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Ceiba Client Jim Witham’s Incredible Adventures on the Lochsa River

In 2011 on the summer solstice, I pushed my cataraft into the Lochsa River 30 miles upstream from Lowell, Idaho.  Twenty-seven days later on 17 July, 2011, I passed quietly under the Highway-101 bridge that spans the mouth of the Columbia River at Astoria, Oregon.  The route by water was relatively straightforward, launching in the high, narrow canyon and turbulent waters of the Lochsa in northeast Idaho, and following the current into the Clearwater, Snake, and Columbia rivers, until freshwater turned to salt.

The concept that guided the trip was beautifully simple – “to go with the flow”, something we rarely can do in our everyday, structured lives.  On the river what this meant was to move down stream when conditions were favorable and be prepared and willing to lay up anywhere when high waves, headwinds, storms, darkness, injury or flagging energy intervened, which they often did.  No daily destinations, just a beginning and an end.

The simplest and most complete answer to the question of “why”– is that rowing and oaring a raft over long distances tends to reduce the clutter of one’s normal thinking.  On water over time, the mind begins emptying extraneous thoughts, and with each successive stroke of the oars, a simple clarity and sensitivity takes hold, yielding heightened awareness through experiences that can only be described as magical – an addictive feeling, one that I wish to repeat, often.

Written and submitted by Jim Witham, April 2013.

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