Paddling · Self-Actualization · Wellness

Chile Part 3: Glaciers and Parques and Plunges Oh My!!

So we’re in Chile (at least we were this winter). We’d already had a “trip of a lifetime” having hiked the incredible Cerro Castillo, paddled a 4-day river trip on the Rio Baker and kayaked to, in and around the Marble Caves. There was still so much more to go! The trip on the Rio Baker left us in Coletta Tortel, an incredible little town nestled on the side of the fjords and we’d said our good-byes to the “Baker” crew. Our intention was to make our way to Patagonia Nacional Parque with some stops along the way, however we last-minute secured a trip to the San Lorenzo Glacier and extended our time in Tortel to accommodate. Because our Spanish isn’t perfecto we “more or less understood” that the trip would be a very full day, beginning at 8am and returning between 8-9pm (based on a two hour ride through the fjords on a skiff followed by approximately two hours of hiking to the glacier. We would then do the reverse, but stop on an island to eat asado dinner). This tour, in its entirety, was an experience that still leaves me somewhat perplexed but grateful for the cultural experience.

We did leave early in the morning, tossing our gear down to the raft and jumping from the dock to the boat where we greeted a “captain” who motored us out to the skiff to join the rest of the crew. It was a beautiful ride to the beach where we unloaded and began a very soggy hike toward the San Lorenzo glacier. Sidenote, this was one of the only days we got rained on and the hike was still very picturesque and enjoyable. We eventually arrived to the glacier, but it left us wanting some sort of paddle-craft because we could only view it from shore. I was, however, still blown away by the sight. Our small group eventually gathered for what was advertised as “lunch” which turned out to be a crap-ton of candy bars, one bag of potato chips and a triple shot of whiskey (on “ice” gathered from the icebergs–this is a hot marketing piece, I noticed, with several of the outfitters in the region). As someone who doesn’t drink much these days (or eat much candy or chips because I’m annoyingly healthier as I age) it was a laughable moment because I also prescribe to the “when in Rome” mindset when traveling. It was a buzzy walk back and I’m not sure if it was the whiskey or the enormous amounts of candy I’d eaten… probably a little bit of both! Arriving back at the skiff it was incredibly foggy and we were grateful for the skill of our captain who clearly knew the area well. He guided us, essentially blind, to the island where we joined a gaucho (farmer) who hosted our asado. The little enclosure we gathered had a woodstove where we all undressed almost to undies, to hang and practically roast our soggy socks, shoes and layers. What got weird is that it took a really long time to prep the food. And then a really long time to eat the food. And then? We were there for hours after, and at one point I saw the captain and the gaucho engaged in a lively negotiation over an old chainsaw which might or might not have needed fixed and/or was for sale? I have spent a LOT of time in the hospitality and tour industry and I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Not complaining…it was interesting and those gauchos live SO remotely that they might go weeks without seeing anyone except those who lives with them. But I’m sure we’d have been back in Tortel by 6pm had we been more, say, efficient. Additionally, the boat ride back was a little exciting. What had been calm water turned into pretty sizeable waves so we went reeeeeally slowly. Relieved to finally be back, we jumped from the deck of the skiff back onto our dock–flinging our gear up and climbing the ladder. Ahhhh. Another adventure under our belts.

A random dynamic on this trip I haven’t mentioned, was that we were doing (almost daily, twice a day) cold-water plunges. I mean COLD water plunges, as in glacial lakes and run-off-into-rivers-cold. It’s an “acquired taste” for sure but I’m quite addicted. I have a process that’s kind of bullet-proof and I definitely don’t just plunge in all at once. By the time I left however, I could stay in up to my neck for 20-30 seconds at a time. It leaves your body feeling tingly and alive. I highly recommend!!

Next stop was Cochrane, where we met Roberto, a Chilean teacher-turned-kayak instructor who had created a kayak-school simply from his passion for getting kids and adults on the water, and very few other resources. Our Rio Baker guide had put us in contact with Roberto, as someone we should meet. Roberto also didn’t speak a word of English. Sam got to know Roberto by paddling with him up the Cochrane river while I took the opportunity to go for a solo walkabout into the park. We reconvened and went to a fun but language-challenged dinner. I’m sure we learned a lot of incorrect things about him and he about us (due to not understanding entirely the Spanish either was speaking). Next day we woke early to hike a 3-hour loop in Patagonia Parque Nacional before heading out toward the next leg of the trip, “Jeinemeni”. A long drive, but worthwhile….



