Gift of the River…

It’s been a different winter for me. I’m not saying it was bad. It just wasn’t filled with the usual travel and “adventuring” (which typically includes a fair amount of paddling). The last few weeks, however, have reminded me what I love so much about paddling whitewater and connecting with people on that “venue”.

My first noteworthy experience of this season was with my “nephew” who is actually my cousin, but due to the fact that I was an adult when he was just born, I’ve always been “Aunt(ie) Sue”. I love this kid. And when I say “kid” I mean 27-year old man who is a paramedic and owns his own house. I’m so very, very proud of him and after many years of being out of touch, we’ve reconnected these past few years. It was inevitable that I would get him out on the water since he’s an adventurer too. That moment was last Sunday when we chose paddling as our last activity after a whirlwind weekend of fun–hiking at Smith Rock, skiing/snowboarding at Mt. Bachelor–finished with meeting up with Sam and one of his young crew at a cabin on the Santiam, the night before this much-anticipated paddle. The four of us shared a leisurely morning and finally set off to set shuttle and run the Packsaddle to Mill City stretch that I love so much. Sam and I were on our paddleboards, Jake and Brock R-2’ing it. The water level was great and the day was warm–perfect really. Everyone paddled well and we all had fun. Nothing was earth-shattering…just an afternoon on the river but it combined so much love for me…my nephew, boyfriend and favorite past-time. These are the days I live for!

The next (and most recent paddle) I did was also very special. Celebrating one of my favorite human’s 50th birthday, a small crew of us from the shop headed over to the McKenzie to paddle the Paradise stretch (taking out at McKenzie campground where his family had several campsites). The water levels were high (double the CFS from what I’d paddled it before) but so was the “stoke”…even if I was a little nervous. Isn’t this why we do it though? I’ve found that the butterflies are part of the feeling I crave. The trip report? No swims, a couple “almosts” and lots and lots of laughing.

When writing this blog I try to have a point, or theme…and sometimes, dare I say a “lesson”? (I’m not sure I have the maturity or expertise to dole out lessons). Not this time. Just sharing a couple really great days and trying to explain why I do this nichey sport of whitewater SUP.

Post run, below Mill City Falls. Photo Credit Sam Drevo
Swirlies: Photo Credit Sam Drevo
Awww this crew!! (i-phone selfie!)

A Ripple in Time…

Last blog I posted, I’d just visited Sitka, Alaska and wrote about the amazing adventure my sister and I experienced there, and what led us to go there to begin with. In a nutshell, I was inspired by a traveling exhibit created in collaboration between a paleontologist and artist. Their exhibit, and specifically their book “Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline” has grabbed my attention in a pretty profound way. The book is essentially a journal of their many trips along the entire pacific coast, specifically to study “Deep Time” and the resulting fossils and rocks in these locations. I find the topic fascinating and it actually dovetails nicely with other passions of mine: namely paddling, hiking and traveling because fossil hunting is strangely easy to co-mingle with all three of these activities. In fact, commonly you have to travel, and then hike or paddle as a way to access fossils…at least the way I’ve been doing it.

A few weeks ago the Tumalo team did an end-of-season trip on the Lower Deschutes, from Trout Creek to City Park (in Maupin). There were two rafts, three kayakers and myself on my paddleboard. Of course we had a blast and laughed a ton. Geoff (owner) brought the kitchen and all the food plus cooked! Tequila was drank and a birthday cake was eaten (by those who didn’t pass out before dinner, due to too much tequila, and for the record I wasn’t one of those people which was great because for once, I wasn’t the first to go to bed!). All in all, a pretty common river trip, however one of my teammates was a geology major and the another…well Topher just knows about so many things–a true renaissance man– and he knew of a place along the river where agates are common. We stopped and did some spontaneous rock hunting. Simply paddling the river with surrounding basalt cliffs is amazing and a geology-specific trip this spring is already getting planned between a few of us. Who knows, maybe by then I’ll actually know a little something about what I’m doing?!

Traveling. Well I love to travel! Especially to new places, but this last week I visited an old favorite. Newport, Oregon, where I’d originally seen the traveling exhibit at the Newport Aquarium. This time, however, I was armed with a couple hammers (apparently unnecessary but still a bunch of fun to break rocks open with). I was also armed with just enough knowledge to get me in trouble…combing the beach, busting rocks (barely avoiding a small, self-created rockslide….yep trouble!!) and generally enjoying the opportunity to wonder if I might find something incredible. For the record, I DID find some fossils…several clams and a scallop. Probably fairly common but a treasure to me.

My point in all this? Paddling or paleontology might not be your jam, but something is! And my hope is that you go out and do what makes you smile. What keeps you fascinated in life, and living. Earth may have been around for a very, very, very long time but each of us has just a slight ripple of it.

