By Jenny Weis
Rounding the corner from the dock, I turn my baseball hat backwards so it doesn’t blow off my head, and zip my down vest up all the way so it covers my neck.
Standing behind me at the motor, Connor turns the throttle and I fold my arms across my chest and slouch down into the padded vinyl seat, putting my feet up on the well as the boat comes on step and we speed upriver. The breeze is cold. It beats at my jacket and chills me despite my layers. Under the edge of my pant leg, it nips at the bare skin above my socks, and slips over my collar, prickling my neck.
The river is calm. We shift only as Connor steers the boat to avoid big, mostly submerged rocks I’d never have noticed, and shallow stretches he’s memorized from having run the stretch from the dock to the rapids hundreds of times. I need to learn those, I think.
Though the sun is setting, I put my sunglasses on to avoid my eyes from watering in the breeze. The trees and thick long grass and alders are dense and green thanks to many hours of Alaska daylight we’re enjoying. An eagle lands on a branch on a passing sandbar clearly hoping to spot dinner, and I scan the banks for brown bear, all while admiring the reflection of the orange and pink sky on the river. It feels like we have it to ourselves tonight.
There’s nothing to do but admire the scenery, undeveloped except an occasional lodge or cabin, and think back to the fish that’ve been caught at various bends along the way. By the time the river opens up, I’m completely relaxed, though my body is tense due to the dropping temperature and setting sun. My focus jumps back and forth between the thought of the fish we may or may not find when we reach the rapids, and gratitude for the deepening colors of the sunset and my ability to be seated, chilled, on the very padded vinyl seat upon which I’m perched.
Just then, the tone of my Outlook dings. A new email has come through.
My computer screen comes back into focus, hands still resting on my keyboard. I click open the email, knowing in some way it’s going to be related to our work protecting that very river that plays so vividly and on such heavy rotation in my daydreams.
I love my job, I think to myself, as I start to read.
Jenny Weis is Trout Unlimited’s Alaska communications director. She lives in Anchorage.