Showing posts with label chris korbulic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label chris korbulic. Show all posts

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Ushuaia, Patagonian peat moss, and a polar plunge

PK and I traveled through Chile and Argentina from December 18, 2017 to January 18, 2018,  first on a ship and then a road trip. Most of the time we were with our son, Chris and his partner, Chelsea. This is the second in a series of posts about sharing adventures with smart, intrepid, super-fit millennials on a mission to show us a great time. This post is about New Years day, when the assignment was hiking to a mountain lake via peat bogs and beaver dams. Polar plunge, optional.
PK and me at Laguna Esmeralda in the southern Andes Mountains near Ushuaia, Argentina, on the Tierra de Fuego Archipelago in Patagonia, which encompasses the southern reaches of Chile and Argentina. We never dreamed we'd be here. Remembering this, and other stellar days, is like a dream. Sure makes ordinary life, well, ordinary. 
Photo credit, Chris Korbulic  

This is how Ushuaia looked on New Years morning as we awoke on the cruise ship. We got an early start on our hike because the ship was scheduled to leave early - 3:30 p.m. so as to have daylight to navigate Glacier Alley through the Beagle Channel. 
The 6.2 mile RT trail to the lake began as a flat stroll with an occasional hop over tree roots. This forest persisted as a thick grove for awhile, but we saw many more of this beech-like tree called Lenga, in different sizes and conditions along the trail. We hired a taxi both ways as the trailhead was 20 kilometers, about 12.5 miles, from Ushuaia. The driver also arranged to pick us up. Cost? $100. Nobody said traveling in Chile/Argentina is cheap. On the other hand, guided tours were being offered for this hike at $140 a person. Guess we did OK.

This hike was not a shore excursion arranged via the cruise ship, but one Chelsea knew about due to her status as the ship's naturalist. It was just the four of us, although we saw other small groups along the way. The trail wasn't too steep. It did, however, require balancing on shifting footing, jumping over obstacles, and getting your feet wet and/or muddy. 
After climbing a short heart-pumping slope we ended up in a peat bog! The earth's surface, a quick Google search reveals, is covered 3 percent with peat. The southern hemisphere's bogs, mostly in Patagonia, represent only 1 percent of the total. Peat is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation, and a peat ecosystem is the most effective carbon sink on the planet. For hikers, though, the peat is a pain. Think mud.
Makeshift (and shifting) bridges carried us over some of the
mud holes. But many sections were without a clear trail.
Hiking poles recommended! I managed to find a serviceable stick

in the woods. And left it, a stick in the mud. 

Another group heads over to take a look at a significant beaver dam that blocked a creek to form a pond. Beavers are not native, and their work is considered destructive.
Chelsea and Chris at Laguna Esmeralda, which is fed by glacial melt. A few minutes after this photo was taken, they did something that was common throughout our month together. Whenever cold, clear water was near, and they could get to it without serious injury, they went for a dip. I couldn't believe it either. 
Chris leaping rock-to-rock over the river flowing from the lake, chasing Chelsea as she charges over hill and dale for a private polar dip. I read later that we could have taken a path to the right and circled the small lake, even climbed to the glacier that feeds it. 

We were surrounded by mountains. Every turn brought another ahhhhhh vista.

This grey fox appeared on the return trip not far off the trail. It seemed amenable to being photographed as we were not the first to click cameras around it. Earlier, we saw an Andean Condor. Quite a thrill! However, it was too distant and active for a photo.
  The fox hurried downhill, perhaps tired of attention.
 It was fun to see that its tail was as long as its body

 and twice as bushy.
Chelsea, her hair still damp from her polar plunge,
couldn't contain her enthusiasm as we made
our way back to the trailhead. 
 Agreed. It was a fine day!
We were back in Ushuaia in time for lunch, and were
jazzed about sampling the King Crab for which the area is known.
Alas, the cruise ship had spilled so many people into the town that
finding four seats in a seafood restaurant at 2 p.m. was as unlikely as
having clean boots after navigating a peat bog.
Our last look at beautiful Ushuaia as we sailed away on this unforgettable New Years Day. I feel bad about not having had time to see the nearby Tierra del Fuego National Park or any of the SEVEN museums in a town of around 60,000 (as of the 2010 census.) 

