A Real River

By Tina Hogue

When I saw the Truckee for the first time I thought,

“So this is a real river.”

It looked relatively shallow from the passenger window, as I leaned back in my seat.

The rivers where I’m from are mostly stagnant ponds filled with mosquito larvae. Last year, the rains flooded the Guadalupe 20 feet in an hour. The worst in decades. Swept away a whole family. Never saw it coming.

A man at the foot of the trail stopped us.

“Path’s flooded, waist-deep,” he said.

He had on sturdy boots and carried a walking stick. I was wearing flip-flops with socks, blisters on my heels from my poor choice in shoes. My boyfriend had his sleeping bag rigged to his pack with cheap carabiners.

“We came this far,” was the consensus, and we kept on until we reached the river.

I clipped my flip-flops to my pack and held it up high. The river was stronger than it looked. The force of all the snowmelt sucked the wind from my lungs. Up to my waist half-way through, I doubted every rock. So smooth-looking from the bank, they felt rough as cut metal on my city feet. I cursed myself for taking off my shoes as the current pushed hard against my side, challenging my balance.

I worried my sleeping bag was wet. And my phone.

I remembered reading about the bodies found tangled in the oaks, covered in ants.

Silently, I pleaded with the Truckee gods.

We reached the bank, completely zapped. I yanked the towel I had protecting my Bluetooth, and dried off. Shivering there, completely humbled by the effort, I noticed how beautiful the river actually looked underneath the sun. I stood in my flip-flops, wiggled my numb little toes and felt gratitude for the warmth that came.

Featured photo by Cessie Pulleyn