I’d only seen the Smith River once before, on a favorite road trip five or six years ago. The trip had been inspired by a few photos posted on Facebook by a friend, of Mill Creek running into the Smith. When I saw the photos I said “I want to go there”. I would argue that in person, this area of Northern California is even more breathtaking than any photo could capture. During that trip, we paddled the little Mill Creek with “creeky” paddling, but incredible scenery all around. The Smith river itself has crystal blueish green water unrivaled by anything I’ve seen in the US, and only challenged by waterways I’d viewed on my recent visit to Chile. Wow, I’m spoiled.

Therefore, I was anticipating some beautiful paddling when stars aligned, and Sam and I were able to make space for BoatSmith 2023. This is a festival that’s been growing in popularity since it’s introduction just four or five years ago. Full transparency, I’d never been to a whitewater kayak/raft festival before but I’d heard my share of stories about them. Best explained, it’s like a short multi-day river trip with 200 participants…and staying in one location.

We rolled in (in luxury, bringing the camper versus a tent) about noon on Friday. The campsite was nearly full, but more paddlers continued to arrive all day Friday and Saturday. The Patrick Creek Lodge and campground across the street had graciously opened their space to this impactful, but good-intentioned bunch. Camping and shuttles were free and everyone was excited to take advantage of the sunny weather that Mother Nature seemed to have conspired just for this event.

Friday night boasted a film festival and the energy felt fairly tame being the night before the races. I’m not into racing myself, but took advantage of the free shuttles and beautiful weather, running the race course prior to the official start. It was very short but beautiful. The rest of the day was spent involved in the support and spectating of a good-natured series of races. No one seemed too competitive and the awards (including “best carnage”) were all seemingly very inclusive. Mostly, it seems like the festival is a way to bring like-minded paddlers together to celebrate the spirit of the river. It also appears that the very small community benefits financially, from a large group dropping in to this isolated area during a time that would otherwise be “sleepy”. No one seemed too bent out of shape when schedules ran late due to minimal infrastructure…AKA, dinner wasn’t served at 6pm because the staff couldn’t quite keep up nor was coffee served in the morning on Sunday…probably because everyone stayed up too late, including staff.

Sunday late morning, was the community paddle although I believe there were many pods going on different stretches. We went from Margies to the gorge (the more competent paddlers continuing through) on the Middle Fork of the Smith. Rafts, kayakers and me on my SUP. I portaged two rapids, swam one and nailed the rest–in case anyone cares. Probably not, but for me I appreciate the support of those that waited as I worked through “my process”. This stretch is a class II/III at low flows but in higher water it wouldn’t be something I’d paddle at my skill level.

If you come to this festival next year, make sure you carve out some time to hike in the area. Jedediah Smith park is very close and I’ve never seen bigger, more impressive redwoods in all my life. Some trivia…for you Star Wars lovers out there… Stout Grove is rumored to be the location they filmed Return of the Jedi with the blasters flying through and around gigantic trees. When Sam and I visited last, Sandra Bullock was “on location” filming an HBO movie. Famous scenes aside, it’s worth the trip!

Photo Credit: Luke Spencer


Trip to Chile Part 2: Rio Baker ~”Frisky Turbulences”

Sam and I were cruising along the Carrera Austral, Chile’s “highway”, continuously impressed with the stunning views of central Patagonia. We had hiked the stout Cerro Castillo hike, visited the Marble Caves…around and in…and stocked up for several weeks of camping out of our rented truck. Making our way toward Cochrane, we were meeting with “Rolando”, our Chilean River guide for a 4-day sea kayak trip on the Rio Baker. This wasn’t a trip we’d known about until just two or three days before. In fact, we hadn’t planned to do a lot of paddling on this trip, if any, but to cover my bases I’d thrown some 1-mms and a pair of Astrals in my travel duffle just in case. The timing just fell into place and now we were prepping for a river trip. The Baker didn’t disappoint.

