Costa Rica Frisky Ripples-Style Part One

I haven’t done a whole lot of international travel alone–without friends or clients–so when I had a unique opportunity to go on a paddling trip in addition to some site-seeing in Costa Rica, I said “hell yeah” and booked my flight.  I flew in to San Jose where I stayed at an adorable and apparently historic little hotel called Hotel Aranjuez. It is cute and serves an outstanding buffet breakfast with omelets made to order. I was impressed by how clean it is (and Costa Rica in general). 

San Jose is a fun little city.  It’s artsy and full of museums (although heads up…Mondays almost all of them are closed). For me I really enjoy immersing in the culture and forcing myself to speak Spanish. In fact, I enjoy the taxi rides because I can almost always get a little Spanish lesson the entire time (with the exception of a surprisingly untalkative Uber driver heading back from Barva…but I digress). If you’re staying in San Jose, I highly recommend Calle 33 district for dinner. It’s a nice little street of restaurants that are tasty and adorable–works of art.  I chose “Saul”, a trendy spot that has amazing crepes, good service and decorated with awesome artwork. I got a kick out of their music–they played mellow “hip hop-ish” songs from the US (in English) but SUPER NASTY lyrics. I mean NASTY.  Here’s your ensalada with a side of “F@#$k that…well you get the idea. An interesting dichotomy that you wouldn’t hear eating in any upscale restaurant in Oregon–dance club in the city, yes. I had to laugh. Either way, a memorable experience.

My second full day in San Jose I left for the mountains out of Barva where I was excited to meet Arturo (one of Sam’s best friends and compadres for decades) who owns an adventure center there.  He’d graciously invited me to zipline at his Canopy Adventures which does a FABULOUS job. They are professional, safe and the area is gorgeous. After the ziplining, I had the opportunity to walk the trails with one of his crew, Alba.  She’s a lovely woman who doesn’t speak English but was great companionship (and guide) through the forest. The adventure took the better part of the day with travel, so to bed early to get up very early and connect with the paddling crew….


Let’s be honest, while I’m traveling “solo” it’s not like I was planning on hanging alone the whole time.  Instead, I arranged a solid 6 days with Brittany Parker, Natali Zolinger and their local outfitter partner Amazing Vacations.  Even better, Nadia Almuti joined us plus Alex and Jason who I hadn’t met before but are great. I met up with the crew in Sarapiqui where I got on my board for the first time in about two months.  I was rusty but quickly got my “river legs” back. The Sarapiqui is gorgeous and the rapids fun…class II’s. A great warm-up for what was to come. I’m amazed at the wildlife and how visible they are. Not a random sighting here and there but “monkey trees” as I call them, because it looks like the tree is growing monkeys…just as an example.  Within minutes of arriving we saw a mama Sloth with her baby.  Adorable!



Photo Credit: Natali Zollinger

Day two we decided to paddle a calm stretch on the Puerto Viejo river, to check out the wildlife rather than get our adrenaline rush.  Little did we know it would be a flatwater stretch “with class V trees”! There’d been a LOT of rain the previous day/night and trees in the jungle have very shallow roots.  We had trees falling IN THE RIVER as we were paddling. Sketchy and cool all at the same time. We saw a ton of wildlife and it was a great “rest day” for the next day on the Pacuare.  



Photo Credit: Natali Zollinger

Let me pause here, and rave about Amazing Vacations. Walter who is co-owner and what I believe is the talent behind and success of AV came with us. He, Brittany and Natali really have this trip dialed–paddling the best, most appropriate stuff at the right time and lodging at the “awesomest” locations. Walter and his team, as well as Brittany and Natali, have taken such great care of me and my nuanced needs. I can’t say enough great things about these people. Biggest gratitude!!

Consistent with the name and motivation behind my blog, I love adventure sports…whitewater paddleboard in particular, but have a basic “fear” of whitewater.  Weird? Probably. But it’s something I continue to work on and challenge myself as a paddler…overcoming the fear to do what I enjoy. Brittany was my “security blanket” as we made our way down the 6-mile class II/III stretch of the Pacuare. I followed her lines explicitly sometimes getting so close that I was basically “lurking”. Haha…like mama and baby ducklings.  The debrief from Pacuare day one? I am proud of myself. I did well. I styled many sets of rapids I didn’t think I would, standing up through them and paddling how and when I needed to. I took several rapids on my knees. I also swam three times…one time hitting my hip on a rock giving myself a shiner and sore pelvis. AND, I walked a set of intimidating rapids and stand by that decision. It was over my pay grade, and while I maybe could have done it on my knees without falling in, it felt good to come off the river confident rather than a little scared.  


