I have one story.
Richard emerged out of his eurovan at about 8:15 with a black t-shirt cutoff right above his belly button. A black skull sat prominently in the center of the shirt. His ravaged black curly hair suggested a night of questionable decisions influenced by deep optimism. He began to unload to set up shuttle. Out came a mermaid, a sword, streamers, and shiny decorative stars. We unloaded his life, or at least his life last night. The skull on his shirt somehow was making more sense now, though I think his hair explained the length of the shirt, deep optimism with a hint of absurd enthusiasm.
As we hopped into the shuttle vehicle he popped back out, "forgot my river knife", and promptly returned with a comically feeble pirate sword. "Got it". Yep, now we were going to be safe.
On the ride down he explained his choice of vehicle "$250 for rent is just ridiculous" he said. "And a cardboard mermaid isn't?" I thought to myself. But, I had to admit, the man lived simply, and lived the dream.
Once on the water he would thrust his sword in the air with each worthy boof.
He was particularly excited before one rapid and he explained it as "A big boof followed by explosions all around you". Explosions? Yep. Ready? Yep. And, he was right. Explosions.
As our time on the river wore on, he told us of being a river ranger, his dating, his life. He also said that being a kayaker is "like being a monk". I think he meant the river is your church, and it can be a lonesome journey sometimes.
I met richard, and for a few days I knew him, we were friends, like old friends. That is the river for you, it offers you moments of clarity and satisfaction, and once you leave it is back to another life, but I love those glimpses. In no other place do you meet richard, do you become deeply involved, and just as quickly you are gone. But the memory and the connection remain.
Cheers to friends on the river, we will reunite yet again and laugh at portages, fear, and the suggested weight limits on racks.