Tieton Eddy Repose

Tieton Eddy Repose
"So, this is the river." said the Rat.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Esoteric White Water Rafting Terms

Leavenworth, Washington
Like most activities, occupations and hobbies, white water river rafting has a language all its own.  What looks to the untrained eye like a wave, but a wave that has the propensity to recirculate boats, people and logs, are called "holes".  River guides look for the "tongue" as they approach a rapid because the tongue signifies the deepest and - typically - clearest channel.

But there are more esoteric terms guides bandy about that I'd like to introduce to the interested boating public.  (Let me preface this list by stating that in the event of injury or tragedy some of these terms may be considered insensitive and are not bandied about.)
On the tongue at Lava Falls in the Grand Canyon
Lava Falls 1982 - On the 'hateful' left side of the tongue
"Yard sale" or "carnage", for instance.  Each of these reference the same sort of incident.  A raft has had a mishap and now the boat, gear, people and, depending on the sort of trip, miscellaneous flotsam and jetsam, like coolers and their contents, are strewn upriver and downriver.  In other words, in the aftermath of a white water 'uh-oh' moment the river is littered with colorful floating items.

If a rafts "tacos", this means the bow and stern of the inflatable have been introduced to one another, due to encountering a steep drop, perhaps a 'hole', and it is very likely you have a yard sale on your hands.  A rapid on the Umpqua River in Oregon is named Taco, and I have seen its namesake up close and personal, but my most memorable and humbling 'taco' experience happened in the Grand Canyon's grandaddy of all rapids, Lava Falls.  As you might imagine, the aftermath of that encounter was definitely referred to as 'carnage'.
They are NOT going to make it through this white water
Taco-ing on the right side of the infamous Ledge Hole
On the Methow River, on an innocuous left hand bend miles above the storied white water of Black Canyon and Another Roadside Attraction and all the others, there is, at times when the river is cold and high and full of snow melt, a powerful breaking wave called "Dumptruck".  It received that moniker the day I watched one of our paddle rafts, full to the gills with hardy paddlers, challenge the wave only to have the boat stand on its tail as every member of the crew was perfunctorily dumped into the silt-tinged current.  That is known as a "dumptruck", because the raft ended right side up and free of its cumbersome weight.

If you have ever been on a white water river and separated from your raft and found your downstream progress put on hold due to nothing but turbulent water, you will instantly know what I mean when I say you were being "maytagged".  Maytag is a brand of washing machine.  If you have NOT experienced being at the mercy of recirculating currents, try envisioning yourself as a scrap of cloth stuck in a modern day washing machine.  (And - no - the term "whirlpool" did not come from THAT other appliance brand.)

The last one for this posting is a personal descriptive reference I like to use to colorfully describe to my crew the kind of paddlers I do not want to see.  After explaining how I would like for them to hold their paddles and move their bodies and perform their roles, I like to make it clear that the best crews not only paddle together, they are dynamic.  And what I don't want them to be are "sacks of potatoes".  Because, if a sack of potatoes is anything, it is not dynamic.  It is static and at the mercy of every crashing wave.

In the photos accompanying this post of my fateful comeuppance at Lava Falls Rapids in 1982, that crew was more a bag of tigers than a sack of potatoes.  But when we taco-ed in that hellacious hole, we damn near punched on through.  Even so, the boat reared up, dumptrucked us into the maelstrom and landed upright.   A few got maytagged, the rest of us jetted on downstream.

The good news is - we can look back now and laugh about the 'yard sale'.

Monday, March 12, 2012

River Rafting as Team Building

Leavenworth, Washington
Henry Ford was quoted as saying, "Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success."  Managers, work-group supervisors and corporate leaders may want to consider looking outside of the box for tools and ideas that motivate and bring groups together.  Orion River Rafting believes they need look no further than their closest Washington river outfitter.  Our guides become guides beneath the banner of teamwork and know how to provide a quality river trip that will bring out the best in your group and get them working as a team.
River Rafting Brings People Together
River rafting is not all flailing paddles and great big splashes.
White water rafting trips, once again, are becoming a popular way for corporate groups to bond and grow together. Co-workers unite in powerful ways on a whitewater trip because - by necessity - they are working together to challenge the forces of nature. There are few things more exhilarating than spending a day, or several days, together confronting white water rapids and working as a unit. The outdoors inspires esprit de corps and a well-earned, shared sense of accomplishment.

On longer river trips, such as the Deschutes River, river rafters communication skills are sure to improve.  Effective communication is often challenging in the office, with the constant distractions of email, meetings and ringing phones.  In the great outdoors, like the solitude of the high desert country of the Deschutes River, there is time for co-workers to truly connect around campfires and while scouting rapids.

Co-workers rarely have the chance to simply share in new experiences by day, and then hear each person’s input on the day’s adventures as everyone comes together. On the river, this is a part of the experience that participants anticipate.  Gathering together in camp each evening over a great meal after a fantastic day of outdoor activities in itself is a powerful relationship building experience.

James L. Moore, founder of Orion River Rafting says, “There is no doubt about the formative aspects of a shared out-of-your element experience like a river raft trip to bring a group of people together.  Over my 35 years of rafting, I have watched many a group go through the "forming, storming, norming" phases of team-building and come out the other side with a much tighter, cohesive bond.  Few group activities are as effective at bringing people together as a day or a week of river rafting."

Orion River Rafting offers a range of Pacific Northwest rafting adventures that bring corporate teams together.  The Leavenworth River outfitter’s experienced guides and crew work with team building facilitators to create an excursion uniquely tailored to specific goals and objectives.  They can choose from day trips with tough white water challenges like the Skykomish River, or mild white water, like the Skagit River where participants can even get a shot at steering the raft and learning to guide.

