Dec 092018
 

After a quick lunch stop on the fifth day, my second alone, on my Lake Mead trip, I started paddling around the tip of the unnamed island in Bonelli Bay. I knew as soon as I rounded the corner, I’d be out of the headwind. I looked down at the ribbons of water streaming from the nose of my stand-up paddleboard (SUP) and noticed my tripod head, which was resting on its side near the front of my board, was dragging in the water.

I didn’t want anything slowing me down. I kneeled down and leaned over my knee-high pile of dry bags to straighten it out. In doing so, I shifted all of my board’s weight to the front. It was a rookie mistake. I was tired and obviously not thinking straight.

In a split second, my heavy food bag rolled into the lake with a “THUNK,” my board tilted to the left, and I grabbed the right edge of the board in a desperate attempt to stay on. (I’m terrified of water when I can’t see the bottom.) “Fuck!”

I fell butt-first into the lake. My SUP flipped upside-down. Everything went underwater. Everything, that is, except my paddle and food bag, which wasn’t strapped in like everything else for some reason. Both started floating away in the rolling waves. I started treading water, bobbing in my life jacket and clinging to my board. I pushed as hard as I could to get my board to flip, but with the heavy load attached to it now submerged, it barely moved. “Fuck!”

I took a deep breath and tried again. My board teetered on its side at a 45-degree angle while my gear dragged on the water’s surface. I quickly shoved a couple of my bags against the board, which turned it right-side up. One-by-one, I repositioned the rest of my gear into their original position. With the board stabilized, I swam a few yards away to chase down my food and paddle. Although I had packed an extra one, I didn’t want to be up shit creek (lake?) without a paddle. Or dinner for that matter.

PHOTO: The beach I swam to after my capsize. My camp for the evening is in the distance just to the left of center.

When I attempted to reach across my board to get back on, the weight of the gear tipped and the board rocked onto its side again. I quickly let go and fell back into the water to keep my SUP from overturning again. Instead of wasting energy trying to self-rescue, I decided to swim to shore, which was only about 50 yards away.

After pulling my SUP onto the graveled beach, I waded back into the shallow water and washed my hair. I mean, I was already wet, why not? I repacked and steadied my gear, turning my tripod head so it would no longer drag. Then I stripped off all my clothes, laid back into my skirt, and started sobbing. Everything—the emotional weight of my unexpected capsize and recent life struggles—went underwater.

After drying out and regaining my composure, I started paddling across Bonelli Bay as if the event never happened. I didn’t have any room on my board to carry fear with me. Or self-pity. And no one was coming by to listen to me whine. I hadn’t seen a boat in 24 hours. There was no escaping it, I was completely alone.

No more than a half-hour later, my brand new two-bladed paddle snapped in half without warning. I almost fell in again, but in the open waters of Virgin Basin. Up shit creek (lake?) with a broken paddle now, I decided to sit down in my “loveseat” for the remainder of the crossing, about two miles.

PHOTO: The only “whine” I got that night came from this box. And you see how well it survived it’s time in the water during my capsize.

I eventually hobbled into a spacious camp in an east-facing wash close to the mouth of the Narrows. I set up my tent, changed into PJs, and taped the ends of my broken paddle to avoid more carbon fiber splinters. (I had three already.) As I boiled water for dinner, I sat back into my camp chair and reflected on the day’s unexpected events. Now safe and relaxed, I fell apart again. I asked aloud, “Why in the hell do you do things like this? Why do you need to paddle across Lake Mead? Why can’t you just be content sitting at home in a bathtub eating bonbons?” I didn’t have an answer, let alone a good one.

I fumbled to open my freeze-dried dinner, and it slipped out of my chilled hands. My knees caught it upside down. I noticed typing on the bottom of the Mountain House® package, something I had never seen before in my almost twenty-one years of outdoor experiences eating freeze-dried food.

But the universe’s response was printed on the bottom of my Beef Stroganoff dinner: “We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us. ~Anonymous”

PHOTO: The glorious view from my tent as the setting sun cast the Earth’s shadow above Bonelli Peak across the Virgin Basin on Lake Mead.

Nov 152018
 
Deliciousness

“Deliciousness,” from Lake Mead National Recreation Area, on the Arizona-Nevada border || Prints available–click on photo to order yours!

I wanted to spend time with an old friend of mine, the Colorado River, on my stand-up paddleboard (SUP) in a place I had only been once before, Lake Mead on the Arizona-Nevada border. I had spent much of the last year planning and training, and the last month watching and waiting for a window of favorable weather conditions. On November 1, I got it.

For the first three days, my friend and I had ideal conditions for paddling: virtually no wind and a few clouds here and there to keep the sun from baking us. Easy going! On the fourth day, which was also my first day on my own, though, things changed…

Despite a bullying headwind for about five miles, I ended up paddling hard and long, almost 12 miles. When I found a good camp for the night, it was completely overcast. Even though I was tired, I still went exploring as the day came to a close. After all, I had never seen this foreign landscape before.

Right after the sun went down, all of a sudden, BOOM! The sky exploded. It was off the hook!

I thought, “How delicious! How delicious this sunset; how delicious this chance to be in such a magnificent place; how delicious to feel SO alive right now! And how delicious brownies would be right about now!!!” The photo above resulted. (So did two pans of brownies when I returned home…)

After nine days–two of which I spent in camp on high wind delay–I paddled just over 60 miles from South Cove to Kingman Wash. I finished last Friday morning. It was likely one of the first crossings of Lake Mead (the largest reservoir in the United States) by a woman on a SUP. Regardless, it was definitely a grand adventure!

One where I learned more about the tenacity of the Colorado River as it’s transformed (once again) from a river to a reservoir. I witnessed indescribable beauty in the land and lake. I tested my outdoor skills through high winds, equipment failures (broken sunglasses, paddle, and tent poles), and an accidental capsize 50 yards from shore. But most importantly, I listened to the wisdom of the river.