Thanks for listening…


Shaking it up in Sitka, Alaska…

To say that Sitka, Alaska wasn’t on my radar just a month ago is an understatement. In fact, while I’d been to Anchorage when I was 21, and vaguely understood that it is a vast, beautiful state, I had no plans to vacation there for the foreseeable future. So how’d I get there? Here’s what happened: Prompted by my mom, I had visited the Newport Aquarium back in June, seeing a traveling exhibit with she and my sister. We all really enjoyed it–the exhibit was a collaboration with a paleobotanist and an artist who were also featured in several movie shorts at the aquarium theater. The twosome were smart, funny and seemingly approachable–the paleonbotanist born and raised in Seattle. My sister and I reasoned that we could likely invite them out for beers and enjoy an evening of intelligent conversation and laughs. Well, maybe not. After a little research I figured out that Kirk Johnson is actually the Sant Director of the Smithsonian and his colleague Ray Troll is a legendary artist living in Ketchikan. I’d have to be content with buying their book “Cruisin the Fossil Coastline”. Stick with me here…I swear this story leads somewhere….

I bought the book and while reading it, I went on and on (and on) to co-workers, friends, and family about fun fossil facts, most of which originated in locations I’d been to sometime in my life. For example, I had visited the Webb School in Claremont where I saw an old friend who was an instructor at the school. Or the Tom Condon Paleontology center which I’d visited on an adventurous day trip out in the John Day area. The book really resonated with me.

The last section of the Fossil Book highlights Alaska. I still wasn’t planning on going ANYWHERE actually. For those of you who know me, I’ve stayed pretty “local” this last year or so, trying to support my mom, boyfriend and also remaining conscientious of COVID. But I was starting to feel like I needed a little fun, and then Sam (boyfriend) announced he was heading down to Costa Rica for a short business trip. I periodically jump on Alaska Airlines website to see if there are deals which I did that day. There weren’t, but I placed “Ketchikan” in the search and found flights to be really affordable and SHORT! Ketchikan is where Ray Troll (artist of the Fossil Book) has a gallery. Hmmmmm, sure heard some cool things about Alaska in their book! With a little more research I felt that Sitka offered a few more things I’d like to see on this totally “fictional” trip I might take. However, I texted my sister to see if she’d want to go and she did! I booked it. All of this…the idea to go there, asking my sister and booking the flight and Airbnb happened in about 10 hours total. We were headed out in 11 days!

Beth and I landed in Sitka on a showery, majestic Monday, early afternoon. It was one of the coolest landings I’ve had and quickly realized we were in for a great week. Honestly, from the time we landed, everything just “flowed”. We found a taxi easily and the 8 minute drive gave us a sense of how close everything is in Sitka “proper”. Huge mountains overlook the downtown and our cottage was nestled, basically, in the middle of everything and two blocks from the waterfront, between town and the Historic Park which we walked to on average of three times a day. Our first walk toward the park was nothing short of magical. It led us along the waterfront (Sitka is on the ocean) and we “ooohed and ahhhhhed” at all the things…the Sheldon Jackson museum we were looking forward to visiting, the Sitka Sound Center, the JILLIONS of salmon flopping around in the harbor, and the bald eagles!! I swear you could practically toss a frisbee and hit a bald eagle. There was a boardwalk trail that led us off the sidewalk and then BAM, we were at the Historic Park. This park is technically considered the sight where the Russians and Klingits battled, however the big draw are the totem poles of the Klingits and for us, the wildlife. Seeing this landscape for the first time, we were in complete awe. Words aren’t effective here. You really have to see it for yourself.

A very big highlight of our trip was that we happened to go during peak salmon spawning season. I’d love to take credit for this act of genius but honestly, it was a “blind squirrel stumbling on a nut” situation. It was a dynamic that impacted our entire visit–the salmon themselves were incredible and the wildlife they attracted made it all the more exciting. Grizzley bears! On the plus side, grizzlies were present. On the down side, trails were closed because grizzlies were present… but this was a short-lived encumberance. We asked a few rangers and found we could hike both the Cross Trail and the Indian River trail (bear spray recommended). A bit of history here…. I lived in Missoula, Montana for a decade–much of the time living either adjacent to, or very near the Rattlesnake recreation area which abutted the Rattlesnake Wilderness. I’m comfortable with the presence of bears. In fact, once I had two black bears “bear hugging” (doing it) in my yard for 45 minutes. But I’d never seen a grizzly out of captivity. It was high on my bucket list.

Beth and I walked a LOT in Sitka. The first full day we hiked about 3 1/2 hours on the Cross Trail which converged onto the Indian River Trail, in addition to the “town” walking. The trails were unlike any ecosystem I’ve seen, and jaw-dropping! By the time we finished, our legs were cooked. Still no bear sighting, though lots of scat. After a few days of hiking we were ready to get in a sea kayak and let our upper body do the work. We were remarkably fortunate to go on a day predicted to be stormy but instead was ideal, with glassy conditions. There were just three of us in tandem kayaks and a single guide. The tour was designed well–basically we paddled 7 miles out and then took a skiff back to the harbor which allowed us to see a lot more of the beautiful islands and passages surrounding Sitka. Our guide Emily, was very knowledgeable as a paddler (reading currents/tides) and with the local wildlife. We learned all KINDS of new things about everything from Starfish to Bald Eagles. AWESOME!!