(The negatives about cruising, which I plan to explore in a later post, include port visits that can only touch the surface.)

Ushuaia has a surprising electronics industry in addition to tourism and a naval presence. However, its major claim to fame, emblazoned on many a T shirt and hat, is that it is located at The End of the Worldthe southern most city in South America.   


Rounding Cape Horn - a New Year's Eve to remember 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Around the Horn - Happy New Year 2018!

A typical scene off the southern part of Argentina from a cruise ship. Cape Horn is not far away. This area encompasses a park called Tierra Del Fuego, which is part Argentina, part Chile. It is also part of Patagonia, which encompasses the southern-most reaches of each of the two nations. They don't always like each other.
We celebrated New Years Eve sailing around Cape Horn - the southernmost tip of South America - with our son, Chris Korbulic and his partner, Chelsea Behymer. The experience - and the entire month traveling that it included - was stellar, way more than we could have hoped for back in late October. That was when we discovered that our original winter travel plans had been crushed.

What we'd planned—two to three months on the Baja Peninsula in our camper van.

Why it didn't work — Van requires ultra-low sulphur diesel fuel, which is not yet widely enough available in Mexico. 

What we decided, on a whim, to do instead — try for a last-minute cruise deal in South America.  

So en route home from visiting our Reno family, I began searching. An outfit called Vacations to Go includes last-minute cruise deals. The site asks for trip preferences to narrow your search, so I put in two: Depart in early December and start from Chile. 

Only one result popped up, a 15-day Celebrity Infinity cruise starting in Santiago, Chile, sailing around Cape Horn and ending in Buenos Aires. 

Interesting!  Cape Horn!

But wait! I felt my heartbeat quicken. 

I asked PK,  Isn't Celebrity the cruise line that Chelsea contracts with for her naturalist programs? And isn't she expecting to do her first contract in South America sometime this winter?! 

I texted her.

Seconds later she confirmed. YES!

Random and wild. It gets better.

Not only would she be on this ship, but if we could wait a couple weeks and embark in Buenos Aires, Argentina, instead, Chris would be with us, too. 

Unbelievable. Unstoppable. A gift from the Universe.

Within a few hours we went from doldrums and searching blindly for a destination, to anticipating a sea-and-land journey beyond our imagining. Three days later we were booked for the trip of a lifetime. 

We also made plans to spend a few days with Chris in Argentina before the cruise, and for a two-week road trip in Chile afterwards. I hope to write a series of posts with words and photos highlighting some of the best days ever.

Here's the first, New Year's Eve 2017, sailing around Cape Horn and then through the Beagle Channel.
We spent a lot of time on our cruise ship veranda with binoculars and cameras on December 31, 2017, and many other days. Even though December and January are officially summer, we were, for a time, just 400 miles from Antarctica. The days are long and can be cold. We used every bit of winter clothing we packed. This was one trip where we did not succeed in getting by with carry-on luggage only.

The cruise highlights, for us, were mostly contained within this mapped area. After our leisurely look at Cape Horn,(see below) the Infinity made its way to Ushuaia via the Beagle Channel, named after a ship that did the first hydrographic survey there. On its second voyage the HMS Beagle had on board an amateur naturalist, young Charles Darwin, who paid his own way while gathering information that led to the the theory of evolution as described in his book, Origin of the Species. 

Albatrosses were thick on this day, December 31, 2017. Hundreds, if not thousands filled the air and the sea. This image represents a fraction of the multitudes. What are they doing? Most likely feeding on sealife brought by upwelling as currents from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans collide. The oceans were in a rare state of calm, defying the Horn's reputation as weather hell. 
Albatrosses flying solo, or in small groups, were common.

For the first time in three years, the captain announced the Infinity would pause at Cape Horn, and he would guide the ship on a lazy 360 turn. Passengers were invited to the helipad, usually closed. I was disappointed that we missed the drama of high seas, but was grateful for the long look at a historical place. Part of our journey was reading nonfiction books (on small devices) about early explorations, primarily about Magellan. More about this later.
As the ship paused at Cape Horn, Chelsea was invited to bring "her family" up to the captain's bridge to enjoy the view. We did. Plus it was fun seeing the command post.