It’s wise to have plenty of time as you’re driving toward any destination in Central Patagonia. You’re going to stop a LOT. Too many amazing views and sites to see. We’d embraced that mindset as we drove south but eventually arrived to meet the crew in the Cochrane Plaza. It would be Sam and I, Rolando and his guide “Gary”, Rodrigo and Aldo (two “early 30-something” social workers from northern Chile) and Sergio and Pascal (two 60-somethings…Chilean and French, respectively). The team set off the next morning about 10km north of Cochrane, having packed our kayaks and completed a safety talk….in Spanish. Sam and I were in a tandem which works surprisingly well for us.

Lunch that first day covered my introduction to the rules of Mate. Sidenote: I’d (mistakenly) thought that coffee was pervasive in Chile. It is definitely not. In fact, most coffee available is instant, and finding really good coffee, for us coffee snobs here in the Pac NW, is basically impossible. I’m an addict and thankfully I will lower my standards to just about any hot, brown liquid tasting remotely like coffee, when the circumstances demand it. Mate is the standard in Chile and there are rituals when drinking it. For example, there is a single “server” who offers and is in charge of the drinking during that session. We also learned that other regions have rules specific to their region. Mate…which is essentially a tree bark brewed like tea…has a distinct taste. Obviously many love it. I did not, but I drank this first time, and then respectfully “no thank you-ed” myself out of the circle. Mate breaks are much like smoke breaks in the 1980’s. Expected and frequent.

Our first night camping was at a beautiful, tree-sheltered area where I was able to hike along the river and enjoy the feeling of every, single, thing taken care of for me since we were clients!! This is not a situation I get to experience often but maaaaaan was it nice. Rolando and Gary worked their butts off for the four of us. The food was tasty, hearty and cooked entirely from two pots. Also, their “energy” was such that you didn’t feel they were working, but totally engaged with the conversation. It was light and relaxing, which takes a special person to pull off, and Rolando is certainly that…special. He has a lot of past experience, having worked for both Outward Bound and NOLS for years. He is grounded and easy-going yet kept us on target. And stay on target we did, leaving camp by 8:30-9am every day. Throughout the trip there were many laughs and great discussions. All with a twinkle in his eyes, that Rolando!

The stretch of river we did on the Baker, was mostly flatwater, from Cochrane to Tortel. That’s about 168 kilometers, and gravel highway driving we avoided. There were a few “frisky ripples” aka “turbulences”, as Rolando called them, along the way and two class 3 rapids. The first rapids we broke into two groups and “rafted up”, a technique that is a little wonky but works! With that said, Sam convinced Rolando we could paddle ourselves down the second class III rapids, in the tandem, which made for a bit of fun. Easy peesey.

Another noteworthy part of this river trip was the almost mile and a half mandatory portage. Our kayaks were polyethylene sea kayaks, two of which were tandems–not light weight. Plus, all our gear. It was on the hottest day of the trip, so Rolando made the wise decision to have us take camp gear and the kitchen over, rest up during the afternoon, and then transport the kayaks when it cooled off. Full disclosure, I was beat. I wasn’t getting much sleep on this Chile trip plus we were physically exerting a lot every day. With that being said, Sam did his share AND mine. I was SO grateful. I luxuriously took this time to jump in the cold creek below our campsite, which had a small waterfall flowing into a pool. Very picturesque and really refreshing. I felt like a million bucks when I got done–a little guilty for not pulling my weight, but still very happy how I spent the afternoon. When I fell asleep in this little slice of heaven it was early, and it was deep.

The last night on the river was spent on a “finca” (farm) at a goucho’s (farmer’s) homestead. We paddled up to the finca around 5pm and Milton, the goucho, had an asado prepared for us. This is also a big thing in Chile…”asado” which is basically a meat–in this case lamb, roasted over an open fire. Milton had butchered, skinned and roasted the lamb that day and we swarmed in like vultures, literally knives in hand, cutting ourselves our own meat. It was served with the traditional cucumber, tomato and lettuce. Milton also provided us hard biscuits and a very tasty homemade chimichurri sauce. It was a gracious cultural experience, albeit difficult for a vegetarian, had a vegetarian been on the trip. In exchange for his hospitality, Rolando brought Milton a few supplies and socializing (this goucho lives so remotely, alone, that he can go a month without seeing a single person). Sam and I enjoyed a post-dinner hike through the sheep fields (feeling a little awkward…”hey guys…our apologies”) toward a waterfall on Milton’s property. Stunning sunset, and later, beautiful stars.

