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Dream: Chattooga

Marijka and I are at the 76 bridge and decide to jump in and swim the river. It is afternoon, and we know that our buddies are on the river somewhere ahead of us. We think that we'll be able to catch them to get a boat ride across the lake and a shuttle back to the bridge. The level is about 1.4, which is medium-low. There is no one around. The air is balmy and the trees full and summery.


The water is clear and green and feels good. We have already floated a ways downstream when we realize that neither one of us is wearing a life jacket. We aren't too worried, and keep going. We know where to get out and walk around the rapids we don't want to swim.

Above Seven Foot Falls we stop on river right and visit a shack that is an office for NOC. I am not too interested in the office, and sit on the wooden porch, dangling my legs off the edge and watching the river go by. Marijka goes inside and comes out with a round waitress tray loaded with two burning candles and a bunch of small glasses of water, ranging from shotglass to cup size. She is carrying it one-handed, and I don't get how she's going to swim with that, or why she wants it. I think maybe it is someone's birthday. She also has a large paper calendar which she wants me to carry. I refuse, saying look at me, I bring nothing when I am going to swim. At this point I have on my fat blue lifejacket, shorts and a shirt, and sandals.

On downstream we hear the sound of large motors on river left. Sounds like monster diesel trucks revving their engines. There appears to be a new road right down to the water, a campground and more. We keep going.

I don't remember what happens to the calendar, but Marijka still has the tray when we get to the Five Falls. The candles have burned down. We walk down the left bank past Entrance, and at Corkscrew we encounter the tail end of a raft trip heading downstream. There are a lot of people on the banks, and a pedestrian traffic jam beside Corkscrew where we want to walk. People are jumping in the river and swimming across to the right side, and two people actually walk on water across the river. The left bank is narrow and rocky, and the raft trip is running Corkscrew, so the TL of the raft trip yells at us from where he is standing on a rock in the middle of the river ("Low Rock") to stay where we are until the rafts are through. It is easy for a person to fall off the rocks and into the river, and I understand that he doesn't want the complication of additional swimmers when he might have to rope in a raft full of people.

Marijka and I keep trying to work our way downstream past all the waddling American tourists. They are afraid to make the moves on the rock to go anywhere, but we climb around and through them and keep heading downstream. Marijka still has the tray but she is sure-footed and can climb circles around most people even with one hand tied up. We walk past Crack in the Rock (rapid #3) and are headed toward Jawbone (#4).

Above Jawbone there is a tremendous crowd. People are standing on top of every rock, and walking downstream on both sides of the river. Some people are walking on the water. People are walking downstream over the huge boulders that line the right side of the run. People are standing on the huge boulders that line the left side of the run, making all manner of noise. When a boat is in the rapid they ooooh and ah and jeer and cheer. We can't see the boats running the rapid from where we are, but we can tell what kind of run they are having from the crowd noise.

Then the river heading past us looks different. It has a lot more water volume. It is still clear and green, but the waves between Crack in the Rock and Jawbone are Grand Canyon sized, Hermit sized, tall and thick. The rafts look bigger too. Knowing how rocky and turbulent Jawbone is even at high water, we don't swim downstream, and instead keep walking. Below Jawbone is the tallest drop of the Five Falls, Soc'm Dog. We definitely don't want to swim over that one. There are tons of people everywhere.

Then suddenly the riverbed is completely dry. You can see shelfy dry rocks all along the bed of it, and the hoards of people start walking into the riverbed. The rocks are dry, not slippery, and kind of brown from mud staining. Everyone is walking downstream.

We keep going on the left bank. On downstream the river is normal again, crystal green lighted and reasonable flow. We walk and swim past the last few rapids and reach the very last rapid before the river hits the lake. There is another NOC office there, and Dave P and Carey M are there. Dave is the little general, bossy and uncaring, same as he ever was. Carey is cool to us, not friendly. It appears that he has taken on some sort of managerial job for Dave. He thinks we are silly to be swimming and walking the whole section of river. As we are standing on the deck of the office below Shoulderbone we see a large heavy cabin cruiser coming downstream, putting up quite a wake.

It is late afternoon and the light is getting long. There aren't many boats left on the river and Marijka and I are worried about catching a boat ride across the lake. I ask Carey how they're getting out, remembering the new road and the sound of big trucks. He looks at me as if I'm crazy (the Chattooga isn't supposed to have roads to it, it's Wild & Scenic), and says they're going out by boat.

AWAKE NOTES

I worked for many years on this river and know it better than any other river. I also love it more. This dream is frightening to me because hoards of people, offices, roads, motorized boats and vehicles do not belong in this incredibly rich wilderness. It is the invasion of ugly modernity into my most prized sacred place.

The Five Falls are five class IV rapids in a row that commercial raft trips run one at a time, to avoid getting so spread out that they can't rescue each other. So all the rafts go through the first one, and when the last one is through the first rapid, the first one can go through the second rapid, and so on. It takes one raft trip about an hour to run all five.

I don't know what the flow changes were all about. In the dream it didn't seem strange.

No way could a cabin cruiser be where it was. Physical impossibility.

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