Imperial cormorants. The only ones we saw.
Lack of brilliant color didn't detract from the pleasing effects of light and clouds, land and sea, in all directions. 

The next stop: Ushuaia, Argentina, and a New Year's Day hike I'll never forget. Well, we didn't take any hikes on this trip that I will forget. But this was the first hike of 2018. And after hiking, came Glacier Alley. Unforgettable, of course. Pictures coming. 

If good fortune is leading you toward a cruise, spring for a
cabin with a balcony, or veranda, as they're called.
The extra cost was worth every peso. If you go around the Horn
from Buenos Aires, be sure to get a starboard cabin. Best views!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The day the FBI came calling

Chris Korbulic shot this self portrait along the Apaporis River in the Columbian Amazon in April this year. The five-person expedition planned to paddle 700 miles, but something unexpected interrupted their plans. 

Hardly a week goes by without someone asking about our son, Chris, 30, who's sort of a local celebrity with tales of his kayaking adventures often making their way online and into newspapers, magazines, films, and, occasionally, TV.
It hasn't been uncommon for photos such as this, documenting Chris enjoying waterfall moments around the world to show up on media. This was in Brazil.

So I wasn't surprised in a hardware store in Grants Pass, OR, when a man behind me at check-out inquired, "What's your son up to these days?"

A store employee swung around and joined the conversation. "Yeah," she said. "Where's Chris?

I thought I'd have some fun with them.

"Oh, he's fine," I said.

"The FBI was at our house for three hours last week alerting us that he and four other kayakers had been held hostage by guerrillas on a river in the Amazon jungle. But no worries. They were released after a few days, and he's back in the USA."

I told the tale as if being held hostage by guerrillas in the jungle was no big deal, happens all the time.

Astonished looks all around.

"Sheesh!" blurted the clerk. "I'm sure glad he's not my son! How can you sleep at night?"

How many times have PK and I heard that?

I got a charge out of the stunned reactions. Now everyone within earshot was leaning in.

It was easy to be glib and milk the moment, but the actual day that the FBI showed up at our house, and the ensuing 24 hours—that was a different story.

For us it began Friday, April 21, 2017.  (For Chris and the expedition team, it began April 18 when they first encountered their captors.)

 I 'd left the house for a bike ride and saw PK talking in our driveway with two men in suits and a nattily dressed woman. I pegged them as purveyors of the Watchtower and prepared to bolt, head down, eyes averted.

"It's the FBI," Paul mouthed as I approached with my bike.
They'd already shown their IDs to PK and stated their purpose, but I was clueless.

The FBI? Is something going on in the neighborhood? I thought.  It did not occur to me that their visit had to do with Chris .

We'd received a text message from Chris within the past few days, or had it been a FB post?  Or was it four days ago? On Instagram? I lose track.

Whatever. His expedition team of five traveled with their best friend, a Garmin InReach satellite device, which enables them to send texts anywhere from anywhere. Hence, they're able to placate parents and other people who care with frequent communications.  Almost daily communicating created a sense of security. False, it turns out.
One of few rapids on a 700-mile expedition, unlike previous expeditions that have been rife with roaring falls, canyons, and cataracts.

In addition, through InReach, a friend in California was updating the team's location though the Amazon wilderness. The map link was available online to anyone interested. We'd seen it  but weren't checking every day, so we were unaware that InReach reports had stopped

Just stopped. The screen had gone blank. Big trouble.

Well, isn't that the perfect definition of "ignorance is bliss"? We would have been emotional wrecks, had we been paying attention. But after enduring 10 years of our son doing seemingly impossible feats and taking unacceptable (to us) risks, we've become calloused to his living on the edge.

He's strong, smart, humble, skilled, and somehow happily enmeshed in a culture that puts him amongst an elite group of modern-day explorers and adventurers. He continues to amaze and delight us as we live his adventures vicariously.
Not a photo a mom can enjoy. Chris on the first
descent of Toketee Falls on Oregon's North
Umpqua River in 2011.