The final day was the longest paddle of the trip so we arrived in Coletta Tortel fairly late, tired and hungry. We’ve all heard about Venice, Italy which has become famous and romanticized world-wide with its canals and Gondoliers. Tortel is basically unknown and really cool! There are no streets in Tortel. You cannot take your car into the town…because like I just wrote…there are no streets. The town sits on a steep mountainside in the fjords, and is connected by wooden walkways–a main boardwalk and connecting boardwalks and/or stairs up to residences, restaurants or tiendas. It is adorable, unusual and picturesque. Established by the Chilean government as a fishing town, ironically (we are told) no one fishes. It is in continual construction, either fixing, rebuilding or creating new walkway. We hauled all of our gear to a small hotel (residence with a few rooms to rent) where we had a final dinner with our river crew. Pascal a.k.a “Frenchie” was predictably funny with his dry humor, Gary was emotive and just basically his happy self. Sergio was tired but content. I enjoyed a glass of wine with our beef dinner. It was all smiles for Sam and I, having wrapped up this chapter of our Chile trip. Still so much more to explore, but already we’d made new friends and enjoyed a trip of a lifetime… On to the Patagonia National Park!!

Paddling · Wellness

A Trip to Chile- Part One

When we first decided on Chile as our meet-up destination, I had only a vague knowledge about the country. With a gun to my head I would have remembered old maps from elementary school…where it was geographically, and that it was “long and skinny”. Patagonia was there, but I knew more about the outdoor apparel company than I actually knew about the region. Nothing could have prepared me, however, for the incredible beauty this area has to offer, and the fact that there are a ton of trails to hike and rivers to paddle made it even better. Side note, if you’re planning a trip, I highly recommend you talk to someone who has been there, in addition to reading the blogs and travel guides.

We spent our time in Central Patagonia which is remote, and somewhat challenging to get to, but well worth the effort. The “highway” that connects the towns throughout this area, as I-5 would on the west coast of the US, is gravel, winding and frequently rutted–a road appropriate for 4-wheel drive vehicles. In a strange way, this adds to the allure, as it definitely deters a lot of people from visiting and slows you down (for better and worse). The drive truly is the journey as much as the destination in Patagonia. Around every corner is a mind-blowing view with jagged mountain peaks, mostly snow or glacier-covered. Lakes and rivers are everywhere, with the craziest colors you can imagine…blues, greens, opaques from glacial silt. Just WOW.

Our adventure started with one of the more “stout” hikes in the area–Cerro Castillo (from Villa Cerro Castillo). It’s straight up and then straight down, about three hours each way, which we did as a day-hike, although Sam fervently believes it should only be done as a multi-day camping experience. For our purposes, and just getting acclimated, I was fine with the day-hike because full overnight packs our first day out, would have been really challenging. By the end of the trip…basically three weeks of daily “cross-fit”…sure, no prob! All that said, we got to the glacier where we enjoyed a lunch, water and incredible views before heading back down, entirely aware of “well-used” knees, back, etc.

Next destination (after some backtracking to Coyhaique to stock up on supplies for three weeks of remote camping) was Puerto Sanchez. I had set my sights on the Marble Caves having seen photos of gorgeous rock formations you can boat to. All the websites/blogs told me we would need to launch from Rio Tranquillo or Puerto Murta to visit these caves, but we received a tip from a local, to go via Puerto Sanchez, approaching from the other side of the island. Great tip! We hired two guides to escort us, and a tandem kayak. The paddle to the caves was quick–about 10 minutes (truthfully, we tried to just rent the kayak and paddle ourselves). But “Nacho” and Ignacio were awesome and shared a bunch of insider info about the caves, lake General Carrera and other local knowledge. Beautiful sights are nice, but understanding them–how they were formed, the geology, and the relevance locally, makes it so much better! A few fun facts about the “Marble” caves…they’re not marble but limestone. They were under water just 30 years ago but the glaciers all around Patagonia are receding very quickly due to climate change (ok, that isn’t a super “fun” fact). You can actually hike in some of them…we did…and we found a few pieces of petrified wood. The rock itself isn’t colorful, but reflects the color of the water and sky creating some breathtaking views.

