• Mary Anderson

Reading the River

A river swollen with snow melt in Salida, Colorado.

I've done a fair amount of white water kayaking. In fact I used to race kayaks. This entailed learning how to read the river and go with the flow. It also meant learning how to turn in eddies, leaning my body just the right way to prevent going over. And sometimes I had to buck the current and paddle upstream.

I've been thinking of this these last few days. Physical pain has forced me off the trail, and I feel as if I have been tossed into a raging river, pulled along faster than I can read the river. I've bumped into rocks and feeI I am floating upside down at times. I keep reaching for my roll, which will right the boat without me having to bail.

As I've said before, the kindness of people has helped keep me going. But in the river I have trouble holding onto anything. I'm trying to just keep my head up and go with the flow. In just a few days I've gone from hiking the Great Basin in Wyoming to staying at a house of someone I met hiking last year who lives in Bailey, Colorado. Then I ended up at the Butterfly House, a hostel in Salida, Colorado, that I stayed in last year. Then in a flash I was whisked away by my first trail angel last year who happened to be camping in a big rig for a week just a few miles away from the Butterfly House. I wake up unsure of where I am and struggle to find the time I crave for writing.

My knee is slowly improving, and as the pain lessens I am trying to focus on the flow of the river, going where each day takes me, keeping my head above water and not looking too far ahead. I'm trying to go with the flow even though I feel really discombobulated. I have no idea when I will be on solid land again. In the meantime I am trying to be grateful for each person who is working to support me in the river. I am trying not to get too dizzy swirling around in the eddy waiting for my knee to heal. Instead I am reminding myself that the snow is melting in the mountains. I am working to enjoy this time off, using it to exercise my knee and catch up on some writing.

This time is challenging me to follow my desire to stay in the present and find the positive in the present moment. It is another of those darn personal-growth opportunities. Luckily, I have a pretty solid kayak roll and am a strong swimmer. I just hope the waters calm down soon.


Mary hiked the southern half of the 3,000-mile Continental Divide Trail in 2020 and is undertaking the northern half in 2021.

Read more of Mary's story.

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