The journey reiterated the life lessons I have learned since 2015, when my life took an unexpected left-hand turn and I attempted paddle across Lake Powell—a trip I took to cope with my struggles with loss, one that, like life, didn’t quite go according to plan. My friend, the river, reminded me to keep going with the flow. And always keep your paddle all in.

More photos, stories, and thoughts to come…stay tuned…

CM on CR_Lake Mead

From the first day, about two to three hours after we started (aka, before the headwinds, LOL). I’m standing on the sand bar created by the Colorado River meeting Lake Mead. Photo courtesy Scott Lefler.

Aug 292018
 

Some people who read my last post about our stand-up paddleboarding experience on Snowhole Rapid on the Lower Salmon River in Idaho asked if I had any videos of other rapids from the river. I do!

Here’s one of my rides down a fun and splashy class II rapid called Packers Creek Rapids. It was the first rapid out of the Killer Goat Camp on the morning of day 2 of our “SUP Experience” rafting trip with OARS. Save for touching my hands to the board for a few seconds after that gnarly wave around 1:00, I stayed standing up the whole run! It was so fun!

(LINK: https://youtu.be/iHJUPD90ueA)

I hope that, in sharing the “Keep Paddling” story and this video, it helps inspire you to try something new and wild. As Neale Diamond Walsch said, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

Thanks for reading and viewing!

Aug 282018
 
In the Pink

PHOTO CAPTION: “In the Pink,” from our Day 2 camp on the Lower Salmon River, ID while on the recent OARS “SUP Experience” river trip || Prints available! Click on photo to order yours.

“Do you see the line?” asked Liam, our guide and stand-up paddleboard (SUP) instructor.

Liam and I, along with my friend, Scott, stood on the basalt boulders high above Snowhole—the Lower Salmon River’s only class IV rapid—surveying the scene.

The sun poked through ominous clouds tinted yellow by the smoke of distant wildfires. The steep jagged cliffs of Snowhole Canyon constricted one of the last undammed, free-flowing rivers remaining in the United States into a fury of agitated water tumbling over and around house-sized rocks before disappearing around the bend. We couldn’t portage (carry our boards overland) around the rapid. We had to go through it. I stared into the froth looking for a path.

I saw two lines. The first, a pale green tongue on the far side of the river falling into a trail of white spray followed by a train of successive five-foot waves, each foaming at the mouth, each looking like it wanted to eat me. The second, the last line of a friend’s recent email flashing through my head, “…Snowhole—load your boards up in the raft for that one!”

PHOTO CAPTION: At our put-in, Pine Bar. The stand-up paddleboards we borrowed are on the far right and behind the boats.

We were two days into a four-day “SUP Experience” with OARS, a company specializing in river rafting trips, where Scott and I were learning how to SUP through whitewater rapids on a 61-mile trip (from Pine Bar on the Lower Salmon River to Heller Bar on the Snake River). Since falling in love with paddleboarding in 2013, my previous SUP experience included exclusively flatwater, rivers and lakes. Except when feisty winds kicked up. (Lake Powell, I’m looking at you.) And that one time in April 2015 when I thought I was going for a nonchalant outing with a guide on the Colorado River in Moab, UT, to celebrate my 40th birthday and ended up running three class I-II rapids (and falling the last one). But all in all, I’d been on a board enough times to stop counting how many days. This was Scott’s 10th day on a board.

Thus far, on this trip, we had uneventfully navigated the river’s class I and class II rapids, even a class III rapid called “Bodacious Bounce,” mostly while standing, some while kneeling. A mere twenty minutes earlier, though, I had taken an involuntary swim in Half-and-Half, a class III rapid named as such because, according to our guides, “Half the time you make it, half the time you don’t.”

I had entered the first big drop on Half-and-Half standing up, but fell in the water when the third wave in dumped me sideways. I managed to get back on my SUP and started paddling again from my knees, but the river’s current pushed me toward a big hole the guides had suggested we try to avoid. I panicked. When I rocked up the crest of the towering wave, it bullied the nose of my board backward. The hole sucked me in. I stopped paddling for some reason. I met the river face first.

Underwater, my board hit my helmet. At least I know which way is up, I thought. My arms flailed. I couldn’t find the surface. When I did, I gasped for air, then the current dragged me under again before I could finish inhaling.

I could hear Liam yelling, “Grab your board!” I couldn’t find it among the darkness and bubbles. I resurfaced.

“Grab my board!” I could see his board but couldn’t reach it. I went under again.

“Swim hard left!” Liam said. I spun my left arm while trying to keep myself afloat with my paddle clutched in my right hand.

Eddy out at that beach just ahead, I thought. Swim harder! Come on, swim harder!

“Swim hard right!” he said.

Swim hard right? But the beach is only five or six feet away, I thought. I should trust him. He could see the big picture. I couldn’t. I switched the paddle into my left hand and swam hard right.

The graveled shore disappeared. The current pushed me downstream toward a chiseled basalt wall to the left. “Turn your feet downriver!” Liam said.

I rolled over like an otter and smashed into a wave. And into another and another. A rugged rock jutted out of the cliff in front of me. I could get trapped here, I thought. I kicked as hard as I could against the boulder and spun backward into an eddy.

Liam stood on top of his board in the flatwater at the end of the wave train, bumping his fist on top of his helmet. At the start of the trip, the guides told us if we did not return this signal, they would assume we had broken a femur, or worse. I pulled my hand out of the water and bumped the top of my helmet. Scott pushed my board, which he had rescued mid-rapid, in front of me. I mounted my SUP and coughed uncontrollably. I had made it down Half-and-Half, and I had learned my lesson. Don’t ever enter a rapid timidly. And don’t ever stop paddling.

