Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Rogue River, A Dog's Perspective

The Rogue river is a beautiful place. It flows through southern Oregon, towards the coast. It was a friday afternoon when I realized that my person was  packing up the truck, I was out in the yard, playing with my ball. We would sleep near the put in and launch in the morning. The weekend was looking to be marvelous… we were ready for an adventure.

 Adventure: Exploration of unknown territory.

Now, I’ve been able to do quite a few things in my year of life - living with my human, skiing, chair lift rides, snowmobiles, canoes, trucks, planes and trains, I’d even been in a kayak before this trip, but something told me this trip would be a little different. I loaded up the kayak when I was asked, but this time it was different… my person was floating in a different kayak than me, and the kayak I was in was full of stuff and a person who I wasn’t so sure even knew anything about navigating rivers… This certainly qualified as unknown territory... but I was happy to be smelling new smells and seeing new things. Everything went quite smoothly getting to the water, we were floating by 1030 AM Saturday morning.

Things got exciting right from the start. I was just cruising along, in my ruff wear float coat, watching my person float alongside, then the river seemed to get a bit more… rowdy. I was getting rocked back and forth, I wasn’t scared… but… well yeah, maybe a little, ok I was scared, I didn’t know what was happening, but can you blame me? I was nervous for my person, and the person in charge of me… well he seemed to be doing just fine… but I didn’t know what to do, so I thought I would try climbing up on his lap while we went through the turbulent water… turns out he didn’t think that was such a good idea. But I stayed and… I got wet. Real wet. Then it was quiet again, so I stood tall, at the front of the boat, I didn’t want anyone to think I was scared or anything. I wasn’t. 

I finally started to get the hang of this whole rapid thing after a handful of waves came crashing over my head, and though I never got used to the wet water, I was actually starting to have a lot of fun… so I would stand up as tall as I could just before the river got too scary, I mean, rough, and then I would lay down, and look over the front as the waves came crashing into us! It was awesome! and then we flipped. What the… I found myself swimming, which was a little concerning to me, I was mostly nervous for jeff, and where is Shannon? There she is, next thing I know my person grabs me out from the water and I’m standing on her boat… which was a bit more challenging than the blue boat… but I was happy to be out of the water. Only to get right back in the boat… and flip again! What the, ok Jeff, get it together dude. This time I wasn’t as nervous, in fact it was kinda fun swimming through the water, especially with my float coat, watching Shannon paddle over and swoop me up and out of the water. Jeff didn’t seem quite as happy… but he seemed to get it all together shortly, cause we didn’t flip anymore on our way to camp. Camp… We got to a cool little beach about 5 o clock and just hung out in the sand, all of us, it was awesome! and …. AND. I saw a bear. Yup, it was across the river, and I barked at it, and barked and barked and it left, and I was brave.

I got to sleep in the sand next to the river, I made sure the bears stayed out of our camp, I loved sleeping under the stars with my person and my boat mate. It was perfect. The morning was quite exceptional as well, Shannon ran around taking photographs, and it smelled like they made muffins for breakfast, I ate dog food, out of a frisbee. 

We ran  a lot of rapids on this day, and they were scary! Yes, I’ll say it, it was bit concerning, but it was so cool. We went through a canyon called kesley canyon, and then we went through a canyon called Mule canyon, and it was so cool, the water was all bubbly, and the rapids were big, and I was a little scared and I think that Jeff was a little scared too, but we did it. We did so good. I loved it! Then we got out and looked at a rapid called Blossom Bar, and it turns out that it was a really scary rapid, but Jeff, my boat mate and captain, led us through without issue. It was so fun, and Shannon seemed pleased as well! 

I was so tired when we got to camp, it was really a neat camp, just big enough for our party of three… I crawled back into the boat and went to sleep right after I ate my dinner. I was happy.

It rained most of the night, but it was ok, because I snuggled up in the tent and stayed dry. I was so tired! I woke up and we loaded up the boats again, and were off… I couldn’t believe how quiet it was on the river, really it was quite remarkable… 

We paddled about 10 more miles on our last morning, and we got back to the truck. I’ll tell ya, I was a little scared sometimes, yes, it’s true, but I was also really brave, and it turns out I really like self support kayaking trips. I really like rivers, and I life is good when you’re a dog, in a boat, on a river, with your people.

Happy days.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Middle Fork Salmon

It was late in May when my correspondence began with Fat Newty ... we were discussing options to paddle. As fate would have it, we ended up rallying to the middle fork of the salmon. I left the airport in inyokern at 5 in the morning, I arrived to LA with enough time to catch a meal with a good friend of mine. My life had been consumed with work, kayak instruction and high school students. I was ready for a break. I arrived in Salt Lake City. I was greeted by a tall skinny stranger called fat newty and his riding partner Alan Peacock. I couldn't be happier. We were northbound, heading to one of the greatest places on earth. boundary creek.

