Voices from the river

Voices from the River: The girl who walks in water

By Chris Hunt

When she was 11 months old, Delaney took some of her first ungainly steps in the blond sand of Luffenholzt Beach and dipped her toes in the cold Pacific.

When she was 2, she stepped barefoot into the frigid September waters of Toponce Creek, high in the Portneuf Range of southeast Idaho.

At 8, she body-surfed in the Sea of Cortez. At 9, she rafted the Salmon and gained an hour under Time Zone Bridge. At 10, she swam naked in the clear waters of Nez Perce Creek while bison grazed 100 yards away, and at the age of 12, she slogged through the shallows of the Snake River as it flows among the basalt cliffs of the arid desert and listened at dusk for the coyotes’ song.

At 15, she watched as the pyres were lighted on the banks of the Mississippi on Christmas Eve, and she listened as her father told her tales of the Sabine and Cane River as the car motored across them.

At 16, she waded in the Andrews Clearwater River, a tributary the Stikine before it empties into the Inside Passage near Wrangell, Alaska, and she spread her old dog’s ashes on a tannin-stained stream, deep in the Alaskan rainforest, because the fishing there is so good, it is the only place she deemed worthy of receiving an old mutt whose life centered on rivers, too.

She’s walked in water her whole life.

This week, she walked across the stage and received her diploma. At times, she would tell you, high school was a slog through mud, not so much a walk in water. But she did it. And I’m proud.

I’m sure all fathers feel this pride—the shared sense of accomplishment with their daughters as they move through the waters of life. And this girl’s life has been one blessed by waters. She is the product of a sheep rancher’s daughter who grew up with one foot in northwest Colorado’s White River and a city kid who wrangled crawdads and peeled leeches off his shins from the Sterne Parkway ditch in suburban Denver. Her life was predetermined on the courthouse lawn on a bright September Thursday, not a five-minute walk from the fabled Gunnison.

She was born where the Eel meets Humboldt Bay in the shadows of the coastal redwoods and she grew up chasing trout in Moose Creek, just before it meets the Henry’s Fork. She is a child of rivers… a girl who walks in water.

She’s moving on now, to a summer job at the base of the Tetons, where Jackson Lake will be her daily view. She’ll walk in waters there, too, and the blessings will continue. She’s off to Northern Idaho in the fall, where she’ll cross more rivers and dip her toes in all of them.

She is the girl who walks in water, and I know now, the water is blessed by her. Perhaps because her parents love rivers, she does, too. Or, I like to think, she loves rivers because rivers convey life and without them, we’re all lost. She loves rivers because it’s righteous. It’s spiritual. It’s proper.

She will visit many rivers in her time, and I have no doubt she’ll fight for them. She is, after all, a child of rivers, this girl who walks in water.

Chris Hunt is the national editorial director for Trout Media. He lives and works in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

By Chris Hunt.