I removed my bike helmet and PK and I and three FBI agents took seats in our living room. PK and I exchanged glances. What the hell's going on?

"It's about your son, Chris," said the lead agent, who introduced himself as a hostage negotiator.

Hostage negotiator?

The other male agent was an FBI special investigator, the woman was a victim specialist.

Victim specialist!

PK and I exchanged glances, and I know we're in the same boat, so to speak, of shock and disbelief. This can't be happening!

The reason for the FBI's visit unfolded.

Out of what the lead guy described as an "abundance of caution," we were told that Chris and his expedition team in Colombia's Amazon Basin appeared to have been detained by FARC, a rebel guerrilla group. FARC had been mostly disarmed in 2016, after 50+ years of conflict. But holdouts exist.

Some of the FARC holdouts were apparently holding hostage all five members of the expedition.

Team members Ben Stookesberry, Jessie Rice, Aniol Serrasoles, Jules Domine, and Chris Korbulic. Ben was allowed to take the photo above, the only one during their captivity. Actually, on that very day, April 21, perhaps around the same time we were hanging on every word uttered by the FBI agents, the armed group was telling the detainees that they would be released the next morning. Although the FARC rebels confiscated cameras, electronic devices and memory cards, camera lenses were returned and the rebels did not take thousands of dollars from their captives. Chris managed to hide five memory cards, losing only the one that remained in his camera.

The seven FARC members, led by a woman, didn't realize that Ben managed to hold onto an InReach device and had been surreptitiously communicating with a contact in Columbia and another in California.  Chris also had a GPS unit that was signaling the group's location.

Chris told us the only time he was afraid, and planning  an escape into the jungle with his GPS, was the night before they were to be released. He was in his hammock when Colombian military planes began flying over the encampment. The FARC went ballistic.

"They were running around, yelling, asking where is the GPS? Who has it?" Chris had hidden one on his body. The planes left. Things calmed down. The next morning, the team was released and paddled four miles downstream to catch a bush plane to a tiny airport in a tiny town. There, much to their amazement, they were met by representatives of the Colombian military and the FBI.

The greeting party was but a small contingent of the agents and agencies in Columbia and the USA interested in the case.

A brief account of the hostage situation is here:  Outside Online -  How 5 kayakers were taken hostage in the Amazon. It's a series of photos with longish captions outlining the basics of what happened.  The photos, all but one by Chris, provide a sense of the ethereal Amazon. A more in-depth print article about the episode is in the works by the Men's Journal.

I don't want to repeat what you can read on Outside Online, but PK and I  have some thoughts about the US government's response.

We are grateful. 

We were impressed that three FBI agents came to our home, and others to the families of two other US citizens on the expedition. Chris' girlfriend, then in Hawaii, was also contacted by an FBI agent who offered assistance.

We learned that when US citizens are held against their will in foreign lands, it's a no-holds-barred commitment to get them out safely. 

What I've described was a small part of what was going on. The agents informed us that representatives of various US government agencies cooperate in hostage situations involving US citizens.  The agents didn't mention the  FBI-led Hostage Rescue Team, but I looked it up and understood that had the kayaking team been held for ransom, or even detained for a longer time, their captors could have been subject to measures similar to what Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT ) teams do. Drop in, rescue hostages, take no prisoners.

Impressive. Check it out here.

What was the FBI's purpose in visiting us?

Learn about Chris 
They asked multiple  questions about Chris, most designed to determine how he might handle being held hostage.  Does he have medical issues? What kind of person is he? How does he handle stress? How might he react to being pressured?(tortured or threatened)

Admiring parents as we are, we described Chris as a "real nice guy." Humble, quiet, thoughtful, sensitive, intelligent, strong, and centered. Because of what he does for a living, we know that he's able to focus on the moment, shut out negative thoughts and maintain a calm center. We think he'd avoid stupid moves or emotional or angry displays.

Educate us about how to respond to ransom demands
A large part of the visit had to do with "proof of life, requiring the captors, should they call us, to provide evidence that our son was still alive. 