PHOTO CAPTION: Our guide and instructor, Liam (middle), and Scott (right) converse on a stretch of flatwater on the Lower Salmon River, ID

Now, at river mile 23.4, I pointed at Snowhole, tentatively tracing the air with my finger. “I think I see the line,” I said to Liam and Scott.

“On this one, you gotta hit the line perfect,” Liam said. “Start a little right, and build up momentum as you go straight down the tongue. Then paddle hard left to miss the rock. The next waves are HUGE and you’re gonna hit them hard, so hit the deck [drop to your knees on the board] if you haven’t already, and keep paddling through them. Whatever you do, don’t stop paddling.”

As we scouted the river’s drop, three private rafts ran Snowhole. Each took a slightly different line—left of the tongue, right of the tongue, and straight down the middle. Each tipped precariously onto its side when approaching the pyramid-shaped rock, then recovered, and disappeared over the long drop, then reappeared, and bucked wildly through the splashy wave train. Each somehow stayed upright.

“What if I run into that rock?” I asked

“I’ve tried running a raft straight into that rock,” Liam said, “Can’t do it. The current pushes you away from it, pushes you left, whether you like it or not.”

“What if I paddle too hard to the left?”

“You don’t want to do that. You’ll end up behind that next rock and hit a massive hole. Yeah… don’t do that.”

“What happens if I don’t hit the line perfectly?”

“You’ll go for a swim. But it’s way shorter than Half-and-Half,” Liam smiled.

“Is there another rapid after this like there was after Half-and-Half?”

“No, it’s just flatwater. We’ll have plenty of time to get you.”

How comforting, I thought.

“I’m gonna do it,” Scott said without any hesitation. “Are you gonna to do it?”

“I don’t think so,” I put my hands on my hips. Half-and-Half had exhausted and humbled me. I was cold, and I didn’t feel like swimming through another rapid. I had an easy out: I could hitch a ride through it on one of our group’s rafts.“I just don’t think it’s worth it.”

“I think you got this,” Liam grinned. “And you’ll be totally stoked when you get through it.”

He said “when” not “if.” Semantics are important to writers just as clients surviving is important to guides.

“When do I need to decide?” I asked.

“Let’s grab lunch first,” Liam said.

While we ate chicken curry salad wraps, we watched several more rafts stay upright through a short harrowing run. I visualized the run over and over. Start right, paddle hard left, but not too hard, then keep paddling. Seemed simple enough.

Ladybugs clung to my white shirt. A good omen, I thought. Maybe I could do this. After all, I didn’t come here to sit on a boat. I came here to learn how to paddleboard rapids.

Another half-hour passed. No one asked me again whether I intended to run the rapid on my paddleboard. And I’m not sure I ever came to a formal decision. Even a final look with Maia, the trip leader, wasn’t convincing. When lunch concluded, everyone in the group returned to their respective vessels. I got back on my board.

“You ready?” Liam asked while bending his knees on his SUP. I didn’t respond. It didn’t matter if I was ready or not, this was happening. I gave myself a short pep talk. You got this. It’s just water. Hit the line perfectly. Keep paddling.

As we crossed the river to position ourselves to start a little to the right, Liam looked back at Scott and me, and said with a smirk, “We’re gonna kill this.”

Liam disappeared into the waves. I dropped to my knees. The silky smooth tongue pulled me into a curled wave. Paddle. Then another, a bigger one. Paddle. Then another over my head. Paddle. Paddle. Rock on the right. Paddle, paddle, paddle! Hole on the left. Paddlepaddlepaddlepaddlepaddle!

I plunged over a ledge and came face-to-face with the biggest wave I’ve ever seen on a SUP. I stabbed my paddle into it, jabbing at it as if I were slaying a mythical beast with a sword. I kept swinging, wave after wave, until the rapid fizzled out.

I pulled into the eddy where Liam and two of our OARS rafts waited. I looked back at the rapid. Scott was in the water, clinging to the side of his board. He bumped his fist on top of his helmet and joined us in the eddy. I turned to Liam. He pumped his fist in the air victoriously. “That was sick!”

I raised my paddle over my head and yelled, “Whoohoo!”

I had spent almost an hour paralyzed by fear, and in about 30 seconds, it was over. I don’t know if I hit the line perfectly or not, but I had just stayed on top of my paddleboard through Snowhole. Liam was right. I was totally stoked.

When I read the line, “Learn the basics of stand-up paddleboarding, reading whitewater, & river safety” in the OARS description on their website prior to our trip, I never imagined we would face a class IV rapid, let alone run it on a SUP. In doing so, though, I learned that when a river—whether “The River of No Return” (as early explorers called the Salmon) or the river of life—drops you to your knees, don’t ever enter a rapid tentatively. And don’t ever stop paddling.

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Authors Note: My GoPro died after being submerged in Half-in-Half with me so I sadly have no footage of our run through Snowhole. Should you wish to see an example of what the rapid looks like, though, these two Youtube videos (taken by by people not on our trip) will give you a pretty good idea of the conditions: https://youtu.be/2-e8kakcf94 and https://youtu.be/tS1piA2yvTc.

PHOTO CAPTION: One of our guides, Sean, serenades us in camp after sunset on Day 2 of our river trip with OARS on the Lower Salmon River, ID.

Feb 212016
 
Utah_Glen Canyon National Recreation Area_00108_c

View of the sandstone monoliths from our camp in Fourmile Canyon at sunset along Lake Powell in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah

Want a taste of what our Lake Powell paddle adventure was like last November?  For those of you would like to read a very abbreviated, 1200-word account and see additional photographs from our recent paddle adventure on Lake Powell, I’m thrilled to share that the National Parks Traveler has published my “Going With the Flow” article at www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2016/02/going-flow.

Additional photos were also published in the online and printed version of the “Essential Guide to Paddle the Parks.” To view the guide via Issuu for free, visit www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2016/02/essential-paddling-guide-exploring-parks-canoe-kayak-raft-and-even-sup.

