When I was growing up, my neighbors would often take me with them on canoe trips. We paddled through the Pine Barrens, at the Delaware Water Gap, and many other bodies of water. On family vacations, I took any opportunity I could get to paddle lakes or bays of the northeast, particularly in Maine.
These peaceful (mostly) boating adventures continued throughout my life. In the last few years, however, my boating has taken a new turn. As I climbed into a life partnership with my husband Steve, I also climbed into the front of his tandem kayaks. To my delight (mostly) I’ve gotten to experience the water at a whole new level. We’ve paddled the sea kayak out through the Golden Gate, surrounded by Common Murres and Harbor Porpoises. We paddled in Monterey Bay surrounded by Humpback Whales. We’ve been tracked by seals and sea otters and floated in the bay at sunset as dozens of pelicans dropped around us, gulping down herring. We even paddled away from our wedding together in a double kayak, a “Just Married” sign tacked to the back of the boat.
We’ve also paddled whitewater together in a unique double kayak, a Topo Duo. His decades of paddling fantastic whitewater have allowed me to experience rivers I never imagined. We’ve boated together through Hell’s Canyon on the Snake River, the beautiful Eel River in northern California, and the pinnacle, for me, 100 miles of free-flowing whitewater river of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho.
So this photo represents for me the magic of traveling with paddle power through some of the most fantastic wild places in the west with my best friend and most ardent supporter. But it also represents the magic of constantly challenging yourself to explore and learn and leap over obstacles, to test the edges of your comfort zone and see where it takes you. You never know when you might be looking a whale in the eye, from 30 feet away. Or sitting on a beach at the edge of a wild, free-flowing river, watching Nighthawks whip through the dusk. And then you carry all of this back into your everyday, into your work, and friendships, and creative life.