And on it went, all the way through the mechanics of "how to get you your money,"to responding to threats that the hostage will be harmed or killed. I was beginning to disconnect.

It was surreal. Absolutely unbelievable. If this was really happening, our lives could be changing forever, right here, right now.

The hostage negotiator said that if we got a ransom call, he would be moving into our house. As it was, he left us with a recording device should we receive a ransom call. If we were contacted by a captor, we were instructed to call the hostage negotiator any time, night or day.

We didn't have to. Thank you, Universe.

Instead, we learned the next day that the team had been released and flown by a US military plane based in Columbia to Bogota, site of the US Embassy. All were debriefed by FBI and Columbia officials, lodged in a hotel, provided meals and offered air transportation to anywhere they wanted to go. The US citizens were asked to stay three days to satisfy intelligence needs.

The Extreme Kayaking Athlete Moms' Club
One more thing. Chris K. and expedition leader Ben Stookesberry have been frequent kayaking partners for going on 10 years, covering thousands of miles around the world and sharing both magnificent and horrendous experiences. The worst, of course, was in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2010 when a monster crocodile rose out of the Lukuga River and snatched from his kayak their good friend and trip leader, Hendri Coatzee.

Hendri's death was international news and a deep personal tragedy to Ben and Chris. Both had been within feet of the crocodile attack and were profoundly affected. Ben created an award-winning film, Kadoma, about Hendri and their expedition and tragedy, still available on iTunes.

 The 40-minute film is gut wrenching and beautiful at the same time. Hendri Coatzee was an extraordinary human being and a gifted writer. He wrote a book that was edited and published following his demise,  Living the Best Day Ever. 

PK and I were in Costa Rica when this tragedy occurred. We were pursued by media, and so was Ben's mom, Bette Campbell. During this blurred tragic time, we began communicating with Bette.

Chris and Ben were being held by the dysfunctional Congolese government. It was making us crazy. That lasted about a week before they were flown out by the United Nations.

Bette and I kept talking. And later, for a few wonderful but heart-wrenching days, we were with Hendri Coatzee’s mom, Marie Nieman, when Ben’s film debuted at the Telluride Mountain Film Festival in 2011.

Bette and I talked again on April 22 this year after we were assured that our sons were safe.

Bette told me about her interview with the FBI agents, and how she described to them her remarkable son, Ben.

"He's humble," she said. "He's generous. I'm proud of him being who he chooses to be. He couldn't handle being stuck in an office, making do with what's expected. I'm glad he is who he is."

Right on, Bette. Me too. I couldn't be more proud to be Chris' mom, and as for Chris' father, PK,  he can barely contain his enthusiasm for telling Chris stories to whatever man, woman, child or dog will listen.

We know that if  Chris wasn't doing what his soul requires, we'd worry about him being depressed and downtrodden. He's fortunate to be able to pursue his passion and have the skills, courage and inner strength to do it.
Started young. Won't quit until he must. Despite
how much he sometimes scares us, gotta love him.
But please, no more FBI visits. 
Plus we could stand a bit less of this type of action.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Roadtreking - Us and Them, Then and Now

The young runner on the tree-strewn forest road is Chelsea Behymer, son Chris' girlfriend. She's running out of the sheer joy of being alive and thumbing her nose at minor obstacles such as hundreds of downed trees  en route to a trail we wanted to hike. But first we have to drive there, them in a self-converted Sprinter, us in our cushy Roadtrek Agile.

The tree-clogged road presented a challenge they wanted to tackle. To Paul and me, it was a no-brainer no-go from the get-go, even though we followed them.

A recent van camping trip with son Chris, whose primary sponsor, Eddie Bauer, features the Live Your Adventure brand, and his friend Chelsea, made clear the differences in our travel styles and our generations, including their propensity for risk and ours for scaling back in that department. For starters, we joined them by invitation. How cool is that? I loved my parents, but I don't recall at any time inviting them to ruin a jaunt with me and a romantic partner. That's just one little difference. (If you have a few minutes, check out those links above.) Maybe we're getting rewarded for all the camping trips we did with our sons when they were youngsters. 

