Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Adding up Four Months on the White Salmon River

Its time for a highlights edition blog post. Not only a good way to sum up 4 months of no updates, the highlights edition blog post also brings together events and activities in a math problem sort of way.

Add up fulfilling experiences and subtract out hardships. Let's see what comes out.

+ Move to BZ Corners, on the Banks of the White Salmon River

On the whole, moving back out to the Gorge tips the scales toward awesome.

The Wet Planet Family: Weeknight Truss Run
Jeff Clewell, Brian Lee, Tyler "Fastlane" Houck, Lance Reif, Trevor Sheehan, Ryan Copenhagen, Brendan Wells, Curt Joyce, Adam Elliott, and me, Susan Hollingsworth

Living on the peaceful, riverside property of Wet Planet (also known as North Camp), at the take-out for my favorite section of the White Salmon makes coats every day with the simple bliss of fresh air and ourdoor play.

Surrounding me, all nestled into their own plot of earth at the end of a trail, are 8 of my best friends. Each contributes something different to our community: Lori motivates pre-work activities, Tyler and Drew make sure Wet Planet is well represented on the Green Truss, Nicki and Brian keep the general pace of life mellow and happy, Giani cooks better than any restraunt in the Gorge, Jeff's music collection never needs to repeat, and Cat just does a little bit of everything.

- Move out of Portland

However, temporarily abandoning Portland was not easy.

Nick builds the best kayak rack I have ever seen, right in our backyard.

The nest I've assembled (with furniture and walls, not sticks and spit) over the past 6 months has become more of a home than anything I've had for the past 5 years. Bigger than a car, more permanent than a friend's couch, 6235 N. Atlantic is my home. I may not own it, but the guy who does may be the most easy-going and enjoyable landlord humanly possible.

Luckily, I can travel the 1.5 hrs west into the hipster mecca anytime I want. Best of both worlds.

+ Teaching Kayaking and Inspiring a Whitewater Lifestyle

Try a spending a week teaching a group of cancer survivors to kayak and tell me that whitewater doesn't change lives. Just seeing Tailz (everyone gets a nickname...I'm Swish) navigate the class II rapids on the Klickitat without the benefit of vision makes me grateful for the strength, positivity, and empowerment this thing called kayaking can provide. I hope I get to be a part of First Descents Kayak Camp forever.

Two week-long instruction on the Rogue with Sundance Kayak School...new favorite teaching river.

Another instructor's dream come true took me to the Rogue River to partner with Team Sundance for an 8 day, 13 person beginner course in late June. I helped the Crawford family to let go a little bit and tackle some incredible whitewater. In return, they made sure I laughed more.
First experience with Stand Up Paddle Boarding on the Rogue, or SUPing

The second Rogue trip of the summer, a 6 day, 6 person intermediate course, fed my intelectual brain with in-depth stroke clinics and advanced boil dynamics. Each day contributed another idea toward the week's theme of "The Meaning of Life from the Eyes of a Kayaker."

A typicaly multi-day rafting/kayaking scene: costumes, good food, tasty drinks.

Hopefully our guests were as swept away by the entire experience as I was.

- Wet Feet and Butt Every Day

Whitewater rafting on the White Salmon River with Wet Planet Whitewater

However, as instruction and guiding time increases, so does the potential for foot rot and swamp ass. Unpleasant, I know, but nevertheless a reality. Finding time to air-out has becoem as important as brushing my teeth.

+ Experiencing the Removal of Condit Dam in First Person and Writing with More Purpose

I am poised on what feels like a significant moment in history.

Standing with American Whitewater's Megan Hooker in front of Condit Dam

Condit Dam, a 125 ft hydrpower project on the White Salmon River, is about to be excavated from the canyon where it has sat, blocking the flow of the river for the past 100 years. And I've got front row seats to watch the whole thing happen.

Even better, I assigned myself the job of informing everyone I can about the big deal right in their backyards. Wet Planet handed me The Eddy Line, a blog for news in and around the river, a year ago when I came to the gorge. Throughout the winter, this outlet became my own little soapbox for preserving our rivers and our ability to recreate on them. I wrote about the purpose of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, the breakthroughs in the saga of Condit Dam, and the best kayaking and rafting locations in the Northwest. Like candy.

A friend competes in the BZ Huckfest during this year's Riverfest

This led right into the orchestration of the White Salmon River Fest and Symposium. Kind of a big deal. This year, Heather (fellow instructor) and I picked up the task of running the whole event and went with it. Family responsibilities in Holland required Jaco, owner of Wet Planet and organizer of the event for the past 5 years, to leave the country for a few months. She was, thankfully able to help with vital contacts and ideas all the way from Europe.

Local community leaders speak about the removal of Condit Dam during the Symposium

The event was a success. Bringing people together along the White Salmon River makes me feel a greater connection to this place, as if I could even call it home.

- Kayaking Less and Living with Guns

With all this writing, guiding, and instructing, I'm actually kayaking less. Or rather, kayaking-for-fun less. Instructing is fun, writing about kayaking is great, but nothing can replace the deep satisfaction of hitting your own line.

The Subaru gets a new rear window (and will later be sold completely)

Kevin, probably the sweetest river guide alive, shot a beer can with the family bee-bee gun which then hit my rear window. Minor inconvenience to keep things in perspective.

What is the answer to the equation?

Considering the items subtracted are really only small annoyances and temporary adversities, this equation leaves me in the positive. A place I have no intention of leaving.

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