On our overnight river trips down the Deschutes, there is plenty of time in camp for additional planned activities or down time, whichever is preferred.  Itineraries are flexible and can include easy to challenging hikes, lazy river swims, and facilitated team building exercises, spirited camp games or just time for people to connect while relaxing in a majestic natural setting.

If your company group or organization is looking for a meaningful means of enhancing the team building experience, white water rafting in Washington or Oregon could be the answer to better communications, increased productivity and a lot more joie de vivre around the office all year long. No rafting or camping experience is required.  All people need to do is show up ready for adventure and fun, and the river outfitters will do the rest.  The company provides the facilitator and exercises; Orion River Rafting provides all of the equipment, gear, food and river expertise so that participants can get the most out of their team building adventure.

Friday, March 9, 2012

More Leavenworth River Rafting

Leavenworth's Chamber of Commerce would have you believe we see blue skies over the Bavarian-themed village all year long with nary a break.  After re-locating Orion River Rafting to Leavenworth in 2005 and living here twelve months of the year, I can report that - if you believe the Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce's version of the weather - I have some property in south Florida you might be interested in that I guarantee has no pythons living on it.

Of course, Leavenworth is a good deal warmer and drier than the Cascade's wet side, but, before you head over here on vacation, be sure to check the forecast.  Most of the time, as you are driving over one or the other pass en route to what we affectionately refer to as Der Town, you will break out of the choking grey of the Sound's maritime climate, and glide down into a valley of ponderosa pine forests illuminated by clear blue skies.  Occasionally, the maritime precipitation crawls over the passes and rains on our recreational nirvana.

When this happens, one of our MOST frequently asked questions is - Does the river trip get canceled?

Maybe if unrelenting lightning strikes are bolting across the skies, non-stop, then we will more than likely call the trip off.  But, if it is just raining?  Not very likely.

We tried to cancel a trip once during a gully-washing rainstorm.  We even went so far as to not bother inflating the rafts before we met with our guests, so sure were we that they would be grateful to be let off the hook.  But, when we went to greet them in the morning (this was before wetsuits and wetsuit boots were an industry standard, which means it was well before self-bailing rafts and high tech synthetic gear), we found the entire group - an employee group of engineers - decked out head to toe in the kind of foul weather gear you might find on fishing rigs in the Bering Sea.

Needless to say, we could tell by their attire that they were ready to go boating.  We haven't thought about canceling a raft trip due to foul weather since.

The good news about white water rafting is - you are going to get wet anyway!  If not by the waves and the weather, then it might be at the hands of your fellow rafters who are loath to see a dry boater.  Water fighting during a river trip is not uncommon and it is especially not uncommon when your river adventure includes your supervisor, boss, best man or father-in-law.
You ARE going to get wet white water rafting.
Wet is s state of mind while rafting.
The moral to the short post is this - even if you are rafting the Wenatchee River out of Leavenworth, come prepared to get wet.  One way, or the other.  Consult our how to dress for success article.
And - if your weather ap indicates inclement weather, don't call the office thinking the trip has been canceled.  These days, we will equip you with neoprene for your upper body and your feet, and a splash jacket to shed MOST of the water.  And, we promise you won't melt.
Following a cool weather trip, check out Snow Creek Yoga and see if they have a class in hot yoga, or call Solstice Spa for a treatment that will work out the kinks and ward off all chills.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Building a River Rafting Culture

When I first 'cut my teeth' river rafting, my instructors talked about a collection of 'river gods'.  They were not referring to the bold whitewater enthusiasts who were starting to push the boundaries of river rafting all over the planet while claiming first descents, though many thought of those daring adventurers as 'river gods'.  It was their way of introducing the green river runners in our party to their version of the mythological pantheon of 'river gods' that they claimed were part and parcel of a free-flowing river.

With white water rafting - when in doubt, scout!
I will not bother you with the names of these gods, but I will divulge that they were 'tongue-in-cheek' monikers.  Sort of inside jokes, in the Southwestern river community where I was taught to guide.  But they stood for something else altogether - Respect.

Respect for the immense, unknowable, ultimately untameable power of moving water.

Respect like Aretha Franklin's R-E-S-P-E-C- T.

Nowadays we introduce these same entities to our new guides in guide training and perform a ritual where we all sign a medium-sized river stone and cast it into the Deschutes River at the head of the first major rapid we encounter.  It's an offering and a ritual but, again, the underlying notion is that we recognize the awe-inspiring power of rivers and take a vow to never underestimate it.

This respect coupled with a safety-first mentality defines who we are as river guides at Orion River Rafting.  Armed with decades of experiential learning and an oral history passed down from one generation to the next, combined with respect, further solidifies who we are as river guides.  A healthy respect for the river matters because it permeates all other aspects of our culture.

Respect for our clients.  Respect for each other.  Respect for the value of the experience.
It's easy to lose sight of the significance of revering powerful forces outside of our control.  Behaving as if we have dominion over natural forces.  That, like the bullheaded youth in The Ballad of Belle Zabor, "he'd made himself such a name, at oar of boat, he had no peer, to him all rivers were tame."  Hubris, I believe the word is - in Greek mythos it meant "excessive defiance of the gods".

Spoiler alert:  It did not end well for our young hero.

Guides need a bit of boldness, self-confidence, assertiveness and bravado, but it all needs to be tempered with respect.  Otherwise, we do ourselves and our clients a disservice.  And we weaken the tensile strength of a solid boating community.