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…
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.
It’s Autumn!! And just as the leaves change color, life is always evolving and I had the opportunity to really settle into my scene here in Central Oregon last month. Through both work and personal time, I connected (or re-connected) with some truly exceptional women. Much of that time was spent on the water which I repeatedly find to be where people are most themselves–open and authentic. Side note, guys in my world are doing awesome things too and I’m all about the appreciation of all humans, but the perspective and learning I’m writing about here, is from the ladies.
I taught a private whitewater SUP clinic in August with two women I’d worked with before, but knew personally, very little. With them, I was pleased to skip right past the usual small-talk bullshit and “dive right into it”. Throughout the day, we each shared real emotions–both joyful and not-so-awesome, divulging past interpersonal challenges and current issues… work, the economy, relationships. All was fair game, listened to with genuine interest. I like to keep on top of time-management but this clinic was blown out of the water (pun intended, ha!) because a quick eddy-out would turn into 20 minutes of meaningful conversation. Yes please!
Early September I had the great pleasure of heading out to the McKenzie with a woman I’ve admired for years. She’s soft spoken and kind–and a better boater than she’d ever give herself credit for. She’s a “retired” acupuncturist, having gone back to school to earn a degree involving work with sustainable housing regulations, and creating greener living space. PS, if that was vague and you’re unclear, so am I to an extent. What I do know, is that we had fascinating conversation throughout the day, and after, I felt extremely uplifted and clear of mind. Hiking at the pass before dropping into my current favorite run on the river (Paradies to Bruckhart’s)… just wow… what a way to spend a day! No massage, acupuncture, drug or alcohol could bring me the bliss I felt that afternoon. Even now I imagine the way the sun, that time of day, makes the rapids sparkle…not the easiest to paddle because it’s harder to see rocks, but beautiful and cathartic!!
The following week I ran the same section of river but with a new friend…new to Bend and fairly new to my acquaintance. She’s an east-coaster in the best way…a go-getter and full of sass. We hiked up at the pass before paddling again, because I’d had such a good experience the previous week. Our conversation made way for more immediate topics like what the hell I’m doing with my life and what cool projects I might explore moving forward. To me, when life is really good it’s important to do a reality check on how long you’ve been in that comfortable space, because comfortable can become stagnant. That’s not to say longevity and loyalty aren’t important to me…they are…but life can get awfully mundane if we quit learning and doing new things.
In fact, the topic of continued learning and change was the one consistent theme with all the women I hung out with in the last month. Was it the pandemic or maybe just my/their age that we’re all experiencing similar “feels”? Seems to me that a lot of women I know are either making a conscious effort to shake things up, or are expressing the desire. My last post I communicated that I was feeling the need to challenge myself and make changes. Since that post, I’ve taken a two-ish month leave from work and relocated to the Willamette Valley where I’ve made space to figure this out. So far it’s felt really good to dust off the routine and try new (or really old, forgotten) activities. I imagine I’ll take on several new projects in my near future, but some of the one-offs I’m cooking up will be fun and might include rallying some excursions and retreats. Hit me up if you’re interested to hear more!!
Finally, I’ll leave YOU with a challenge. Whether you’re struggling to figure your shit out or blissfully happy living your “perfect” life, just do a self-check. Is there something that might need tweaking? Maybe the biggest of life-shifts or the smallest…like say, switching to organic milk instead of regular. It’s always good to check in with yourself. Have fun with it, and thanks for listening. Hope to see you out there on the frisky ripples!
Does anyone remember this popular business/personal development book that became a big deal for a brief time in, Mmmmmmm, maybe the 90’s? I found it solid information, yet pretty obvious. Life is full of ebbs & flows, detours and “up-ends” that unexpectedly change our course. It’s how we deal with those changes that makes the difference. I’d always found myself pretty flexible and resilient to these events in the past, but maybe with age and/or a “complex” schedule, the flexibility has waned. That’s something I’m actively looking at improving again. In fact, shaking things up in general seems to be catching my attention.
I remember it like it was yesterday. Don’t know the exact date but I sat on my SUP board facing the west Maui mountains. I’d just had a fun surf session and the weather was between 84-86 degrees, beautiful! And I was bored. Not bored with that session, rather bored (or unchallenged) by the daily routine that had become very predictable. It was in that moment that I decided to move off island. Three months later that feat was accomplished leaving a cushy job and lifestyle, with two rescue cats and a “chaperone” who I paid to fly with one while I held the other, on the plane. (Not an easy logistic to figure out with the airlines and their extensive rules flying with cats). I loved my time on Maui but never regretted the move away.
This is how I’ve been feeling now. I have a great life– I do so many fun things and I love my job. I could, theoretically do this forever. I’ve begun exploring new hobbies… or long abandoned ones which I enjoyed but chose other activities with my limited time. I don’t think taking up guitar again, or diving into ceramics is the full answer though. Fun? Yes. And I’ll do these hobbies and many more. I think there’s more–I’m seeking the kind of change that comes with a little bit of discomfort. A little fear. Maybe a whole lot of work. Maybe not “instead of” but “in addition to” kind of change? I want to pursue something that feeds my soul and makes a difference. It doesn’t have to destroy my current lifestyle…maybe augment what I’m currently into.