(By the way, if you have any inclinations or even curiosities about paddle a canoe, kayak, raft, and/or stand-up paddleboard in our nation’s parks, you’ll want to spend time reading this new insightful resource.  Just thumbing through my copy just made me want to grab my board and go float in SO many places!  So many new ideas!)

Because of the nature of the guide and article space requirements, I naturally had to leave out A LOT about our journey down the lake (including things like accidentally dumping my solar charger in water after Day 1, our scary Day 4, my significant life learnings in the aftermath, etc.).  In hopes of telling the broader story, I continue to make excellent progress on penning my adventure book about our trip (using the article’s title as my book’s current working title).  I’m up to over 36,000 words so far!  I have not yet set a publication date yet, as I’m focused right now on getting my words down on paper and starting to form the story.  But stay tuned!

In the meantime, hoping this little taste from the National Parks Traveler paddle guide whets your appetite for more to come…

Nov 222015
 

What life boils down to for the next 14-days…an iPhone snap of all the material items we’re bringing for our Lake Powell paddle trip.

Whelp, after months of planning and preparation, it’s hard to believe that the big day has finally arrived!  We depart for Utah today, and will begin our ~150-mile paddle on Tuesday morning!

As we head out, thought I’d share answers to some of the most frequently asked questions I have received about this trip from others.  If you have a question about our trip that I’ve not answered below, please leave me a comment, and I’ll be sure to address it upon our return in a future blog.

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Why, exactly, are you doing this?
I have many reasons, including but not limited to:

  1. As George Mallory once suggested about why one would climb Mount Everest, we are paddling the length of Lake Powell, “Because it is there.”
  2. Because we can (meaning my Mom and I are physically and mentally capable of taking on such a challenge.  And let’s face it, we aren’t getting younger so we might as well do it now…)
  3. Because I want to.  It is really as simple as that.  (And it’s funny how our society doesn’t seem to accept that as a good enough answer…I digress…)
  4. Not many have attempted to do it (I know a handful of men have accomplished the same feat on stand-up paddleboards, but I have yet to find any women who have).
  5. This is my big chance to be as adventurous as Pippi Longstocking, my childhood hero!
  6. I would like to share in an unforgettable adventure with my Mom and show her what true freedom and bliss feels like.
  7. I wish to disconnect from the world long to refresh and rejuvenate my mind and spirit for all the exciting opportunities ahead.
  8. Because I wanted a physical and mental challenge.
  9. Because there is a little voice inside my head that still isn’t sure I can…but I’m going to do it anyway!
  10. Because you guessed it, you can sleep when you’re dead!

You mean, you are not doing it to make a political statement? (Note: this question is typically followed by an in-depth dissertation about how the Glen Canyon Dam drowned the Colorado River OR how we have no water in the desert.)
While I do have fairly strong opinions about the Glen Canyon Dam and our water shortage here in western United States, the magnificent sandstone walls, the undulating waters, and singing canyon wrens do not hold any political positions; I see no reason why – while I am among their beauty and in their home – I should possess one either.

If I’m to make any important statement as a result of going on this journey it would be to remind everyone tuning in that, wait for…you can sleep when you’re dead!  I do not mean literally (as in we should run around doing things 24 hours a day).  I mean that when faced with an opportunity to do something or not do something, especially your dreams – no matter how big or small – I hope you feel inspired and courageous enough to just GO FOR IT!

You only get one life, and it goes in a blink of an eye, so why not fill the time you have with much joy, meaning, curiosity, wonder, and gratitude?  I cannot come up with a good reason not to, but if you do, please, by all means, leave me it in a comment below.

How far are you going?
We are starting at the North Wash/Dirty Devil take out, which is just north of Hite, and finishing at Wahweap Marina.  If we followed the milepost/buoys exactly, we are looking at about 141 miles.  However, that does not account for the many side trips and meanderings we will likely do…in the end, I would guess we will likely finish around 150 miles.

How long will that take?
Incorporating time for paddling, rest days, wanderings, weather conditions, etc., we are hoping to complete the trip in about 14 days.  We are in no rush and will not take unnecessary risks when faced with unfavorable weather (especially high winds).

BUT fellow photographers (and patient partners and spouses) know how fast “I’ll just be 10 minutes” can turn into an entire afternoon when you’re enthralled a magical place…considering this (and possible weather delays), we’ve packed food for 20 days.

Why are you going in November?
After I decided to pursue this idea, I checked my calendar and found the only time I could commit to a chunk of time within the next 12 months fell in this November and December.  I did not want to wait – now sounded like as good of a time as ever.

Although many have and will disagree with me, I feel it offers an absolutely ideal time to complete our adventure.  It offers the prospects of the cooler temperatures (compared to scorching summer weather), a reduced chance of brutal winds (as seen in the spring), and fewer boats on the lake than most other months (so we would have the lake to ourselves).

Won’t it be cold then?
Perhaps.  Don’t care.

Weather forecasts suggest temperatures ranging from low 20’s to mid-60’s.

My Mom and I completed our recent trial run at Lake Powell in 65-degree temperatures during the day.  We were so warm from expending energy and the sun, we actually wished it was about 10-20 degrees cooler.  At night, we were on the warm side of cozy during nighttime temperatures around 40-45 degrees.

We have packed winter gear, just in case, and our sleeping bags are rated to 0-degrees (mine) and -30-degrees (my Mom’s).  I’ve bet my Dad that we will feel warm most of the time…and I only bet on things I know I will win!

Are you insane? (or alternatively, “Are you crazy?”)
Not clinically, no.  However, I did just buy a selfie-stick (for use with my new fancy GoPro) so that may affect my status.