PK and I are Baby Boomers, although I am officially one year too old. We worked hard, scraped by for a few decades, and raised two incredible sons. We were frugal because well, we couldn't afford not to be. Now well into retirement, we've reached a comfort level that enables road tripping in luxury, at least compared with son Chris, and also compared with our younger selves. (Keep reading.)

Ours is the sleek silver Roadtrek Agile van above. Theirs is a spirited red Sprinter he named nevervan. Maybe because he wanted one for so long but never thought he'd find one he could afford. 

Chris and Chelsea travel in true Millennial fashion equipped with rugged mountain bikes, kayaks, the latest electronics, propane stove, cooler, and a trowel. No heater, no AC, no running water, and no toilet. Not even a fan.

He snagged a deal on this used Sprinter a couple years ago, and between kayaking expeditions, he, with help first from his father, and later, from Chelsea, fashioned a simple custom interior from which he can work and play. Our home is his mailing address, but the Sprinter is his real home, which he often shares with Chelsea and her little mutt, Peanut.(Naturalist Chelsea has work that takes her to far places for weeks at a time.) 

Our van, on the other hand, is a lightly used 2010 Roadtrek Agile on a Sprinter chasis and, like Chris', boasts a Mercedes diesel engine. Let's not even talk about the price difference because it is, frankly, shocking. They're going Spartan, mostly, and we're, well, not! 

But there are some perks to getting old, right? For the record, our van, the same 21 ft. long as Chris', is decked out with: cherry wood cabinets, unbelievable storage space, a refrigerator/freezer, AC, a microwave/convection combo oven, a generator, a tiny toilet/shower closet, a queen-size bed, swivel seats, blinds, curtains, a retractable step, awning, outside shower, furnace and on it goes. We love it, love it. But we also paid our dues. 

                                    Photo above: Chris riding his bike about 25 years after the photo below was taken.
Korbulic family around 1989. Chris, 3, has the long shorts, Quinn, almost 13,  the cute pink ones. Paul's kayak is atop our trusty Toyota Landcruiser and my road bike is ready for my training ride that morning for Cycle Oregon. We car/tent camped from Oregon to South Dakota and back. One of our best family trips ever. 

About paying our dues. We progressed through the decades from rough and tough tent/river/car camping (30 + wonderful years, half of them with our two sons), to sleeping in the bed of our pick-up (a couple awkward years) to enjoying the hell out of our FourWheel pop--up camper beginning in 2010, to our current state of luxury.
We've never wanted a hulking RV, but something that parks as easily as a large pickup, doesn't require an RV site with hook-ups, and gets decent gas mileage. No wonder our Roadtrek is named "Agile." It satisfies  our keen desire to travel comfortably but nimbly as we pile on the years. And my, how those years are stacking up.

We kinda noticed those years during our enlightening camping caravan with Chris and Chelsea. We also noted some, umm, traveling style differences. This is to be expected, of course, since we are 40 years older.  But they indulged us, and probably didn't notice, as they were too busy making every minute count: running, biking, hiking, gathering firewood, gnawing roots and herbs, gazing into one another's eyes, organizing their van, doing push-ups on picnic tables, and washing up in snow-melt temperature lake water. And I'm only exaggerating a tiny bit.

A few key differences


Choosing a campsite
Us:  We love Forest Service campgrounds, $5 a night, senior rate, or county, state or national camps, between $15 and as much as $35. We have succumbed to private RV campgrounds under desperate circumstances, which can run between $35 and $55, depending upon size of RV and amenities needed. Not recommended! 
Them: Dispersed camping: free (AKA boondocking)
Note: They seemed comfortable with the Forest Service camps we used during our two nights out, but Chris later revealed that those were the only times they'd stayed in designated campgrounds. We treated them to the $10 per night fees. Our first night out, the four of us were alone in a lakeside campground with a spectacular view of Oregon's Mt. Thielson. We also had clean odorless toilets, picnic tables, fire pits, and lots of wood for campfires.

I had to look up "dispersed camping," although we encountered it in the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, CA, and in Death Valley. We didn't call it dispersed camping in our 20s, though, but 'finding a place to park and hide in the woods or wherever." The link above is an excellent guide, which I just discovered on the RoadTrekking Blog, which calls it boondocking. I was delighted to learn that many Roadtrek owners prefer boondocking. That's my kind of group!

