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…


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.

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.


It Ain’t All About Paddling…

If you’ve been following along, I’ve made some changes this winter in an attempt to figure out the “next step” or at least tweak my lifestyle and professional goals. Honestly, course-correcting is something I’ve done throughout my life, however post-crises, and as we adjust from Covid, it seems more poignant. Currently, I’ve moved up to Oregon City where I live on a bustling compound sitting on a little over four acres. The people living here, and those coming and going, are great and it’s a fun energy much different than living alone in my little studio (alone minus one very spoiled rescue cat).

Besides ramping up my wellness coaching and personal instruction business, I’ve really carved out time and attention to my own self-development, learning or revisiting hobbies/activities. Hey, I love paddling. It’s been a big part of my life for many years now, and that will continue to be a big focus. With that said, I’ve missed my “more artistic self” which had been largely expressed through music and dance from the time I was a kid. Therefore, I’ve given myself the permission and space to DO music and dance again.

Around two months ago I made a promise to myself, to play guitar every single day….which I have stuck with! Even if just one song, I play something. I am building calluses and finger strength, and exercising my vocal chords (’cause I sing along with myself). I don’t claim to be great but it’s in my blood. I grew up surrounded by music as my mom’s family were all musicians. Full-blooded Czechs, my grandfather played the concertina– at clubs in Chicago and all our family gatherings (my sis and I loyally dancing around him). My aunt played in a ladies trio in Chicago–vocals and upright bass. RAD! Sidenote, is there anything as cool as the upright bass?! I’d say “no”. My mom played in three bands–two concert bands and a swing band, vocals and saxophone. I remember from a wee-child the crew practicing at our house into the late-night, back in the day when smoking in your home was the norm and a high-ball was in every musicians’ hands at every break.

I’m not quitting my day job, striking out to be a rock-star, but recently I’ve found myself among some high-quality musicians. Coincidentally, my boyfriend has been reconnecting with his musical roots and subsequently brought several awesome musicians to the homestead in the last few weeks. What started out as a quiet, catch-up dinner with an old friend of mine became a party of musicians complete with a bonfire in back–lots of songs, lots of fun and lots of laughter. A few nights later we had an intimate dinner with one of those musicians–his record just went Gold. Note, I am not a “solo” guitarist…I can lay down a basic chord progression and let someone else run with the lead, but somehow he got me to solo (albeit a very uncreative melody). Luckily his talent as a singer carried the song! A longtime friend shared that if you can’t come up with a good melody you just “start saying words”. This, by the way, led to some great entertainment. The music quality wasn’t for shit, but it sure was funny!!

My key takeaway here is that you don’t have to be an exceptional musician to have a lot of fun making music and it’s SO worth the try if that’s your “jam”…pun intended. Metaphorically “frisky ripples” transcends beyond rapids. It’s great to enjoy artistic creation at whatever level works for you. Get out there, give ‘er a go. It’s the spice of life, and maybe I’ll see ya at a show sometime…


North Santiam~A Love Story

The North Santiam River was basically in my “backyard” growing up and while my family drove by it countless times on the way to Bend, I never knew it until 6 years ago. This post is a love story–love for a man, a sport and a cheeseburger.

Last weekend I paddled a now very familiar stretch of river, from Mill City to Mehama on the North Santiam. It was running at higher flows and greatly re-energized my appreciation of this particular stretch, that had become a little “sleepy” for me as I’ve improved my paddling skills. It wasn’t always that way. About 6 1/2 years ago I met a friend of (many) mutual friends who owned a shop along this river, to paddle something a little more challenging than what I’d done around central Oregon. Sam had previously instructed my ACA certification course and I reached out to him for beta on the NS because I knew I’d be traveling to Salem from Bend often (for family reasons) and wanted to make the most of it. He gave me insight, and offered to paddle with me. We began at Mehama bridge and paddled to a private take-out he had permission to use. We took our time, first getting ready to paddle, chatting and generally getting to know each other as we’d talked very little during his class. The chit chat continued as we paddled downriver and by the takeout I knew this guy was special. Within the week he visited Bend and invited me to the Ben Harper concert which sealed the deal. Ok, it continued the process, as our “courtship” was slow but exciting. In many ways it reminded me of a teen love–that which you experience when you’re 14 years old and haven’t been jaded by the ups and downs of adult relationships. I remember talking, and talking, and talking about everything from family to past relationships to local political rhetoric. And yeah, there was some romance too…

Our relationship evolved on the river. Because Sam has an outfitter/instructional business at the premiere location of the NS, and had a house (his mom’s, who lived on the east coast) midway down the upper stretch, we paddled multiple days a week. I would follow his lines and occasionally he’d give me instruction but mostly I was learning by watching and doing. I’d jump on trips or we’d paddle from the house to his shop, or in rare occasions paddle top to bottom for fun alone. I fell in love with him, and whitewater paddleboarding, congruently. To me, they’re synonymous and there’s no place I’d rather be than paddling a fun stretch of rapids with Sam.

Especially during the first two years, I have such happy memories of SUP’ing, getting changed into dry clothes and heading up to “Papa Al’s” where we’d ravage cheeseburgers and share fries, tots and/or onion rings. For those of you who know Mill City there are VERY few places to eat. I used to muse about my friends who would get dressed up for “date night”. Mmmmm, yeah. My dates consisted of board shorts, tank top and helmet hair. Wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Life happens though. The years that followed had challenges with both our fathers ill, and eventually passing away, within 4 months of each other. My mom, also ailing, needed a ton of support. And, the horrible tragedy of the Labor Day fires which burned Sam’s mom’s house where we spent most of our time together, plus his three rentals in the town of Gates, and ravaged the communities of Mill City, Gates and beyond. Houses, forests, businesses–it was mind-blowing and overwhelming.

During the weeks that followed the fire, the town rallied trying to support the locals who were displaced. It was amazing to see the love of fellow humans…people coming forward to help strangers who had no home to go. Food was essentially unavailable in the immediate area. Kevin, the owner of Papa Al’s who had served us burgers for years, set up a pop-up tent and grilled food all day long, for free, to anyone who needed it. We were recipients of that generous food one night for dinner, as Sam had been working all day on the now-burned lot. It was with great appreciation to Kevin and his staff who donated their time and resources, that we ate our burgers and chips, trying to wrap our heads around the devastation that had occurred in this community.

The beauty of life is that it’s forever moving forward and changing. Today, the Santiam Canyon has green understory and the river flows without log-jams. Rebuilding is seen everywhere and upgrades are happening to infrastructure. Newcomers to the area are making positive change–people who are youthful, inspired, and have great vision for what can happen in this little community. I take a lot of comfort in this. Paddling here I feel hope that all isn’t lost.

With that being said, there is a loss I recently learned of, that saddens me. Papa Al’s has finally closed its doors, unable to make a go of it since the fires. All the upgrades, all the various young workers Kevin employed, all the many cheeseburgers we ate….no longer. I want to give a big shout-out and thanks to Kevin and what he did for the community for many years. I wish him the very best in his future endeavors. Almost without question a new burger joint will eventually arrive in Mill City. I’m sure it will be great, but it won’t rival, to me, the cheeseburger that was Papa Al’s. I imagine I am not alone in this sentiment.

Mehama to Taloali….a scenic stretch