We spent the night camping, for the first of many, under the southern hemisphere sky–the Milky Way SO vivid. Waking with our first tailgate breakfast, complete with instant coffee and dehydrated milk, (a pleasure for this coffee addict) we slowly made our way toward Cochrane…and “Part Two” later to come…



I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. I do resolve to make changes, but whenever I see it necessary. This fall I determined to do two things. Drink more, and be late more often. Yep. A strange couple of actions to work on, but hear me out.

First, let me be clear, for those people who really shouldn’t drink for a variety of reasons please stick to abstinence! I used to drink regularly, as many college-age kids do. Then, due to several circumstances, I quit and have barely drank anything, for a couple of decades. That’s fine, but I realize that I enjoy letting my hair down and deviating from my normal routine (which typically involves waking early and exercise). But when does the focus on health interfere with the enjoyment of life? For me, that’s now. I recognize that daily workouts might be a little overkill. My body needs a break and my brain needs rest. Relaxation. And perhaps some more laughter over a fun dinner with friends. My point here is moderation–finding the balance, as is so often the case in life. I’ve felt it necessary to be responsible…always in control. PS, we’re never truly in control except for our own reactions to what is happening around us. I’m not advocating lots of drinking, and being an overall junk-show. Just loosening up now and then.

Regarding the “late thing”. I grew up with a mom who chronically ran behind. My memories of dance lessons, piano–well basically anywhere we had to be at a certain time, went hand in hand with a tense, high-speed drive to get there. Side-note, it’s during these drives I first learned to swear, as she’d be cursing red lights and traffic along the way. These experiences created a need, in my adult life, to be chronically on time, and I’m almost always 10 minutes early. Anything to avoid that rushed, uncomfortable feeling. However, for years now, I’ve lived in places, and around friends who take a much more relaxed approach to timeliness. Or to be blunt, I can count on them to be anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours behind schedule. It’s something I’ve internally battled for years. I rush around tying to fit in a whole bunch of stuff, or in many cases forgo doing things so that I can be somewhere “on time”, only to wait or arrive and be alone, or the first person there. I’m not complaining or judging. What I am doing is changing my habits and not raising my blood pressure, to adhere to a norm that doesn’t really exist in my world.

This doesn’t mean I will take commitments lightly, or show up for work or a client “whenever”. These two changes have one key factor in common: Lighten up Sue Fox! I’m not an ER doctor or some high-finance whatever, where lots of money, or even human life is at stake. I’m racing around, stressing myself out for no one but myself. Well “Myself” is drawing the line! I will (strive to) be present. Not be ten steps ahead in my head. I will slow down, and be with the person I’m with. Have the conversation. My need to be on to the next thing can leave great conversations cut short…or worse, leave the person I’m rushing away from feeling undervalued.

Everyone walks their own path, and half the battle is figuring out “what shoes to wear”, metaphorically speaking, along the way. I’m choosing something in between house slippers and bedazzled party-heels. For now.

Thanks for listening…see ya out there, on the frisky ripples.

Case in point, “whipped cream tequila shot” game post paddle, on the Middle Fork of the Salmon. Great time, and resulted in big, messy whipped-cream kiss with my sweetie”. Why miss that?


They Braved the Storm…

The snow was falling and the wind blowing. Except for getting on an amazing stretch of whitewater, I can’t imagine throwing on a drysuit to paddle last night. Yet that’s exactly what happened. It was TC’s annual Holiday Lights Paddle Parade which has become a “must do” activity in Bend. Last year, after the pent-up feelings from Covid, and unusually warm, clear weather, we had record numbers of paddlers out–over 100 boats and boards. But in crap? Pretty impressive. It just goes to show you the soul of the paddle community, and the allure of the water bringing people together.

