Thirty-Five Years of Adventure

Barbara Maher | Penobscot, Colorado, and Salmon Rivers

My first white water trip was in 1982 on the Penobscot River in Maine. I maintain that if my first trip had been earlier in my life, I would probably have signed on with an outfitter and become a lifetime river runner.

As it is, I retired after 35 years of teaching and had all those summers to engage in the most exciting, challenging and beautiful trips on rivers in the US and elsewhere.

OARS is my choice of trip planners. One of my heroes is George Wendt. His undying love of wild rivers kept him busy most of his adult life making sure wild rivers are there for his children and grandchildren and for all of us.

George called me and my friends Frequent Floaters. We eagerly awaited the OARS catalog to find new and exciting destinations to experience the unrivaled beauty of river canyons. The Colorado through the Grand Canyon is the ultimate trip and I have been fortunate to have done that trip four times. I was challenged beyond my wildest expectations going into the canyons. My fear of heights did not stop me from making harrowing climbs with the help of a guide in front of me and a guide behind me, encouraging me. By the fourth trip, I was cruising with the rest of the hikers, not needing help. Crossing the Futaleufu River Gorge in Patagonia, wearing a harness and dangling from a dizzying height, was the most terrifying thing I have ever done but I can proudly say I did it.

I encouraged several lifetime friends to make the Colorado trip with me on trips three and four. One childhood friend was very apprehensive but agreed to go on trip three. His daughter called me and asked if her father was going to die on this trip. I replied that I had no idea if he would get run over by a bus in Flagstaff but assured her that on the river, he would be safe in the hands of such experienced river runners. He came with us again for trip four. He loves to tell Colorado River stories to his less adventurous friends.

I have introduced my grandsons to white water. The younger one was very hesitant as we drove to Oregon but once we got on the river, he did not want to come home.

Sleeping along the river, watching stars shoot across the sky, eating fantastic food three meals a day, getting wet going through giant waves – what could be wrong with that? Listening to river guides spin their yarns in the boats and after meals is a wildly entertaining way to spend some time.

I have met wonderful people on the rivers. In 1998, I met a woman on the Salmon River who has become one of my closest friends. She was on a birthday trip with her daughters, her first white water trip. She is my adventure travel buddy and we travel together frequently despite the fact that she lives on the East Coast and I live on the West Coast. She once said, “Who would think I would find such a dear friend on the Salmon River?” Those outdoor adventures create deep and lasting bonds if you let them. We have added some more like minded friends to add to our fun. We look forward to more water trips while we are still healthy and able to make them. Maybe we will be a group of oldsters about whom people say, “I can’t believe they are doing this at their age!” I sure hope so.

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