So todays post actually starts yesterday, the day of my first little melt-down, that I talked about in my last post. It all went uphill from there.
After realizing, that I have to stay in Glenwood for another day, as my resupply package is delayed, I get in touch with Jon Waterman, an author and adventurer who lives just outside of town. Over 10 years ago, he has also travelled down the Colorado River in a boat, along the same route I am taking now. But not only that, he has also written a book about this trip, just like I will write a book about mine. I had not previously known about him, but it was Bill Kight, of the history museum, who put us in touch. Of course I have to get to know him.
Jon agrees to meet up for Pizza, along with his teenage son, and offers to then give me ride out of town. I finally want to sleep outside and can’t wait to have fresh air instead of airconditioned heat around my nose, and the stars instead of white walls above my head. It will be cold, but at this point I really don’t care anymore, as long as I can be outside. I know my gear can handle the temperatures and I have never had a problem with low temps either.
I instantly like Jon. He’s a tall, healthy and good-looking guy, who has clearly spent the larger part of his life outdoors. I love how I can tell that so easily now, when I meet people. It is not just the general looks, it is that sparkle and often times a sense of ease, that surrounds people of the outdoors. In the best cases, it is also a humbleness, that only nature can teach.
In the course of the evening I find out about Jons mountaineering background, his trips to Denali and other mountains, and most of all, about his passion for the Colorado River, its tributaries and surrounding nature. We get along, and when Jon offers for me to stay at his house far out in the woods, and at my request agrees to let me sleep on the porch instead, I know, that this day is coming to a way better close than expected.
As I wake up once in the middle of the night, I open my eyes only to see a shooting star falling almost slowly right above me. I take it personal and make an instant wish. As I fall back asleep, I feel connected to it all again.
In the morning there are sparkling ice crystals all over my sleeping bag. As I step into the spacious yet cosy house Jon is living in with one of his sons and his girlfriend Genevieve, Jon has just heated the wood stove. He hands me a steaming hot cup of strong coffee and we flip through a photo book on the Colorado River that he has created together with the amazing photographer Pete McBride. As we travel further and further down the river with every page, I am starting to feel all the excitement come back to me.
I finally get to ask all those questions, that have piled up so high in my head they make me dizzy. And due to his immense knowledge and experience, it is not only informative but also exciting to listen to Jon talk about the river. What strikes me most of all though, is that Jon is the first person I meet on my trip here, who also talks about the river as a living being. It feels so good to really relate to someone in this way.
Genevieve, Jons girlfriend, is a landscape designer who wants to introduce natural shapes and functions back into peoples surroundings. I would love to hear more about her work, but we are about to head out.
Jon and Genevieve take me to the nearest bus stop. Before I get out of the car, Genevieve asks Jon what it feels like to now be the one giving a younger adventurer the advice he may once have received from a more seasoned colleague. Jon smiles. There is no need to verbalize. I hope that I can earn it, to one day be the one passing my experience on down the line of ages. When we hug each other goodbye, I can feel a connection, an unspoken bond. I am glad to take this encounter along the river with me.
I feel calm. Partly because of the encounter with Jon, but also because I finally made the conscious decision to change my mode of travel. It is pointless to be frustrated by highways and to long for that endless backcountry and those off-track nights. This section of the river offers me something else altogether, and I am finally understanding the value of it. Spending time around people has given me the chance to meet Zach near Grand Lake, Kim and Jeff in Kremmling, Jon here and many others. I appreciate these encounters, they make me rich and if they are what the river offers me here, I am pretty lucky. I have also been reminded of what lies ahead of me in the months to come, and I am pretty sure there will be plenty of wilderness and loneliness out there. Who knows, I may one day long for all this human contact.
Hitchhiking towards Grand Junction, I spend some time at a Gas Station. At one point a friendly faced man, obviously a trucker, approaches me. He says he is sorry, but he just had to talk to me, because when he had walked past me earlier, Jesus told him to “talk to that woman”. I am intrigued and I ask him how he can hear Jesus talk… I am too tired now, to tell all about this encounter in detail, but we have a very interesting and long conversation about god, beliefs, religions and spirits or other perceptions of that immaterial something that is bigger than us. When he asks me to pray with him in the end (in return for a photo of us together ;-)), I feel that it is the right thing to do in that moment, so grant him that wish. As he leaves, he waves from across the parking lot and calls, “take care sister!”.