On the final night, we feasted on fajitas and margaritas (known in some circles as "riveritas"). Our camping chairs arranged in a large circle, we begin sharing favorite moments of the journey, not just the most thrilling rapids—like Coffee Pot, where whirlpools of water surge between vertical cliff walls—but also moments that sealed friendships. Like the pickup game of ultimate Frisbee; evening silliness that included toenail painting courtesy of a river guide armed with fluorescent polish; and that first chilly mile of gentle floating downstream, as the sun burned away the fog that lurked just above surrounding hillsides, letting us know that a warm day was on the way.

On the last day of our trip, Vicky and I shared a kayak. After we aced a set of rapids, we turned our boat around in the river so that she could watch her daughters. Her oldest, just 13, deftly navigated a stretch of white water in a single kayak, followed by a double duckie powered by her husband in back and her younger daughter up front. As we maneuvered our craft toward the pullout at Foster Bar and the awaiting van bound for Galice, where we’d part, Vicky said, "I wish it wasn’t over." Her sentimentality unnerved me for an instant, before I noticed that I was already nodding in agreement. Me, too.