As a person who grew up in the boondocks of North Dakota and has lived in Oregon boondocks for a few decades, I am pleased that remote terrain has come into fashion with owners of high-quality compact self-sufficient camping units. I'm excited to go boondocking along the East Coast. Is that even possible?

In the West, most ranger stations have behind-the-counter maps to how and where to camp free provided you can do without hook-ups. Of course, Chris and Chelsea don't need no stinkin' ranger advice. They've only been routed out of a "campsite" at 2 a.m. by law enforcement once. 
Mt. Thielson from a deserted Forest Service campground on Lemolo Lake in Southwestern Oregon, May 2016.
Settling into a campsite - Us and Them
Us: set up the camp chairs, pour some cabernet sauvignon and start thinking about appetizers.
Them: check the mountain bike tires, do a few calisthenics, hop on those babies and ride 45 minutes uphill over rocks, roots, and downed trees before returning to gather wood and assemble a campfire. 

PK may be wondering where the corkscrew is located as he watches the biking preparations "next door." Soon they'll be off and onto the same trail we'll hike tomorrow to Lemolo Falls. That's our Roadtrek Agile.

Dinner time
Us: Sometime between 7 pm and 8:30 pm, preferably during daylight. 
Them: Sometime before bed and after a bike ride or a hike, especially if they've had fewer than five or six hours of physical activity. Or maybe that should be seven or eight hours?

Plastic bags
Us: We're virtuous, we thought. We reuse purchased plastic ziplock bags until they fall apart, and take cloth bags shopping. We use the inevitable plastic disposable bags for trashcan liners and to hold  massive amounts of garden overproduction to drop at food banks and press into neighbors' hands. 
Them: No plastic bags. None. I've tried forcing ziplock bags on Chris to keep a hunk of cheese or a leftover from drying out. Nope. No plastic bags.
Upon encountering a road blocked by too many downed trees to count
Us: Complete agreement that the downed trees make the road a no-go. 

Them: (Who are in lead position) Let's get through by using the machete on the smaller trees and holding others up so the van(s) can pass under, and then just dodge around stuff. Destination: an up-close view of Lemolo Falls. We turned around, of course, with a bit of difficulty, perhaps a quarter mile down the pike, and took a log strewn hiking rail to the falls the next morning. But we followed them into  this obstacle course. It was, uh, instructive, to observe our differences.
Yes, this may be too many trees, they agree.  Below Chelsea bends another small tree for van passage.

Bathing (with environmentally acceptable soap, of course) in streams, lakes, oceans, ponds, snowdrifts etc.
Us: Unless the water temp is at least tolerable, we'll wait for a warm shower or take sponge baths.  
Them: Frigid water is not a problem!  It toughens then up, and I believe they actually like it. Plus after a few hours of running, mountain biking, vigorous hiking, rock climbing etc., rinsing off is imperative, icy water or not.

Leveling the van
Us: We use those orange plastic Lego-like thingies plus a cellphone leveling app for precision work. 

Them: Search around and you'll find the perfect rock or piece of wood.

The obvious difference between "them and us", of course, is that they're in the fullness of beautiful vigorous youth and PK and I are teetering on the edge of old age! 

We realize what's coming, but before it does, we'll be riding high, far and wide in the Roadtrek.

Warm Spring Falls is just a few miles off the beaten path near the North Umpqua River in Southern Oregon. The trail to it is maybe a half mile long. I think we should be able to get there again in 10 years, maybe even 20. When you're in the first third of a normal life span, you can't fathom the last third. But when that final third arrives, you know you must grab every bit of joy. Seeing waterfalls and wild birds, tending a garden, nurturing relationships, including with your adult children, all take on new meaning.  The "life is short" cliche becomes your reality. I need to get to bed and rest up. I very have important things to do tomorrow.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Easy as falling off a .... Cliff?!