Photo credit: Brittany Parker

Also, a little beta regarding equipment.  I paddled a newer Hala Atcha lent to me here.  I’ve always sworn by my older 9’6 with the piercing nose, but I’m a convert.  The blunter nose with more rocker served me well and probably how I managed to stand through many of the rapids I might not have, with my own board.  However, I also need to demo the Badfish River Shred because compadre Jason swore by it, and he’s been a Hala fan for years. I recommend trying both before you buy…for those who are in the market.  I’m upgrading for sure this season but the jury is still out on which brand it will be.

SO, we paddled the first part of the Pacuare to the Pacuare Outdoor Center where we stayed two nights with a layover “rest” day.  This place is one of the most beautiful lodges I’ve ever seen and I can’t imagine leaving after just one night. It’s a trek up a trail from river to cabins because it’s on a mountainside, but that location is what buys you such great views.  I felt like I’d walked into a movie (accidentally) as the leading lady, since I usually “dirtbag it” when traveling. This incredible private cabin was for me?! Yikes. It felt luxurious and wonderful.


Walter, Davis and Jonathon stoked out the whole group with outstanding appetizers, dinner and “jungle juice” made of locally created sugar cane alcohol.  The rest of the night was full of laughing, a drinking game called “Flip Cup” where I wore a “penis apron” and colander hat, and then just a little “black magic” as Walter called it. No worries though. There was plenty of dancing (table and otherwise). Oh yes, I might have done a table dance but before you get too excited it showcased the running man and a really bad version of “The Floss”. I redeemed myself with the Bachata.  Sort of. Davis is a great teacher and partner. A full moon and a night frog hike was the finishing touch on this perfect night.  Stay tuned for what comes next on Pacuare and past….

Thanks for listening.  See you out there on the frisky ripples!

7d59b612-d358-42b1-b984-6cd9cfdc35eaPhoto credit: Brittany Parker… yeah Brittany!

Ooopsies, Oh-oh’s and Oh Shits…

If you’ve engaged in a sport long enough you probably know the feeling of near-misses.  That “almost fall” for which you feel very grateful you pulled it off unscathed.  Like yesterday toward the end of an incredibly fun late-season bike ride. Trying to keep up with my totally badass cohort who always schools me on the downhills, I had a moment where both feet were off my pedals and my bum slammed down hard on my saddle after catching a little air and not quite landing it 100%.  However, what would have been a total “oh shit” crash was an “oopsy” that made me more grateful I DIDN’T dislocate my hip (as a friend of mine did a month ago) or crack ribs and separate a shoulder…like another friend earlier this summer.  The gratitude has lingered with me into this morning, since I’ve experienced the other situation–that injury that lands you out of the game, and sometimes out of normal life, for an extended amount of time.  Thank you bike gods for granting me this “get out of jail free” pass!!

We don’t always come out entirely unscathed on this adventure called life, and sometimes it’s not manifested in a physical injury.  Last week we placed my dad in a full-time care facility, after nearly a decade of in-home care provided by my mom.  It was time.  It was BEYOND time.  Sparing the details, my mom had almost single-handedly taken care of my dad’s moment to moment needs while he slipped farther away with Alzheimers disease.  It’s been a struggle. I know that going to a facility is necessary and I’ve had many years to process and cope with the situation.  The reality is, I don’t think I have done a great job of working through this.  I saw a post on Facebook…a quote by Keenu Reeves…of all people… saying something about individuals who experience true crisis but maintain kindness and compassion throughout.  He called these people “true angels” and to be clear, that isn’t me.  I haven’t been able to pull off a sweet demeanor.  I’ve been cranky.  I’ve been moody.  I’ve snapped at people…typically friends and family rather than strangers, but they haven’t been immune either. It comes and goes though, and sometimes I find myself feeling very positive.  Feeling relief because honestly, it was an accident waiting to happen based on my mom’s own compromised condition.

