The Pueblo Chieftan

Time to paddle on around the bend; thanks and farewell

The water washes away, but the rapid remains.

That is the way of things in whitewater, and so, too, may it be with me; may the memories remain.

By the time the July 25 Pueblo West View arrives in the homes of readers, I will have worked my last day for the View — after almost 10 years.

And within a week or two, there will be no trace of me, no evidence of my passing here, visible in the View’s pages.

In the wilderness, I believe in the “Leave no trace” ethic; may it be not quite so in this case.

Two weeks ago, I found myself barreling downstream in my kayak on the North Fork of the South Platte River near Bailey, and I was almost alone. Something special happened, but no trace of it can be found now, except in my memory.

I was essentially alone. Though I was paddling with Murphy and Sebastien, those guys paddle hard and look back seldom.

Murphy bounced out of one rapid, rounded an S-turn and disappeared into the next rapid without hesitation, and Sebastien followed him in the same fashion.

That’s not my style, and it had been almost a year since the last time I had paddled this stretch, and I knew the next rapid to be a particularly tricky and dangerous one.

Wanting to catch my breath and collect myself before dropping into “Superman,” or “Steeps Two” as some call it, I caught an eddy and stopped.

The rapid is of S-turn variety, with a series of ledges and holes, and a picket fence of rocks that can act as a nasty pin spot. Most Bailey boaters make it through this rapid alright, though I think few run it perfectly cleanly every time. Some have had some very bad experiences here.

All I wanted was to do what I usually do — bounce off of this and squeak past that and come out the bottom OK.

I dug into the water and drove my boat out of the eddy, turning downstream, picking up speed and careening around a curve.

There’s that thing on the left — a hump of water pillowing and pouring off a rock.

I bounced into it on balance and rebounded off of it on balance — onto the corner of that hole on the right. My bow didn’t wiggle and my line didn’t waver as I wound my way through, now turning left, perfectly on balance and in rhythm, driving easily away from the pin rocks on the right.

Now a right turn, driving downstream and launching cleanly over a sticky hole.

Balance, rhythm, perfection.

And nobody saw it.

And it’s like it never happened.

I rejoined Murphy and Sebastien, and we headed downstream, leaving the rocks, the trees, the bank, the dirt, the waves and the holes, the sky and the clouds, the whole scene, exactly as we found them. We altered noting, but I took something: a memory.

I remember how that felt, sitting here almost two weeks later. I remember what it looked like.

It was a good and beautiful thing, and I will carry it with me.

Just like my time in Pueblo West.

I was here for almost 10 years — more than half of my adult life. I watched this community grow up, in a lot of ways, and helped its newspaper grow up. I did plenty of growing, myself.

I watched many historic firsts for the Pueblo West High School community, and I had the honor and responsibility to chronicle this history.

And through it all, the community welcomed me, embraced me and showed me almost unwavering graciousness and appreciation.

Thank you.

I am extremely grateful to The Pueblo Chieftain, the parent company of the View, for giving me my first job in Colorado and largely enabling the magical life I lead now. To Steve Henson and Loretta Sword, the dynamic duo that hired me in 2003: thank you.

To the Pueblo West High School community, from Principal Martha Nogare through the athletic directors I worked with, all of the coaches I worked with — many of them for eight years or more — right down through all of the parents, teachers and community members who treated me kindly over the years: thank you.

I won’t attempt to name all of the individuals, in this office or in the community, for whom I am grateful and whom I will miss; there are too many. I hope I have shown you through the years that I appreciate you.

Best of luck to Christi Casillas and the rest of the View staff.

It’s time for me to move on; I got a great new job and am moving to a great new city.

In the pages of the View, in a few weeks, there will be no trace of me. But I am taking many wonderful memories and warm feelings with me, and I hope I am leaving some behind.

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