We floated on the Smith from the boat ramp to the gravel bar just past the bridge — which is how the locals would put it. More precisely, we put in at the confluence of the middle and south forks of the Smith river, floated past Sheep Pen Creek and the Boulder Garden, through the Cable Hole, past both Cedar and Mill Creek inlets, taking out just past the Hiouchi Bridge.
In small towns, there’s no need to be precise. Most people here know what your gonna say well before you ever get the thought together yourself … just one of those unnerving things about speaking with people who have been hunting, fishing, and generally surviving on their own for decades (outsmarting fauna is a skill evolution selects for, winnowing out the passive and strategically disinclined, aka suburban stock such as myself).
Grant was helming the drift boat. I was along for the ride, at the gracious mercy of one of the area’s most knowledgeable conservationists (and not only knowledgeable, but also generous with his private cache of insight and science).
I’d met Grant at a local business event about two weeks ago. He had a bright smile and firm handshake — and when we realized we couldn’t sit together, able to break the monotony of awards and banal acceptance speeches, made a hasty plan to meet at the Hiouchi Cafe soon for breakfast. We were neighbors in Hiouchi and sought the fellowship men often create over scrambled eggs and coffee.
Fellowship was indeed accomplished and just a few days after the eggs were digested, I was out on Grant’s boat, moving with the unpredictable current of the Smith and experiencing the river in a brand new way.