We loaded our boats, three kayaks, three kayakers, with wag bags, and food, tents, and sleeping bags of the down variety. We were ready for adventure. Day one gave us a bit of rain, some nice cloud cover and a reason to climb into the hot springs as soon as we set up camp. We were fortunate enough to find ourselves camping at sunflower hot springs, river right camp. It was a small camp, just big enough for our team of three. 

Hot pizza was on the menu for me that night, the air was cool and crisp, the hot springs were magically soothing on my tired little body. We were on the water by 10 or so that first day and made it to camp around 5. The water level was perfect for a trip like this, it certainly did not feel challenging to paddle the distances that we did. I recall maintaining quite a consistent schedule each day. Wake up around 6-7, breakfast, break camp, on the water by 9. Take a break at 11. Eat lunch about 1. Paddle until 3 or so, perhaps another break, and to camp between 4-5. It was absolutely perfect. 

Sunflower Hot springs. 

AP at camp 1, unloading his kayak. 

Challenge Accepted ... Crow Pose 

All smiles... All Smiles. 

The Black Knight. Floating quite nicely in his element. 

I can't remember the name of our second camp, but it included a short hike up a hill. There were elephant graves and trenches at this camp. We each failed to refrain from wagging at camp as we had intended, my wag fit nicely into a pineapple can... you read that right. There were a lot of laughs shared at camp, stories, star gazing, stretching, and existing in the amazing place that is the impassible canyon. 

The water level was super fun, friendly big waves, curlers, and plenty of things to boof. How fun to be messing about in little boats, full of our gear, slowly making our way through the canyon. I love the diversity of the middle fork. There is so much to see. the scenes changing around each corner. 

I certainly love being in this place. 

Very grateful for these two guys. Lunch at this beach was perfect, we spent a long time resting in the sun, naps were had, we swam, we ate. The rapids each day were quite remarkable, especially the half dozen that led up to this lunch spot, the canyon narrowed providing extremely fun wave trains and splashing water. 

Camp Three. Fishing and toes in the sand. I had a nap on my own private island, fatty fished for fishes, AP even got his camera out I noticed. This was my favorite night of the trip. We had paddled 30 plus miles each day to get to where we was...with only 10 miles to go the next day I began to reflect on the trip. Certainly nowhere near ready for it to be over. We stayed up late that night, talking, friendshipping,  learning, and just trying to freeze ourselves in time, in a reality that was all too ... perfect. 

I was incredibly happy.

I was 16 years old the first time I came down the Middle Fork. I remember sitting in a raft with my dad after running pistol creek. We had just scouted the rapid for what felt like forever, my mom was crying, two of our rafts took quite a hit on the wall river left. Then I watched as two kayakers danced down the rapid, they were one with the river, everything seemed to move in slow motion, placing paddle strokes in the water with ease, it was ballet, it was beautiful. I told my dad in that moment... I want to become a kayaker. The next time I ran the middle fork of the salmon I wanted to be in a kayak... I was. Here I found myself about 10 years later, kayaking, self supported, with two of the greatest guys I know. The man who taught me to kayak and the man who is teaching me how to live :) This place has shaped my life, I am who I am today because of experiences I have had here. We slowly paddled to the take out on day four. We slowly drove passed the confluence of the middle fork and the main, listening to joshua sing Idaho. Huckleberry milkshakes and the long road home lay ahead. Until next time middle fork. Cheers. 

Very grateful for your friendships team! Much love and gnamaste // 

Intake. Compression. Power. Exhaust. 

Friday, May 17, 2013


oh megan. the woman i met. while learning to kayak, which i cannot regret. with her beautiful smile and her stark straight brown hair, a goddess it seemed, one could not help but stare. the moment i met her. how could i know? what friends we'd become, that together we'd grow. well grew we did, and friends we became, but more than just friends, we were sisters, the same. we paddled in rivers, we drove in our cars, often fell asleep laughing, under the stars. and when moonlight fell down, she stood without waiver, she'd smile at the group and say, do me a favor...? reluctant but willing, we went out on a limb, and followed our megan for a cold midnight swim. 

of course we grew older, each of us did, but our friendships grew closer, and megs had a kid. that's when it happened, seemed without even tryin' -- she became a wonderful mother, to little jack ryan. she moved from a condo, into a home, then left springville together, but did't leave us alone. no. the cards they came in the mail box of course, and phone calls and blog posts, some long, and some short. but no matter the distance, no matter the state, we still love eachother, that's what happens with fate. 

that's right i said it, i know that it's true, somehow dear megan, i was meant to meet you. and meet you i did, and love you i do, miss you most often, and that smile of yours too. so thank you my friend for loving me too, i need you, forever. happy birthday. to you. 


kernville update //

well. it's crunch time, i'm five days into a month straight work session here in kernville. currently i am working with 20 some odd 8th graders from fancy school hollywood. they are pretty cool, i have a bunch of them rolling, and... being kayakers. after work we try to get a late session in, often paddling till dark. then it's dinner, play with the pup, rehydrate, sleep, and wake up to do it all again.