We also wanted to learn about the culture of Sitka, which led us to the Sheldon Jackson Museum and the Sitka Sound Center. Both were great– obviously in their own way. At Sheldon Jackson we saw many artifacts of the Klingits and learned a great deal more about their unique culture. There, I met a visiting artist, Stacey Williams who is not only a student but a teacher of weaving with cedar bark, spruce root and textile. Stacey is from Ketchikan and knows Ray Troll who she informed me “is a hoot”. In fact, she raved about Ketchikan in general…next on my list. The Sitka Sound Center was essentially a single room with aquarium tanks for viewing, and a few for “touching”. On the walls, compliments of Ray Troll, were descriptors of various sea creatures and fun facts. I learned a bunch!

We explored a ton, but it wasn’t until the last night that I, (stupidly) walking alone in the park, almost at dark, saw a grizzly. It was fishing in the river and I was on the bridge. Fairly close but not TOO close. I was on cloud nine walking back to the cottage. My sister who I’d rarely been separated from on this trip was happy for me, but really wanted to see one too. We vowed to get back to the park first thing the next morning for a “last chance” before flying out in the afternoon. That final morning we saw TWO grizzlies, one downstream and one upstream from the bridge. The downstream bear took off almost immediately but the upstream (bigger) one hung out for a total of about 40 minutes! It was quite the experience…one I’ll never forget. Side note, the griz had poor mannners. I was taught to clean my plate. This guy took one, maybe two bites out of each fish and then walked away. Geesh! On the other hand, this gave the scavenger animals plenty to eat.

It seemed, just two hours before we flew out that our trip was complete having seen everything we had, including grizzlies!! However, we decided to go downtown one more time and while doing so, my sister spotted whales. Orcas! Six of them actually, and they put on a little show for about 10 minutes right there in the bay. The four sea lions closer to shore didn’t want to be upstaged apparently, so they were particularly active too. This was just unreal.

Now, I’m back from our adventure but still feeling the “afterglow”. It felt like the universe was conspiring to give us the perfect vacation. I’ve traveled to some really great places in my life, but duration of a trip doesn’t always size up the experience. This was truly a trip of a lifetime. What is also cool is HOW I found my way to Alaska which was the “Cruisin the Fossil Coastline” book. I described this dynamic because it seems I’ve found a new topic to be excited about–the history of the earth and what came before us crazy humans. It’s opened my eyes to a fun new interest, and who knows WHERE that will lead me in future adventures. It’s fun to consider.

As always, thanks for listenin’… and if you’re interested in going to Sitka, feel free to hit me up. In the meantime, maybe I’ll see ya out there on the frisky ripples. Some key places we went to in Sitka:

Sitka National Historic Park

Sitka Sound Ocean Adventures

Sheldon Jackson Museum


Leaning In

In most adventure sports, attempting a skill or maneuver “half ass” is the worst thing you can do. Example, biking around tight turns very slowly doesn’t go so well (and in fact, is how I last wrecked my bike falling onto rocks/into a tree). Gymnasts running to a vault have to sprint in order to gain the speed and power to execute their moves (yep I’ve wrecked half-assing that too). And with whitewater SUP you’ve got to dig into a rapid rather than let the current take you where it wants. The irony is that, especially when you’re a beginner new to these skills, that can be intimidating or downright scary.

This concept was on my mind the other day in regards to relationships. Whether platonic or romantic, relationships can be difficult. We all have our own communication styles and needs. Our preferences and distastes, our approach to problems and politics all vary. Especially in these times when our communities are dealing with everything from pandemics to climate change to population growth and development to personal crises. Things seem to have gotten much “muchier” over the past few years and many are living in fear and loss…financial and otherwise. Stress and anxiety is running high.

Without going into too much detail, I had reached a peak in stress the other day and right before bed was when it bubbled over. Nothing in romantic relationships are ever one individual’s “fault” but let’s just say I was being over the top. My boyfriend came home from a late night at work and I was in a mood. It quickly unraveled and as I was having my meltdown… and I won’t bore you with details, but to sum up, his reaction was…probably justly…”bitch you straight trippin’…go deal and leave me alone”. As justified as that might have been, it caused escalation in my tantrum and a feeling of being utterly alone and misunderstood. I couldn’t sleep, I tossed and turned, basically having a sleepless night which makes a person crazy. Side note, sometimes we know when we’re out of control but somehow can’t seem to reel it in (I’ve heard this same experience from friends and ironically, on my drive home I heard an interview on NPR, with a psychologist who said this is called a “hot state” experienced in stable humans when under duress). Here’s the interesting thing…. I was dreading the morning and the predictable argument and tension. What I experienced was entirely different. He “leaned in”. Instead of blaming and judging he comforted. He asked me how he can help and what I need. He gave me love rather than judgement. Like leaning into a sharp turn on a bike it smoothed my mood and rather than (metaphorically) tumbling ass over kettle it diffused me.

