Coffee, Rapids, and Yoga: Life On The Rogue River
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The sun rose early, draping itself over the trees, rocky earth, and lastly, the rushing river. I held my coffee close, cradling it against my body, eager to soak up every last drop of cool morning air before the sun touched my toes, arms, and eventually face. Which is also right around when the coffee loses its magic, giving way to a day filled with uninterrupted fun.
There's nothing quite like it. The still of the earth and sound of silence echoing in your ears.
Every year, as the date of the raft trip nears, I think about just how much my body craves this time away from routine. Away from the piece of paper that I keep on my desk, reminding me of all the bills I have yet to pay, doctor visits I need to schedule, and supplements I have yet to take.
Now, I'm not meaning to say that these things aren't important, it's more so about reminding ourselves that taking time away from our normal schedule can actually help improve mood, energy, and creativity levels, all while giving a new perspective on the projects and ideas that are waiting at home.
Regardless, this craving for wild, unedited, technology-less, and sandy filled fun, pulls me deep to the heart of who I am, what I love, and how much the outdoors really means to me. Not only that, but I get to spend a whole four days with my family, though we always end up missing a few members due to summer fishing in Alaska. I mean, someone's got to work, right?
Packing, Snacking, and Meal (as well as, Mental) Preparation
Familiar to anyone who is a frequent rafter, a raft trip is not possible without the meticulous planning of meals, sorting of dry bags, and divvying up of tasks; everyone has their part to play, even if that means cleaning out the dust from last years coffee cups.
Every year we have had the tradition of sprawling out and organizing our gear on the driveway of Tuckaway Farm, home to my grandparents, Bob and Sue. Once we have gone grocery shopping, gathered the gear, people, permits, rafts, and trailers, we begin to assemble what looks like pieces from one, two, or even three different complex puzzles, always slightly unsure of whether or not everything is going to fit in the trucks, let alone the rafts when we actually get on the river.
Windows down, phones shut off, and bags packed; we're on our way to the Rogue River as I glance down at the items below my now tucked up feet, analyzing the bag that contains my medicine, wondering if I brought enough. Which is right around when I dive down the all too familiar rabbit hole of internal questioning.
I take a look at my motives, lining them up one my one in my head: Is a trip like this possible right now? Should I be risking the progress I've made for a little bit of fun? What if something happens? What if I ruin it for everyone?
On it goes, my mind dancing between comparison to what the "old me" would have done, to the idea that I'm not strong enough, or worthy enough, to be taking time away when there is so much left unanswered. So much left unresolved.
That's it. That's it right there, the very thing that causes this unnecessary pressure in the first place. After all, we all have stones left unturned, questions that need to be answered, and pain, whether it be physical or mental, that we must learn to recognize as something real, allow ourselves to feel it, then move away, slowly, one kind thought and new adventure at a time. And even if we can't ever fully rid ourselves of these feelings (something we shouldn't necessarily strive for), we are in control of how we process them.
Of whether or not we allow them to take the wheel and make these kinds of decisions for us, or if we choose to ask them to sit quietly in the back seat.
Chances are, I will be able to do this. Chances are, I am strong enough to take past experiences and build off them, even lean into them when I feel the need to dig deeper and learn from all that they had to offer. Chances are, I will feel tired for much of this trip, and I will at times, even want to give up. I might even continue to question whether or not I am worthy of such a trip. But just like those very real emotions keep circling back, so will my will to keep going. So will my determination to let go. So will my desire for adventure and curiosity that has brought me this far.
Whether or not I realize it, I am, and you are, ready to face that next thing.
Night Sky, The Launch, and Internal Detoxing
I could see a light shining bright through the mesh in the truck, I rolled over, trying not to disturb the rest of my sleeping family only ten or so feet away. Slowly, I slid open the windows, the landscape bursting with life underneath the full moon.
Our rafts, kitchen set up, and unmade coffee waiting for the night to giveaway to day, and the cool air to dissipate beneath the heavy blanket of summer warmth.
Adam was the first one to wake, which almost became a unintentional habit at the days rolled on (more on that later). By the time we all emerged from our respective sleeping places, the coffee had been brewed and placed within our reach, thereby gathering at the foot of the truck and bed of the trailer to discuss last night's illuminated sky while sipping on not your average cuppa joe. Cory, my mom, sported one of the best river outfits I have ever seen: tie die pants, chacos with wool socks, a stripped skirt, and puffy blue jacket, while the rest of us looked down at our now, rather boring, river attire.
