Did you leave your jewels at home? What are you saving them for? Why not wear them outside? Our joyful camping companion did not worry. Her emerald earrings reminded us of a deeper green than anything in the desert. They glowed when she shifted her long dark hair.
First we two women swam in our clothes from the beach by the campsite. Off came rings, necklaces, and bracelets. Off came the emerald earrings, cradled in a hat. Our clothes clung in the chilly water. We had not yet read the park service brochure on the dangers of swimming in the river and would not read it until we were long gone from the park, back in humid Houston. The water made us catch our breath as it took away the day’s sweat, grime, and caked-on sunscreen, while possibly introducing us to microbes we might not like to meet. The others joined us in the water, but swims were brief. How surprising to be so cold in such a hot place.
We stood dripping on the bank, forgetting the earrings in attempts to get dry and warm. Later we wondered, did we move the hat? Where were the earrings? Would we ever find them in the sand? Yes, as it turned out. The gleaming jewels revealed themselves right where they were expected, and returned to their human home for an elegant dinner of grilled mushrooms, mashed potatoes, salad, squash, and red wine.
The second day of paddling hit fewer riffles where we had to drag the canoes to deeper water. We were far into Boquillas canyon now, as remote as anything, even on the Mexican side. Yet still we hunted for the current, sometimes on the left bank, sometimes on the right, always cliff side, not riffle side, always the outer side of the curve. Invasive reeds, Phragmites australis australis, apparently, clung to the banks, hanging strongly over them, sometimes right where the strongest currents ran. We learned to lean flat back, a hand over our face as the reeds raked our current-sped boats.