Will you be blogging or posting your process on Facebook?
In our fast-paced society where multi-tasking is not just the norm, but also expected, I wish to jump into this experience with open hearts and minds to soak every bit of the experience in without distractions.  So, no, I will intentionally not be blogging during our trip.

That said, beginning on Tuesday morning when we start our journey, you can follow our tracks recorded by my Delorme InReach tracking device by visiting https://share.delorme.com/ColleenMiniukSperry and use the password dreambig (one word) to login.  If I have my technology properly figured out, I might post a couple of messages via my Delorme to my Facebook pages at https://www.facebook.com/CMSPhoto (CMS Photography) and https://www.facebook.com/ColleenMiniukSperry (my personal profile).

How can we learn more about your trip once you get back?
I’ll likely write a blog upon my return, but I plan to write my first adventure travel book from this journey.  So stay tuned!

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Words cannot express how grateful I am to everyone who provided a song recommendation for our Lake Powell Paddle Playlist.  What an incredible mix of music from an incredible group of people!

In addition, I’m so thankful to those who have sent notes of encouragement and wishes for a safe, happy trip.  Your kind and uplifting words mean a great deal to me, and you can be sure we will carry every single one of your sentiments with us as we paddle along.

Wish us good luck…and good weather!
Colleen

Nov 172015
 
My Mom, Jacque, kayaking in Warm Creek Bay during our recent trial run on Lake Powell in preparation for our trip next week.

My Mom, Jacque, kayaking in Warm Creek Bay during our recent trial run on Lake Powell in preparation for our trip next week (taken while standing on my SUP).

Today marks T-7 days until the start of what will no doubt be a memorable SUP/kayak trip down the 150-mile length of Lake Powell with my mom, Jacque (in case you missed my previous blog post, visit “What’s SUP? An Epic Adventure Awaits” at youcansleepwhenyouredead.com/wordpress/whats-sup-an-epic-adventure-awaits).   I can hardly sleep at night, and that’s not only due to all my last minute preparations for our two-week adventure, but rather my overwhelming excitement to get this party started!

One of those last minute details calls for me to load what I’ve called the “Lake Powell Paddle Playlist” (try saying that three times fast!) onto my iPhone.  Now, when I put out the call to all of you to provide favorite inspirational song, I had no idea what to expect (other than I know they’d all be fantastic, of course).  But, I was completely blown away by the wildly diverse and incredible ideas you sent to help us paddle to when times get tough out there on the water and we need some positive vibes.

Thanks to those of you who sent musical recommendations in, I now have over five hours (!!) of sentimental, calming, heart-pumping, thought-provoking, and inspirational music to keep paddling along.  What I loved most was seeing each of your personalities shine through in your suggestions.  I also appreciated hearing from many of you the inspirational backstories of why the song(s) meant something to you.  I appreciate all who shared their heartfelt stories and songs with me.

As promised, here’s the current playlist with the Song – Artist (and my friend who contributed it) in no particular order:

  1. Thank You – Johnny Reid (Brian Hayward)
  2. Ballad of Edward Abbey – Tom Russell (Jackson Frishman)
  3. I’m So Glad – Cream (JP Bruce)
  4. Old Man River – Paul Robson (Rick Jacobi, Mike Hayden, and Richard Penney)
  5. Watching the River Run – Loggins and Messina (Lynda Holman)
  6. The Mary Ellen Carter – Stan Rogers (John McCoy)
  7. Happy – Pharrell Williams (Toru Kawana and Sheri Skocdopole)
  8. Beautiful Day – U2 (Toru Kawana)
  9. Miss Hesitation – Jesse (Robert Rader)
  10. Ridge Top – Jesse Colin Young (Robert Rader)
  11. Astronomy – Metallica (Robert Ford)
  12. Move Along – The All-American Rejects (Jodi Stemler)
  13. Learn to Fly – Foo Fighters (Jodi Stemler)
  14. One – Creed (Jodi Stemler)
  15. Steady as She Goes – The Raconteurs (Jodi Stemler)
  16. If Today Was Your Last Day – Nickelback (Jodi Stemler)
  17. Wherever I May Roam – Metallica (Jodi Stemler)
  18. Every Day is a Winding Road – Sheryl Crow (Jodi Stemler)
  19. Dreams – Cranberries (Jodi Stemler)
  20. Linger – Cranberries (Jodi Stemler)
  21. Pocketful of Sunshine – Natasha Bedingfield (Jodi Stemler)
  22. The Time of My Life – David Cook, (Jodi Stemler)
  23. Sweet Dreams Are Made of This – The Eurythmics, (Jodi Stemler)
  24. Carry On – FUN, (Jodi Stemler)
  25. Fly Away – Lenny Kravitz, (Jodi Stemler)
  26. Good Life – OneRepublic (Jodi Stemler)
  27. Paris – Grace Potter(Jodi Stemler)
  28. Apologies – Grace Potter (Jodi Stemler)
  29. Stars – Grace Potter (Jodi Stemler)
  30. Closer to Fine by the Indigo Girls (Jodi Stemler)
  31. Outshined – Soundgarden (Jodi Stemler)
  32. Are you Ready – Creed (Jodi Stemler)
  33. Cochise – Audioslave (Jodi Stemler)
  34. Flies in the Vaseline – Smashing Pumpkins (Jodi Stemler)
  35. Come With Me Now – (Wish I Could) by Kongos (Brett Prettyman)
  36. Best Day of My Life – American Authors (Brett Prettyman)
  37. But Not Tonight – Depeche Mode (Brett Prettyman)
  38. Rolling in the Deep – Adele (Ron Niebrugge)
  39. Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald – (Ron Niebrugge and Mark Berry)
  40. The Moldau – Bedrich Smetana (Paul Vang)
  41. Cheerleader –  Omi (Amy Novotny)
  42. A Thousand Miles From Nowhere – Dwight Yoakum (Stan Burman)
  43. Imagine – John Lennon (Katie Bond)
  44. Dancing in the Dark – Bruce Springsteen (Kurt Repanshek)
  45. Stronger – Kayne West (Kris Millgate’s son)
  46. I Won’t Back Down – Tom Petty and the Heartbreaks (Kris Millgate)
  47. Proud Mary – Creedence Clearwater Revival (Monica Halveka)
  48. River Runs Red – Midnight Oil (Thomas Graham)
  49. Gooey – Glass Animals (Floris van Breugel)
  50. Feel Again – One Republic (Amy Minton)
  51. Demons – Imagine Dragons (Amy Minton)
  52. Stronger – Kelly Clarkson (Mary Gamble)
  53. We are the Champions – Queen (Mary Gamble)
  54. It’s My Life – Bon Jovi (Mary Gamble)
  55. What a Wonderful World – Louie Armstrong (Mary Gamble)
  56. Somewhere Over the Rainbow – Judy Garland (Mary Gamble)
  57. 10,000 Reasons – Matt Redman (Mary Gamble)
  58. Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) – Hillsong UNITED (Mary Gamble)
  59. Night Rider’s Lament – Jerry Jeff Walker (Tim Mead)
  60. Haiku – Doug Hammer (Carol See)
  61. Sitting on Top of the World – Amanda Marshall (Sheri Skocdopole)
  62. Where the Black Top Ends – Keith Urban (Sheri Skocdopole)
  63. Against the Wind – Bob Seger (Carlene Drake)
  64. Let it Whip – Dazz Band (Jacque Miniuk)
  65. I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) – Proclaimers (Rob Miniuk)
  66. The Final Countdown – Europe (Rob Miniuk)
  67. The Valley Road – Bruce Hornsby and the Range (Jackie Klieger)
  68. My Sweet Lord – George Harrison (Jackie Klieger)
  69. I’ll Be There – Jackson 5 (John Penney)
  70. Con te Partiro – Andrea Bocelli (Sue Penney)
  71. Something’s Coming – Jim Bryant, Russ Tamblyn, Marni Nixon, & Natalie Wood (Sue Penney)
  72. Quiet Your Mind – Zac Brown Band (Christy Schroeder)
  73. Let it Go – Zac Brown Band (Ty Stockton)
  74. Paradise – John Prine (Phil Bloom)
  75. Spanish Pipe Dream – John Prine (Phil Bloom)
  76. Everybody – John Prine (Phil Bloom)
  77. The Bottomless Lake – John Prine (Phil Bloom)
  78. Say Hey (I Love You) – Michael Franti and Spearhead (Jen and Michael Raffaeli)
  79. The Sound of Sunshine – Michael Fronti and Spearhead (Jen and Michael Raffaeli)
  80. I Like to Move It – Madagascar 5 (Jen and Michael Raffaeli)
  81. No Scrubs – TLC (Jen and Michael Raffaeli)
  82. Wagon Wheel – Old Crow Medicine Show (Mark Berry)
  83. Muddy Water – Daniel Jenkins (Lynda Holman)
  84. River in the Rain – Daniel Jenkins and Ron Richardson (Lynda Holman)
  85. Got to Give it Up – Marvin Gaye (John Divan)
  86. I’ve Been Everywhere – Johnny Cash (Barbara White)
  87. I Hope You Dance – Lee Ann Womack (Dawn Gould)
  88. Dead Man’s Party – Oingo Boingo (Rebecca Wilks)
  89. Too Much Stuff – Delbet McClinton (Rebecca Wilks)
  90. The Happy Wanderer – Friedrich-Wilhelm Möller (Tom Rust)
  91. River Road – Crystal Gayle (Lindsay Guthrie)
  92. Alberta Bound – Gordon Lightfoot (Lindsay Guthrie)
  93. Arizona, I Love You – sung by Rex Allen Jr. (Lindsay Guthrie)
  94. Roar – Katie Perry (Carol Gray)
  95. Hallelujah – Justin Timberlake(Carol Gray)
  96. All I Ask of You – Phantom of the Opera (Carol Gray)
  97. If I Had a Rocket Launcher – Bruce Cockburn (Bill Rau)
  98. Hold On – Alabama Shakes (Marty and Shirley Hill)
  99. Ends of the Earth – Lord Huron (Marty and Shirley Hill)
  100. Going Up the Country – Canned Heat (Donna Drake)
  101. Down by the Water – Decemberists (Donna Drake)
  102. I’ve Got the World on a String – Frank Sinatra (Donna Drake)
  103. Seven Nation Army – White Stripes (Donna Drake)
  104. Where the Streets Have No Name – U2 (Donna Drake)
  105. America the Beautiful (Ray Turkin)
  106. The Red Tower – Ah-Nee-Ma (Harald Johnsen)
  107. River of Creation –  Ah-Nee-Ma (Harald Johnsen)
  108. Light from the East –  Ah-Nee-Ma (Harald Johnsen)
  109. Canyon Dreams –  Ah-Nee-Ma (Harald Johnsen)
  110. Sitting on the Dock of the Bay – Otis Redding (Chris Serjak)
  111. Scatterlings of Africa – Johnny Clegg (Chris Serjak)
  112. Cruel Crazy Beautiful World – Johnny Clegg (Chris Serjak and Marcia Fischer)
  113. Mighty River – Vusi Mahlasela (Chris Serjak)
  114. The Passenger – Iggy Pop (Marcia Fischer)
  115. Go Your Own Way – Fleetwood Mac (Marcia Fischer)
  116. Radio Nowhere – Bruce Springsteen (Marcia Fischer)
  117. Ray of Light – Madonna (Marcia Fischer)
  118. Trouble Me – 10, 000 Maniacs (Marcia Fischer)
  119. Day Tripper – The Beatles  (Marcia Fischer)
  120. A Hard Day’s Night – The Beatles (Marcia Fischer)
  121. Wave – Antonio Carlos Jobim (Marcia Fischer)
  122. If I Had A Boat by Lyle Lovett (Marcia Fischer)
  123. Time To Move On – Tom Petty (Kim Vandenberg)
  124. Free Fallin’ – Tom Petty (Kim Vandenberg)
  125. American Girl– Tom Petty (Kim Vandenberg)
  126. Ticks – Brad Paisley (Ena Flynn)
  127. Online – Brad Paisley (Ena Flynn)
  128. Mud on the Tires – Brad Paisley (Ena Flynn)
  129. PM’s Love Theme – Craig Armstrong (Betsy Anderson)
  130. A Wink and a Smile – Harry Connick, Jr. (Betsy Anderson)
  131. The Magnificent Seven – The City of Prague Philharmonic, Paul Bateman cond. (Betsy Anderson)
  132. The Aviators – Helen Jane Long (Betsy Anderson)
  133. We will Rock you – Queen (Lynette Tritel)
  134. Rodrigo Solo – Rodrigo Y Gabriela (Lynette Tritel)
  135. Summer album – George Winston (Lynette Tritel)
  136. The Sun in the Stream – Enya (Rick Beach)
  137. Free Ride – The Edgarwinter Group (Judy Lovelett)
  138. Here I Go Again – Whitesnake (Judy Lovelett)
  139. On The Road Again – Johnny Cash (Judy Lovelett)
  140. Running Down A Dream – Tom Petty (Judy Lovelett)
  141. Send Me On My Way – Rusted Root (Carol See)
  142. Soak Up the Sun – Sheryl Crow (Carol See)
  143. Take on Me – Aha (Carol See)
  144. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper (Carol See)
  145. How You Live (turn up the music) – Point of Grace (Carol See)
  146. We Won’t Give Up – The Afters (Carol See)
  147. Carol of the Bells – Transiberian Orchestra (Carol See)
  148. I Found You – Louis Landon (Carol See)
  149. Family – Louis Landon (Carol See)
  150. One – Metallica (Kirk Forbes)
  151. Right Now – Van Halen (Kirk Forbes)
  152. Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin (Don Eden)
  153. Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits (John Murphy)
  154. Number 1-4 – Penguin Cafe Orchestra (John Murphy)
  155. Start Me Up – Rolling Stones (Rusty Pinckney)

