My nephew, Dr. Bob, and I have embarked on a camping trip in the North Yuba river canyon of the Sierra foothills. We’re celebrating Bob’s graduation from med school before his residency starts in Macon, Georgia. We’re heading to an area where I last spent time with Todd in August of 2010, fly-fishing crazy.
First stop is “The Bridge,” a favorite snorkeling spot just out of town at the South Yuba River. The water is incredibly strong and high with the spring melt. Kayakers are embarking for a run down the Class V rapids. We talk about Todd’s eskimo roll class and how he said he’d do 90 at a time. Would he take this stream now? Would he survive it? We take it very carefully and just do some wetsuit swimming near the bank, not venturing up into the rock canyon which later in summer makes great snorkeling but right now is a deadly strainer.
We head on out 49 and explore some possible campspots on BLM land near North Bloomfield. The sites look great but are a mile from the river so we decide to head on to the Indian Valley area and hopefully Rocky Rest Campground on a bluff over the North Yuba. As the sun disappears in the rushing blue canyon, we find an amazing camp spot and settle in for three days in this staggeringly beautiful, mostly deserted place. We hope to do some fishing, floating, hiking, eating, talking, sleeping.
We are finding our way with each other, we’ve been two out of three and now are only two. Todd always on the horizon, with us, or outside of us, always a point of reference. At first it’s a bit uneasy, we hit a wall, we separate for a while, we find our way around it, with compassion. We are both suffering — we don’t need to increase our pain by fighting.
We get in over our heads, literally. It’s a short stretch of white water leading to a big open fishing pool. It’s harder than we think to navigate. This a dumb form of recreation this time of year, reckless. Bob’s wetsuit fills with water but he swims to shore, that’s the end of that. We fish but the river is blown out from massive spring thaw. We four-wheel drive and hike to a mining ghost town, Brandy City, its amazing and empty and sunlit and duck-filled and heavenly and quiet. We hope to return and fish or camp there someday.