I wrote the article below in June 1979 while working for a weekly newspaper in Rogue River, OR, and was also learning to row whitewater. PK was a kayaker and we were on the front end of decades of river running. Even then, I obviously had all the river-running types correctly pegged. (Read on rafters, drift boaters, and so on.)
I ran across this old clipping recently and marveled at how prophetic! I had no idea that years later our own son would become a chief officer in the international club of crazy kayakers.

The 1979 newspaper piece:
There are five or so classifications of local boaters. 
Drift boaters get up before dawn, love rainy days, eat kipper snacks, and can fish for 48 uninterrupted hours. 
Muscle boaters have oiled bodies with fabulous tans. They wear stretch knit bathing suits Their crafts sparkle with chrome and their 600-HP motors pull water skiers at breakneck speed. They drink beer from cans and always have a barbecue to attend. 
Rafters laugh at the river. They wear pillow-sized life jackets and smile beneath sunburned noses. They like to sit around the campfire at night drinking Jack Daniels and swapping tales about who almost got pitched over the side. 
The orange torpedo captains carry books rating rapids on a scale of one to 20. They wear sneakers full of holes and their legs are tan in front and white in back. They are moderately nuts. 
Kayakers are the real crazies. While other boaters enjoy sitting around a friendly campfire roasting marshmallows, kayakers are at the edge of the circle chewing raw meat or in the woods digging for roots and grubs.  
In the morning while others are snug in warm sleeping bags, kayakers run naked, scaling dangerous cliffs and challenging local wildlife to feats of strength. 
The kayaker in the photos is typical of the breed. He is Rick Schlumpberger of Rogue River Outfitters, plunging off a cliff on the Illinois River in his kayak. Before this unretouched photo was taken, Schlumpberger had eaten a 17-pound raw steelhead and had taken a five-mile upstream swim. MK

If anybody knows Rick S., please pass this along. I think he'd get a kick out of it. Maybe he's still chewing raw meat outside of campfire circles?

Chris, "falling off a cliff" on Toketee Falls on the North Umpqua River
 just a couple hours from home.  2011.

A little family river history

PK built himself a fiberglass kayak in 1977 while I was pregnant with our first child. Quinn. Fiberglass construction and pregnant women do not mix owing to noxious glue fumes, which in this case, slammed through the kitchen window as kayak fabrication was being conducted beneath it.

But fiberglass was the only way to go kayaking in the 70s, which PK was hellbent on doing.

Hmm. Wonder where our son Chris got the kayaking bug?

The important thing was that if I didn't want to stay home while PK was on the river, I needed to row. (I was not tempted to kayak.) When our baby boy, Quinn, was about two I learned to navigate whitewater and thus became captain of what was known as the daycare raft. Chris was born when Quinn was nine, prolonging my daycare raft duties.

No complaints. I loved sharing the outdoors and the river with our boys (and their friends). Both went on innumerable day-trips with PK and me on the Rogue, as well as dozens of  3-day family trips on the Rogue's Wild and Scenic section. Those were some of our best days ever.

They grew to love it, although Quinn took a bit longer and was in his late 20s before he was declared "boatman of the year" when he rowed the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon on a 28-day private trip during which his father rowed, Chris kayaked, and I hiked to  the bottom of the canyon to camp with the group for a couple days.

Chris is a now professional kayaker. As I write this, he's just back from a recent expedition to Papua New Guinea, and he and his father are on a day trip on the home river. Makes me smile.

Passing it on. Quinn  Korbulic giving his son Noah his first rowing lesson on the Rogue.

PK rowing the Salmon River with me in front. He missed that bus-sized hole. 

Chris, then 15, earned the right to row his first rapid, a class 4 on the Snake River, by winning a bet with PK, who's having a white-knuckle ride. The bet: if PK throws a rock into the air, and Chris hits the rock with another before the first rock hits the ground, Chris takes the oars. We wouldn't let Chris kayak this river, which he wanted to do, because he would have been the only one in a kayak. Instead, he took on a big rapid with the raft. 
Kayaker Chris at 15.

In case you're wondering, where are the photos of me rowing? Well, I have a few in printed form but have yet to digitize.  My favorite is of going through Blossom Bar on the Rogue (Class 4) with friend Linda Shonk holding onto Chris, who was then about five or six. One of these days......