Isn’t it an amazing list?!  Thanks again, everyone, for helping to make this trip even more special to me!

A little later in the week, I’ll post some answers to FAQ’s I’ve received about the trip so far so stay tuned!

Colleen

Me paddling during our recent trial run on Lake Powell (photo courtesy of my Mom…wouldn’t you agree she did an excellent job placing me off-centered and looking into the photograph as well as keeping the horizon low to emphasize a cool sky, even if there were a couple contrails…not to mention the awesome reflection…all while trying to keep herself from falling out of her kayak…HAHAHA! Ma, ya done good!)

Oct 262015
 
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View of the sandstone cliffs near Lone Rock at Lake Powell from my stand-up paddleboard (SUP) this past August. I plan to SUP the ~150-mile length of Lake Powell this November.

Occasionally I get these harebrained ideas. Past notions range from wanting to climb Mount Everest in my 20’s (until I learned I really, really, really dislike hiking uphill) to making a pact after college with my talented and athletic friend, Jen, to train to try to make the Olympics in rowing crew (a sport I had never done, but she had  – and well – at the Varsity level at Stanford University).

Some pass with a hearty laugh and no further mention; some of the perhaps less ambitious ones happen…like standing in 80 mph winds just to see what a blizzard feels like in Maine or leaving at midnight to drive two hours to photograph star trails along the coast through the night.  Certainly not Mount Everest or the Olympics, but still fun and exciting nonetheless.

I cannot say how my latest silly idea came to be, but this time, it’s actually going to come to fruition. And soon too!  Starting in late November, I plan to traverse the length of Lake Powell, following the course of the Colorado River about 150 miles from Hite to Wahweap Marina on my stand-up paddleboard (SUP).

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My first time SUPing in June 2013 on the Deschutes River in Bend.

Originally, I intended to do the float alone, but when I shared my plans with my parents, my Mom (whom we call the “Energizer Bunny”) immediately proclaimed, “I’m coming with you!”  So my 64-year old mother, Jacque, will act as my support crew, paddling with me in a double kayak with much of our gear for the two-week adventure.

Although I came up with the idea last fall, I became hooked on “SUPing” in Oregon during June 2013, when our dear friend from college Chris, his lovely wife Susan, and young son visited Bend.  At that time, my husband and I had temporarily moved to Hillsboro, Oregon – a mere three-hour drive to Bend – for Craig’s job.  Looking for an afternoon outing, the five of us ventured to the Deschutes River and rented two paddleboards. To make sure someone always had an eye on Chris and Susan’s little one, each couple paddled for about 15-20 minutes, and then came back ashore to switch.

From the first moment my shaky legs stood on that wobbly board, I was in heaven. Besides the rhythmic pace mesmerizing me in to a blissful and tranquil state, I became absorbed into the landscape. I felt as if I became an active participant in my surroundings, not just an observer of it. After that exhilarating afternoon, I could not wait to paddle again!

What's SUP, Mom?

“What’s SUP, Mom?” || My mom, Jacque, paddles on a stand-up paddleboard for the first time in August 2014 in Frenchman Bay near Bar Harbor, Maine.

Since then, I have taken a few lessons from some incredibly capable SUP’ers. Each experience only encouraged and inspired me to want more. After a memorable outing with my Mom on Frenchman Bay near Acadia National Park in Maine in August 2014, I started noodling on the idea of a grand touring adventure on a paddleboard “somewhere.” I tinkered with the idea of paddling the length of a U.S. coastline like Oregon, Maine, or even Florida. After a significant amount of research though, I decided I was not quite ready for my aquatic escapades to potentially involve sharks or alligators (at least for now…although I’m quite entranced by the 325-mile Maine Island Trail I just heard about…maybe that will be my next absurd idea…). With no scary creatures hiding within its waters (I think…right?!?), the idea of floating down Lake Powell emerged to the top of my list of crazy ideas that likely would never materialize.