Finally, we managed pull ourselves away from a lazy morning coffee session to pack up the gear, collect our permits, inflate the kayaks, and untie the raft in preparation for launch. As I nestled between gear, coolers, sunscreen, and our "ready" bags, I found thinking about a typical morning back home, becoming even more thankful for an adventure like this, and all the benefits (both mental and physical) that can come from it if we allow ourselves to let go of expectations and routine.
As you might already know, just as it is important to rid ourselves of toxins that might either be preventing us from getting better, or damaging our body further, it is also important to dig deeper. To not just think of the supplements, medications, and other (wonderful) resources that help to keep our system intact, but to also take into consideration other, and often more damaging toxins, such as negative thoughts and emotions, bitterness, angst, and the act of holding onto things that don't feed into our wellbeing, happiness, and over all mental health.
This purposeful act of flushing these negative emotions out of our body, on a daily, or weekly basis, takes determination. It's takes being ok with slipping up.
Being ok with forgiving ourselves for moments when the weight it simply too much. Being ok with being perfectly imperfect in moments of pain, uncertainty, and self doubt.
Sean Finally Flips and Thoughts On Change
On the last raft trip we went on, Sean (my cousin), never flipped. So, after our wasp filled lunch ended, and we piled back into the two rafts, and for some of us, kayaks, we had the pleasure of watching Adam and Sean take on some of the first bigger rapids of the trip. Now, I don't want you to think that I enjoy watching people fly out of their kayaks, rather, it stemmed from that last trip where I had either slid, flew, or had fallen out of the kayak a total of five times (while sporting a broken foot!), and as you know, Sean cruised through the entire trip flip-free.
That being said, once I saw that they made it through any potentially dangerous sections of the rapid, I have admit I was a little bit excited to change the now running score from Chloe: 5 and Sean: 0, to, Chloe: 5 and Sean: 1. Not that I'm keeping track or anything...
Things did feel different. There was this strain in my lungs that wasn't there before, an aching in my neck that throbbed heavier now that the inflammation seems to have gotten worse, and a timidness that felt new and terrifying.
A timidness that kept me in the raft and out of the water. However, the more I thought about it, the more I could see just how far I had come.
After all, despite these new symptoms, I was no longer shaking with uncontrollable force, twitching every other breath, or unable to walk without holding onto something every couple feet; I had come so far, yet in this moment, it felt like I had taken leaps and bounds back to a place that felt all too familiar, yet at the same time, very different.
So, I put my hands in my lap, faced forward, and mind to the river, focusing on the world around me, rather than turning back to that haunting comparison of what I thought the "old me" would have done.
The joy-filled moments have brought us just as far as the fear-filled moments, and we are the ones that get to decide whether or not we view them as a weakness or a strength. As every reason to give up, or every reason to keep moving forward. So, with sun-soaked skin, the emerging of the infamous Chaco tan line, and hungry stomachs, we rolled into one of our favorite camps, Horseshoe Bend.
Wonderment, Front Row Seats, and Morning Yoga
We found ourselves nestled in a small valley placed above the bend of the rushing river, basking in the silence, and feeling lucky to have landed such a perfect spot for our second night; the night was still, moon barely reaching above the tree covered hillsides.
We found ourselves nestled in a small valley placed just above the bend of the rushing river, basking in the silence, and feeling lucky to have landed such a perfect spot. The night was still, moon barely reaching above the tree covered hillsides; here, I was able to set everything aside.
Here, I was forced to look at all that is right rather than focusing on the things that I need to fix. Here, I feel like I can see it all without having to open my eyes.
I feel like I can breathe without strain. Without the need to rush from one thing to the next. Here, this silence and isolation, it's encouraging me to be present with how very right my life is right now. With how very right things are here, as well as back home.
Certain I had slipped off my mat, I scooted up, the sound of my sleeping bag against my pad causing restlessness among the nearby sleepers. How did I possibly get so lucky to land myself here? Land myself in a place nestled so far from home, yet somehow still blanketing me in the simple comforts of my bed, morning coffee, delicious food (thank you, mom!) and good company, as well as front row seats to a still world, a peaceful world.
