When I was 14 years old, living in a Chicago suburb, my mom selected a Rogue River rafting trip as a family vacation. We were not a family who camped. As she now puts it, she was “looking for something that combined her kids’ love of roller coasters with her love of nature.” Once we got on the Rogue, I was amazed by how awesome it was to be rafting, camping, exploring waterfalls and jumping off rocks.
On that trip, we visited Tate Creek Falls, which has a natural waterslide. When I plunged into the pool after my first slide, I felt with certainty that this place was the most magical place on Earth.
Although I couldn’t name it at the time, that river trip was the first time I truly felt at home. I had found my sense of place. This experience eventually lead to what has become 25 years (and counting) working on the Rogue River and sharing this place I love with others.
Participating in a multi-day trip on a wild river is magical because the circumstances create balance and harmony without effort. There is a big trend toward “mindfulness” and “being in the present” right now in American culture. River trips have always created an opportunity for people to experience this enlightened state.
On a river trip, you must focus on the now. Rapids naturally demand our attention in the moment. Ironically, an accidental swim through a rapid often turns into a trip highlight for many people. In that moment, for the swimmers, nothing else matters. It is just them and the water. But even walking around on shore forces people to focus on what they are doing in the moment because the uneven footing demands attention. Without even trying, people focus on the now because the beauty all around captures their awe.
We all need wild rivers in our lives to remind us how to see the beauty right where we are with the people who are right there with us.