Learning to paddle river rapids on the Colorado River near Moab, Utah on my 40th birthday (photo courtesy of my amazing guide, Alicia Wright)

Then I spent the morning my big 40th birthday this past April paddling the upper Colorado River outside Moab, Utah, where, among other things, I learned how to paddle on river rapids. And how to get dunked in them. And live to tell about it (I’m deathly afraid of water where I cannot see my feet. Ironic, huh?).  And how to keep keeping my paddle “all in” both literally in the water and figuratively in life.

Invigorated by the moving outing, I pondered later that afternoon over a piece of delicious birthday cake, “Life’s short. Why not SUP the length of Lake Powell?”  Blame the sugar high, but I could not come up with any reasons not to…well, except for one:  I didn’t own a board!

Fortunately, my husband gifted me an inflatable SUP for my most recent birthday. After spending much time gliding in lakes around Phoenix and in other lakes around the western U.S. with it, I decided to name my board “Liridon” (which means “free spirit” in Albanian) ahead of its epic journey at Lake Powell.  I call it “Lyr” for short, which means “god of the sea” in Welsh (and also in Irish if spelled “Lir”).

As I became more serious about pursing the trip, I checked my calendar and found the only window of time large enough to accommodate such an outing within the next year fell in this November and December. Although many have and will disagree with me, I felt like that was an ideal time to complete our adventure.  It offered the prospects of the cooler temperatures (compared to scorching summer weather), a reduced chance of brutal winds (as seen in the spring), and fewer boats on the lake than most other months (so we would have the lake to ourselves).  I mean, really, where do I sign up??!

This past August, I introduced Lyr to Lake Powell on a quick day-long trial run. Under a clear blue sky, I set out at first light to paddle for about six to eight hours where I hoped to cover about 12-16 miles. In the methodical pace of paddling in the warm, welcoming waters around the bay at Lone Rock, I reviewed many details about my November trip.  Would I survive paddling in 50 or 60-degree temperatures, 30 degrees cooler than this summer day? Yes, but I should buy neoprene booties just in case. Will I be OK paddling like this, non-stop, for two weeks? An emphatic yes.

Outside of solvable logistical challenges, the biggest question that crossed my mind, though, was how would the 14 days I had planned ever be enough? With all the side canyons and inlets and hidden coves to explore, how will I ever be able to stay focused long enough in the main channel to actually make it home?

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The first squall as seen from a sandy beach along Wahweap Bay.  Thunder boomed from this storm about 20 minutes later.

Growing cumulonimbus clouds to the southwest pulled me out of my planning trance. The forecast called for a monsoon storm to blow through later in the afternoon.  A sizeable squall was moving in early – and fast. I found myself about two to three miles out – and on the opposite side of the lake – when I heard thunder around 11 a. m.

I paddled to the nearest rocky beach, pulled my SUP out of the water, and waited to see what would transpire. As the winds swirled and the angry sky unleashed its fury, I tucked under my beached board to keep as much of me as dry as possible, curled up so that my back and head took the brunt of the hit. Stupidly, I had left my rain jacket and pants at my camp, thinking it was too warm and clear to need such things.

Then, I spotted lightning too close for comfort. Leaving the cover of my board, I found the lowest point I could find and away from the bushes (there were no trees in sight). I then immediately assumed the lightning position – even though it meant getting drenched. I spent the next 45 minutes squatting on balls of feet standing on top of my life vest. In hindsight, I should have tossed my metal paddle at least 50-100 feet away from me. Thankfully, my oversight did not cause a disaster.

The storm passed, but left in its wake a strong headwind causing one- to two-foot white-capped swells.  I sure did not want to paddle in the high winds, but I could see two more squalls on the horizon moving quickly towards me.  I needed to make the crossing to the other shore and the last couple of miles back to camp NOW, or I was going to end up sleeping on this shore.

I paddled sitting down, and mostly with my left arm to battle the relentless wind gusts and swells.  I kept repeating, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  After a few iterations, I added, “And if it does kill you, well, you’ve just been dumb.”

While questioning my own intelligence, I paddled ashore the sandy beach beneath my camp site in time to clean, dry, and put away my SUP (about a 20 minute process) before the next thunderstorm arrived overhead.  From the time I reached shore around 1:30 pm until the next morning, squall after squall (I counted eight in the waking hours) passed through the area with high enough winds to flatten my neighbor’s tent.

After my first trial run this summer at Lake Powell with Lyr, I was not only happy to be alive.  I was happy to feel alive!   And the outing only made me want my November trip to come sooner.

On a two-week tour, though, I know some challenging times will occur among the many memorable highlights, so I would like your help!  Tell me, what is your absolute most favorite inspirational song?

Please leave a comment below or shoot me an email with your suggestion.  I am putting together a new big playlist on my iPhone with whatever type of music you wish to offer – country, rock, indie, pop, and anything in between – so I can bring all the wonderfully positive vibes from my friends – YOU! – with me on my trip to listen to when I need a little pick-me-up.

In case you too would like to jam out to the inspiration of others, the AMAZING list of contributed songs has been posted on my blog at “The Lake Powell Paddle Playlist” at youcansleepwhenyouredead.com/wordpress/the-lake-powell-paddle-playlist.   You never know, you might need it during your own crazy ideas…I can’t wait to hear what you come up with!

Lucky Strike

“Lucky Strike” || Viewed from my campsite at the Lone Rock area of Lake Powell in Arizona, a lightning bolt emerges over the cliffs of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah. (Prints available – click on photo to order yours!)