With all of this said, I’m working on it.  There have been learning moments.  For one, I am strong (I’ve known this since I was a youth and HAD to be), but permission to be weak from time to time is something I seek.  Everyone needs to know they can fall apart sometimes and it’s going to be ok.  Maybe that permission I seek needs to come from within.  I’m not sure I know the answer to that.  Theoretically I do, but in practice…mmmmm…that’s different. This week has reminded me that life is like a garden.  The things you put time and effort into will flourish, will grow, will blossom and endure.  Those things you neglect for any real amount of time will wither and eventually die.  And sometimes a bunch of deer will just come and eat most of it (shitting next to the tomato plant they just devoured).

Put time into the people and things you love. Life is short… actively choose your priorities and then show up– for the great times, the oopsies & oh-oh’s and the oh shits.

Thanks for listening….

Family 2017Dad and I Pacific City 2013

Golden Years?

It wasn’t that long ago that we viewed a 70-year old as…well…pretty old.  Visions of an elderly person rocking in a chair, sedentary come to mind.  Not sure if it’s the central Oregon “bubble” or perhaps the greater Pacific Northwest or just that lifestyles have changed in general.  But they’ve changed in a BIG way.  Now, I have friends in their 70s surfing overhead waves and jumping out of planes.  A huge leap from the rocking chair!!

I’ve taught water aerobics for decades and with that experience I’ve gained a lot of insight to what can be done to maintain wellness as we age.  It’s given me a different “take” on aging, than I had when I was a teen and young 20-something.  Thank God!!  Now, it seems I’ve gotten an even bigger glimpse into what (hopefully) will be my senior years.  I’ve seen the other side too.  Is it all luck of the draw?  I hope not.

Hosmer lake
Hosmer Lake…a week before Chrissy’s 89th birthday….

This summer I’ve started regularly teaching an intro to whitewater paddleboarding clinic.  In each session I’ve had someone in his/her 60s (or 70s) getting after it.  I’m impressed, as this sport requires strength, flexibility, balance and agility.  It also takes a fair amount of daring, even in the “frisky ripples”.  Let’s face it…it’s still a river with current, rocks and strainers. The people I interact with seem to have great physical health and sharp mental acuity.

During this realization of opportunities as we age, I’m living a parallel experience–one that is a big “F@%$k you” to my theory that if you stay in shape and have the eternal spirit you’ll continue hiking those mountaintops and paddling the class III’s.  I understand many humans go through this, but “my suck” is the reality that is my dad, living with late-stage Alzheimer’s disease.  My father was an adventurer and athlete.  He was an intelligent and funny dude–in fact, typically the life of the party. My sister and I never questioned his future.  We assumed, because of his strength and physical fitness that he’d live a long and wonderful older age.  Especially in contrast to my mom who didn’t exercise, and seemed to always be tired or sick.  So it’s a strange dynamic that my mom has been caring for my dad, in-home with very little help (her choice, not ours) for years now.  Her strength has bubbled through, caring for him even through her own battle with breast cancer, for about a year and a half.

I don’t spend a whole lot of time asking why my dad got sick.  Nor do I wallow in the “if only’s”.  Unfortunately, his situation isn’t all that unique–seemingly healthy people can become ill with any number of horrible diseases.

We all have to figure out our own path.  For me, I live with gratitude for my health and my graced life.  So many people in the world are suffering and I don’t take that for granted.  I try to live a life of moderation.  Get sleep as best possible and avoid toxic things…food/beverages, people, behaviors.  Am I perfect? Far from it.  We can only do our best and hope for the best.  Right?

Every day is a gift.

Thanks for listening…

LD Pic
Perry helping prep for the Lower Deschutes trip….

A Trip on the Lower (lower) Deschutes….

With Sam’s mom turning 73 last weekend, it presented the opportunity to figure out what special thing we could do to celebrate.  This is a woman who jumped out of an airplane when she was 70, back-packed for the first time, in the Jefferson Wilderness for several days (also age 70) and recently got a mountain bike which she rides every day.  Since she (Perry) had never been on a multi-day river trip, we decided paddling the lower Deschutes to the Columbia, was the best choice.  Exciting! This gave me the opportunity to SUP parts of this trip, putting in at Buck Hollow and taking out at Heritage Landing….jumping on the raft for rapids I was uncomfortable with.

