Monday, August 29, 2005
Yuba Gap Take 2 (Marginality)
We woke up early in Coloma for the start of our next attempt at the Yuba Gap. As we drove to my place in Nevada City Scott asks, “Has Matt ever told you about the term ‘marginal’?” No, he hadn’t. The subsequent explanation referred to Team Marginal in Arcata and things such as roof racks holding many kayaks bungied to the top of a car – The set-up worked, but it was marginal. For the record, Matt is not a member of Team Marginal.
By the time we bought food for the two days, dropped my truck off in Washington, packed and called Matt to pick us up it was after 3pm. We lay impatiently on top of my bed waiting for him to arrive. Starting the trip that late in the day was marginal at best. Matt wanted to hike in with us part of the way. To me that was even more marginal. Banging my head against a wall repetitively sounded more appealing than doing anything with Matt and Scott together, as did reading volumes of Clement Greenberg’s theories on Modern Art or being subjected to endless loops of George W. Bush’s speeches.
Scott napped in the back seat and I began to nervously chatter about nothing as Matt drove us to below Spaulding reservoir. He wondered if we knew that going all the way to where we left the truck in Washington was a bad idea. I disagreed emphatically. He watched us unload our gear and stuff things haphazardly into dry bags with a crooked smile of amusement on his face. “Marginal,” he often repeated. Many times this declaration was accompanied by a shake of his head. Water bottles and things dangled from the outside of my bag, which I slung awkwardly across my shoulder. I needed to carry my camera case in one hand. Admittedly, our set-up was a bit more cumbersome than I had anticipated.
Clad in shorts, a light long underwear top, booties, and draped with gear, we headed over the rocks to the river. The first jump was from the rocks above into the water. Matt jumped first. He gasped as he surfaced. Then Scott threw his pack and watched it drift all the way across the river before jumping after it. His reaction was the same. I stood on the rocks, peering below, frozen in place. I had not wanted to admit to myself (or anyone else, for that matter) that my severe dislike of jumping from heights into water could be a serious hindrance to this particular trip. I threw my bag and my camera. I stood, filled with dread. They waited. I stood. The bag drifted across the river to where Scott’s had gone. They waited. Finally I jumped. The shock of the cold water was awful, but the relief of not being dead after jumping buffered the pain a bit.
We swam to the first waterfall, clambered onto the rocks before the lip, cold and dripping. The bags were tossed over. Matt took over the job of launching my bag for me. My water bottle broke off the pack as it hit the water. Each of us jumped in, me last of course, after the bags and pushed them across the pool to the next drop.
This time when we pulled our bodies out of the water we tried to hug all the warmth out of the rock wall. I opened my Otter Box to pull out my camera. The foam inside was drenched and, subsequently, so was the camera. We checked our dry bags holding our dry clothes. Nothing could any longer be considered dry.
We jumped again. We swam. We peered over the next drop into the canyon below – the long, shaded canyon with vertical walls that bent out of view too far away. Matt announced that this was the place of his departure. It was to be our point of no return. Matt was driving the car back to my place. I looked below. I looked at Scott. We both were shivering. I hated to admit defeat, but I agreed to hike out with Matt.
We slowly climbed up the rock wall and back to the car. We perhaps made it ¼ mile through the canyon on Take 2. Perhaps.
Matt drove us to my truck in Washington, welcoming me to Team Marginal. Scott went down a trail to retrieve the Hamm’s he had stashed in the river while Matt and I sat on the cobbled bank. I drank a warm beer, Matt puffed on one of his cornhusk fatty cigarettes spiced up with a little lavender while Scott joined some kids across the river on a rope swing. Matt and I sat in silence for a while. He watched Scott climb, jump and swim. Eventually, turning to me, he asked if I knew that they had lived together for a while in Arcata. Yes, I knew. I sat as still as I could, afraid to move, as he told me how happy he was that Scott and I had found each other. Never before had I felt such tenderness toward Matt than at that moment, sitting next to him as the sun set behind the ridge.