Let’s be clear–having the maturity to bury your pride, to listen and support someone when they’ve behaved poorly, isn’t always easy. But I’ve found this is almost always the approach that brings the best results. And not just with significant others. Whether a co-worker, family member, friend or stranger we all get scared. We all want to be heard and we all want to feel loved and respected. The easiest thing to do is ignore or blame, but next time you find tension with another human perhaps give it a try… lean in. You might find some incredible results and maybe when you behave badly…and you will because we are all fallible humans…someone will be that support to you.

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


John Day a Second Time Around

Working at a paddle shop, I am frequently helping customers headed to the John Day river. A central Oregon favorite, it’s become highly impacted with people seeking the serenity an overnight trip delivers. Or, seeking an opportunity to get their “party” on, fully equipped with speakers on their rafts. Whatever drives you to the JD, it’s beautiful and our small group was grateful to hit the water before the season really ramps up, as we were one of the only groups on the river! Our foursome had two rafts–one very experienced rower (and fisherman), one learning-in-progress rower, one brand-spankin’-new-never-rowed- before paddler, and one paddleboarder (me). Oh yes, let’s not forget Tio the dog, outfitted with Ruffwear PFD, and the only participant who swam “not on purpose” during the trip.

I’d paddled the JD for the first time in 2018 so I had a general idea of what to expect, having done the same stretch “Service Creek to Clarno”…in total, typically a 3-day, 2-night excursion. The first day and a half offers the most rapids which are rated at II’s with one claiming a II+. Honestly, I’ve never thought the rating system is very helpful as it’s sooooo ambiguous. I’ve seen II’s that are seemingly easy and II’s that I say “holy shit, are you KIDDING me?! With that being said, I was happy to paddleboard it again… so many frisky ripples, and Russo, Homestead and Burnt Rapids. There are a few other “named” rapids but around 4000 CFS they were “bumps”. Maybe at low water this is different, especially in a canoe.

Our crew fell into a groove, me and Topher paddling about the same pace up front, and Michelle and Kelli kicking it in the raft behind, learning the nuances of a rigged frame raft. For example, the distance between oars makes a difference how efficiently you row, and the oarlocks…well they should be symmetrical. Or not, and then it can be harder to paddle. Also, if you have sweet counter-weighted wood/carbon oars, that can really help! As for me, I found I was overdressed in my drysuit, but ready for the swim which I never took, but was reminded how different higher volume rivers feel compared with paddling low-volume. Some of the waves felt like I was driving a Cadillac listening to Led Zepplin “Kashmir” circa 1990. This is a reference very few people in my life would understand but beautiful memories nonetheless. I also felt a little out of practice, but did fine and had a “barrel of monkeys” fun.

We wrapped up the first day easily finding a campsite right below Homestead Rapids which we were initially unsure WERE Homestead rapids since they were pretty small. The group worked well together, Topher impressing me with his extremely dialed kitchen. Michelle helping me with my brand new tent that I was just figuring out (but once I worked out the nuances I LOVE and is really easy to set up alone). Kelli’s tent was…well…nothing short of exquisite. THIS is a chica who has camped before–maybe not a lot of multi-day raft camping yet, but she knows how to outfit her tent. I think we were all impressed (and a little jealous!). Dinner was gourmet-quality with Topher nailing his Dutch Oven eggplant parmesan. Probably the best I’ve ever had–browned to perfection.

Second day we began early but fairly leisurely. Due to the experienced crew we were still on the water before 9am, everyone seeking out and executing the necessary tasks. I paddleboarded until about a mile or two below Burnt Rapids and then finally stowed my board on a raft, and got behind the sticks to alternate with Kelli who had her hands full, first time out, for 42 miles. To be clear, she could have, and would have rowed the whole thing herself without complaint because she is a badass, but it’s still a lot with the wind. Plus, it was Michelle’s birthday and she wanted to be on the boat with Topher and Tio. Sidenote-last time I paddled the John Day, it was Sam’s birthday. Apparently this is a birthday run for me, and cake a must!

We got our river miles in, and easily made it to camp early, on our second night. Set things up quickly and after a short “field trip” to explain where the groover was, we ended up on a hike. Chicken pot pie Dutch Oven for dinner (and leftover, slightly water-logged cake) and then fireside chat. We laughed at our “stoner” conversation about the science of fire, perception of color and vision….yet not one of us was actually stoned. Ha!

Final morning we gave Topher a break from our estrogen, and he fished while the three of us ladies hiked with Tio up to the top of Cathedral Rock. Our efforts rewarded us with INCREDIBLE views and many laughs. This was such an awesome way to begin the day, move about and ready ourselves for the final push to the takeout, on flat water. All a little more relaxed and unplugged from the demands and technology that busies our brains when “connected”.