Early Thursday morning, I set out with the Subie packed up, to meet Sam and Perry at Buck Hollow where they’d already arrived and were rigging the boat.  Sam’s a rigging master, so it wasn’t long before we were headed downriver–me on a board and Perry in an IK, Sam at the sticks.  One piece of info: turns out that my neck which had been giving me considerable pain for weeks was whiplashed.  I’d been getting treatment for it, and generally improving, but far from healed.  On the other hand, as my PT said “you can be in pain at home or on the river…and I think I know which you’ll choose”.  Of course I chose to go but determined to be cautious about what I’d paddle.

The first day we knocked off about 18 miles and much of it I spent on the raft–no reason to over-do and be in more pain.  Perry, however, absolutely crushed it on the IK, paddling “Wreck Rapids” (and others) with ease. The weather was perfect, the scenery stunning; it was a great day.  The osprey were plentiful, and most we saw had fish in their talons!!  Late afternoon, we easily found a campsite and after dinner enjoyed the quintessential riverside experience, lounging around enjoying the beauty around us.  During the night, crickets and trains made for a somewhat noisy evening, and the full moon was so bright it felt somewhat like a police interrogation, however it’s still great to sleep outside on the river.

In the morning, after a leisurely coffee/breakfast, skinny-dip in the river and loading our gear, we set out for day two.  We seemed to be making really good time, with no specific destination in mind but ended up finding a fabulous campsite next to a surf wave–Jet Pump rapids. Sam surfed, I didn’t.  We both napped for about three hours, next to the river on a soft, sandy beach in the shade.  Heavenly.  This is really the life, and what makes river trips so therapeutic.  Fun paddling and heavy on the R & R.  Dinner number two was lovely and after such a long nap I was able to stay awake long enough to enjoy the stars.

Morning number two. Coffee.  Have I mentioned my passion/addiction to coffee?  It’s enhanced on the river.  There is something truly special about drinking that perfect cup (or 3) with no distraction from devices or the hustle bustle of normal life.  The river, the birds, the fish.  Mmmmmmmm. I digress.  It was our last day and we’d operated under the assumption we had a really short day to paddle.  We took a detour, hiking up to an unmarked location, to see petroglyphs. Pretty awesome!  But turns out, we were farther from the take-out than we thought and had a longer day of paddling than anticipated.  GREAT! None of us really wanted to be done yet.  I was back on the paddleboard and as we got closer to the confluence the wind gusts picked up.  I mean A LOT.  At one point, I was literally blown off my board.  This was entirely unforeseen and I chose to get back on the raft and enjoy the remainder of the trip with Sam rowing.  Eventually Perry also sat in the raft…after paddling almost the entire stretch on her IK…what a champ.  We arrived together, happy and relaxed, to Heritage Landing.

There’s always the unloading, de-rigging, ammo can cleaning…none of which is extraordinarily fun.  However we all pitched in and got it done efficiently.  It was a great trip and if you have the means, paddle this stretch.   For me, the trip was not just a celebration of Perry’s birthday but an effort to create life balance.  It’s not a long drive from Bend (or back).  There are permits and shuttles to work out logistically–and to pay for, but taking a step away from work and our crazy, high-stimulus world is important and crucial for peace of mind. I’m happier for it, for sure!

Thanks for listen’….


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Not So Frisky a Ripple…

After yesterday’s post I had a few people reach out and ask what happened regarding the injuries.  The other guide’s concussion–he had a run-in with his dog and took a blow to the head.  My injuries were separate circumstances…the hip flexor actually due to overstretching in yoga (trying to work out the neck injury). Be careful people!! Don’t push yourself too hard.

The neck injury was water related, and turns out (to my surprise) I have whiplash.  This was NOT my typical frisky ripple class II+/III- kind of situation though.  Here’s the deal: my birthday coincided with the Subaru of Bend Outside Games, a 4-day long schedule of events, town-wide, involving adventure sports competitions.  One of the events is the Meadowcamp Race which takes place on the “town run” (a class IV section of the Deschutes upstream from Bend proper).  Sam was in town and since he would be running Meadowcamp for the race…and because I wanted to do something special for my bday… we ran it in a Dynamic Duo (a tandem whitewater kayak).  I’ve duoed with him many times before but not this stretch.  Long story short, on the last rapid the power of the water hitting me, sitting up front, pulled my helmet back hard…my head/neck along with it.  I didn’t think anything of it at the time except for “holy shit that water is powerful!” and “damn, my neck is sore”.

