Sunday, August 20, 2017


As soon as I had gotten comfortable where I was it was time to leave again. I drove into the north by myself with a loose idea of where I was going. As I travelled through Montana I caught glimpses of a wilderness that was foreign to me. One night I drove to the top of an old forest road and watch wildfires ravage an opposite ridgeline. It was a powerful experience to be alone in wild to witness such destructive forces of nature. I decided not to spend the night here so that I wouldn’t wake up in a blaze.
                Crossing the border into Canada began the pinnacle of my adventure this summer. Everything is bigger in British Columbia. The wilderness is more rugged, the rivers more intense, you feel more remote, and I can no longer rely on the support of cell reception. Soon I was alone in the town of Fernie looking to paddle the Elk River. The whitewater community came through for me again and before long I had made new friends to camp with. The Elk had been a dream of mine for a long time and it was incredible to be able to check it off the list. The waterfall was the highest single drop I had kayaked. Riding the force of the water driving off the lip of that waterfall and plummeting forty feet is a thrill that is hard to describe.
                I have come a long way on this trip. I’ve learned a lot and I’ve met some incredible people. This lifestyle has become who I am. For years I’ve dreamed of hitting the road by myself and chasing horizon lines. I’m living out my dreams every day as I travel without a safety net sleeping alone in remote settings through British Columbia. I’ve had to push myself outside of my comfort zone as part of my body craves a familiar sense of security. Sometimes it is hard not to turn back. It is worth it to keep pushing forwards as you gain something that cannot be taken away. A few months ago the idea of sleeping solo in the wilderness terrified me. Now I can comfortably sleep under the stars by myself as I let the cackles of nearby coyotes lull me to sleep.
Humans have an innate fear of what is unknown. Fear is a primitive emotion and most of the time it is unnecessary.  In our age fear does a better job at keeping one from living rather than keeping one alive. Awareness and good decision making are responsible for self-preservation. Fear holds you back by making you complacent to continue to experience what is familiar. To take hold of your life you must learn how to conquer your fears. The best parts of life lie beyond your comfort zone.


Friday, August 18, 2017

True Happiness

Everyone wants to be happy, but happiness can be elusive. Sometimes what you think will make you happy doesn’t and sometimes you find yourself in inexplicable good moods when it seems like nothing has changed. Lately I have been considering the conditions that contribute to finding fulfilling happiness.
                During this trip I have found myself happy for the longest time I have ever been. I had a vision of what I wanted my life to look like and as I have followed it has lead me to places that have far exceeded my high expectations. In my time spent in the town I have previously described I felt a deep sense of fulfilling happiness. My adventure lead me to this town where I found myself in a tight knit community, developed meaningful relationships, and pursued my passion for kayaking every day. I experienced sense of bliss in that space and time which I will never forget. After my experience with observing death the blissful moment had faded and the road was calling my name again. It is the nature of happiness to come in cycles of lows and highs.
                In my search for the underlying truths of happiness I was lead to some of the teachings of Aristotle that resonated with my experiences. Man’s happiness will lie in the full functioning of his human qualities. The achievement of human experiences will develop these qualities and lead to fulfilling happiness. These human experiences that I seek are not complex ones. It is the simple things in life that matter most. The thrill of venturing into the unknown, gazing at the stars pondering their vastness, the tender warmth of a lovers embrace, and persevering through a dangerous situation are the types of experience which I allude to.  The happiness to be gained from such distractions as social media or material wealth will never be as fulfilling.
                Happiness is most everyone’s end goal in life. “For we choose happiness for itself, and never for a view of anything further; whereas we choose honor, pleasure, intellect… because we believe that though them we shall be made happy” (Aristotle). Happiness is fostered by the middle ground of human qualities. “Between cowardice and rashness is courage; between sloth and greed is ambition, between humility and pride is modesty” (Will Durant). Happiness is found in moderation rather than indulgence. Happiness is experienced as pleasure of the mind rather than pleasure of the body. Let us not confuse the noble pursuit of happiness with the potentially unhealthy pursuit of pleasure. Friendship is perhaps the most important external aid to happiness. It has been said that happiness is only real when it is shared.
               Through this trip I have discovered my path to happiness. I now know what is important to me and what isn’t. With this knowledge I will go forwards to shape my life in the way that I see fit. I will continue to chase adventure, build meaningful relationships, challenge myself physically, develop myself mentally, and give back to those who I meet along the way. These are the things that make me happy.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Man in the Red T-Shirt