This was such a great, easy trip I still shake my head at it. I’ve never had a more efficient and quick clean up/de-rigging post-trip either. To my small crew, I give a big thanks, and to those who have questions about the JD please give me a shout (even though you can probably throw a frisbee in Bend and hit someone who has paddled it, and has beta).

Thanks for listening, and maybe I’ll see ya out there on the frisky ripples!

The crew!! (photos by Michelle and Kelli)

Tumalo to Twin Bridges~the lesser known “Town Run”

I’ve spent a lot of this year writing about more personal things–it’s been a “full” year. So today I bring you something full-on paddling. About as close to a review as I’ll get.

Working around class IV/V kayakers for a decade I hear Meadow Camp, or Riverhouse referred to as our “Town Run”. And yes, for experienced boaters, it is amazing. With Meadow Camp you can put in upstream and literally paddle down to the shop. I’m totally jealous frankly, and have frequently suggested that I could do a lot with just a few sticks of dynamite well placed!! If there was a 6-8 mile class II/II+ stretch right here in Bend I might never leave! Hell, I’d settle for 3 miles.

With all that said, there is a short and easily accessed stretch just below Bend (below the Riverhouse run) that has enough flow for a short time of the year. It’s the “Tumalo to Twin Bridges” stretch offering the smallest of Frisky Ripples and two class I+/II- rapids ….both super short, very close to each other. Furthermore, the shuttle is short and easy. Win win!

I’ve run it several times, all very different water levels. The first time I’m guessing, about 300 CFS. Starting from the park you float through scenic areas and somewhat developed areas (houses on the riverside)–nothing crazy urban. You’re also treated to more rural stretches which makes it all worthwhile. The second time I ran this stretch it was under 100 CFS. I do NOT recommend this. We had to pick up our paddleboards and carry them over parts due to the low river level.

My favorite level was at 450 CFS where the water was high enough to pretty much cover all the rocks in the class II- section (barely) so you have to choose your line carefully to avoid catching a fin and Supermaning over your board. For me, that’s a fun. This time I ran it with my bud Jaymo. The stoke was high, the laughs frequent and very happy I didn’t have a long drive back to my house.

Most recently I did this run with new whitewater paddleboarder–been 5 times– friend/co-worker Kelli and “not new” WW SUP’er, Brent. Kelli is a year into whitewater kayaking, has a combat roll and knows how to read water, plus is strong and has good balance. She’s a natural with whitewater SUP due to all those things (and waaaay more risk-tolerant than this ol’ lady!). Brent is basically an “obsessive” meaning he can’t stand being a beginner at anything new he tries. He was actually a first-time paddler in my whitewater SUP clinic a few years back, and dedicated himself to the sport, practicing typically 5 days a week in the whitewater park and just plain getting after it. A great guy and solid paddleboarder and also learning his kayaking. They’re both two of the best people I know and was really happy to get out paddling with them together.

We reveled in the beauty of the day. We laughed at how both Brent and I over-dressed. I shared my odd “river pee anxiety” habit, which means I absolutely, without fail, HAVE to pee immediately before I get on the water (and then am fine, typically for the whole paddle). TMI? We laughed at how Kelli has a “suggestive bladder” which means she had to go too, mainly because I said I have to. Ha! We were all simply overjoyed to be on the water. Because that’s the thing about paddling (and what I’d say makes a “paddler”) is that long or short, big or small, it’s just amazing to be on the water.

For those of you who have at least a wee bit of experience on rapids in a kayak or SUP, this is an awesome run. You might fall in from a SUP (one of us did, two times over the 4 times I’ve done this run…not mentioning names…they were both dudes). You might have to roll your kayak. I’ve heard. I wasn’t there. I report this all in fun, because it’s a part of it and we all fall (swim).

Thanks for listening…see ya out there on the Frisky Ripples…

(Stay tuned to Backyard Bend for our recently recorded podcast Tumalo Creek’s Paddle Tales where we talk with Brent about these and other adventures).


A Tribute of Sorts…

When I first conceptualized this blog it was with the intention of telling my story…that path which brought me to where I am today…a person who isn’t badass at anything but loves participating at some level, in many adventurous activities. My greatest passion had become whitewater SUP and I found all of this somewhat ironic, based on where I came from. My journey had begun very differently than how I live now, going to weekend parties, “cruising” and hanging out at the mall as a teen versus the experience of your average Bend kid. Work, was a big focus, even as a teen, getting “early release” from school to work a retail job at the mall. I wasn’t seeking the lifestyle of the average millennial who now all seem to be well-traveled and seeking personal growth and development–an “alternative” concept (and frowned on) when I was growing up. Instead, I’ve sort of stumbled into that life in a stop-and-start kind of manner, changing directions with “hard stops” moving to random states and across the ocean to switch things up. Along the way, my parents never nagged or let on that my decisions might be less than ideal. My dad always new I’d land on my feet…although I imagine there were some conversations behind closed doors questioning some of my ideas. “Hey, mom….dad…check this out….I’m going to quit my professional, well-paying job with full benefits and move to Maui with no job, place to live or even a car”. Strangely, they never balked.