I’ve never hidden my joy of the winter holiday season, yet it hasn’t been about the commercialism and consumerism that is now so intrinsically woven into the season–at least in the U.S. THIS is what gets me excited about the season. A desire to come together and be “merry”…to be GOOFY! We are so good at being “cool” or as extreme sports “brahs” say “SIIIIICK”! What I love is the child-like enthusiasm that says “I’m going to put on clothes that are whacky and garish”. I can be silly. Jolly. Merry. I’ve been accused of being “over the top”. Yep, guilty as charged. And loving every minute of it. That’s exactly what I saw last night, as I served hot cocoa spiked with whisky or schnapps…or simply whipped cream. I saw huge smiles on wet, red faces (from the snow and cold). I saw crazy outfits. And I saw people excited to engage with other paddlers…friends and strangers alike, because they shared a common experience. I didn’t see any arguments about politics or the pandemic.

For me, the beauty of the holiday season is the opportunity to put our differences aside and have love for our fellow beings. I’m not saying anything new here. I know that. Yet sometimes it seems we play lip service to that concept. Maybe the annual reminder for a month or 6 weeks will stick? I like the chance to slow down and give attention to my friends and family…that’s how I approach it anyway…SLOWING down. This is opposite what I hear from many. During this time I work less. I do less home projects, less mundane tasks. That’s just me…everyone does it their own way. Regardless of how each of you view the holidays I hope you can relax a bit, lay off the gas pedal in the snow, and find joy in something you do, every day. And if you hum a Christmas tune around me, I won’t complain! See ya out there on the frisky ripples…thanks for listening…

This was NOT last night’s parade…2021 had clear weather and big turnout!!

A Shameless Work Post

I’ve been transitioning my life…where I live and how I work. Many of my friends have been asking me what I’m doing. Let’s get that answered, as best I know, right here and now. Essentially I’m getting creative, and am in the process of curating a lifestyle that fits me! I’m somewhat quirky and I’ve been in a long distance relationship for 6+ years with someone who has a “dynamic” lifestyle.

Rural living is amazing but sometimes I miss the energy of the city. The city drives me nuts quickly–with too many people, too much traffic and a lack of trails to jump on within minutes (Bend has spoiled me). So why not have both?! Well there are a few reasons why a person can’t if they don’t push the norm, and one is money–a job. Especially for someone who doesn’t have a “regular” job and works remotely. I love my work with Tumalo, but expanding my horizons has been on my mind.

For literally decades, I’ve considered a career doing something I call “Fitness Facilitation”. But what the hell is that? When I first begin answering that question people immediately leap to “personal trainer”. That is not what I do. I like to think of “fitness facilitation” as a personal trainer meets life coach… and that person is one of your best buddies. I do the work with my client. I do what I can to make the session fun. Most notably, every client I’ve had over the past decade has become a friend. Or in some cases, was a friend first. All of my “people” have different needs, therefore diet may or may not be focused on. Support for non-exercise related goals may or may not be a part of the relationship. It’s all very customized. Also, none of this takes place in a gym. We utilize the great outdoors or the comfort of the client’s home. This is more organic, and saves time if the client never has to leave his/her home. By the way, I continue to instruct SUP…it’s 35 degrees outside here in OC. I’ll save that info for another day!

I am splitting time between Bend and Oregon City. This makes things a little “nuanced” but Zoom and careful scheduling allows me flexibility. I’ll say this…it’s worth it to me. I’m having a blast and can’t imagine going back to the old status quo.

If you think you could benefit from fitness facilitation, or know someone who could, give me a holler. Thanks for listening, and either way, maybe I’ll see you out there on the frisky ripples!


A Moment of Gratitude…

Everyone embraces this time of year differently. Some by leaping full-force into it– “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” style, and others by emphatically NOT embracing it at all. And a whole bunch of in-between. Those who know me, would accuse me of being the former–like Clark Griswald or Buddy the Elf. I greet the season with enthusiasm which is odd because I’m not religious, nor do I like shopping and definitely not into consumerism. There are strong origins in my love for the season however, and I’ll unapologetically continue to listen to my holiday music, drink from Santa mugs and wear my Rudolph-adorned jammies. It is a joyful time for me.

