I think I start every Survive & Thrive Expeditions recap post with the same thoughts: “I can’t believe we lived anther experience with amazing people…” “What an incredible trip!” “Hard to believe we’re back to ‘real’ life in Calgary again…” And yet here I am again, trying to put to words our experience on the river with a group of people who were fully engaged, dove in and opened up in a stunning wilderness environment.
It’s hard to recap any wilderness trip, especially one that is so life-changing for people because of the supportive community they find themselves in. If you’ve never spent a chunk of time outside, unsupported by the comforts of home (indeed, even without a tent and under many evening storms), it’s hard to really understand what can happen and know the lingering effects that a trip like this can have on your life. Mikey and I hold Survive & Thrive Cancer Programs very loosely because we never know what the next year will hold (moving?financial stress? different jobs? babies?) so we really soak up this trip when it happens every year, and this trip was no exception.
Here’s a glimpse at what happens on a typical Owyhee River trip:
Over the few months before, participants get their med forms done (very thorough forms filled out by their doctors) and supporters also send us their information. We communicate throughout these months, answering typical questions about what to bring and what to expect without giving it all away (participants might argue that we don’t even come close to giving anything away…But hey, there are some things that you just need to experience 😉 ) and the excitement builds!
The Trip Begins:
We meet at the Boise, Idaho airport in person for the first time. How much courage does it take for strangers to fly out to meet other strangers for a wilderness adventure trip? LOTS. We are always proud of the group simply for showing up – it takes guts, trust and a real sense of adventure.
Then we drive to the put-in site in Rome, Oregon to meet the guides, but not before our last meal in civilization at the JV Cafe. We show up and totally take over this small town’s diner, and it’s always a fun way to start the trip!
Then we meet our guides (in addition to Mikey and I, who are happy to keep our skills fresh with this river trip each year) – this year it was Ryan, Susan and Luke – from YD Adventures, Idaho and spend some time sharing expectations, reasons why we came, and begin our river talk.
There is a lot of information to cover and it begins that night! Everyone is typically weary from full days of travel and meeting people, so we turn in, excited for what’s to come with lots of nerves floating around the group too!
The next morning, post-breakfast (which is always Costco muffins – aka cake! 😀 – and bananas), we learn to pack dry bags, distribute group gear and meals, and pack our extra clean clothes away in the car. We then learn to pack our boats and do some paddle practice, learning strokes, high siding, and get the general feel for movement on the water. And THEN…it’s time to take off!
The Daily Flow:
Wake up to Ryan yelling out, “Hot drinks! Get your hot drinks!” Emerge from our sleeping bags and tarp set ups, where we may or may not be a bit damp from the previous night’s storm, and make it to the table for, in my case, some instant coffee. We buy Starbucks Via for the group because it’s the best in terms of instant coffee, and we’ve found out that you can’t mess around when it comes to coffee for adults on trips! 😉 Then Mikey and I pass out a reflection with an activity and question to the group for our morning quiet time and we spend some time by ourselves, coffee in hand, writing in our journals and letting our minds begin to churn and walls around our hearts start to break down.
Then, it’s breakfast! We eat, pack up and hit the river.
We pull over and eat lunch on the river, quickly or with more leisure depending on the weather and how many miles we still have to paddle.
And after more paddling (and hopefully not many bumps, bruises or flips along the way), we reach our beach for the night! Everyone unloads their gear and we start making camp – our personal camp sites as well as contributing group gear and appropriate meals to the designated kitchen area. Typically there’s some downtime here while guides cook the meal and then we eat as a group our evening circle and laugh or wince or cry or smile through our “high’s and low’s” of the day.
We share more based on that day’s theme from the morning quiet time and there are amazing moments in the evening as well as throughout each day as we share our lives together and dig in as a community.
We debrief about the coming day and then hit the hay, only to wake up again and solidify this new normal, new pace, new flow of our days as a group. There are more stories, more fun videos, more tough moments on the river, more examples of change and friendships forged than I can convey. What a gift it is to be able to do these trips and have these experiences with young adult survivors and supporters alike.
The hikes and rapids and long hours paddling through flat water allow for meaningful conversations as together we reflect, refocus and rebuild our lives post-cancer. I am so thankful for this part of our lives and grateful to see how God has indeed used this negative event in our lives for eventual positive effects.
And guess what? We just had 2 people cancel for our next trip adventuring on Lake Superior in a voyageur canoe NEXT WEEK! You want a spot? Bring a supporter or find another cancer survivor friend to come along! All info at this link; please share so we can adventure with a full trip of people ready to reflect, refocus & rebuild!
It’s good to be back and exciting to be packing this summer full(er than normal) of incredible trips just like this. Thanks to all for the prayers and support and input in our lives along the way! Live well & be well (and stay tuned for the fun post-Owyhee this year too, which I’ve bene documenting via Instagram)!
Bonnie (and Mike)