My parents weren’t into outdoor recreation to any degree–both growing up in Chicago, they were transplants to Oregon back in the late 60’s when Oregon was truly rugged and undeveloped. They both sought the quiet and beauty of the outdoors, but it wasn’t to recreate. It was to escape the city-life and people. If my dad had been raised in Oregon he’d have been the kid who biked a ton, skied 100+ days a year and definitely would have been a solid boater… he was a really strong swimmer and had the mindset for it. Instead, as he assimilated to PNW lifestyle, he kind of “went for it” trying anything when traveling and became a “weekend warrior” in many activities.

There are so many tales to tell of experiences with my dad, but certain adventures, like so many memories in life, take hold. One very special memory was when I first visited Maui on a trip with my dad and mom. The idea to go there came about simply from a great deal I could get on a resort stay–one that partnered with the resort I was working at in Bend. So the three of us flew over together but we’d never traveled as a family without my sister, and this was a new dynamic. My mom has always slept in. Considerably. My dad and I have always been early birds. He and I would wake every morning in the dark (Maui is 3 hours behind Oregon) and walk down to–back then, undiscovered Napili beach where we’d body surf and swim for at least an hour. After, we’d walk to the Napili Coffee Shop (where I ultimately went just about every single morning for 3 years when I moved there). My dad and I would chat with the local crew enjoying several cups and conversations all before my mom woke. That particular trip still remains one of my favorites ever, and greatly shaped my life course. It was that vacation where I fell in love with Maui, eventually moving there and learning to SUP surf, which brought me to Tumalo Creek where I’ve now worked for 10 years.

I’ve taken a different path than my dad, but I’d say his life approach sums me up in a nutshell. This blog is dedicated to those of us who aren’t experts at any sport but are out there… and specifically to my dad who passed away two months ago after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Due to the disease and it’s slow death-sentence I’ve grieved over the last decade, in bits and spurts… and continue to now that it’s come to pass. However I believe I can take a different, more joyful perspective than I would have only two months later, had it been sudden. Now, I’m embracing my dad’s spirit and grateful that he gifted me… in DNA and many trips traveled together… for the idea that just getting out there is good enough. Today, as we continue to work through the legal mayhem that exists after a death, I can begin my day (post coffee, of course) with a bike ride and a heart filled with love and amazing memories of a man who lived a life well-spent. Here’s to you dad!

Minto Brown Park in Salem, heading out for a ride….
Nordic Skiing up Icicle Creek in Leavenworth WA…
Sunset in Grand Teton facing the “60 foot windows” at the lodge…

Struggle and Flow

Recently I’ve noticed that when I try too hard…maybe use too much muscle, or I “charge it” for lack of a better phrase, it just doesn’t go so well. Lately I’ve spent a lot more time on the snow than on the water, but I’ve noticed a consistency with that situation in both. If I’m skate skiing, for example (and let’s be clear here–with skating I am a beginner) I find things go much better if I relax and slow my body and mind.. Things start flowing and I find a rhythm. And then, even though I’m a beginner it feels fairly effortless and I can move pretty quickly down a hill. I don’t do uphill on skate skis right now. Don’t judge. I’ll ski up a ridge on my Nordics, but skating? Forget-tabout-it!!

I find this to be the case with kayaking too. I don’t spend nearly as much time in a kayak than on a board but I find the same feeling of “flow” a lot easier if I relax and don’t push it too hard. All of a sudden I’m getting clean strokes and finding good purchase on my blade. My boat starts tracking like an arrow and it’s just…well better! I’m sure this is the same on my board but kayaking and skiing seem very “body-symmetrical” so perhaps I notice it more.

I think this is the same in life. Like everyone, this has been a Hell of a year. From pandemics, to fires, to riots and elections we’ve all experienced a lot of tension!! I’ve had some additional personal challenges with family members’ health and less than ideal circumstances. It’s all sad and it’s difficult. Recently, however, I’ve been able to find a flow in my daily life. And I mean DAILY…sometimes hourly! I don’t get too far ahead schedule-wise, because nothing…NOTHING…can be counted on for me this month and the foreseeable future. So I spend a lot of my headspace in the moment. I am very grateful for anything that makes me smile or laugh (which seems to be quite a lot!). A fun excursion here or an adventure there– those moments seems to shine “extra bright” among the bullshit that seems to be everywhere around me. I’m pretty much never in a hurry right now. It just doesn’t seem necessary or productive, ultimately. (Note: I’m very fortunate, and I know this. The winter season affords me a lot of extra time to not be in a hurry. The fact that it’s the slowest 2 months of my year makes it easy for my schedule to remain flexible, plus I happen to have the awesomest (yes, that’s a word) team to support me. This isn’t lost on me, and I’m not saying it’s so easy for everyone–we all have different circumstances).