Some of my earliest memories are of the holidays. For one, I’m Czech and was raised with many of the Czech traditions, including the celebration of St Nicklaus Day, in addition to Christmas. This was when Santa arrived on the eve of December 6th. We’d hang our long ski socks, put out cookies, and carrots for the reindeer (unless we were in Washington at my aunt’s in which case we’d put out beer and pretzels because “Santa gets tired of milk and cookies”). Then shezam!…just like that, we’d have stockings filled with candy including fudge (a personal favorite). We’d also receive coal which indicated we’d been “naughty” to which my sister and I would feel horrible and I’d even try to figure out exactly which outbursts resulted in this gentle reprimand.

Christmas was weeks later, which in kid-world was an eternity. This time was spent celebrating the season–baking cookies and candies, visiting family, and going to holiday events. It was like an extended “Sunday” which for some, was meant as a day of rest, but was instead spent in fun festivities bonding with family. I think a lot of this is due to the fact that my mom’s side of the family were all musicians/entertainers, therefore, singing, dancing, and imbibing in general, was a “thing” and Christmas was the Grande Finale!! Especially my Aunt Rosemary who was a real-life “Auntie Mame” for those old enough to understand that reference. When I think of Christmas I think of my relatives, of singing at nursing homes, of charity, and hours upon hours of “woman talk” with aunts, grandma, mom and sis while cooking and baking. It was happiness…togetherness.

Now, much has changed in my life. Probably the most impactful is the passing of most of my family since I’m the second-to-the-youngest of a large one. I might not be able to be with them now, but the memories are very vivid and I carry these memories with me every time I look at a Christmas tree or hear a particular song. I am grateful for that, and for now having “chosen family” to share new experiences with. However you spend December, I wish you a fabulous month and if the holidays aren’t your thing, change the channel on your radio (or subscription service)…don’t worry, it’ll all be over Jan 1 for another year.


The Thing Is, I Try and I Learn

This was what I said to my boyfriend after he commented on the utter mess I was –covered in soot and smoke. Typically, we have unspoken roles during our morning routine. For example, I always get out of bed first and drink warm water (an “Eastern” practice that’s supposed to be great for digestive health) and bring him a cup in bed. I make the coffee and do my email correspondence. He will, at some point, venture out into the kitchen and start a fire in the wood stove–bottom line, he’s very good at it and there’s always a roaring fire within minutes. So yesterday when it was pretty chilly, I decided I was going to take matters into my own hands.

Let’s be clear, I’m not a great fire-maker. Sure, as a kid I joined the Brownies, Blue Birds and eventually graduated to the Girl Scouts. I can’t speak for all charters, but we spent most of our time doing arts and crafts, and selling a fair amount of cookies or whatever the current pyramid scheme was at that time, to fundraise for “said” group. While I don’t spend a whole lot of time crafting these days, give me a hot glue gun, some glitter and a Bedazzler, and I’m your girl, to add sparkle to any accoutrement!! I digress… The point is, what I’ve learned about starting fires and “survival” in the outdoors has mostly been picked up from now, years of river trips. I don’t get “grossed out” by groovers…we all poop…and dirt is Mama Earth as far as I’m concerned. I’m fine with river showers (aka skinny dipping in butt-ass cold water). In fact, I actually love it.

Was my comfort in the outdoors always the case? Nope. If you’ve followed this blog from day one, you know that I was raised by two parents who’d moved out to Oregon from inner city Chicago. They both loved the outdoors but hadn’t truly spent any time in wilderness. With that said, I learned how to manage my shit–literally and figuratively, along the way. My “education” really began with an ex-boyfriend who got me into camping. Not RV camping. Not cabins (although we stayed in those too). Not Glamping but…well, ok, CAR camping. In the sense that, save three or four experiences of hiking miles in, we had the ability to bring our gear in a car.

Later, I learned the art of multi-day river trips which, if you’ve rafted is really just glorified car camping. I’m not exaggerating AT ALL when I say we brought an entire large-sized Bills Bag for our pillows alone, when we paddled the Middle Fork of the Salmon. Because why not? You’ve got this huge tub, for lack of a better word, that thrives on (some) weight. I’ve compared our raft, in some cases, to the last scene of the Grinch, when he’s got all the gifts and right before his heart grows three times bigger! Again, I digress…

My point is this: none of this stuff is actually rocket science. It’s a matter of having experiences, observing, asking questions and DOING. Repetition helps. I’m not talking about mountaineering, or self-supported whitewater paddling or climbing etc. There definitely IS a learning curve with these sports, that takes skill and dedication. I’m talking about learning how to “leave no trace”, “know before you go” and, well building a frickin’ fire! These are all good skills to learn and know.

