The East – Part I, The South

The saying goes “just be yourself,” but how many of us know how to do that? It’s not something that only applies to how we dress or what we say.


My beau and I flew to Knoxville to visit some friends and kayak before driving up to Fayetteville WV for the wedding of Erin Wilburn and Tristan Borgeson. We gathered gear and headed to the Green river to meet up with one of Phil’s guiding buddies from the Grand Canyon, Tom Schrager.

All I knew about the Green was from videos of the Green River race down the narrows and most of that was carnage footage at Gorilla rapid. My expectations were low since I’d heard that there was a class 3 upper section. I figured I’d just run that.

When we met up with Tom, aka cousin It, he suggested that I could do the narrows section and just walk the hard rapids. This sent my heart fluttering in anticipation of having to boost my game-on readiness. But we would start on the upper and warm up first.


We approached the first rapid of the upper, a short but steep slide into a 4-5 foot drop. Not terribly hard, but unless you drove to the left with some force you could end up hitting a rock at the bottom, which I did. As I launched ass over tea kettle the old borrowed spray skirt I had casually released itself off the cockpit of my boat. I slid out and made my way to shore.
Phil and I traded skirts and I walked back to the top of the rapid and ran it again, keeping to the left and landing upright. 

A little ways down stream I asked Tom to be sure to tell me where the mid point was for the end of the upper and beginning of the narrows section so I could make a decision about continuing on or not. He said of course he was going to tell me. He’s not the kind of paddler who would take someone down a run they didn’t really want to do. And I realized that both Phil and I have chosen paddling buddies who, of course, would respect the limits and decisions of others.

With some comfort of mind that I could complete the upper and get out before the Narrows I happily continued on. I knew if I did the narrows it would be long, full of scouting and portaging and high stress – not impossible or even implausible, but Tom had a timeline and my pace would make him late to his obligation.
It was then that I made my decision to get out. Without so much as a whim from anyone and no regrets on my end I exited the river. I had a great hike out and got in an hour of yoga while I waited for them.
I thought about how it feels to make decisions like this where ego can get involved and make us feel bad or weak for not doing the hardest thing that makes us the most scared. ‘But this is me,’ I thought to myself. This is me being me and when they say- be yourself, that includes the decisions we feel good about. It includes choosing the people to be around who are going to accept those decisions with no questions asked and feel happy for me.
Being me means knowing that I’m a cautious kayaker, I paddle better after scouting and on new runs I go slower than most. It doesn’t mean I haven’t rallied down some gnarly stuff blindly following someone else, but me being me means that each day will be predictably different and I never know exactly what I’ll be up for. And I’m okay with that, as long as I know the decisions come from who I am in that moment and in the end, I’m just being myself.

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