hiking into the forks // 

classic portrait on the water with this kid // 

and, back at the take out, just in time for sunset. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Raising an Avalanche Dog

it all started years ago. growing up skiing, watching the avalanche dogs. they seemed like heroes. i knew nothing of what they actually they did, but they were dogs, on ski patrol, running about in the snow, riding chair lifts, wearing the cross. i was fascinated. as i became a member of the ski patrol i learned more about the jobs these creatures did, and became more intrigued, how would it be to one day become a dog handler myself? a dream it seemed. 

it happened on a wednesday, i was leaving the locker room, heading out to work, when the dog coordinator stopped me and asked me about possibly joining the dog team. i was shocked. me? of course. yes. yes. as the discussions followed, i slowly began to think in dream, i imagined myself with my own creature wearing the cross, riding the lift, skiing, searching, working. i started looking at different breeds. the dog team i would be joining was made up of 4 labrador retrievers. it was obviously the breed of choice, not only on our mountain, but in the avalanche rescue dog community. 

i wanted an english shepherd. a herding dog. it's like a border collie. 

this was an issue, i didn't realize how much the organization wanted me to choose a labrador, until it was made clear that i was choosing something different. it seemed as though they were hardly interested at all in learning about the breed i chose. i was becoming a little disheartened. but i knew that at the end of the day my dog was going to be my dog, not just an avalanche rescue dog, but my companion, my buddy. i followed my heart. i started looking at breeders. 

7 months after my last discussion with the dog team, i found myself picking up my new mate in denver colorado. meet sir leif roweyn. he was 8 lbs. he was a black tri male from a litter of 12. he was terrified. so was i. 
we jumped into life together. leif and i went everywhere together, into the mountains, we saw the snow, he got to ride in a life flight helicopter, me and my buddy. i was lucky to spend the entire month of november just focussed on leif. crate training, chew toys, dog food, vet visits, come, sit, stay, vacations to the beach of course, and more training, trusting, and learning how to live with one another. 

growing up at a ski resort, leif learned a lot fast. he learned to love the snow, his first chairlift ride was in the dark. he tried to follow the footprints of the bigger dogs, doing his best to keep up, he wore his training vest with pride. my little guy was gaining quite the fan club at the resort. 

a typical day for leif included, getting up in the morning, "taking a break" eating and going to work. he roamed the locker room during morning meeting, taking a moment to be pet by each of the patrollers. them it was off to the lift. leif had to learn how to run beneath my skis, while in a snow plow i did my best to protect him from the sharp edges of my skis. he did his best to keep up. i often carried him when he got tired. riding the lift was no big deal for leif, when it was cold and snowy he cuddled between us patrollers, digging his nose down into his paws. he loved running in the snow. 

slowly we started working on training beyond the everyday aspects of being apart of the ski patrol. we entered into the 4 phase method of training leif to search. we started playing the game. the whole goal of training an avalanche dog is to create environments of fun and success. being an english shepherd, leif wants to work, so we worked. our work was playing a game of hide and seek. simply taking leif's favorite toy and running away from him, teasing him and getting him excited was the first step. then it got progressively harder, next i would run and jump in a snow cave, and he would come find me. then the snow cave entrance would be covered in snow, he had to dig. next i crawled into the hole with a stranger who had leif's toy, our hope was that he was more interested in finding the toy at this point instead of me. and finally we moved to having the stranger go into the hole buried in snow with the toy. ALWAYS with the goal of having leif end on a positive successful find. 

he was learning the game. and he was good at it. which made me so happy. it can be a bit disheartening when you watch your dog lose interest in the search after a seemingly successful find, you may think that your dog "gets it" and then you see him stop in the middle of a search and chase an imaginary butterfly. but i tried to keep my head up and try again, making sure leif knew how happy i was when he succeeded. 

leif grew so much in our first season together. soon he grew out of his first training vest, of course he chewed through it several times before finally outgrowing it. he moved up into a "real" vest. and he was proud of it. ultimately the goal of an avalanche rescue dog is to be apart of a search and achieve a "live find." leif's job this first season as a candidate dog in the program was to learn the ropes at the resort, to learn to work with the patrol and to respond positively to the public. he did great, and he is starting to understand the game. next season we will test for our level A certification. this test involves leif and i going to another ski resort and searching a 100 x 100 avalanche path, which may have 1-3 victims and multiple articles of clothing. leif and i are to search and clear the path in 20 minutes, finding all victims and recovering them. the clothing articles are bonus points. leif will also be required to pass an obedience test. 

there is so much work to do still. we require so much help from the entire ski patrol team. i am so grateful to have been given this opportunity. i have a dog. but i also have a companion. from here on out it's me and leif. 

winter came to an end. leif is adapting well to his new summer job as a river dog. 

updates to come as we move through this adventure together //