Preferring to lose myself in the forest, over crowds and lift-lines I hadn’t skied Mt. Bachelor yet this season. Therefore, yesterday when I finally went, I had to reactivate a 4-pack from the previous year that, due to COVID, Bachelor said they’d honor for the 2021 season. This was a comedy of errors. First, I give props to ALL outfitters and companies in the customer service industry trying to manage the guidelines and restrictions of COVID, while attempting a quality guest experience. Yesterday, as the process continued to be littered with problems I could have really lost my shit. What had, in previous years, taken about 5-7 minutes, took about 30. But hey look…I was on a day off, from a great job where I make sufficient income to live a blessed life, on a sunny, blue-bird day to alpine ski. Talk about the epitome of “First world problems”. As things got more messed up I became more relaxed, more lighthearted and more forgiving of the situation. I think we’ve collectively begun to confuse “inconvenience” with “hardship”. This situation was laughable. Not a time to yell at the staff, or let it ruin my day. We all had a good giggle and I ultimately had a great day on the hill.

Whether executing a stroke, or being patient with a cashier, we all have a choice. We can struggle… or we can flow. You decide.

Thanks for listening….see ya out there on the Frisky Ripples!


It’s Not Bad Weather Just Bad Gear…

“There’s no bad weather, just bad gear”. This is the response to “inclement” weather in the paddle industry with those die-hard paddlers who love their sport so much there’s no season that will deter them. And honestly, it’s (mostly) true. We live in a time where we’ve discovered synthetics (albeit HORRIBLE for the environment but oh so cozy for our wimpy, hairless human bodies). Last weekend was testiment to this golden rule of gear vs weather.

It’d been two months…ok 6 weeks…since I’d paddled but I felt so ready to get on my board and I’m not scared of cooler temps. I have all the gear and was going to be near a few river stretches with some time on my hands. With that in mind, Friday we paddled a really easy section of the Clackamas. Donned with drysuits, pile onesies and all the neoprene “whatever”, we hit the water. And ROASTED the whole time. It was sunny and about 53 degrees ambient air temperature–beautiful, no real rapids to write home about but SO nice to be on the water.

What really got me excited was paddling a river I’d never done and has been on my bucket list–the White Salmon (below Husom Falls). It was a small group of us, and even smaller group on a paddleboard. Myself, Sam and a buddy of his plus four kayakers. I put in below Rattlesnake Rapids because, well, I’d have almost surely fallen in and didn’t want to begin my day in the water. This day was NOT 53 and sunny. It was about 32 degrees with long icicles hanging from the sides of the gorge. Cold and cloudy but undeniably beautiful. The White Salmon is different than I’m used to paddling…narrower, gorged out and continuous. SO SO fun. Weird side note…the rapids get easier the farther down you go, until a drop right before the takeout that snuck up on me (and wasn’t reported by my fearless leader who knew it was coming but probably knew it best not to mention)? I made the first necessary move totally on purpose, and then the second crucial move, I felt, was made by my board which happily followed the best line and I stayed on my board)…haha

Throughout the run I felt a little like Bambi on ice since I was paddling on my new Badfish that I’ve only paddled two or three times, plus not having paddled for a while. And yeah, freezing temps apparently make me less ballsy. I will say without question, my core never got cold. Not for a minute. My feet were ice cubes even wearing neoprene socks under my drysuit booties and Tevas. Then again, my feet were wet the whole time. Was it worth it? Absolutely. There’s also something strangely satisfying about “suffering” a little to do what you love, and the incredible feeling of then, getting warmed up. I don’t know if others share this strange opinion. In many cases I’ve treated myself with tater tots after (not this time) but loved the takeout Thai food we eventually inhaled once getting back to Portland and cozying up in the warmth and comfort of home. Maybe running rivers in the winter isn’t for everyone, but there’s more to do than skiing this time of year (although that’s great too!). Consider getting out there–it’s beautiful and there’s gear to help!!

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


Sharing the Ripples

As with every summer, it seems the busy schedule (and having FUN) takes precedence to writing about it. This year’s evolution is somewhat poignant and met with sad nostalgia, as it seems SO much has changed in a very short time.  Just weeks after I wrote the following content, a significant part of my beautiful home-state of Oregon went up in flames.  The rivers I most paddle and write about are now largely log-choked and… well, let’s leave it at “altered”.  Every location that experienced devastating fire holds at least one, if not countless memories over my lifetime.  However, I’m doing my best to look at this situation with hope and optimism for the future.  I’m grateful I got to see and paddle the Umpqua before it burned. You’ll notice this blog entry ends abruptly. I wasn’t finished writing as I was going to wrap it up with a point….a message that perhaps someone could connect with or maybe find inspiration. I leave it unfinished because the path I was moving through was interrupted. Entirely. This too will pass, and heal with time. Here is what I’d wrote:

The irony isn’t lost on me that when I’m getting out on the water most, is when I write the least (not that I’m assuming there are vast amounts of readers waiting with bated breath for my blog).  However, in the past 4 months I’ve had some amazing experiences with some really incredible people.

