Jennifer Sinor: Little Bear


Sinor recounts the terror and joy of a trek down the river @ Ascent.

We put in at a bend on the Little Bear River. While the boys chased a marmot back into its hole on the steep banks, Michael and I wrestled the canoe from the top of the van. Mid-April in northern Utah, the temperature dropped ten degrees each time the sun slipped behind a cloud. Daffodils and crocus dotted the sides of the busy road, bobbing in the breeze. When I looked toward the Wellsville Mountains, I could see a raft of cloud heading our way and wished I had packed our fleece jackets.

The green canoe was awkward and heavy, and I tried to balance it on my head as we moved away from the van.

“You got it?” Michael asked, when the canoe wobbled like a drunk.

I didn’t answer, just swung it from my head to the ground, one swift motion that took all my strength. Once it was down, we began to drag it to the river.

“Get your life jackets on,” I called to the boys, as I loaded the canoe with the cooler, blankets, and paddles. Aidan and Kellen ignored me, poked sticks into the marmot’s hole instead. “Life jackets,” I said again, a spring gust taking my words.

Michael and I slid the canoe down the steep bank, rocks and gravel rolling under our feet. We were putting in just south of the bridge where the road crossed the river, and I could see abandoned swallow nests fastened to the concrete. The swallows had yet to return for the season, but the red-winged blackbirds called from the brush, high-pitched shrieks and trilling whistles, a welcome and familiar chatter, one of the first signs of spring.

“You know,” I said to Michael, “you should wear the other life jacket, not me. If anything were to happen, you would need to help us.”

Michael guided the canoe into the water like he might return a trout to the river, channeling the body through his long fingers, slowing the slide.

“You wear it,” he said, as he steadied the canoe against the shore. Then he turned to call our sons. “Aidan and Kellen, hop in. It’s time to go.”

And because it was cold and the life jacket would be one more layer, and because the canoe was already pulling to be off, and because the boys needed help getting into the boat, and because I knew that we were only wearing the life jacket to set an example, I zipped it on, the vest a welcome embrace.

Image: Robert Moran at F-Stop Magazine
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