Dangerous River

No no ... this is not a story about the little river that flows behind my home! The Kiyomi-gawa does become dangerous in typhoon season, but most of the year it is a very pleasant and peaceful little stream. The river in this story is one that I have never seen, although the dream of visiting it is still alive in my thoughts ...

In the story a couple of weeks ago I listed a few of the 'hobbies' - or anyway, activities - that I have been involved with at various times in my life. One that I didn't mention was a fascination with maps and map reading. This overlaps somewhat with the hiking that I also mentioned, but actually predates it by many years, because I can remember drawing maps for school assignments back in elementary school social studies classes, and thoroughly enjoying the 'chore'.

At some point I discovered topographic maps, and started to collect them. I of course bought maps of various scale that covered the area including our home, but also quite a number that included far-distant wilderness areas of Canada. If I read a book about an interesting part of the country, I would buy the maps that covered it, to try and intensify my understanding and appreciation of the book.

One book in particular I will never forget. It described the adventures of a pair of Englishmen who spent a year 'living off the land' in a very distant area of Canada's northland in the early years of the 20th century. They bought a few supplies, tossed them into a canoe, and headed up into what was at that time completely unknown territory. I was captivated by the book, and tried to plot every step of their adventure on large-scale modern maps of the area.

I don't think I ever had any specific plans to emulate them; after all, by the time I was born, that area of the country had become well explored, and was no longer mysterious or exotic. And I myself am certainly not a 'rough, tough, shoot 'em up, live off the land' type of person, anyway! But how many hours I spent poring over maps of that vast territory they explored!

As time passed, of course my interests moved in other directions. The maps were rolled up into boxes and shunted off into storage.

We fast-forward many years; David is living in Japan - a very long way from the Canadian northland! - and is one day walking along a street in Shinjuku. A bookstore has some wagons out front, stacked with a jumbled pile of books on sale. One catches his eye ...

Yes, there it is ... "The Dangerous River, by RM Patterson, a story of the Nahanni country in the Northwest Territories of Canada ..." It is 1,000 yen, probably more than ten times the price of the original book I read all those years ago, but I can't resist; I buy it at once. And all the way home on the train that afternoon I am transported back in time - back into my own younger days, and back into the early years of the previous century, as RM and his partner steer their canoe into the waters of the dangerous river, setting off on their fabulous adventure.

Checking on the internet, I see that there are now river rafting tours offered on the Nahanni River. And maybe this evening, I'll do some digging in the storage downstairs ... I think I know which box those maps are in ...


Comments on this story ...

Posted by: Anonymous

That was very interesting indeed. It made me feel good to read it and how the past caught up with the present. Wonderful. I wish I could write a story.

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