’s inflatable coming into contact with a sharp thing, or the remnants of someone’s afternoon on the shores.
As you’ll read elsewhere in the paper, there’s a community effort to clean up the river this Saturday, and the hope is that as many of us as possible will participate. Float the river or walk along its shores; pick up trash as you go.
Some of my Outward Bound colleagues were once on a canoe trip on a remote river in Quebec when they came across an abandoned canoe wrapped on a rock. Using the folding saw they carried for cutting firewood, they cut up the canoe and carried it for the remaining two weeks of the expedition.
No one is asking you to do that (but please let me know if you do, because I’ll want to write about it in my column) — just show your love for this gorgeous river of ours by picking up some of the litter that mars it. Maybe we’ll have a contest for the most unusual thing collected; send me your entries.