Smash Rock on the Jacks Fork

 Every year in early spring, Smash Rock stands between me and inner peace.

As my rendezvous with Smash Rock approaches, I concentrate on little else. My sole mission hardens into a successful negotiation past this looming Lorelei. Smash Rock could care less, having stood like a giant troll at the gate for a good forty million years, as a swift current barrels under its jaw.

The initial sensation is auditory. Even before you see it, you can hear the force of the water colliding with the giant boulder, easily the size of a Lincoln Navigator.

I tilt my bow toward Smash Rock. The river gulps my canoe toward its face, until at the last moment, I dig furiously to veer left, brushing my stern against the rock as I pass. It’s a signature of sorts left upon the rock’s face, a guest book of canoe scrapes, each canoe leaving its paint: silver, green, red.

The water level determines the degree of difficulty. High water offers a glide over the rocks. Low water lets canoes carom through them. Middle water, most dangerous, turns the rocks into fists that lurk just beneath the rolling surface, ready to snag a keel and turn the boat sideways into the torrent. A Tilt-A-Whirl is a gentler ride.

I’ve never succumbed to Smash Rock: safe passage every time I’ve tried. Credit concentration. On the other hand, I’ve dumped canoes in easier waters. Those surprise dumps happen during lapses best described as rectal-cranial inversions.

It’s a metaphor for life, maybe, or travel.  You prepare for the big event, and the little blip surprises you.  That’s what makes the journey interesting.

Or as Mary Chapin Carpenter likes to quote Mark Knopfler, “Sometimes you’re the windshield.  Sometimes you’re the bug.”

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