I rolled over, Adam only a few yards away, though barely visible through the mesh of the tent. With his camera bag gone, and the smell of coffee in the air, I had the sudden urge to gather my flannel and socks, and slip into the early morning light, careful to not miss my first sip of coffee while the air was still cool. While the deer across the river still played.
After we all had coffee in our system and food in our stomachs, I felt like the obvious next activity was a little downward dog, warrior one, and possible even warrior two. Yep, I had yoga on the brain. So, just as the sun began to peak around the trees, and the last mug was washed, we circled up, rose our hands to the sky, and attempted to do what I like to think of as river yoga: slightly less structured and more chatty than your typical yoga class.
A Potential Storm, Stepping Stones, and Sitting With Myself
We paddled against the heavy gusts of wind, working ever so hard to keep us in the same place. At times, it would ease up, giving us a brief window to play catch up with our surroundings and to make progress on our mileage. Goosebumps began to cover my skin, making this summer's day feel more like Fall - a few of us even put on more layers, momentarily wishing the river would give way to a glassy, lake-like mass of water instead of rushing white-topped rapids.
Rounding the corner to a our potential camping spot, a place we ended up calling, The Terraces, we noticed that the sun was still high in the sky, which would give us enough time to explore, read, eat a leisurely lunch, and even take a quick nap. As we de-layered, unpacked the rafts, and went about our individual activities, I found myself wandering along the stone covered shore, listening to the willows rustle in the wind while the hawks made many valiant attempts to catch their dinner, or possibly dinner for their young.
I clambered over some nearby rocks, high enough to be able to see down stream at our camp, where it looked like nearly everyone had piled into a raft for a quick hike across the shore, but close enough to the river that I still felt like I had front row seats to the hawk vs. fish debacle.
Purple wild flowers swayed back and forth as the river smoothed the stones to it's liking, making each individual one stand out against the next, leaving room for the imperfections that come from change.
From being a stone beneath the surface of an ever moving force of nature.
While looking at these stones, I couldn't help but tell myself that I should be doing something else. That this activity, though soothing and quite therapeutic, was a waste of my time.
It was sudden, this feeling, almost as if I had encountered it before... almost as if, time and time again, I've let this voice take me throughout my day, from one activity to the next, pushing aside the quiet moments while hastily grabbing the noisy ones. The ones deemed worthy of my time. However, this time, I fought back. Encouraging the quiet to stay a little longer. To make itself comfortable next to my beating heart, throbbing head, and anxious thoughts, and to my surprise, the longer I sat, the more comfortable I felt.
Nestling even further into the rocky earth; here I was, sitting with myself. Sitting with the quiet amidst the chaos.
Here I am, motivated by what I've seen I can do, by the little things, the things that remind me to slow down. To sit and watch the stones turn.
Mule Creek Canyon, Connection, and Adrenaline
Tree covered hillsides gave way to narrowing rock walls, pushing the river up and us with it; here we were in Mule Creek Canyon, one of my favorite parts of the entire Rogue River experience. With just one day left, I kept having to stop my thoughts from diving back into the world back home so quickly, especially while we were on such an incredible and unique part of the river.
While letting the movement of the river sway me ever so slightly from right to left, I closed my eyes, imaging myself on a boat with my brother and cousin in Alaska, then sitting on the dock next to Bob and Sue at Tuckaway Farm. And even though I removed myself from that moment, it had a way of brining me closer to the people that aren't here, to the places I wish to go, and things that have yet to be crossed off my bucket list.
By closing my eyes, I am able to connect myself with the world around me through feeling; humbled by how very comforted and at home I feel in such a wild place.
As the rock walls towered above us, I could not only see, but feel the change in the water; the remaining rapids subsided, leaving in their wake what looked like a boiling pot of coffee, only turquoise in color. There was barely enough room for our rafts, let alone oars, so trying to navigate around this area was near to impossible. So, with our fingers crossed and massive smiles on our faces, we bumped our way through Mule Creek Canyon, one failed attempt at a change in direction at a time.
Once the valley flattened out, and we regained full control of our rafts, we were only given a short amount of time until our next big venture: Blossom Bar, the notoriously tricky, and often dangerous (if done wrong), part of the Rogue.
