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  • Writer's pictureKatja

Another Day, Another River

After the Grand Canyon, it felt good to spend some time with my parents on Vashon Island. Especially so as the week after I got home, several cousins descended for a joyful albeit Covid-cautious reunion. The days were spent with family, getting back into the work-groove, and the long process of unpacking, cleaning, and putting away several weeks worth of very dirty gear.

Somehow in the post-river chaos, I also officiated a wedding for a charming couple in Olympia (it was arranged before the trip and the brave bride trusted that I’d be back off the Colorado River in one piece and able to marry her to her beloved less than a week later). I love being able to help couples celebrate their love, and their whole wedding was so full of unconditional love and pure joy (and I was admittedly a little emotional still from the intensity of the Grand Canyon) that it even had me feeling teary-eyed.

One other significant post-Grand Canyon event was trading in my Subaru Forester for the bigger Subaru Ascent. I had applied for the loan and knew exactly what I wanted in early July, but the time crunch and chaos of moving out of my house and getting ready for rafting delayed the purchase until after my return. Hearing about the growing insanity with car buying and low inventory, I immediately jumped into the process and was blessed to come out of it with my new adventure mobile. While I do not intend to live out of a vehicle, I knew I’d be needing to be away from a home-base for long periods of time and would have the two dogs with me. So a bigger vehicle was ideal. Why the Ascent? I’m a sucker for Subarus and everything about it met my needs for this next life adventure. Plus there’s a discount for ski patrollers as Subaru is the official vehicle of the National Ski Patrol.

Of all the things I could have done next, after being home for two weeks from the challenging Colorado River experience, would you believe that I found my way back onto more rivers

within a mere two weeks? What can I say, I guess I’m head-over-heels for smooth currents and big waves.

First, the Snoqualmie River. With the cousins in town for some hot summer days, an afternoon tubing trip sounded perfect. We went with Fall City Floating for our tubes, gear, and shuttle service and it was a blast!

Not long after (less than a week, I think), I packed up the Ascent, now christened “Phoenix” (because apparently I was a failure for never naming my previous vehicle…? Whatever. She’s red and comes at a time of new beginnings in my life so the name seemed very fitting) and hit the road, this time with the dogs. Harley has been on numerous roadtrips and was excited to go. Zoë, on the other hand, seemed a little more skeptical as we hit the road and left the joys of the farm on Vashon behind.

I felt a little guilty that my first stop was in The Dalles to drop the dogs off at Dinah’s Dog House for two nights. Actually, I felt a ton guilty, but it was leave them behind for a month or ask them to tolerate a short boarding so I could go play some more. I assume they would choose the latter if they were able to understand the options...

After dropping off the dogs, I headed for the next river: the Deschutes in Maupin, Oregon. Last summer, I enjoyed a week-long trip down this lovely river with some awesome ski patrol friends (that’s also how I met Steve and scored my invite to the Grand Canyon several months later). This year, I opted to give myself a break and instead of a multi-day trip, I joined the group at the weekend camp for a single day of play on the river.

I have been asked several times how it felt being on something smaller like the Deschutes after the enormity of the Grand Canyon. Well, first of all, every river deserves respect and I would never let one Grand Canyon experience make me complacent on every river after. That’s a good way to get yourself drowned. Second, any wave or rapid can slap you around if you fail to read the route and execute the right maneuvers in time, so it’s not like any whitewater can ever be taken for granted. However, all that being said, I did find myself viewing this river experience with a new set of eyes and a very different perspective on managing risk. Needless to say, my confidence and comfort levels have changed dramatically, a fact illustrated by my chosen watercraft:

Yes, I viewed the Deschutes a little more lightly this year after surviving the Grand Canyon. No, taking a lightweight pool-floaty down class II-III whitewater is not at all recommended. And yes, after several successful wave-train runs, I had my ass handed to me and swam a large rapid. One does not disrespect the river gods and get away without a good dunking.

I found my redemption, though, as I successfully self-rescued me and “Uni” from the waves and climbed back onboard just in time to rescue the other questionable watercraft that the two riders had been turbulently ejected from. I made history that day as I singlehandedly saved myself, the unicorn, and the couches* on the Deschutes River.

*AIRE manufactures these lovely River Couches that are definitely not intended to be strapped together and definitely not meant to be ridden down whitewater rapids. Yet every year, we make questionable life choices and do exactly that.

For the record, neither I, nor (I’m quite certain) AIRE, officially endorse this, but I cannot deny how ridiculously fun it is to paddle a pair of couches down a river!

Being back on a river felt great. I worried that Bedrock would have left me with some acute stress symptoms (stress injuries don’t become post-traumatic until certain criteria, like amount of time since the incident, are met; acute stress is experienced in the short-term) but I did not experience any negative thoughts or feelings about the river. Instead, I felt a new level of understanding and a lot more peace of mind and sense of calm in the presence of whitewater than I have ever experienced before. Plus, being around so many wonderful river-runners who asked questions and genuinely wanted to hear all about the Grand Canyon was a wonderful way to continue processing the experience.

The river-time ended too soon and before I knew it, it was time to retrieve the dogs and head west to the Washington coast where my journey to seek new adventures and try living in new areas would officially begin.

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