While living life on the road I have gotten in the habit of saying yes to most opportunities for new and fun experiences that I am offered. When taking chances this way it can be hard to know what to expect so you just have to go with the flow and react to the situation as it changes. Sometimes things go better than you ever could have imagined and sometimes the opposite happens as well. What follows is a true story from what started to be an average day hanging around town.
                I had been having a lazy day in town. As I am solo on this trip now I will often lounge around the center of where people meet and wait for what happens next. As I was relaxing an old friend appeared and invited me on a booze cruise down the main section of a class III river. I couldn’t come up with a reason not to go so I agreed to join them. The craft we were to take was monstrosity stacked rafts strapped together four rafts high. The crew captaining this vessel was about twelve raft guides, my friend Kaylie, and I.
                Spirits were high and many beers were drank as we departed from shore and made our way through the start of the river. The raft guides were hospitable as we shared alcohol and laughs together. The stack of rafts teeter-tottered and felt quite unstable with so many people on top. As we successfully maneuvered the biggest rapid everyone shouted with joy. We may have gotten over confident with our abilities as we went for one of the most technical moves on the river which requires launching the whole ship over a pour over rock about 4 feet high. We launched alright, we hit it everyone tumbled out into the water. I had one of the most interesting flight as I was slingshotted out of the raft ten feet through the air landing head first and going deep under water. Everyone was recovered quickly and more alcohol and stories were shared. Everyone was ecstatic with the excitement of the trip.
                At this point we saw something was wrong. An empty cataraft was at the shore of the river with two men shouting at us. We could hardly make out what they were saying, but we managed to hear that a man had gone missing on the river. The man was wearing a red T-shirt and no life jacket. After hearing this news the tone of the trip changed immediately. This was no longer a cheerful booze cruise, it was now a search and rescue mission.
                The group of raft guides sprang to action immediately. We pulled to shore to break up the rafts so we could search and cover more river. It was hard to find direction of what to do as we had little information, many people trying to lead the situation, and the added element of impaired decision making. I had no voice of authority in the matter so I sat back and waited for the opportunity to help. Time had passed and it was now dark outside. We floated down river not knowing what we were looking for. For all we knew the man may have gotten himself to shore and hitchhiked back to town. The confusion was the hardest part.
                As we got close to the take out the confusion was cleared up. A policeman from the shore informed us the man had been found and he was not alright. As we arrived at the beach to take off the river I got a glimpse at the sight. A crew of fifteen or so volunteer rescue workers trudging through the thicket of the riverbank carrying the man in the Red T-shirt. The ground was illuminated by their head lamps and as they all struggled to make headway. It was a surreal sight to see as we floated by unable to help.
                We got to shore and witnessed a massive operation unfolding. There were many police cars, an ambulance, and a rescue helicopter landing in the parking lot. There was so much happening that I thought the best way to help was to stay out of the way. While I held on to a raft on the river bank I was called into action. The crew carrying the man had become exhausted and needed help to continue transporting him. I held the metal backboard by the left side of the man’s head and witnessed a lot at once. The man was dead and had an automated CPR machine working to revive him. There were massive lacerations to his head and blood covered his face. He was a middle aged obese man and the crew carrying him had to put in the extra effort to get him to the ambulance. I helped load him into the back and my part was over. The whole operation was over as the ambulance never even left the parking lot. He was past the point of saving. The man was dead and not twenty people working together could bring him back.
                We loaded our rafts to our trailer and made our way back to where we departed from. Everyone recounted our crazy experience as we made our way back. I remained silent. I had never been a part of a body recovery mission and I had no idea that it would have been that day. We got back and I decompressed by talking to my friend Kaylie for a while before making my way back to camp.
                It was only when I was alone that I was able to start processing what had really happened. The man had little experience, no safety equipment, and no fitness to help save him. He was unaware of the danger of the river and paid the price for his mistakes. The river can give so much and it will take it all away when it isn’t respected. What he thought would be a fun afternoon on the river turned into the last trip he would ever make. I learned that he was in town with another woman who I assumed to be his wife. She is the one that lost the most.
                As I have been kayaking more and more dangerous rivers I have been having mental battles considering my mortality. I knew I would witness something like this at some point and I dreaded the day that it would happen. There are many forces at play when you decide to spend a day on the river. The river is extremely powerful and tempts your fate as you choose to play on its surface. It is hard for us to look past that surface level to see the powers at play beyond our observations. Witnessing the effects of the river’s destructive powers made me feel small. I feel like I’m dancing a fine line on rivers I don’t really understand with consequences I have no grasp of either. After witnessing the reality of what a mistake can mean it is harder for me to rationalize what I do. The man’s loved ones are the ones that pay the real price of his mistake.
                As I fell asleep I imagined myself in that man’s position. I imagined paying the price for a negligent risk that could have been avoided as a crew of twenty trained rescuers fail to revive me. I imagined the news being brought to my loved ones. I thought about the man and his wife. I thought about the times my adventures could have ended with me in that ambulance. I thought about how I had felt so small in a world of risk and consequence that I don’t understand. I didn't sleep well that night.
                This experience was a terrible one, but not one that I regret having. It showed me how quickly lives can truly change on the river. It reminded me of the risks I take when I brave the unknown. I will continue to exercise maximum caution as I make my decisions. I didn’t know the man in the Red T-shirt, but I will never forget about him and the lesson he taught me. I hope he had a good life.


