Hello and Happy Monday! I hope you’re checking in after a great June weekend – hopefully a summery one at that. I’m fresh off the river and enjoyed a relaxing evening with our friends Ryan and Susan who work with YD Adventures and led our kayaking trip. The morning began with church downstairs (they live in the upstairs of a small church in Emmett, Idaho) complete with some of my favorite hymns (“When We All Get to Heaven” and “How Great Thou Art”) and big-haired older women. Later we went to an evening church service in Boise where we rocked out to electric guitar praise music with many a mainly young adult congregation and heard a great sermon on living a lifestyle of giving in a series called the “The Generosity Revolution.” After not going to church for a little over two months after traveling on the road for the tour and being away for our Wilderness First Aid week, it was incredibly refreshing to my heart to worship God with others and hear from the Bible in a community of people. I always love going to church with Mikey and sharing that experience together, but he left before church since he’s headed to Camp Mak-A-Dream in Montana to show the film with our friend Vik (a survivor who’s also in the film!). It was a long drive and the festivities begin today, so he had to take off while I’m staying down for a second kayaking trip – the first-ever all women’s trip on the Owyhee River! I’m thrilled to be a part of the trip but first wanted to update you on last week’s Survive & Thrive YACC trip. In short, it was a meaningful, unique, and powerful trip. Get ready for a long post! Here’s a brief look at our time together beginning in Jordan Valley at the JV Cafe in Oregon after meeting everyone at the Boise International Airport…
After our last meal in civilization, we drove the final stretch of highway into the wilderness to the put-in at Rome, Oregon where we made camp, learned about river safety and had our first evening discussion under a beautiful sky.
We woke up the next morning full of eager anticipation to begin the kayaking, praying that the forecast of rain storms would be wrong. The kayaking began and the forecast was right. We watched the clouds move in across the river valley and immediately after everyone had their dry bags packed, drops started falling from the sky. It was a long morning learning to kayak in the rain but despite the cold, we pushed off and headed out into the storm, no complaints heard from this incredible group of survivors!
Day 2 on the river began with our morning quiet time as we reflected on the thought for the day which was centered on the trip’s theme, “Stories.” Every day was a different stage of the narrative storyline, beginning with Exposition and moving through Rising Action, the Climax, Falling Action and the Resolution. Mikey and I are passionate about empowering others to share their stories, and we chose this storyline as a way to not only learn about our own stories effectively, but then enable others to help share their own. Spirits were high even after a rough start to the trip, but the sunshine helped greatly to get us moving and on the water, which was flowing at 5,000 cfs (cubic feet per second). If that doesn’t mean much to you, simply consider that we usually run the river at only 200 – 300 cfs! This meant all the rocks we normally learn to avoid and navigate around were more than covered, which was great for people not getting hurt in rapids after flipping but much scarier for rescues as the water was moving!
Breakfast with Joel and a morning hike before kayaking on Day 2.
Sights around camp: cooking dinner, eating it up and another great sunset…
Later that day, the weather turned again: the sun disappeared and dark storm clouds moved in quickly. It was a tough day because people were really cold, and as they were shivering in the middle of a rapid named “Widow Maker,” the rain came down and came down HARD. As it was pelting us, the water continued to move us swiftly down the river while boat after boat began to flip. As guides, this was our most intense moment on the river that week as we frantically tried to help people back in their boats and keep them from floating downstream, rain still pouring down from the sky. Although there were some heart-rate pumping moments that day, we made it to camp, the rain having let up some and the group thankful to be on the beach. The guys instantly began pulling dry bags off the girls’ boat and setting up our mega-tent, the Pavilion, making shelter fast and offering to set up the kitchen under some tarps while we changed inside. It was incredible to see these men band together to help us out, and from then on we were a united group, coming together after some tough days and grateful to go to bed warm and dry, all 15 of us inside the tent!
The next few days included a stop in some natural hot springs, a lunch stop on a great beach, and another rainstorm that moved in at night, causing everyone who risked sleeping under the stars and calm skies to run into the tent at midnight! This time we fit 15 people plus 3 bushes inside and slept soundly while the rain and wind raged outside.
The next morning, on Day 4, I turned 26 and celebrated by hiking up a beautiful mountain in Chalk Basin with the group, paddling rain-free down some huge, fun waves and sleeping in a cave! I even got a birthday song and an Oreo with a
flaming stick candle in it to boot.
There is so much more to say about the trip…from this point on the weather improved, making us so much more grateful for the sunshine and huge hits on the water! The thing that struck me with everyone on the trip is that no one ever complained, not even once – not during the storms, the cold, the flips. I was so inspired by everyone’s attitudes and going through those difficult first few days united us, made us stronger and added an epic dimension to the experience as a whole.
I leave you with some fun photos and one last story that left a huge impression on us all:
While some of the highlights occurred every night (incredible, raw moments of sharing and vulnerability; Ryan’s readings-by-headlamp of the hilarious author Pat McManus and his outdoor exploits as a child), one of my favorite stories to share from this trip occurred at the very end.
Normally on the Owyhee River we are totally alone and we never come across other rafters or kayakers – the river is usually just too low to raft and it’s not a well-known river for kayaking in the summer. This trip, however, with the raging water levels, was incredibly different as we ran into many groups on the water. At our last camp called Greely Bar, we pulled in and made camp just before about 5 other groups floated by, making us very grateful we got this incredible spot on the river for our last night under the stars! We took a hike to a hot springs and sat there, relaxing and chatting, when a group of 4 guys rafted and kayaked by, waving and asking if they could camp on the upper area of the beach. We said sure and thought nothing of it.
Just after we finished up dinner, one of the guys from that group, Dixon, came over quietly and asked to speak to Ryan, our trip leader. He asked if we wanted some “real” food (which is hard to come by on the river unless you raft and have a cooler!) and gave us some tortilla chips, fresh organic salsa, and an avocado. He came back after a bit, but at the time, with his bloodshot eyes and assuming he leads a “rafting lifestyle,” we thought he might be high! As it turns out, he was actually crying! He was trying to take a nap and couldn’t sleep because he felt prompted by God to pray for someone from our group with a specific right shoulder injury and also wanted to share that there was someone in the group who was carrying a heavy burden by themselves but wanted them to know that they didn’t have to do it alone. Susan has had a right shoulder injury for 4 years and hasn’t slept well through the nights for a long time. Dixon asked if he could pray for her and did so, asking her afterward to move her shoulder and see how it felt. Immediately, she could move it in ways she couldn’t do, and then did 36 push ups after not being able to do more than 5 in ages! Today, 5 days after her shoulder being healed, she’s doing great – sleeping soundly and being able to move well! This act floored the group when Susan and Ryan came back and told us how what happened, and it became a highlight of the entire trip for several people. It was an unbelievable experience and a moment where God reached down from Heaven and showed himself to our group in a powerful and real way.
While there, we ate fast and furious and large portions! There was also several of these going around the table:
Bottomless root beer floats for $3…can you believe that?!
The trip was incredible and I can hardly believe it’s over – so much anticipation for one trip and we’re already looking forward to next year! I’m heading out on the river tomorrow night for my next trip and feel excited but apprehensive – a new group of people with a new group of guides on another expedition with a new water level…here’s to a new adventure! Thanks for following along with the trip and being a support to what we’re doing – God continues to lead, guide, and act on our behalf and we are thrilled to be along for the ride.
Huck it huge and keep living well! Catch you guys on the flip side,