A river of gold

When I was working in the mountains of the Cascades near the Columbia River Gorge I had the joy and luck to witness a scene of remarkable beauty, a river of liquid, pure gold. I worked for the Forest Service as a surveyor for three summers while I was an undergraduate student. I lived in a forest service camp with the other student/workers. The camp was located next to a mountain stream that fed the Columbia River about seven miles down a winding canyon. Usually after a day working in the field we would eat and lounge about the camp reading, playing cards, or watching TV. Weekends were divided between climbing expeditions or visits to the "city", (White Salmon, pop. c. 2000?) to do the laundry or visit the local bar. Often I would take evening strolls by the stream that went by the camp. In days past the lumbermen of the region had built a flume that was fed by that stream to deliver logs and cut wood to the mills on the Columbia. That flume remains in operation, the last working lumber flume in the United States. The stream with it's flume was the place of my earthly delight. There was the dense crowded woods, the flowering mountain dogwood, the ferns and moss growing up the wooden legs of the flume supports by each leak, the shafts of sunlight slicing into the cool green undergrowth. No other place, no other time can compare to the tranquillity I found there.

Once I was sitting by the stream in the evening as the sky was turning bright orange with the coming twilight. The day had been quite hot and it felt cool and calm there by the rushing water. I was sitting on a large volcanic stone and resting when I turned my gaze to the stream. What I saw was not the stream at all, but a river of liquid gold, burning and molten, but at the same time cool. I could not see the sky through the trees, but the angle off the stream caught its reflection, now deep orange. I saw this river of gold, I sat there transfixed and in awe for perhaps fifteen minutes. I was aware of the reason but in the wonder and beauty of the moment all I could think of was the gold running beside me, the wealth it represented. The wealth was spiritual rather than monetary and for that time I was certainly one of the richest of men on earth.

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