We left the town after a great week. It wasn’t easy after making so many friends in such a good community. We drove to Hood River, OR to kayak the truss with friends from last summer. It was awesome to be back hanging out with old friends in the place that I intend to live in the near future.
                For a few days we would wake up early, paddle the Truss, and find ways to waste our time the rest of the day. Every night we’d find new ways to set up our hammocks to sleep under the stars. Some friends we met in Idaho came paddle with us for a few days. It was fun to show them down the rivers that I know after they had shown me down their local runs.
                After many good days of kayaking Sam I and headed north to the Olympic Coast. We backpacked in through some of the most beautiful and unique landscapes in the country. As I arrived I put my feet in the water and felt a calm sense of accomplishment as I achieved my vision of starting the summer swimming in the Atlantic and driving all the way to the opposite ocean. I hung my hammock up on some large driftwood trees that had floated in from the sea. We had no sense of time as the sky was so hazy we couldn’t see the sun. This was the last big trip that Sam and I made together on this trip. We both became absorbed in thoughts of our experiences. I reflected on all the opposing forces of change that has shaped me into who I am.
                The community of dirtbag kayakers living in their cars traveling around the country is a special one. Rather than living in congested cities, these kayakers choose to chase the wild of living the river lifestyle. When you embraces this lifestyle, the road becomes your home. There are a few havens scattered across the country where these paddlers will congregate. The places to go are dictated by the water levels. Many of the friends I have met on this trip I have only known for only a few weeks, yet I feel like I’ve known many of them for years. When you share the river with someone your friendship grows quickly as you spend your days enjoying the best of times together all while knowing that it won’t last. I feel like I’m in between two worlds right now. I have lived my whole previous life so differently from this and I have left it behind. For now this is my life and this community is my new family. As I continue to move forward I will have to walk a fine line between these two worlds as both are extremely important to me.

                Sam and I exchanged goodbyes as I dropped him off at Portland Airport. As I drove away I felt a new determination to achieve everything that I’ve ever dreamed of. I am truly on my own now and I couldn’t be more excited. There is nothing stopping me from following the path in life that I have dreamed of. I feel full of confidence that I can do anything and be anything that I put my mind to.
Pacific Northwest

The Town

Somewhere in America exists a town that is truly unique. The town is comprised of one café, a couple raft guide companies, and one of these best rivers in the United States. The river is what brings people here and the community is what makes people stay. The majority of the working population of this town is comprised of raft guides in their early adulthood. The center of town is the café where everybody will lazily congregate when not working or kayaking. Time moves differently here. There is no cell phone reception here and therefore little need for technologies’ distractions.
It is a town of extremes. The down time spent in the café is contrasted by the thrill and fear of kayaking one of the most deadly sections of whitewater in America. The friendships formed here are also extreme in their own way. This is a place that fosters strong and deep connections with people you may never see again when the season on the river comes to a close. The town is a temporary home for those misfits of society that choose to spend their summers living broke, dirty, and happy.
The river is the lifeblood of this town. When the river is in season people flock from around the world to experience it. When it gets cold most people will leave. Friendships blossom from sharing the river together. People from all skill levels will kayak together and no one is excluded. At night people will camp together, share stories, and get wild. Memories are made that will last a lifetime.
From a surface level the town is pleasant, but doesn’t look like much. If you commit yourself to the lifestyle of wandering in pursuit of good people and fun water you will likely stumble upon this paradise. The few amount of people here is what makes this community special and why I will leave it unnamed. Like most wild and beautiful parts of the country it may fall victim to population growth. For now its luster remains.
This town has given me a lot. For the moment it felt like home. I’m grateful to have found it and to have been so generously included in the community. I will think back to my experiences here often as a guide of how I’d like to live my life in the future.

The Town

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Island

On the coast of Olympic National Park there exists many islands that lie beyond the shore. The resistance of the destructive powers of the ocean have created a unique juxtaposition. Thousands of years of erosion have pushed back the cliff line and scattered monolithic islands remain as gravestones to mark what once was. One island in particular captured my attention. Through the power of inertia, this island stands strong. Its seawards face is weathered and barren while its opposite side is full of life.  Strength and submission dictate the working forces of nature. The nature of water is to disintegrate anything in its path. The nature of stone is to remain unmoved. The nature of life seeks to grow and expand everywhere it can. These opposing forces work together in harmony to produce a work of art. A living, unlikely, and temporary beauty to behold.