I explored a section of river today that I haven’t visited for over 2 years. The last time I floated here, we camped along the banks beneath sandstone cliffs, my friend on the ground and me in a hammock under the huge arc of a cottonwood branch. My dog snuggled below me – every time I swung the smallest bit in my hammock, I would brush against Oso’s back, and he would awaken, stretch, and push his nose over the edge of the fabric for some love. It was heavenly. Peaceful. Hard to imagine that I was on the shore of the South Platte river, not far from Greeley and not far from home.
In the middle of the night, Oso’s ears perked and I awoke with a start. Snorting. A sound I had never heard before – a loud snort beside me, followed by another behind, and another in front. We were surrounded! I had no idea who snuck up on us in our sleep. I didn’t dare turn on my headlamp. I just listened. I heard barely audible footsteps. More snorting. I woke my friend. “What is that???”
I felt no fear but I thought I had heard most of what goes bump in the night, and I had not experienced this….
Deer. Who would have thought??? I’ve never heard deer make a sound before or since. Apparently we were set up in a place frequented by deer running through the night…Imagine their shock when they found my orange hammock stretched below the green and brown canopy of this cottonwood tree. I immediately fell in love with this river, and with these deer. This section was as amazing as any of my favorite places on Boulder Creek and the St. Vrain. I imagined returning and camping with a group of clients, imagined sharing a place every bit as perfect as any canyon in Utah.
But, the put-in was not ideal, and the takeout even worse. This was no place to bring paying clients.
Last year, after the flood, I drove along the road to the put-in for this stretch and saw that there was a for sale sign! I am not in a place in my life where my husband and I can buy a second home, but I took a flyer and imagined the possibilities of a retreat center on the river. I imagined the perfect place to hold vision quests and creating my own launch site to float the St. Vrain from here to Greeley.
A few months later, I learned that a good friend and her husband bought this place, which has been their dream home for decades! She asked me to consider taking her family canoeing from her new home down past the cliffs of Wildcat Mound to the other side of Milliken. Incidentally, Wildcat Mound is the highest point in Weld county at a whopping 4945 feet high, 400 feet lower than Boulder – only one of a wealth of fun facts about this eastern Colorado County!
Today I scouted the river section in preparation for the trip with my friend’s family. We had lunch in a perfect meadow at the same bend in the river where I heard the deer 2 years ago. It was magical. I imagined once again taking a group here and listening to the deer in the night.
We saw 3 eagles soar overhead today, and one immature eagle left the shoreline mid-meal, leaving a huge carp still squirming, half disemboweled, on the rocks. We found an eagle feather, which we stopped to examine, and had a ceremony of gratitude on the spot, offering tobacco and prayer to the feather, the eagle, and the still squirming carp. We sang to the four directions, not following any particular spiritual tradition.
When we reached the direction of the North, I had a flashback of the vision quest I facilitated for myself in October, where I watched a symbol of my fear disappear to this direction, a symbol of letting go, going within, and allowing our wisdom to percolate. The crux of the whole vision quest was the realization that whatever I focus on gets bigger…louder…. more deafening. Fear is a funny thing. As I build this little canoeing business I remember my experience in October and it has allowed me to continue fearlessly beyond any efforts I have pursued previously….
I had a powerful realization today of how far I’ve come. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and KNOWING that I am exactly where I am meant to be. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the 33 people who canoed with me in 2 trips last weekend. How amazing is that?! All of my hard work is paying off!
The takeout was perfect this time- the flood changed the course of the river and created a sand bar that did not exist previously. When we returned to the put-in, my friend was just arriving home from work, and we talked for a good hour about how fortunate she was to have her dream home. She invited me to launch with my groups at her home any time! Yet another vision, realized.
I had envisioned this since before I knew her or anyone else in the area. I had this vision before I helped the community of ranchers and oilmen here stop a shooting range from being built on the St. Vrain upstream. This was before…. And now everything is falling into place for me exactly how I had imagined. Not just on this section of river, but everything is becoming easier for me. I have friends out here now, when before I knew no one. I have good places to launch and take out along over 20 miles of river!!! This is due to a combination of the flood redesigning the river bottom, friends allowing me access, and CDOT (the Colorado Department of Transportation) changing their barbed wire configuration to allow me to easily reach the river. And now, this!
Who knew that a shooting range and a devastating flood could end up being the catalysts for this dream I’ve been brewing to become more and more of a reality?
And now, two of my favorite quotes from Paulo Coelho hit me, one after the other, filling me with tears and laughter, so great was my gratitude….
“Whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe…”– Paulo Coelho
“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” -Paulo Coelho
I had a dream. I’ve really had this dream brewing since I was a child. All I want is to share the magical moments that happen in the wilderness. Especially in wilderness close to home. I’ve spent my entire life imagining how this will happen. I’ve felt so fulfilled in my personal exploration of hundreds of miles of rivers throughout the state. I’ve watched my canoeing business grow over the last 4 seasons, and I can’t believe how much the universe has conspired in helping me achieve this dream. Seriously.
And my heart is filled with gratitude.