Some people say that it takes a village to raise a child. While I’m not a child, it also took a village to put me back into a kayak to run the south fork of the American River. Getting back into that whitewater river after my paralyzing bicycle accident did not surprise my friends. A community of kayakers does not quit on one of its own. Why was my returning to the river so important? This kayak community knew that river water flows through me — it has since my Yuba City childhood.
When I was 4 my family moved to a square clapboard Victorian house in Yuba City next to and separated from the Feather River by a levee. Before the levees were built, this river flooded our small northern California agrarian county each spring. This was our personal territory; we learned to swim in this river and its current. For the next decade my buddies and I spent almost every summer day, (and many other days), in or around the river.
In addition to being my playground, the Feather River also provided life challenges and lessons. It was a source of education about hydraulics, vortexes and survival. Not only did the web of interlocking spade-leafed willow trees provide great hiding places, the dense, black walnut tree limbs, with a few boards added, were tree forts. These dry fallen trees were also perfect for raf