circumstances, missing the bower site, I might have pushed on further and abandoned some of the best fishing water on the river to avoid camping totally exposed to the sun for a full afternoon, but that now was out of the question.
So we pulled camp out of the boats, hauled it up to the sand site between the poison oak, and set up. After lunch was downed, everyone puttered around this hateable camp, setting up tents, fiddling with their fishing gear, drinking gallons of fluid and watching it disappear from one another's brows and lips, with a cool river and spectacular fishing a mere hundred feet away, until it became perfectly obvious. Everyone was watching the tracks.
One o'clock, four hours, no Matt. We told fishing stories, played cards, soaked our shirts in riverwater and let them dry on our backs. I recalculated the distance, the walking time again in my mind. 12 miles by river, actually slightly less by the tracks since they cut across the bends. Three hours walk, four at the most. Two o'clock, no Matt. I explained all the local fishing water, mentally splitting it up between the group for the evening’s fishing, told all the sand campsite stories, and
started preparations for dinner so we could fish late.
Three o'clock, no Matt.
"He's late", Don said, to no one in particular, looking up at the tracks for the hundredth time. "Maybe I'll wander up the tracks and give him some company walking back."
"No. I'll go", I said. "I'm curious as to why he's so late." I dunked my shirt, downed as much water as I could hold, and headed up the trail to intercept the tracks at the curve before the long straightaway. As I climbed onto the tracks, my heart sank. I could see at least two miles up the shimmering tracks, and no small, reassuring blob broke their symmetry. I was in for a walk myself. At the end of the straight, I passed a farmhouse and a barking dog , notable as the only break in the monotony. I could keep track of my progress by recognizing sections of the river. Two more miles and still no sign of Matt. I was puzzled. There was no way he could get lost, or even out of the canyon if he wanted to, no one else around except an occasional raft floating down the river, and nothing to do without but walk.

At four miles I rounded a railroad bend, agonizingly slowly at walking speed because I could then look up another long straightaway. Nothing. Halfway through the straight, another half mile, and I noticed movement down at the river's edge at the bottom of a scree bank directly below the tracks. A little kid, fishing. I sat down to watch.
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