Scattered rocks from years of fluctuating river flows made up the vast majority of this rapid, I could begin to feel the anxiety building in my chest - but on second thought, this might actually be adrenaline. Woah, I haven't felt this in awhile, so much so that I was intrigued by the power that it held over my thoughts and actions. Sure, I was nervous for myself, but more so the idea that something could go wrong, that someone could be hurt.
Just like pretty much every other slightly terrifying situation, the best you can do is your best, and the rest is up to the soon-to-be-known outcome.
Up next? A long stretch of calm, a few scattered rapids, and the discovery of our new favorite camping spot, Lower Solitude. Which by the way, is far superior to, Upper Solitude; a camp we happily passed just moments before.
Disclaimer: All was well and we made it out without a single scratch or bruise. As it does, the adrenaline wore off, and with it my energy, leaving me in a dazed state of happiness and relief that everyone made it through alright.
And So It Goes...
The light was bouncing off the water and onto the ceiling of the amphitheater, creating an ongoing dance between shadows and light, and if you looked up, you could see the particles of dust and small bugs swimming in the air, eventually getting swept up by the rays of midday sun. This fairy cove was about ten minutes off river and up a small stream, curving between boulders and fallen trees. The trek over, between, and through small gaps in the rock made this place even more spectacular;
the roots of weathered trees wound their way into the ice cold water, branches stretched across the rock, dangling just above the steady stream that fed into this turquoise blue pool.
After a few brave souls clambered up, and slid back down through the small waterfall, we said our goodbyes and clambered, splashed, and crawled our way back through the rocks and fallen trees and to our rafts. With only a few hours left on the river, we were ready to soak up as much river sun as we would.
After one last lunch stop, and a few more rapids, we found ourselves rounding the corner to our take out, a moment that we did our best to push out of our sun-soaked and white water filled thoughts.
It's been quite awhile since quite awhile since I've felt confident in my writing, though I am beginning to realize that there is not point in beating myself up over something that comes and goes. Something (by something I mean creativity) that feeds off of time spend away from my computer, scribbling down my thoughts here and there as moments to look back on. After all, its that time away, that distance, that allows me to see the same place, thoughts, or situation in a different light. With new eyes and a fresh perspective on how I get to create.
On how I get to share with the world my voice.
So, as I sit here, cradling my coffee in the early morning light, house still except for the gentle hum of cars through the screen in our windows, thoughts begin to whirl around me, and the fear that what I got out of this trip is no longer relevant weighs heavy on my shoulders.
Despite this restlessness, I somehow find a kind of contentment. A contentment nestled amidst the chaos that my mind so often run towards when it believes that the battle has been lost.
Over the past couple weeks, where much of my time has been spent away from my daily routine, a different kind of curiosity has found its way into the inner workings of my mind. A curiosity that sees these experiences for what they are, rather than what I think they should be. So, instead of finishing this story from the perspective of Chloe two weeks ago, I will share with you what this experience means to me now, and how it has carried over into my day-to-day.
I no longer find myself running from idea that feeling things deeply is a burden. That rapid mood swings prevent me from creating and that every part of my future needs to be analyzed, planned, and figured out right this very moment.
In fact, I would say that I find myself settling into a place that allows me to take on a whole new idea on what it means to be creative, and how I choose to present my creativity to the world.
Instead of trying to hold onto the moments where I am able to write 1,000 words a day, I am allowing them to come and go, realizing that in order for me to have these days, I need time away, and for me, time away looks like this. Looks like a raft trip on the Rogue River, time spent with my family, and fleeting thoughts jotted down in my notebook. You know how when you look back to say, five years ago, you often think, 'gosh, why did I do that?' or, 'wow, I used to get so much done!' Even, 'I would never be friends with myself then.' Well, we can have those same thoughts in the span of a couple weeks, or even days.
When this constant comparison to the things we wish we hadn't done, or wish we could do now, find themselves intertwined in our self worth, we can lose track of our accomplishments, or rather, see them as less than they are, displaying who we are now as never being enough.
As either two steps forward or two steps back.
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Just think of all the possibilities when we allow ourselves to see where we are right now as a beautifully pieced together puzzle of everything we have done and all the things we have yet to do. So, let's meet ourselves right here right now, shall we? Let's listen to our heart and take the time to do the things that fill us up. That encourage us to be the best we can possibly be.
Who knows where we will end up, and that's ok, I'm just happy to have made it this far and to be exactly where I am right now.