For the record, the run was fun and beautiful, and Sam hit all the lines right.   The rest of the weekend was awesome and my birthday lovely.

So that’s the scoop.  I’m getting treatment in the form of PT with the best dude around (same guy who helped me through my MCL tear).  Aside from laying off my bike and taking it easier than normal, I’m still going on the lower Deschutes this Thursday-Saturday and Grants Pass next week…to paddle, recreate and adventure.  I’m grateful for everyone who has helped me, and put up with my cranky pants. It’s been almost two weeks of sleeplessness and discomfort making me less than “sunny” in my disposition.  But things are on the mend now!  Thanks for caring….

A Thought…

This blog has always been themed around water but truly a montage of my random thoughts, beliefs and experiences.  Wanting to start it for a long time, I finally wrote my first post as a way to channel my energy and spend my time after tearing my MCL. Today, as I sit here with my neck “out” and a slightly torn hip-flexor.  However,  I’m grateful in the knowledge that I’m still able to do most of what I want/need to do, and I have the resources to improve my situation plus the support of friends, co-workers and even strangers.  From prior injuries, I might have even gained some “wisdom” and patience to “slow my roll”.  Give myself space and time to heal.

Recently, a fellow guide experienced a blow to his head which turned out to be a concussion.  How that developed isn’t important, but it brings to mind the need to take care of one another.  In a time when we get very busy with our own lives, it’s important to take a moment to help each other out.  Sometimes we don’t know the person next to us is suffering…physically, emotionally, mentally….or maybe all of the above?  Let’s help one another out, yes?  Team work makes the dream work.

That’s all.  Just a thought.  Have a great day, and until I have more than 5 minutes, I’ll see ya out there on the water (or trail)….

An Intro to Whitewater SUP Clinic

There are two things I love about paddleboarding–one, getting on the river for my own pleasure and practice. The second joy is getting other people out on the frisky ripples for the first time.  I had that opportunity last week on the best section I know for beginners–Warm Springs to Trout Creek on the lower Deschutes. Everyone had a blast, and seemed to “drink the kool-aid” of whitewater SUP.

It was the perfect day and we had a solid crew of 7 students plus Tim, a safety kayaker (and carrier of lunches).  The crew at TCKC had helped me prep for this clinic and we got an early start, however there’s a lot to consider when paddling whitewater–any water really, but if you want to do it safely (and you should), the gear is different.  Therefore we spent a considerable amount of time discussing “best practices”. This topic is fairly controversial right now, perhaps because two disciplines, with two “cultures” are clashing.  One is the river culture.  People who know and understand the dynamics of river–and river safety.  River surfing is awesome and has gained a lot of popularity in the Pacific Northwest.  However, it brings many people to the water who have their origins and experience with ocean surfing, which is different.  The ocean bares it’s own power and risks to be respected…but again, different.  As someone who loves both kinds of paddling and has sustained injuries on both, I  prescribe to complete adherence to safety gear.  On whitewater…even class I’s…I always wear a helmet, PFD, booties and…this is controversial too…a quick release (waist) leash.

Once we’d discussed gear, communication, best practices around/on the water,  we warmed up for the run, first paddling upstream to get used to the feel of current with ripples.  We also talked about low & high bracing plus, knee dropping and draw strokes.  Finally, we turned our boards downstream.  Yay!! We’re officially on our way. The next couple hours went pretty much as expected. Everyone fell (often), laughed a bunch, had a great time and enjoyed the cool water since it was damn hot out there. I saw an improvement even in the couple hours, as people got comfortable and gained confidence.

After we took off the water, everyone pitched in to load gear and drive the 75 minutes back to Bend.  Energy was lower (everyone pooped out!) but content.  I was full of calm and happiness for having completed the day–a success! I would love to invite you on the next Intro to Whitewater SUP clinic in August, but it’s sold out.  WHAT?!  That’s exciting.  It’s been a substantial effort trying to make this program succeed, but with time and exposure it’s finally gaining momentum. We’ll be sure to have more next season.  In the meantime, feel free to hit me up.  I’ll be out there.