This post is a call out. I don’t have the answers. I’m looking for ideas. So, if you have any thoughts, give me a shout. In the meantime, I AM paddling as much as I can and had a fabulous time on the McKenzie this last week. See you out there on the frisky ripples…
I hear that a lot these days from people I talk with…that life just feels “weird”. We’re living in a time “post” pandemic (it’s not like COVID has disappeared). We’ve experienced a political polarization unlike any I’ve seen in my lifetime and inflation is severe–to the point of “hugely unsettling” because for those of us who don’t live in the upper middle class, our lifestyle is beginning to be (or has drastically been) impacted. Seems like everyone is experiencing personal crises. Whew! Ok, I promise this isn’t going to be a Debbie Downer post.
I will admit it hasn’t been easy for me either. While I’ve tried to stay positive, I’ve also dealt with stress, feelings of anxiety and being overwhelmed, to the point of sleeplessness. NO FUN! I do my yoga and stretching. Massage? Yep. Acupuncture. Mmmhmmm. This stuff has helped me to a degree and I believe in “alternative” approaches to wellness. But nothing, and I mean nothing, compares to how I feel when I get on my board, on the rapids. It’s truly quite magical and lyrics of Jimmy Buffett’s song “One Particular Harbor” resonate in my mind. If I could only get a doctor to write me a prescription to get on the water a minimum of once a week I’d be set.
Two weeks ago I paddled the North Santiam. It was the milder stretch but maaaaan it felt good. Then last week Sam and I were able to sneak away to Oakridge where we had three lovely days of paddling, biking and relaxing. And there were more than one chilly neked swims. But looking back it was almost laughable how predictable our behavior was. We met there, both coming off of long hours from our intense work-week. We brought that stress with us initially. However, that first afternoon we ran the Middle Fork of the Willamette below Hill Creek Dam. It’s a really fun SUP stretch, which neither of us had ever paddled. SO good. By the time we got done I was 10 degrees calmer (degrees of what, I have no idea but let’s just roll with it). The next day was a whole new world and after an awesome bike ride, complete with a mid-ride swim/slide in a creek, we were giggling like kids. Food tasted better and coffee more amazing from a camp spot opposite Salmon Creek Falls. The final paddle was the lower section of the river that we’d skipped the first day, and the perfect way to end our short excursion to Oakridge/Westfir. Caravaning back to Bend we stopped a few times, to “smell the roses” or in this case the incredible blooming rhododendrons littered all over the pass. A final stop at the Veggie Man in La Pine where we, combined, dropped about $200 on produce (to which Sam gave a bunch away because that’s the kind of guy he is). Let me just say, I’m a whole new woman post-vacation than I was the entire month before I left.
Ending my work week this week was a different dynamic altogether. I felt good. Tired, but good. There’d been “curveballs” all week, as there are when you’re dealing with the public in the hospitality industry. But I felt fine. Grateful for my dinner and the rest of the evening…albeit short because I go to sleep ungodley early. Having given myself the time to do what I’m passionate about is the crucial point here. It’s a necessary reset and I’m guessing I’m not alone in this need.
PS I kept the ball rolling by sessioning with my girl Kelli this morning on the lower stretch of Big Eddy. It’s short, and the walks back upstream changes the flow (pun intended!). But we both agree it’s fun to “work” for it sometimes. All I know is that it’s important I “take my medicine” as I’m hereby self-prescribing. Ha! So, if you want to come play on the frisky ripples please reach out. It will typically take a fairly long drive out-and-back to get to what’s good, but I’m game. Or, if rapids aren’t your jam, find what is but maybe if everybody finds that secret medicine we’d all just quit being so weird.
My mom is one of the quirkiest people I know. I can share this here, because I tell her the same thing frequently and we have a good “skit” going, where she asks “how?” and then I list by bullet point, some examples which we both laugh heartily about. I can also admit that as I age, I see myself understanding some of her actions. When I was a kid and she’d be out in the garden in her PJ’s, I would shake my head and wonder why she didn’t care how she dressed. Now, on mornings off, as I wear my ratty robe and slippers, coffee in hand randomly picking weeds out of the raised-beds in my yard…which sits on the street…I get it. But I digress…
The thing is, my mom truly is one of the best people I know. Definitely the kindest and most honest. Her intentions are always good. While she has suffered a decade of absolute shit-burgers of circumstances, she keeps putting one foot in front of the other. Her strength sometimes surprises me.
As a younger mom she had left her job as a school teacher to raise my sister and I. We went to a small, rural school outside of Salem where funding was low and the focus was on Ag, Shop and Home Ec, but because she had been a biology teacher she volunteered periodically. She’d create week-long lessons teaching us everything from the cardiovascular system and how it worked, to the animal kingdom and it’s classification system.
As a younger woman she dreamed of combining her talent in art with her love for animals creating dioramas in museums. it was a dream she never realized, but did continue with her art, and worked briefly at the Trailside Museum in Chicago caring for the resident animals.
Last year, my sister and I took my mom to the Newport Aquarium for her birthday which led me down a new path, discovering a love for paleontology and the study of deep time. Now, my mom and I share facts we’ve each learned, or talk about science documentaries we both watched. I’m grateful to have this mutual interest with her since we’ve always been very different from one another, not historically having a lot in common. It’s brought us closer.
Today on her 80th birthday, I wish her a happy day. How does this relate to paddling or adventure? Not even a little bit, but you gotta celebrate and honor the person who gave you life! Happy Birthday mom!!
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.
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.
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:
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.