Through clear water you see the first leaves of early fall lying scattered on the smooth river stones on the bottom. The slick rock reflect glints of sunlight in the shallows. Everything takes on the hues of russet and amber and somewhere in there are flecks of gold and flashes of silver swirling in the eddies and riffles, gliding down into the deep pockets along steep banks rife with ferns and alder trees and jewelweed.
As far as you can see up the river, trees form a canopy over the water, all bending toward the other side, all lacing their branches together to form a tunnel for an occasional cool breeze to flow through, loosening dead leaves and pieces of dried branches that fall into the current and end up gathering around your legs as you make your way upstream.
A river birch growing right on the bank is canted over at an angle across your path, it's root ball pulling out of the soil and rock near the water. At the base of this tree, the river has deposited fallen limbs and floating pieces of rotten tree trunks, creating an obstacle, causing you to wade out deeper to go around. The water is now up to mid- thigh, and you realize that you had forgotten just how cold this mountain water really is. A hand is placed on the mossy bark of the river birch to steady yourself, and after a few stumbling steps against the strong current, you are able to find the shallow bottom once again and move on.
Though the temperature today is not what you would consider to be hot, some sweat has built up on your forehead and the back of your neck. You remove the waxed canvas hat and wipe your brow. Standing in the middle of the river, you survey your surroundings and listen intently to every rustling leaf, the water rushing around the edges of large rocks, and the sound of a red- tailed hawk crying out somewhere upriver.
You realize that you haven't been this far up in quite some time-- years, perhaps. Not all that long ago, you thought you'd never see this river again, but now you're standing here in it. The current that is trying to push you back is also pulling you further upstream, deeper into the forest, deeper within yourself. For a long time, you were afraid that you were lost, but now you realize that you have found what you were looking for all along.