My summer paddling season started off with a bang, and the intent was to write a daily account of my trip on the Middle Fork of the Salmon, back in May/early June.  This is a highly sought-after permit and the opposite of “frisky ripples”.  It’s “big water” and I didn’t SUP it, but got many river miles behind the sticks apprenticing with Sam who I either helped row, or was my training wheels as I learned how to navigate class III’s.  The trip was absolutely delightful from beginning to end–all of the typical multi-day variables ideal, including the weather, water level, food, sights and people.  While the details fade, they are replaced by a general feeling of happiness surrounding the experience.  A few memories that stand out…the incredible wild flowers. They were SO prolific and beautiful.  Velvet Falls, where Sam and I almost flipped our boat.  Both of us popped out but I was able to hold on, pulling myself in (and some might say him too).  Pistol rapids which Sam and I nailed but some others in our crew swam.  Amazing Dutch Oven dinners and desserts compliments of Ruffwear crew Patrick and Will. There were fun river games, birthday-after-dinner-evening surf sessions and birthday cake.  Hot springs.  And lots of laughter.  There were 11 of us in the group with varying backgrounds, belief systems and lifestyles but whatever the mix was, it was truly special.

Photo Credit David Kinker

Another paddle-day of note was with TCKC cohort and friend, Kelli, who I took down the McKenzie on a paddleboard.  I say I “took her down” but really she ran her own lines and fared well, having splash and giggle fun.  It’s always nice to get someone out on a whitewater board, especially in a shop where kayaking is the main focus.

Photo Credit Kelli Wittman

There was a “local” trip to the Umpqua with Sam.  This time of year….any time really…is challenging to get time alone, just the two of us. Groups are fun, but some precious, uninterrupted time for more than a few hours…in this case a few days…are rare.  It was an incredible 3-day, 2 night trip for us, basking in the joy of stunning scenery, amazing paddling (SUP one day, Dynamic Duo the other), the North Umpqua trail to hike and NO schedule to follow.  Add to that, the logistical heaven of a dispersed campsite right at the take-out of our SUP paddle stretch from Gravel Bin and post paddle DO lasagna enjoyed with Merlot.  In truth, I’d say the lasagna was greatly improved with the Merlot since it was a “first go” at DO cooking for us and had no recipe.  Turned out like lasagna soup but with a little wine it was heavenly.  Regarding the paddling–this stretch on a SUP definitely tested my technical skills.  It was extremely helpful to have Sam leading the way to show me the lines, and while I’m improving with the “read and run” aspect of running new water I get nervous. It went really well, and this particular day sticks out in my mind as the best SUP day of my summer (at least so far).  The scenery certainly didn’t disappoint–it was nothing short of magical.

Riding in a Duo (tandem whitewater kayak) allows me the opportunity to experience stretches of the river I’d never be able to paddle myself. We paddled Bogus to Susan Creek–the rocks coming at me and then whooosh “we’d” maneuver right around them.  Absolutely fun and beautiful! After Susan Creek we drove farther out, past Glide where the ecosystem rapidly transformed from gorgeous Pac NW to what I’d consider Northern California feel–hot, arid and rolling hills with oak and eucalyptus trees.  The river was also substantially easier and got me thinking it’s time to try my hand in a single kayak.

I’ve spent enough time in a Duo and on the water with SUP, to have confidence to try solo kayaking.  Therefore, I jumped onto our Full Immersion whitewater course, knowing that the guides and students were people I knew, liked and trusted.  It was really fun!  I felt good in the kayak…or at least mentally ready…does anyone actually feel “good” in a whitewater kayak? Feet and/or legs falling asleep if you’re fit correctly.  I paddled all of the first two days of the class, but portaged First Street Rapids, as I’m basically a wimp.  The final day, I had to work when the crew was headed to Packsaddle on the North Santiam (my backyard river).  Ironically, I’d have been terrified to kayak that stretch but paddleboard…sure thing.  Still, the group had grown in numbers, with some other staff and staff’s mom joining in.  Serious case of FOMO.

The weekend following my whitewater kayak class as a student, I led an intro to whitewater SUP course.  I’ve expanded the program to include a half day on flatwater and very small rapids to get people comfortable with moving around on their board, and the more focused skills necessary transitioning to whitewater.  It was a really fun weekend, and once again, got to experience the gratifying moments when participants “drink the Koolaid” of whitewater SUP.  New paddlers have solid winning moments in rapids, they swim, and they learn how much fun (and not scary) it can be.

Photo Credit Kelli Wittman

As I wind this article down, I’ll say I’ve paddled a bunch this season…most of which I’ll leave to my own wonderful memories.  

Thanks for listening, and may we all work together, do our part for the restoration of our trails and waterways.