Saturday night we put the kayaks in the Spokane River a couple blocks south of Mission Avenue. A guy with a cigarette and a big coat struts by.

“You guys goin’ on a canoe ride?”

Heidi looks down at our kayaks.

“Yes, we are,” she says.

He laughs hard at us, but its a friendly laugh.

A crawdad scurries away as we slip the boats in the water. The additional beauty the river exudes when you are in it, as opposed to driving over it, is amazing. The mirror-flat surface perfectly reflects the gnarled vegetation on the banks as a thousand water-flies dance at eye level. An invisible current draws us downstream toward a series of old bridges.

The water is low and clear and part of our fun is trying to see what we can find in it. It’s a contest to see who can spot the first grocery cart. Give me bonus points for spying a bike frame, a no-parking sign, a bedroll, and a sign warning of sewage overflows.

We pass the pylons of Iron Bridge, one of which has trapped two huge driftwood trees. Have those always been there? Further downstream are more pylons from a bridge long gone, which now look like two islands covered with a burst of orange river brush. The setting sun has reached a glowing zenith when we get to the Hamilton Street Bridge. From underneath the concrete is pockmarked by hundreds of pancake-sized spider webs.

Backtracking towards Trent, we hide our kayaks in the bushes, securing them with interconnecting bike locks to make them a pain in the butt to steal. Nobody says anything to us when we pull up to a packed bar at Northern Lights Brewery with wet oars and lifejackets-and that’s fine. We’re here to slam a couple of pints before we need to get back to pay the sitter, not to chit-chat about
our gear.

Back in the water we don our headlamps for the float back. Heidi warns me to steer clear of two guys fishing off the Trent Street Bridge.

Paddling past the streetlight’s yellow gaze we are suddenly alone in a big black stretch of water. I swear we can see more stars than usual. We are a thousand miles away from the city, yet right in the middle of it. It’s going to be tough to top this date.
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