For the record, this morning I tried again (and miserably failed) to start the fire which was frustrating, because after a lot of time and determination I got a great fire going the day before. Sam asked “do you want me to show you how?” to which I answered YES!! And now, I think tomorrow is going to go a lot better.

Thanks for listening…see ya out there on the frisky ripples!

Paddling · Self-Actualization · Wellness

Change of Season

Around Oregon, the shift from summer this year, was almost immediate–like a flick of the switch, with basically no fall, straight into winter. The sunny days in a tank top, pulling weeds and raking leaves at the homestead went quickly into Willamette Valley weather…rain and wind. Let’s be clear…I’m not complaining (Yet. I am not a fan of WV winters of endless rain). Right now, however, with a fire crackling making it toasty warm, having just finished a lunch of hot soup, I feel so cozy there should be a Hallmark Movie logo stamped on my…mmmmm…forehead. Bring on the rain!

Am I going to spend every day lounging around the house? Naaah. That’s not my style. I’ve been known to run wearing ski goggles and full rain gear when we’re getting torrential downpour, on iced-over, heavily tracked, uneven snow pack. Not badass, just motivated...and maybe a little crazy. Sitting still for too long is not my strong suit.

This year has been a metaphorical “change of seasons” for me too. Pre-Covid, I’d typically be traveling somewhere for several weeks in the fall, enjoying a break after a busy summer– going paddling, biking, hiking, whether in Bend or on the road. Later, after the holidays I’d head somewhere south where it’s warmer, either leading a retreat or having fun for myself (“research” for the next potential location!). However, as I evolve my living and working situations, I’ve found a lot of pleasure in flexing my “domestic muscles” and expanding my little wellness-facilitating biz. Seems the perfect time to do it eh? Because everywhere I look it appears people are shaking things up in their lives. The pandemic had some horrible consequences for many. It dislodged the status quo for people with all kinds of outcomes. Break-ups, pregnancies, people leaving long-time jobs, starting different careers, or taking a new outlook on their health. Whatever the case, it’s definitely a time of transitions.

Change is really hard for many… I’d say most even. What seems to hold true from my point of view, is that you are in control of the change if you are proactive in it. When change “happens” to you, it’s quite the opposite. Like rapids on a river, if you are faster than the current, you are in control of your craft, but if the current is faster than you, it’s in control. One significant example is the aging population. Some choose to take control of their health and living situation, maximizing the chances of enjoying a relatively active and independent lifestyle. It can involve some tough decisions and/or discipline, but with a “can do” mindset, the outcome is seemingly positive. Others fight (or ignore) the realities of aging, and it doesn’t always go well, for themselves or their loved ones. I’ve worked with seniors over half my life and witnessed friends and family-members’ various approaches to this inevitable part of life. I can only hope I am reasonable in my decision-making when it comes time, but I have some great role models to learn from!!

My sister’s “Outlaws”…a term we lovingly say based on her 20-year relationship, have been incredibly logical about their golden years. The plan had been set, down payment made, and finally executed to move into an amazing retirement village several months ago. They researched and compared many options, and the community they ultimately chose is RAD! From libraries to craft centers, incredible restaurants and overall approach, this retirement village is very forward-thinking. I believe their motto is something like “let us help you take care of yourself”. I prescribe to that concept.

Another example…and I know he will read this…is a gentleman I’ve been fitness coaching for about 10 months and paddleboard-instructing for years. He is regimented about his personal wellness (exercise, diet and health care). Like many aging bodies, he’s had knee surgery and has hip issues. Won’t we all? Best to mitigate some of the pain and inevitable decline we’ll each experience, yes? I give him props for being so determined. One might even say tenacious, and I say, “Way to go”!

This all gives me food for thought. How can I set myself up for personal success and fulfilment over time? I can’t give you my full answer today, but what I can say is that I’m going to stay active, do those things that feed my soul and make course-corrections as necessary. Thanks for listening…hope to see you out there on the frisky ripples…of life.